• “Right there. That’s me walking down the road. Walking away from everything and everyone I had ever known. Looking back, I wish I had stuck my thumb out sooner. But by this time, I had begun to question the validity of those people and things I had grown to hold so question. Besides, I wanted to see just how far I could get, all on my own” Jimmy said while looking at an old photograph. He and Carrie had known each other for as long as he could remember. He found it hard to believe that Carrie had kept this picture, and so well maintained, for all these years.
    “Questioning the things that surround you is way of life,” Jimmy continued, “it’s a human right of passage. I just hoped they would all understand that later. I suppose the underlying cause, the one thing above all others that lead me to be walking away from a small town in Iowa with little more than a backpack of supplies, is the fact that I was a nineteen year old boy”.
    “Really? Only nineteen when you set out? That’s incredible, Jimmy” Carrie the radio host added.
    “I had great deal of determination about me back then, Carrie. I really felt that I could make it out West, too. I didn’t have a particular destination in mind and that was really the point of it all” Jimmy said.
    “You didn’t have a single destination in mind, Jimmy? That seems absurd! Tell us more”, Carrie said. She usually wasn’t this dry. Jimmy began to feel nervous about agreeing to this radio show. He listened to Carrie’s show more than any other, but this one seemed to be falling flat.
    “I managed to walk for several hours and made it clear into another town” Jimmy continued. “Not to my surprise, there wasn’t much beyond corn in this town either. Around this time I decided I should probably get a ride to somewhere more populated. Had I kept on the way I had been, trying to do everything on my own, either I wouldn’t be here to tell this story or I would have no story to tell because I would have never made it out of Iowa. I lucked out and met a guy who was going by the interstate on his way home” Jimmy said. Carrie held her hand up as a cue, Jimmy had a way of droning on and on about things. Especially when he was nervous.
    “Fantastic Jimmy. So, you’re out and about finding your own way and you start to realize that you need a little help. Do you remember anything about the man who picked you up that first day? I know it was quite a while ago,” Carrie said.
    “ Sure” said Jimmy. “I still remember Ted. That was his name, Ted. Out of everyone that I encountered during my drifting, I had probably sent the least time with Ted. But since he was the first person to help me along my journey, I remember him well. He drove a small, tan colored sedan. The inside was immaculate. If he had met me further along this trip, he would have never let me in.”
    “What do you mean by that, Jimmy?”
    “Things can get pretty dirty living on the road, but we’ll get to that later.” Jimmy laughed a bit.
    "Do you remember anything else about Ted?” Carried asked.
    “ He was some sort of businessman, I guessed. He wore slacks and a button down shirt with a tie. He had a mahogany colored briefcase in the backseat and his blazer hung on a coast hanger from a hook above the rear driver-side window. Ted wore glasses. They were the thin gold-framed variety. He was probably in his mid-forties with very prominent features,” Jimmy said.
    “He probably had his pick of the ladies” Carrie added.
    “Dark hair, blue eyes, financial security… “ Jimmy joked.
    “He seems like he would be a girl’s dream!” said Carrie. They both shared the first real laugh since Jimmy had sat down with her this morning. He was beginning to feel much better about his decision to tell his story as well as his ability to tell it. Jimmy regained his composure and continued on.
    “Ted didn’t talk much during our half hour drive to the truck stop. So most of what I know about him is probably something I’ve fashioned in my imagination. What he did teach me, whether he knew it or not, is that there are still good people left in this world. In the hours I had been walking earlier that day and in the weeks and months that lead to my leaving, I had seriously begun to question the world in which we live. Then, when I met Ted, the first little thought changing seed was planted,” said Jimmy.
    “What do you mean by that Jimmy? What seed was planted as you rode only half an hour with this stranger?”
    “This man who clearly had much more important things to do and who obviously had a lot to lose if I had turned out to be a killer, he took time to help me. Ted helped me even though my appearance echoed homelessness after having only been gone from home for a few hours. Ted didn’t judge me, he wanted to help me and he did,” Jimmy told her.
    “That’s wonderful, Jimmy. What happened next?”
    “We arrived at the T&A truck stop around 7:30 that night, but it was summer so the sun was still shining. I thanked Ted for the ride, grabbed my pack and exited the sedan. I waved as he drove away and that was the last I saw of Ted. There was a deli in the truck stop and after walking for so long, I was feeling a little drained,” Jimmy said.
    “Oh, I was wondering if you had snacks with you!” Carrie laughed at herself. “What did you have, Jimmy?”
    “I got a large ham and cheese sub. I sat for a while drinking pop while I ate half of it and tried to decide what my next move would be. After some intense thinking and a few refills I came to the conclusion that I could further faster if I had a sign. I wrapped up the remaining half of my sandwich and put it into my pack. Then, I headed around to the back of building,” Jimmy said.
    “Oh no, now I’m worried. I hope nothing bad happens yet,” Carrie said more for the benefit of the audience than to Jimmy directly.
    “Behind the building were several dumpsters. I located the one marked “for cardboard only” and salvaged a sizeable piece to scrawl my message on. It would seem that I was aware of some of the more trivial needs I would have while trying to survive on my own because I had packed a few black markers in my pack,” Jimmy said.
    “Had you already thought about needing a sign to travel when you left home, Jimmy?”
    “Back at home I hadn’t known what I might need them for, but in that moment I would have liked to think that I was subconsciously looking out for myself,” Jimmy old Carrie and the rest of the world.
    “Since I had never been in this situation particularly before, I wasn’t really sure what write or what to expect once it was written,” Jimmy continued. “My father had been a truck driver. So I thought my best shot at getting far away from here as fast as possible was to hitch a ride with a truck driver,” Jimmy explained.
    “When you went around back to the dumpsters, did you already have an idea of what you were going to write?” Carried pressed.
    “I knew I just needed to get my message out to the truckers who were coming and going. It needed to be simple, to the point,” Jimmy said. He paused a moment before he continued. He noticed Carrie looking at the clock. “I can’t recall how long I sat looking at that blank piece of cardboard. It was a while,” Jimmy finally continued. “In the end, I just wrote in big block letters, “GOING WEST?” and left it at that. Now that I had some dinner and sign it was time to wait. I set up near the road on a patch of grass. I wanted to put myself in a place where everyone coming and going would see me. Chances were that I would find the ride I was looking for with a truck driver, but it could just as easily been another motorist,” Jimmy said.
    “Okay Jimmy. Hold that thought. We’re going to commercial, but we’ll be right back folks. Stay tuned to hear the rest of local celebrity Jimmy Cason’s story of survival, humanity and forgiveness as recounts his days of living free on the road all across this Great Nation. All that and more coming up folks, stay tuned. You’re listening to 87.5 WQRZ with your host Carrie English.”
    Carrie flipped a switch or two and then removed her headphones placing them around her neck. “We have about four minutes if you need to grab a soda or, you know, restroom or whatever” said Carrie. Jimmy could tell she wasn’t feeling well. The tiredness was apparent even with her darker than usual eye-makeup. It was days like these that made Carrie glad she hadn’t pursued a career in television.