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The Big Hitch

by Peggy Wendel

Mother warned me. But I hitchhiked anyway. I was a fledgling, exploring what it meant to be on my own and discovering the world. My teenage thumb was my ticket across town when I was late getting home. I could go farther and faster with my thumb than on my bike. My friends and I boldly hitched around the Willamette Valley. I was a key player: the girl that could get the guys a ride. We went all the way to the Oregon coast. What freedom! Hip, cool, adventurous, practical—of course I hitchhiked. I just didn’t tell Mother, but she worried anyway. I hope you’re not hitchhiking. You never know who is going to pick you up, she’d say. Although I wouldn’t admit it, I knew that hitchhiking was dangerous. What did that creepy, greazy, middle-aged man have in mind when he insisted on stopping to buy me a burger as if I were his date? When he went inside to order, I didn’t wait to find out. And that goggle-eyed guy who stated his intentions as soon as I’d stepped up into his rig? Of course you won’t mind if I play with you along the way . . . Why, I jumped right out and hitched another ride; a family picked me up. There was the occasional creep, but I knew how to take care of myself. My parents gave me a car before I moved out on my own. But in 1974 when gas prices shot sky high, I gave the car back. I was 19 and living in a communal house in Eugene. All I needed was my bicycle and my thumb....

by Peggy Wendel
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