Found myself alone at the Univ of Illinois, Christmas 1961.
Christmas break was coming, my topless sports car was stored, and with no close friends I had no desire to spend it in a frozen college town, so I found a ride to Houston. From there I hitchhiked to Austin to check out the U of Texas. One driver warned me about a county in Arkansas where they pick up hitchhikers and others passing through, and sentence them to years on the Justice's prison farm. Shades of the later movie, "Cool Hand Luke."
The guys at my fraternity at the U of Texas were all bailing out for the holidays, of course. I then looked at a map, and Mexico City was not that far.
I hitchhiked to the border and caught a second class bus to Mexico City. Once there, I found friends from the previous spring, so it was a good Christmas. At breakfast in the rooming house, trying to make conversation, I said the weather was cold, "Hace frio."
The three year old of the house said, "Hace caca." That shut me up.
Hitchhiking got me a ride to Veracruz in the back of an empty produce truck. Those people were always friendly. The bus toward the US border left at midnight. It was cold so I bought a ticket to a movie, seeking warmth. The seats were backless benches and it was just as cold as outside. That was one of the coldest times I can remember. The bus ride was warm and I slept.
I arrived at Matamoros on New Year's eve and rented a dollar hotel room. Young guys were throwing firecrackers at each other in the evening, so I retired to my room, with the bed barricading the door.
Early New Year's Day I walked across to Brownsville and started hitchhiking my way to Houston. First thing, a couple of seedy looking guys came up next to me with their thumbs out. I moved up the street a ways and was immediately picked up by a couple of old maid looking women. They would have picked up the seedy guys, but they were on the wrong corner. Texans were sure generous and trustworthy.
The old ladies let me off after a short ride, and along came another ride. I got in the back seat with the two seedy guys. Sure enough, they had just been let out of jail that morning. The driver was a drunk Mexican who would speed up to 50 when a car passed us, then gradually slow down to a crawl again. He insisted we all come to his house to "Dar el pisto."
I couldn't get out of the car until we arrived at his house and then I slipped away and walked the half mile back to the hiway.
The next ride was with a 74 year old man driving 40 on the freeway in his big Oldsmobile. He said he was with the Texas Rangers for five years and then 31 years with the Border Patrol. He said you had to be tough to be a Ranger.
"We rode the border on horses; five or six in a bunch; it wasn't safe for one or two. Then we got smart. We got a wagon and a team of mules. We would hire a Mexican cook and pay him $10 a month. Keep him six months and kill him; we wouldn't have to pay him anything."
"Years later we got real modren (sic). We got Model T trucks. We were shittin' in tall cotton then."
Then he went into a tirade about J. Edgar Hoover. That was the first criticism of Hoover I ever heard. History shows he was right.
That ride ended too soon.
I made it to my ride in Houston just in time. The driver hadn't heard from me, so took on another rider. I shared the back seat of a Corvair coupe with a refrigerator all the way to frozen Ill.
great story Rick. I did a lot of hitchhiking in the 70"s and talking to the people was the best part. nowadays nobody picks up hitchhikers anymore. I broke down with my truck about 150 mile south of chicago about 5 years ago and I didnt want to bother any friends for a ride so I hitchhiked home nobody would stop so I started washing windshields at selfserve gas stations and asking for rides many people offered me money but I said no what way you going? I got home after about 7 hours!from gas station to gas station! but I met some nice people
Great to see you back on the forum and a very enjoyable story. I hope your feeling better today.