As we were leaving New Orleans, we weren’t sure what to expect in our hitchhiking experience. Besides a few short stints of hitchhiking, we’d been riding freight trains almost continually since leaving Arizona. We were now heading into unfamiliar territory and adventures unknown. But that’s the part of the adventure that was exciting—looking forward with expectation and anticipation as to what’s going to happen next. Because we very seldom stayed in any one place more than a week or so, each and every day was a new adventure in itself.
We were about a third of the way through the State of Mississippi when our next ride came along. It’s always interesting to see what kind of people would pick up a couple of long-haired Freaks like us. Hobo actually looked kind of scary. He had a disheveled looking black beard and long curly black hair down to his shoulders. He wore a black cowboy type of hat with a chain of big silver buttons around the rim and a buckskin shirt that had leather tie strings that were loosely threaded at the top, which allowed his hairy chest to show. He also had a necklace made of tiger teeth. I would overhear comments about him from time to time. They would say that he looked like a warlock with the tiger teeth necklace that he continually wore.
This ride happened to be a hippie couple headed for their home near Biloxi, Mississippi. We were riding along and it was getting into early evening as we began sharing with them our adventures for the past few weeks. They seemed really intrigued by our carefree lifestyle and wanted to know more about us, so they invited us to spend the evening with them.
We arrived at their home within the hour, and the hippie lady began preparing something for all of us to eat. As we were eating dinner they began quizzing us about our adventures and what we believed. As it turned out they had some pretty strange views. They were trying to convince us that the earth was flat and not round. I began to remind them about the astronauts who had been to outer space and had sent pictures back of our earth and how round it was. Their response to this was that NASA was feeding us a big lie. “There were never any astronauts or space ships that had gone to outer space or the moon. It was all a big lie,” was their response. It was totally unbelievable that someone could believe that. But what can you expect from hippies? We all had weird ideas.
The next morning we were sent on our way with a hearty breakfast and a shower. Our travels would take us through Mobile, Alabama, where we arrived around mid-afternoon after an uneventful day of hitchhiking. No great conversations to speak of, just a couple of boring rides with boring people. Nevertheless, we reached our destination and decided to see if there was a local mission or Salvation Army where we could get a hot meal and spend the night. As it turned out, there was a Salvation Army Church that put people up for the night as well as providing a good meal. What do you know? Three nights in a row with a meal and a bed—life doesn’t get much better than that when you’re on the road.
As we traveled through Alabama and entered Florida, we were somewhere near Pensacola when we started getting really hungry. We had a jar of peanut butter we’d picked up along the way and were wishing we had some bread to go along with it. As we were contemplating our dilemma, I thought back to the hitchhiking experience I had with Norm when I was headed to the East Coast . I began to tell Hobo the story about how Norm and I would dream up rides and they would happen. I told Hobo the whole story and he got really excited. He said, “Well, let’s try it.” “Our next ride will be a car that has some bread to go along with the peanut butter.”
As we were standing there alongside the road waiting for our next ride, we spied a station wagon coming down the road, so we stuck out our thumbs and, sure enough, he stopped. To our surprise he was a bread salesman and his whole car was full of bread that he was delivering. We were able to talk him out of a couple loaves. Don’t ask me how this happens. I don’t know. It just did. In the previous year, since coming home from Vietnam, I had begun to develop a metaphysical mindset. Maybe that had something to do with it. I don’t know! Or maybe God was answering our simple prayer and showing us His ability to respond to our need in spite of ourselves. Whatever the reason was, we were very grateful and blown away by the experience. In our eyes it was very supernatural.
We were getting well into Florida and had gotten a good ride that was going to take us further south, down the gulf side of the coast. As we were driving along, the driver decided he needed to stop for gas. At the gas station we all got out and were just nosing around, when Hobo says to me, “Hey Space, do you see what I see?” He had spied a cigarette machine that had a long piece of tape spread across all of handles that are used to pull on to get your pack of cigarettes after depositing the money. We could see that the machine was full of cigarettes, so there was probably only one reason for the tape. The machine was broken. I said, “Well, let’s see if we can get some free cigarettes.” No one seemed to be paying any attention to us so we pulled the tape off and started pulling on all the handles. Sure enough, we were getting free cigarettes. We ended up with about 10 packs of cigarettes of all different brands. What a score! It was turning out to be quite a day of unexpected surprises and we were getting a big kick out of it.