Sunday, August 18, 2013
Running Away With Ralph
It wasn’t because my folks mistreated me. I did it because it sounded exciting and because my 12-year-old buddy, Ralph, felt he was being mistreated. On that eventful day back in 1932, Ralph stopped by the house for me as usual. But instead of heading toward school, we walked to downtown Cincinnati, some 2 miles away. Our adventure had begun.
By noon, our combined 35¢ in resources had shrunk to 19¢ due to some necessary expenditures. First we’d paid 1¢ for a penny postcard to tell my folks “not to worry” and that we were headed for California—a clever ruse since we were really Florida-bound.
It cost 2¢ each to walk across the suspension bridge into Kentucky and 10¢, plus a penny sales tax, for a delicious lunch of sugar cookies.
Then we began hitchhiking. By dusk, we’d thumbed our way all of 150 miles to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, where I tore the crotch out of my pants crawling over the tailgate of a truck!
My enthusiasm for our “great adventure” dissolved with the setting sun. Eventually I convinced a reluctant Ralph to go to the local police station. Once there, we confessed all and asked for a place to sleep.
That “place” turned out to be a cell in the city jail! To make matters worse, as we were ushered inside, the cop muttered, “The chief will be by in the morning with a couple of picks for you.” That summoned up visions of the chain gangs we’d seen in a recent Paul Muni movie. (What he’d actually said was, “…a couple of tickets for you.” Our folks had been notified, and money for our bus tickets home was on its way.)
Our night in that cell was long and sleepless. The last of the sugar cookies was long gone, so Ralph and I took turns describing our favorite foods—mashed potatoes with gravy, hamburgers, chicken drumsticks and lemon meringue pie. Each gastronomic recitation increased our hunger pangs.
Eons later, morning arrived, along with the police chief. He produced bus tickets and a voucher to cover breakfast at the local diner. It was the most incredibly wonderful meal we boys had ever eaten.
After breakfast, the chief escorted us to the bus station (my torn pants revealing a wide expanse of underwear as they flapped in the breeze), deposited us on the bus and waved us on our way.
When I got home later that afternoon, Mother was very glad to see me. But despite my protestations that the cell was “really clean”, she marched me to the bathtub and made me scrub away at what she was certain was a lice-infested body.
That’s what I was doing when I heard Father arrive home. Immediately I redoubled and prolonged my efforts, not being in any great hurry to face his wrath.
Shaking with apprehension (although incredibly clean), I at last walked out of the bathroom. Father looked up from his newspaper with a glare that reduced me and my adventure to insignificance.
“Have a nice trip?” he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he resumed reading his paper.
Franklin Sisson • Traverse City, Michigan