After a week or so, I felt well enough to continue my journey and my Uncle offered to take me to a spot where it would be easier to catch a ride. On the way, we would pass through Yale, our home town, and stopped to chat with friends - including my grade school teacher. It was good to have a chance to tell her how much her considerations of me as a student and friend had meant to me over the years. Of course, we had to pass the old home stead, now changed dramatically from those earlier years. It was good just to chat with the man who has always been my boyhood idol and I could tell as he stopped to let me out, he was really concerned about me.
My goal was Charlotte, NC - for some reason, long forgotten. It was a beautiful day and I had no problem catching rides, even passing an area where someone has escaped from prison and the driver and I laughed as the radio warned everybody to beware of picking up hitch hikers. I was in Hinkley, OH, by early afternoon, a spot I will never forget. A policeman stopped me, asking where I was from and where I was heading to. Then, he came back, referring to my Texas drivers license and informing me there was a better place to try hitch hiking. He took me out to a road where he let me out. It took only a few minutes to realize that this road was just an old country road and I would probably be there for hours looking for anyone who would even think about picking up a hitch hiker. The sun had set before a big Lincoln flashed his lights when he saw me and stopped. "How far are you going?" he asked and when I told him about my experience, he told me, "I'm headed for Columbus, OH, and I can get you on a main road again."
He had been in the Air Force so it wasn't long before we were getting along very well and as we got near to where he would let me out, he suggested he had a big house with lots of bedrooms and offered me a place to spend the night. It turned out to be a bunk in the pool house, next to a huge swimming pool and it didn't take me long to fall asleep. I woke up the sound of someone in the pool and peeking through the blinds, there she was, a beautiful lady and she was naked. I went to the door and looked around to the other side of the house and saw there was a road leading away from the property. I was thinking about bits and pieces of our conversation on the way South and really did not want to get involved. I quietly walked out of the house and was on my way to the road. It was about an hour's long walk to the main highway, but I was pleased to be on my way again.
Two or three more rides and I was in a little town along the Ohio River. I stopped to get a meal and asked about the possibilities of work in that area. "Like barges?" was the first answer I received and was told about the barges that take oil to the Mississippi river or thereabouts. Sounded good to me so I crossed over to the other side and applied for a job. The fellow who interviewed me said it might take a week or so before any openings might come up and I told him that I would need some work to do until then. It just so happened he was the Pastor of a local church and told me he could keep me busy for a week at least. It turned out to be three weeks and a bed in the loft that was part of my wages. He and his wife turned out to be the nicest people I had ever met and we spent our evenings, studying the Bible.
A barge opening never did come up, so when I finished the work I had started, I was on my way again.
The next stop was Charleston, WVa, one of the dirtiest towns I have ever been in, but I located the Mission my new friends had told me about and the next day I was "hired" as the interim Director. It so happened the fellow who had been there had family problems in Ohio to take care of and I agreed to "run" the place until he got back. There were very few men coming to the Mission and no women, so I really had nothing to do in the day time. Wandering around the city, I started to call on the churches as I passed by and discovered that very few of the Pastors knew anything about the Mission. What became very interesting to me was the fact that when I got to speak with a Pastor, I came away with a donation, on two occasions, it was a hundred dollar bill. When "Jim" the permanent Director came back, he was astounded by the fact "we" now had over $500 in the bank. He wanted me to stay on, but the place was too dirty and dismal for me, I needed to get some country air to breathe.
I was on my way to Beckley, WVa, on one of the craziest rides over some of the crookedest roads I had ever taken. For a few minutes I was scared that the driver might have evil intentions. I don't know how far it was, but it seemed like it was hundred miles, but looking at a map it probably wasn't fifty miles. All of a sudden, he stopped in front of a Drive In movie theater and asked me if I wanted to see the show. "No," I replied and told him I had to get on down the road. It was getting dark and difficult to get a ride because most people were going to the theater. I was standing in front of a house where there were two big cars parked on the lawn and a car pulled into the driveway. A fellow got out and came over to ask me if I had seen anyone looking at the cars. I had not, so he told me he and his family were going out of town and would not be back for a week and drove off. When I was not getting a ride and it was dark, I checked to see if the car doors were open. They were and I realized I had a comfortable place to sleep that night and locked the doors to be safe.
The next day, a fellow stopped and as we talked along the way, I learned he was an Elder in a church we would being stopping in to visit and he invited me to come along. It turned out to be a vacated old Methodist church and they were thinking of opening it under a new name. To make a longer story short, I stayed around to help them. There was a cot in the former Pastor's study so I had a place to sleep and money to pay for the paint and materials to patch up places where it was needed. Within a couple of weeks, we had it looking nice and some women made padded cushions to help with the hardwood seats. They decided to bring in an elderly evangelist to open the church and he came, although it was obvious, he had health problems. Sunday's services, morning and evening, were well attended and we had a high school principal interested in bringing a bus load of students on Tuesday evening. We lost our evangelist after Monday evening as his voice gave way and his wife insisted that they go home. It was fascinating watching the leaders try to entice others to replace them and kidding, I told them if bad turned to worse, they could always use me. I had preached sermons in Texas after training for what was known as "lay" preaching. A country church had used me when their Pastor was ill and I had a number of nice compliments. When they couldn't find anyone else, they decided to "try" me. We had a full church that night and I titled my sermon, "Sir, we would see Jesus" referring to the note I found on the pulpit of my first sermon. I had a well prepared sermon then, based on the lessons we had learned, but my preparation went out the window when I realized the importance of that note.
I was raised in the church and for years, I had wondered why the sermons were always aimed at the adults. Now, I started answering questions that I had wanted my Pastor to answer in those days. It included the years when I strayed from the truth, had suffered as a result, and now, I firmly believed in what the Bible had to say. Three young women answered the "call" but I was surrounded by many of the others, questioning what I had said. The "local" folks were amazed by their interests.
As it turned out, I was in the pulpit for the rest of the week and actually, was offered tuition at a nearby Bible college, up until they discovered that I was not only divorced but separated from the Mother of my children. But they did give me a substantial sum from the collections and an older couple who came with the youngsters gave me the keys and title to an older car they owned but were not using.
Now, I had a way to get to Charlotte without using my thumb.