Parents are full of advice as their child grows. My mother was full of advice, and full of superstition and scare tactics. She had a variety of fears and she wanted me to adopt them. She was well meaning and often the lessons were valid, but sometimes it would have been good to add a few exceptions to the rules.
One of the things she told me time and time again was that if I ever got into a stranger’s car I’d never be seen again, and probably would be tortured along the way out of the valley. “Never take a ride with anyone!” she’d say.
At eleven years old I had started a job about a mile from home on the Dean Farm. I had proven that I was strong enough to pick up the rectangular bales of hay and load them into the truck, or stack them if someone else loaded them into the truck. During the summer days I would prepare the fields with the senior member of the farm family. Mr. Dean himself would drive the truck or tractor and I’d ride the antique dump rake to make rows straight enough to pull the baler along, and it would make nice compact rectangular bales. The older sons would be home from their day jobs at about 4 or 5 o’clock and we’d spend the night hours until midnight or after, trucking the bales to the barn for storage.
In order to get to the farm I had to walk from my house on a dirt road. It was a long and kind of lonely walk with only a couple of houses along the way. I recall singing at the top of my lungs to make the distance go faster and to keep the potential worrisome thoughts out of my head. One day I might see a deer crashing through the woods as I startled it, or another time I might get a glimpse of a fox darting across the road in front of me. The fox would definitely make my singing go up a bit in volume.
I recall one day in particular when I was singing and walking along at a pretty good clip, when a large black car approached from behind and then stopped beside me. I was nervous and backed up to the edge of the dirt near the ditch. It was an elderly couple and the man spoke to me out of the driver side window. “Aren’t you Phil Wyman’s boy?” he said with a nod. I recognized him and looked across the seat to see his wife with him sitting there smiling at me. It was Mr. Densmore and his wife.
“Yes I am,” I said with authority.
“Where you headed?” he asked.
“I’m going to Dean’s farm to work for them,” I said.
“Well, Jump in boy. We’ll give you a ride there, no need of walking. We’re going right by,” He urged.
I immediately remembered my mother’s warning about taking a ride and never being heard from again. “No, that’s ok. I’ll be ok. It’s not too much further,” I said with reluctance and cast my eyes downward.
“Come on, get in! We’ll be there in two minutes,” he said, “we’re not going to bite!”
Well I did know them, sort of. They were friends of my dad’s and I’d sat in the car several times while he had visited with them on the side of the road. My mother did say strangers. “Ok,” I said. I jumped in the back seat of the four door.
Along we went down the road. Mr. Densmore and his wife got into a conversation, and neither of them was paying much attention to the short kid in the back seat. I saw the farm out the windshield, and was thinking they should be slowing down any second to let me out, but they were still talking as we went by the driveway and I panicked. I remember thinking, my mother was right they are taking me away! I had to do something, fast! There was a small incline just past the farm house and as they were coasting down it, I pulled the handle and bailed out of the car. We were probably doing about 25 miles per hour and I flew down to the dirt road, bouncing along scraping about every inch of my arms, legs and ribs. Mr. Densmore slammed on the brakes and jumped out. “What the heck are you doing boy!” He shouted. “You should have just told me to stop! I forgot for a second. Are you alright?” He asked, shaking his head.
I was all scraped up and embarrassed and couldn’t think of much to say because I didn’t want to tell him I was afraid I was being kidnapped. “I just thought I’d jump out so you wouldn’t have to stop, and I’d make it easier for you,” I said. That was the fastest excuse I could come up with. He never did tell me what he thought of my maneuver. He just got back in his car and drove away. I walked up to the farm house from the driveway and Mrs. Dean was there to greet me for work.
“What in the world happened to you Ricky Wyman?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face.
“Nothing,” I said. “I just got out of Mr. Densmore’s car before he quite stopped.”
“Heavens! What would you do that for? You look a mess. I’m not sure you’ll be able to work today.” She went to get a few band aids and wash my cuts with a cloth.
I never told my mother the real reason I was all scratched up when I got home that evening, but it would be a very long time before I ever let anyone give me another lift.
© Rick Wyman