The Hitchhiker

An older Native American man was sitting atop of an instrument case, probably the perfect size for a trumpet.  His clothes were ragged and dirty, he squinted into the sun as the fudge bar he consumed melted quietly all over his hands.  Another large camping backpack draped his bony shoulders.  He hadn’t showered in weeks, and he was looking for a friend at a small gas station in Waubay, SD.  

I was filling up gas at this small gas station, partly because I had less than a quarter tank with a little over an hour left of driving, partly because I really needed to pee.  As I started to walk into the gas station a man who looked like he was in his early 50s, but due to his sun aged skin looked much older, wanted to ask me a favor.  

“Excuse me sir!  Excuse me, would you come over here please?”  

“What can I do for you?”  I asked in a hurried manner. 

“If I gave you five dollars, you think you could drive me to Webster?”  

“Uh, I’m not from around here.  I have no idea where Webster even is.”

“It’s just 10 miles west, you are going west right?  It’s just the next town over.  Please.”

“Ok sure.”

“OH THANK YOU!”  The man reaches out and shakes my hand leaving warm melted fudge bar all over it.  “I knew someone would come!  You see, I am a traveling musician, and…”

“Sir! Sir!  Ok ok, I really need to pee so… I’m going to go in and use the restroom.”

“Oh sorry, ok.”

With that, I go into the Waubay gas station/restaurant/hardware store to use the facilities.  On the way out, the gas station staff glare out the window.

“Is he packing up?” says one of the attendants

“Looks like it,” answers the other.  “I told him to get the hell out of here.”

“Where do you think he’s goin?”

“Don’t care, just as long as he’s out of here.”  

I rush by trying not to make eye contact, but at the same time wondering why I should be feeling ashamed.  My hitchhiker was packed up and ready to go.  

“Sir, are you still going to give me a ride?”

“Sure sure,” I say.  “Hop in lets go!”

“I am a traveling musician.  See this case?  I painted it myself.”  

“Wow looks good.”

“Looks scary.  Why would someone paint that?  I don’t know.  I am a musician you know.  Can I put this case in here?  I travel around and play music.  Mind if I open the window?  I think I’m going to get some sleep.  So where are you going?”

“Well, actually I’m driving to Aberdeen to stay with a friend.”  

“Oh me too.  I’m going to Aberdeen.  Great town.  College town.  They drink a lot out there.  We should be there in about an hour.  I’m going to get some sleep is that ok?”  

“Oh sure.”  I nod over at him as I continue down the road.  I guess he wants to go to Aberdeen.  Why the hell not, he is already in the truck.  A few minutes go by, and he sits up.

“You know I am a traveling musician,”  he says.

“Yeah.  You were just telling me.”

“I travel around, and play music.”

“What instrument do you play?”

“All of them.  I’ll play you a song.”  He pulls out an old harmonica, and plays a cool blues tune for about a minute and puts it away.  Then waves to the horses we pass by, yelling out hello to them.

“So… What kind of instrument do you have in the case back there?”

“What?  Oh.  No instrument in there.  That case is full of poe
ms.  I’m a poet.”

“Uh huh.  You don’t say?”  

“Aberdeen, great college town.  Good town.  We should be there in about an hour.”

By this time I’m really having second thoughts about having this guy in the truck.  At this point, we had already past Webster, and I felt like I was past the point of no return.  Better hurry and get to Aberdeen.  

As we pull into Aberdeen, he request to be dropped off at a convenience store.  Then downtown.  Then he wants me to stop at a convenience store, then bring him downtown.  I tell him that the nearest gas station is the best I can do.  We pull into the first Shell Gas Stop, and I get out of the truck.  I start pulling his stuff out of the back, and he gets the picture.

“Good luck on your adventure,”  I tell him.  “It was good meeting you, good luck to you.”

“Uh, thanks…” he mumbles.  “I’ve got a favor to ask you.”

“What’s that?”

“Think you could spare me $5 dollars?”