hiking with Jesse from Tommy Eaton
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 10:30 AM CST
From: Tommy Eaton
When we were in junior high school we thought we were grown
and were fearless (stupid). One Saturday night we were restless
and wanted some kind of entertainment. I had told my parents
I was spending the night at Jesses house and I knew they
would not check up on me. Jesse didnt have a phone and
my parents would never drive the three or four blocks to his
house so I felt free to do anything I pleased.
Jesse didnt have a television or even a record player.
We were bored, which usually led to some kind of adventure. Jesse
came up with the idea of going to see his grandparents in Pep,
Texas. I said OK, how are we going to get there?
He replied hitchhike. I was a little nervous, but
he said, Its fun, I do it all the time. I knew
this was not true but I would never say he was lying, so off
we went. I asked how far Pep was and he said Oh, its
not very far, we will be there in a couple of hours. How
could anyone refuse an adventure to a town named Pep? I asked
him how we were going to hitch hike and he thought for a moment
before he said just put out our thumbs. I knew then
he had never done this before, but I didnt say a word.
We walked a couple of miles to the highway and put out our thumbs.
A farmer picked us up and we rode in the back of a pickup for
what seemed like a long way. He stopped and let us out in the
middle of nowhere after midnight. We walked and talked and tried
to act like we werent scared. I was frightened, but on
the surface you would never have known it. I couldnt tell
if Jesse was the slightest bit concerned.
We walked for a long time in the dark and only a couple of cars
passed. A big car stopped and a small ancient black man told
us he was too drunk to drive. He offered us a ride if one of
us would drive. Jesse never hesitated. He simply said Ill
drive and slid in behind the wheel. I got in the back and
Jesse started off. It was apparent he had never driven before
and the car lurched and died. The little old man was waving a
bottle and laughing as Jesse tried to get the car started. When
he did we were off down the highway with Jesse leaning forward
and straining to see over the steering wheel. Luckily in West
Texas the roads are straight and flat and I dont think
we ever made a turn. The old car reeked of booze and cigarettes
while we all listened to the radio. The old man was laughing
and telling us how he had hitchhiked when he was young and how
people dont help each other like they used to. My parents
were extreme racists and I had never been in contact with any
black people, much less a drunk man in the middle of the night
out in the country. Jess hadnt
either, but to him it seemed completely natural. In about 1963
I can assure you this was unusual.
After a while he told Jesse to stop because he needed to turn
off to go to his house. When we stopped he asked if we had any
money and Jesse said no. I was extremely nervous because I thought
my parents must be right. We would surely be found dead the next
morning. I couldnt have been more wrong. The old man pulled
out his last couple of dollars and said we shouldnt be
out on the road with no money for food or change to call someone.
Jess told him we were fine and there was no one to call anyway
and thanked him for the effort. A while later a couple of guys
and a girl picked us up and we rode into the next town with them.
I think it was Morton. They were also drunk coming home from
some bar after it had closed. We went to their trailer house.
We had a beer and they were about to pass out. They said we could
spend the night and go the next morning but the little trailer
was stuffy and we were ready to go so we started walking.
It had been a warm night earlier, but just before dawn it was
cold. We only had t-shirts and jeans and we were shivering. We
found Sunday papers in front of a few houses. We stole the newspapers
and laid down behind the school and covered up trying to stay
warm. I was freezing and hungry, and too scared to sleep, but
Jesse never complained. In a couple of minutes he was sound asleep
and completely relaxed.
When it was daylight I woke him up and we started again. A farmer
picked us up who knew his family and let us out in the middle
of nowhere next to Jesses grandmothers farm house.
I remember a lot of people and mountains of food. Everyone was
so excited to see us and asked how we got there. Jesse said we
hitch hiked. I held my breath thinking they would be upset
and try to call my parents to come get us. His grandmother said
you need to be careful and then broke out laughing
and passed a huge plate of pancakes.
I took a nap while he talked to the family. His grandmother had
a thick Czeck accent and called him Chippie. When
I woke up I could hear them laughing and talking and you could
feel the warmth of their family. It was wonderful. I had never
experienced anything like it and I wished I had that kind of
love and acceptance from my family.
We rode out in the fields with Uncle Felix for a while and then
said goodbye. No one seemed to think it was odd for two young
kids to go to the highway and start hitch hiking home. A farmer
came by and we rode in the back of his pickup all the way to
Lubbock. I went home and never told anyone what we had done.
The next morning I woke up and went to school as usual.
I learned a lot from Jesse on that trip and many others like
it. He was always up for an adventure. He was fearless and never
complained when things didnt go as planned. (He never really
planned very much anyway). I learned you could live outside the
normal parameters and still be ok. He loved his family and they
loved him. But most of all I learned how to enjoy the journey
and the adventure of life and not concentrate so much on the
goal. When things dont work out, it is still ok if you
learned something along the way and had some fun. He never cared
about having a big house or a fancy car, he just wanted to live
life to the fullest and enjoy the adventures, his friends, and
return to Jesse Taylor memorial