Thursday, July 02, 2015

West Virginia Is Just Wrong--Part Two

                                    PHOTO/EDITS BY RUTH RADER

As soon as I entered Dalton, Ohio...fate threw a switch. I fairly sailed through every
State before I said "howdy" to the Buckeyes. But after I left Dalton...I replaced the
"B" with another letter. I'm sure that you can figure out which one.

Yeah, the State Highway Patrol had been extremely cooperative from the Indiana
border to Lima to Mansfield, Ohio. I stuck to the secondary highways and away from
the Interstates...and the cops just left me alone.

That is, until I reached Dalton.

A local cop escorted me out of "his village" and left me on the side of the highway. A
few minutes later, a State Highway cop arrived and yelled at me. And to me, that was
the end of my peaceful mode of travel.

He dropped me off in the small town city of  Massillon, Ohio. He took it upon himself
to say something that I didn't the manager of the IHop. The manager turned
around, shot me a look and then stormed back into the restaurant. Then the cop drove up
to me again and told me to stay away from the road.

"Well, where can I go now then?" I asked.

The officer replied with the words that no cop should ever say when a person is stranded:
"I don't care."

Two hours later, I sat in a transit center...and listened as tornado sirens wailed. Three
hours later I was deep in a debate with a social worker and a security guard at a large
hospital building in Canton, Ohio. Four hours later, I watched lightening dance across
dark, swirling clouds at a truck stop in North Canton, Ohio.

I ate, washed my clothes and took a shower there. The next morning, I sat on a bench
outside of the truck stop café and called the local cops. I was very tired and I needed
some assistance...po-po temper tantrums be damned.

To my surprise, the dispatcher was actually civil. And fifteen minutes later, a female
cop...sporting a blond braid and a slash of red lipstick...drove up in a squad car.

Because of what she did for me, I am not going to publish her name. But she went above
and beyond the call of duty because...and only because...she understands what I am all
about. Not everyone gets it (do they Deb?) but some people do.

That officer is a rebel...standing on her own two feet. I read about her after I googled her
name. She's feisty and proud and fair and kind. She has one hand on her gun and the other
hand held out in friendship. She left me a note that I still have. I will remember her forever.

I took two county busses to a small town near the Pennsylvania border. It took the sincere
intervention of the librarians in that community to help find me a ride out of Ohio. Finally
two women took me to a Mayberry-type hamlet in northwest Pennsylvania and left me

A woman was outside, straightening chairs on the sidewalk in the town square, across from
the old, ornate court house. I smiled at her and she smiled back.

" are you doing tonight?" she asked.

"Well" I began, "Those two ladies just drove me here from Ohio. Now I am here in
Pennsylvania but I don't know anyone, I have no money and I have no idea where I am
going to stay tonight."

"Oh, is that all?" she replied, and then she laughed.

Not too long after that, I was sitting in a loft apartment with an aging hippie
couple and their dog. They fed and watered me and let me use their shower before I fell
asleep on a mattress that they made into a makeshift bed for me on the floor.

The next day I met the lady that had first met me in that town. It started to rain. I looked at
my meager stash of added up to $40 and some change. The tab on my EBT
card was still running, so I knew that as long as I could reach a grocery store, I could eat.

I turned to my new friend in her car and I said, "I don't want to go out in this today. I am
just too tired."

"Do you have any cheap motels around here?"

"Let's take a ride around and see what we can find" the lady said.

We went down a hill and I spotted a ramshackle mom-and-pop right by the side of the
highway. The faded sign spelled out "MOTeL" in faded letters.

We parked the car, walked into the tiny cubicle of an "office" and my friend rang the bell.

A young woman walked out and I was surprised to see that she was not from any Middle
Eastern country.

"I want a room for tonight...just for me...and I only have a small amount of
much do you charge for one person in one room per night?" I asked...running the words
together in one, fast clip.

"Forty dollars" she said.

My friend blinked. I smiled.

"Sold" I said and slapped down my last two twenties.

After a quick trip to the Dollar Store, I settled into the no-frills-aging-and-sagging room
and listened to the rain falling on the roof. I slept like a baby that night.

The following day was Sunday but the Christians were few and far between. My friend
drove me out of town and to a good spot to hitchhike from. We waved goodbye as she
pulled away.

And as I stuck out my started to rain again.

I sat in the rain for most of the day until a woman, with her grandson strapped in the back
seat, stopped her rig. She brought me to her humble home and I stayed there for several
more days before she drove me farther south.

It just kept on raining and finally we reached nothing but flooded roads. At one point, she
actually drove through the flood that you can see in the photograph above.

Meanwhile, I prayed without ceasing. Believe it.

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