Tag Archives: Traveling on a shoestring

Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 29th Installment

7. Kuala Lipis, Pahang. After spending two weeks in Kota Bharu, we rode our bikes 43 miles south to a small town called Kuala Krai (cutting $8 Malay off our train fare). The evening there was very pleasant because we bumped into a Peace Corps couple. They invited us to eat supper with them. We exchanged news and suggested some places for them to go in the Philippines. (They were the only volunteers we visited in Malaysia, the only volunteers we visited anywhere. There were about 500 Peace Corps volunteers in Malaysia then, but we didn’t see them.)

The next morning we took what turned out of to be a rather lengthy train ride south through the center of the country. It reminded us of transportation in the Philippines: we were told the trip took about five hours, but we left Kuala Krai at 5:30 a.m. and reached our destination (Kuala Lipis) sometime after 6:00 that evening (9 hours). The ride itself was quite beautiful, passing through rubber plantations, across many rivers, and through some rather thick jungle. We thought we’d cross some mountains, but we went through several tunnels instead. To me the most memorable creature we saw was a huge monitor lizard.

Kuala Lipis is the closest town of any size to the national park. There was a government “rest house” (like a hotel) there, where we made inquiries about going into the park. The last leg of the trip was by boat, and we were told that it cost $120 Malay to hire a boat for the trip in. Obviously we didn’t have that kind of money, but we thought that we might be able to squeeze in when someone else had one hired. A boat was making a trip that day, but it was full because of hauling supplies. The next trip wouldn’t be for five days, and a fellow at the rest house thought we could go then. In the meantime, we were sort of camping out in a garage behind the rest house. We were paying $2.00 Malay a night, a dollar less than the cheapest hotel we stayed in. Also, we cooked our own meals, so we were able save a little that way.

We fell into a lazy routine, sleeping until 8:30 or 9:00. We would get up, cook eggs and boil water for tea, a process that took nearly an hour if our little stove wasn’t feeling energetic. After doing the dishes (with no running water) and reading the paper, Peggy would do some wash, and I usually wrote for a while. Then it would be lunchtime … our basic meal being hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, a local fruit called lonsat, and bread and kaya (native jam made from coconut milk and eggs.) The afternoon was reserved for reading, sleeping, writing, working crossword puzzles, and sometimes doing more washing.

Supper was a major operation on our stove, which had to be pumped constantly, but we enjoyed cooking our own food. (We always had rice and hot tea. Our meat varied: fresh fish, dried fish, canned meatballs and gravy (from Australia), stewed pork, or duck (both from China). The Chinese fellow in the rest house taught us a delicious way to cook vegetables. We’d buy 30 cents Malay worth of leafy vegetables (we tried three kinds) and 20 cents Malay worth of fresh shrimp, add some oil, and cook them together in a frying pan. The sweetness of the shrimp would keep the greens from being bitter. While we waited, Peggy was frustrated because there were no English bookstores in Kuala Lipis, so she spent much of her time working crossword puzzles.

8. Our lazy life ended on August 21 (1969). A major in the British Army (stationed in Singapore) had reserved a boat into the park. Since he had only two daughters with him (his wife was expecting in three weeks, and his son was recuperating from being stung by a cone shell), there was plenty room for us. We met Major Smith the night before, and during our conversation Peggy mentioned that the $120 Malay was more than we could afford for a boat. That was the first he had heard of its being so expensive, although he had been corresponding with park officials.

We made arrangements to leave our bicycles and some of our extra stuff in the garage where we had been staying – for a $1.00 Malay a day. At the last moment we found out that we could leave our stuff at an army station around the corner for free. So Peggy went with Major Smith and his daughters to the train station, while I took care of the bikes. I just almost missed the train because it turned out that a general was arriving that day and the army people didn’t want our large messy basket (and bikes) cluttering up their place. So I had to lug everything back to the place where we had been staying. I arrived at the station three or four minutes before the train pulled out.

The train ride took about an hour and took us within two miles of where we were to catch the boat. When we got off the train, Major Smith began inquiring about the price. The fee was $12.50 or $15 (depending on the size of the boat) plus the cost of the gas: 46 gallons at $2.60 per gallon one way! So the major had a conference with his daughters, and they decided they’d rather spend the $200 or so it would have cost them going up the East Coast. So that was the end of our trip to the park. We spent a pleasant afternoon eating a picnic lunch with the Smiths and walking two miles to the river and back, while we waited for the 7:15 train back to Kuala Lipis. At one point we were caught in a downpour. Major Smith’s daughters thought we should get out of it, but we had no where to go. So the major shrugged and threw up his hand, and we all waited the storm out under a tree.

Peggy and Randy Ford

Leave a comment

Filed under Found Our Way

Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 19th Installment

54. We finally moved out of our apartment and comfortably settled in the Mabuhay Hotel. Here we had air conditioning, hot water, a bathtub, and TV, none of which we had at the apartment. Our only complaint was that we had no window, making the room just as dark at 7:00 a.m. as at midnight. But we managed to wake up okay every morning, and we certainly enjoyed the luxuries.

We delivered our trunks to a freight company and knew they would be held up in San Francisco while an agent cleared them through customs. Peggy and I between us were allowed $200 worth of goods. The original value of our goods was something like $240, but most of the items were used, which reduced their value considerably. Besides, Peace Corps Volunteer’s trunks were rarely opened by customs officials, so we weren’t expecting trouble. I had to open one of the trunks at the freight company because they were 8 lbs. overweight. In the process I dropped two keys into the trunk and was unable to locate them. So when the trucks reached home someone had to pick, saw, or break the locks to open them.

My summer classes were still going on. Although I wasn’t able to execute many of the movements well, I really enjoyed my mime class under the German mime artist. Then the three classes I was teaching and our Peace Corps service ended on the same day. The rough thing was that everyone in my directing class (something like 25 or 30 students) was supposed to direct some sort of production, which meant we saw a lot of short, student-directed plays during those last two weekends. Our plans hadn’t changed and wouldn’t. We had our plane tickets. We would fly to Singapore and from there decide where to head next.

55. When we were no longer Peace Corps Volunteers but still in the Philippines, we joined the ranks of the unemployed, or maybe just of the free. Suddenly we had no responsibilities, so we planned to take advantage of it.

Since our flight didn’t leave right away, we decided to travel in the Philippines for a few days. We left Manila and spent the night in a small town (Lucina City, Quezon), a three hour bus ride south, and the next day traveled south again for about seven more hours to a small mining town. There we stayed with some friends (Filipinos) whom we met at Easter.

Up until then we had gotten to see a foreign country and its people under the protective wing of the Peace Corps. For Peggy it was somewhat frightening to about to take off for a new country (I’m not sure I thought about it), this time on our own. In Singapore there wouldn’t be anyone to meet us at the airport, to help us clear customs and change some of our money to the local currency, and to find a cheap but safe place stay. Peggy thought she would enjoy traveling … our vacations in the Philippines were some of the highlights of our stay; but it was going to require more courage from then on.

We still didn’t know where we were heading after Singapore. We had two likely choices: either traveling up through Malaysia to Bangkok or traveling in Indonesia. We planned to do both, but we weren’t sure which would follow Singapore. And I still had my eyes on Borneo.

Wherever we went, it would have to be done cheaply. We knew we could work in some countries, but not in either Indonesia or Malaysia. We were starting out with $1500, which was the money the Peace Corps gave us for our plane tickets home plus 1/3 of the money that the Peace Corps put away for us in the States every month. The other 2/3 went into a bank account in Texas. So if we were careful with our money and worked whenever we got an opportunity, we thought we could keep going for as long as we wanted to be vagabonds.

Other countries pretty definitely on our itinerary included Australia, New Zealand, and Korea, in all of which I knew people in drama. We also planed to get to Japan eventually because it was a country with a well-developed theater tradition. Although language would be a definite problem for us in Japan, we thought that we’d probably stay there for a long time. We told our families that as soon as we decided where we were heading after Singapore, we’d let them know. And if we decided to stay in Singapore, we’d let them know that too.

Meanwhile Peggy received some pictures of her family. Everyone certainly looked tall to us. And one brother looked more like the other than he used to. There wasn’t a picture of Peggy’s mother because she was the photographer.

Peggy and Randy Ford

Leave a comment

Filed under Found Our Way

Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 17th Installment

49. With our termination date approaching, we told our families that we weren’t coming home soon. Peggy wrote my mom that even after we left the Peace Corps she would still have the American government to help her locate us in case of an emergency. Peggy reassured her that we would always let her know what country we were in and the American Embassy in that country would be responsible for us. All she’d have to do was to cable or write the American Embassy of that country, explain the emergency, and they’d locate us. “It might not be as fast as going through the Peace Corps, but you could always get a message through to us if you had to.” Also, our passports said to notify our parents in case of an emergency, and the U.S. government would take care of it. At the same time I was concerned about not finding affordable international insurance, which we never found but never needed because in every country where we needed treatment we were treated free because of socialize medicine. The first country we used socialize medicine was in Singapore because we thought Peggy might’ve been pregnant.

Our approaching termination date made us also think about saving dollars that was sent to us for our birthdays. We also had to think about packing everything that was going to the States and paring down to what we could carry with us. (Before we left we moved into the Mabuhay Hotel for debriefing and medical exams.) We had already done considerable housecleaning and throwing away; sent some packages to Texas and others to New Mexico; and it was beginning to frighten us to think that we had to be completely finished by a specific date. All of this before we decided where we were heading next!

Yes, before we decided to fly to Singapore. We really wanted to go to Singapore by boat because it would give us time to relax. … to get over the rush of leaving and to prepare to enter a new culture. But there were no boats (at least around our termination date) that went straight from Manila to Singapore. They all went via Hong Kong and Bangkok, which meant the fare was much higher. So, we could fly cheaper than we could go by boat. (We saved $50 … a large sum of money then in Asia.) Imagine! leaving the Philippines and arriving in Singapore (2,000 miles away) 2 hours and 40 minutes later! At least we were going from one big city to another, and would be able to speak English in Singapore.

Our idea then was to spend a week or less in Singapore … we expected lodging and food to be quite expensive there. (Only one hitch: Peggy was possibly pregnant.) From Singapore … well, Malaysia was next door, and I still wanted to explore Borneo. (On one vacation we spent a wonderful week on a boat sailing the Sulus and came very close to Borneo … just how close? We thought we could see it off in the distance.) From Singapore we finally decided to head north through Malaysia to Bangkok. My friend Ray Hubener, who stayed with us in Manila, was in Bangkok by then, and he said the drama opportunities there were good. He was also teaching English, so we thought we shouldn’t have much trouble getting jobs there if we decided to stay for a while. My latest dream then was to buy bicycles in Singapore and make this trip by that mode of transportation. (Only one hitch: Peggy was possibly pregnant.) But at the same time I was also still talking about Indonesia, especially Bali (which we thought would probably be just a tourist spot before very long).

As far as a mailing address, we told our families that as soon as we began heading somewhere, we would let them know and they could write us care of the American Embassy in the capital of the country where we were going.

50. The two months leading up to this were quite busy for both of us. Peggy had lots of little things to finish up at school. “The Chairs,” which I directed in the dungeons of Fort Santiago, had a successful run, playing the last week in March and every weekend in April. Peggy was involved as the ticket seller. (We had two extra performances for the cast of another play that was brought to Manila from a city in the south.) Then Peggy and I were able to take off for four days at Easter to go to Marinduque, a small island southeast of Manila. On Easter Sunday we saw a beautiful pageant, built around a legend of a Roman soldier who became a follower of Christ when blood spurted in his eyes as he pierced Jesus’ side. We bought one of the masks used in the pageant, and it became a keepsake.

51. Like I said Lino Brocka named the puppy Peta after the Philippine Educational Theater Association. She must’ve been about three months old and was really a housedog … the only time she wanted to be outside in our tiny backyard was when someone was out there playing with her. At night she even slept in the hallway upstairs because we were mean and wouldn’t let her sleep in our room and that was as close to Peggy and me as she could get.

Peta was a native dog … just a mutt … but she was supposed to like rice and fish and to be rather slow to learn. Well, Peta liked fish, but she didn’t seem to care for rice. (Dog food was quite expensive in Manila, so dogs generally ate the same thing people did.) As far as training her, she learned her name and “No!” very quickly, and it took only a few meals to teach her to stay in her box while we were eating. (Sometimes she got out, but she knew the commands.) But we couldn’t housebreak her. We were almost sure it was because of abstinence and not stupidity, but after weeks of cleaning up puddles, we were rather fed up. Even after she was whipped though, she came sidling up, wagging her tail, and it was impossible not be friends with her. We left the puppy behind with Linda.

52. The finial six weeks were even busier than ever … as we were getting ready to leave the Philippines, our summer projects were in full swing. I was following a really hectic schedule:
M-W-F
10-12 Mime class (I was a student)
1-3 or 4 Directing (I was the teacher)
6-8 Mime class
8:30-11:00 “ Maynila,” an improvisational show I was directing. I took the improvisational group to a huge tenement building in Tondo (a slum area) for three performances.

T-Th-Sat.
10-12 Playwriting (I was the teacher)
1-3 or 4 Stagecraft (I was the teacher)
6-8 Mime class
8:30- 11:00 “Maynila”

During a performance of “Maynila” in the dungeons of Fort Santiago, there was an ugly incident involving a nun “getting touched in dark,” and I resolved the incident (proudly) by being “more Filipino than Filipinos around me.” I held the hand of the man who was upset while I calmed him down.

To further complicate matters, my classes were held at three different places, so that I had to spend a good deal of time just coming and going. Needless to say it was a busy six weeks.

Meanwhile Peggy was teaching two classes of kindergarten children. The classes were under the sponsorship of the Social Welfare Department and were only for very, very poor children. In the morning she had about 15 three- and four-year-olds. Her afternoon group was about 30 children, ranging in ages from 3 to 7. The children were fun and she enjoyed working with them. But it was a challenge. What a challenge! She had watched her mother work with this age group, and of course she had done a lot of babysitting. But being in charge of that many children for two hours a day required a lot of imagination. So she quickly exhausted most of her ideas. She was handicapped because there were no Filipino picture books, and her Tagalog was not good enough to do much storytelling. She luckily found someone who could teach the children action songs in Tagalog.

Peggy and Randy Ford

1 Comment

Filed under Found Our Way

Randy Ford Author-U.S. ROUTE 40, Snapshots of history

       During the summer of 1948, young Jack Fisher assumed total control of his life.   Emancipated, and hard headed, he had just turned eighteen.   Like so many of his generation, he profited from his parents having survived the Great Depression, but as of yet, his capacity for resilience and self-sufficiency hadn’t been tested.

      His parents celebrated the Great Depression, as a time of challenge, challenges met and overcome.   The need for dogged thrift, and the lively remembrance of the days before the war when people managed on cream and egg money, times when his mother and dad exchanged butter and eggs for kerosene and gas and called it even, led to a strong sense of insecurity and a need for possessions.   His principle inheritance, therefore, was tied to the price of gasoline, sugar, navy beans, fig bars, and gingersnaps.   Even with the advent of better times, they were driven by the memory of hard times; and from an early age, Jack knew that one day he would try to escape.

       He didn’t want to be like his pop and waste his life pumping gas.   He talked of becoming a bum, which particularly irritated his folks.   He was also particularly good at exasperating Margo, his younger sister.   The most tragic event of her young life came when Jack disappeared without taking her with him.   No sister could’ve hoped for a better brother, which made life without him more depressing.   She told her friends that he died of cancer.

       Teased by the constant traffic of U.S. Route 40, Margo waited for her turn, when she too would leave, but felt hampered by limitations placed on her by her sex.   On the other hand, she had her imagination and used it to go places and to get to know people.   She liked to talk to strangers, and by doing it she hoped to find someone who had met her brother.

      She pictured Jack traveling the length of Route U.S 40, back and forth, beckoned on by the Burma-Shave sign sequences and welcomed by the familiar flashing, pulsation signs that blinked “eat,” “drink,” and “sleep.”

       Such were the ironies of life, that it was, in reality, his dad’s own Asian experience that fired the boy’s imagination.   Dangers not spoken of, or exploits spoken of in almost a flippant manner, Jack’s dad tended to gloss over the reality of war.   The boy knew that it had been a pretty harrowing time; but how could his dad really speak about how he felt about plunging his bayonet into a man’s body, or the helter-skelter spilling of blood.   Pardon this sin of omission.   Rather than the almost total destruction of Manila, he preferred to downplay the horror and dwell on his fondness for leggy stage performances and those places where the bitterness of the war could be momentarily forgotten.   He was very taken by the Filipinos and the emotional reception they gave.   They were so much more musical than the people he knew in Indiana, while the same melodic and rhythmic variations were sung and played.   “Aloho Oe,” as he stood and clapped in speechless gratitude.

       From the very outset of her patronage of the art scene, Margo was honest enough to admit her roots.   Choosing Chicago had been deliberate.   Pragmatism ruled her thinking.   With family near, if the sweet life turned sour, she could always return to her small hometown.   To, therefore, openly announce her enmity toward her parents as her brother did seemed senseless; but, in hindsight, Margo later felt Jack said scurrilous things only to provoke their father and didn’t really mean them.   Quite the opposite of her sibling, it seemed most essential for her to keep in close contact with her family.

       Accordingly, her passions were kept in check by fear; that meant she never followed her brother.   His occasional letters spawn the idea that he lived a life filled with exotic adventures, a free spirit, who wore blue jeans and loose shirts that hid a money belt stuffed with a passport and $10 American Express traveler’s checks.   As she read his letters, she allowed her imagination free reign.   She spent hours daydreaming and calculating how to travel on a shoestring.   She imagined meeting a decent headhunter, or without a guide penetrating the Amazon.   More than once, having packed a duffel bag, she found herself hesitating and then gravitating towards Chicago.   Thus, she became more and more interested in choices that included the son of an Italian immigrant and enthusiasm for art and poets.

       Before Chicago, a highway best defined her life.   In place of open land and sky, crickets and cicadas, there was a hodgepodge of contradictory visions.   To see beyond the constant traffic, the signs and the telephone poles and be amazed by a landscape of pastures and trees, to detect creosote between telephone poles and catch the dim trajectories of birds high in the sky, all of that took an artist’s eye.   The very bleakness of the gas stations and motels, the use-car lots and trailer courts stimulated her.

       By the 50’s, to attract motorist off the newly constructed freeway, her father ranchified their gas station.   This expense generated new business, but in no way could he compete with the big truck stops of major oil companies.   For the first time, Margo’s mom didn’t have to help with the business.   Since she didn’t have to work anymore, she could keep an immaculate house and could concentrate on her soaps; so during those years, she lived a dream of being a full time housewife.

       Consequently, the utterly familiar lost its charm.   So unhappy she was and ignorant of the reasons for her malcontent that she often became irrational and irritated.   She held onto her feelings of animosity.   Depression debilitated her, and Margo was given the run of the house.   Margo’s mother recalled nostalgically a simpler time, when outdoors didn’t mean a parking lot, an auto junkyard, or an endless series of billboards.

      To cheer the teary-eyed woman up, Margo engaged in non-stop chatter.   This turned into long rambling stories and gave the girl a reputation for being windy.   It was true that she already had a whole host of imaginary friends.   And she had been on many imaginary adventures.   Yes, it was true that she reciprocally trained fleas and cockroaches for her mother.   Her mother’s acceptance of her circus would always be remembered as a triumph.   There followed battles over opening the windows, which was compensated by an invasion of no-see-’ems.   Here was an idea, which, in its final stages, grew into a three-ring extravaganza, with troops of trained June bugs, flies, spiders, daddy longlegs, katydids, hair bees, gnats, and dragonflies.   Of course, the girl hoped she could give her mother ample reasons to clap and laugh.

       Margo took her mission, therefore, seriously.   Before the opening of the first McDonald’s or Disneyland, she turned their couch into a ride on top of a beetle, a ride through a jungle, or so that she and her mother could journey to Borneo, or sail the South Seas…. through many countries, friendly and hostile….through harbors and up rivers, spending many hours imagining future horizons….following railroad tracks and tramping across the country, wading streams, riding elephants, or camels, or even birds.   To Borneo, Hong Kong, Manila, except she placed maples and oaks in Borneo, ignored the hilly terrain of Hong Kong, and placed meadows of alfalfa near Manila.

       So Jack, adios.   What did Indiana mean to him?   How could he have run away?   Margo’s wayward brother missed his sister’s adolescence, when she moved in a fast lane and gained a reputation for smoking and making out.   Confused, and in extreme situations in ferocious conflict with her peers, she was labeled a misfit.   Then she turned to making music and writing poetry.   In the spirit of Swinburne, and the decadence of another century, a poet was born.   It embarrassed her plain-talking folks.

       Margo sought controversy.   Whenever possible, she acted outrageously.   True to form she formed the Top Hat Gang, a circle of friends unto-themselves.   That these girls weren’t pregnant amazed everyone.   With respect to her poetry, unfortunately for Margo, her parents would’ve been happier with her having a child than with her proclamations of free love.   In Indiana, family values were the thing, which set the state apart from neighboring Chicago.   The curses and the vices of the city were well documented.

       Now, the ruin of more than one Church of God girl was reported from the pulpit.   These grim lessons clearly illustrated what could happen if certain things were allowed to continue.   Hence, Margo’s mother worried about her daughter’s fall from Grace.   It became particularly upsetting to her whenever she heard the words slut and tramp used.   So, to stop the finger pointing, she stopped the girl from seeing her best friends.   Almost up until she graduated, the poor, deprived teenager suffered the consequences, while her mother’s hysterics had little, if anything, to do with the Top Hat Gang.

       Meanwhile, U. S. Route 40 continued to change.   From an industrial base centered on grimy, smoke-belching, multi-storied, brick mills, such as once flourished along the river, to factories in prefabricated, horizontal metal buildings, Richmond also changed.   As the town changed from shopping at Greenfield’s to shopping at malls with acres of parking lot, families were irrevocably altered too.

       To stay competitive, Jack and Margo’s dad had to rely on service.   That meant his customers demanded that he open and close the station.   Yes, in order for his standard of living to modestly grow, he had to spend long days and nights away from his family.   Human experience gives ample evidence of dads such as him, who would never deliberately be absent, but had to work long hours to make a living.   Circumstances called for loyalty to his business.   No wonder cold and uneasy jealousy griped Margo’s mother.   For the loss of her youth, and the obvious imprudence of marring young, she secretly kicked herself.

       Jack’s dad, yet again, had to enlarge his business.   This included an office and service bays, a larger display room and larger storage spaces, room for the sale of tires, batteries, and accessories.   Some stations, owned by major oil companies, were bigger.   They had simply replaced old stations with little more than huge canopies, but he held on by pouring more sweat into his business.

      With this new and magnificent station, with full service and self serve, he started a new decade with great expectations.   These he more than realized.   Having the good fortune of having matured when opportunity existed on every street corner, and when rather like a comet the automobile epitomized the age, he fought gas wars with his prices announced on billboards.   He won these wars by undercutting the competition, but was overcome over the loss of a son who left in the middle of a church service.

       An early riser, Jack’s dad followed the same ritual most mornings.   Before sunrise, along with two farmers and their sons, a truck driver and a policeman (all of whom he had known since childhood), he would open the Coffee Pot Restaurant.   He always ordered the same thing: (you guessed it) tons of coffee and bacon and eggs.   Here were like-minded men, who counted on each other.   Besides a few words about grandkids, these friends could communicate reams without saying much.   No formalities were ever exchanged.   Had Jack stuck around he would’ve become one of them.

       Ted, Don, Max, and Ruby would be friends until the last two died off.   In the Coffee Pot, even that early, there were always people coming and going, preoccupied with they’re own activities, and blind to what other people were doing.   But in this circle, feelings weren’t so well hidden: for example Jack’s father’s feelings of sadness and envy.   With the loss of Jack, he envied the farmers and the relationships they had with their sons.   He saw their obvious respect for each other, as shown to parents in earlier times, when boys and their dads went places together, which generally happened more on the farm than in the city.

       After Jack ran away, his father’s tolerance for wholesomeness diminished.   His contempt and anger also grew and was projected onto the farmers’ sons.   From merely looking at the two young men, his resentment grew.   It began to poison him, a reaction that was unfortunately unfair.   With these feelings came an increased awareness of the past.

      Thoughts about the passing of his own youth made him long for his son; memories from his own childhood, of riding with his grandpa in an old wagon pulled by a team of mules, and of his dad shucking corn, it all hurt.   It hurt to think that he had been too busy working to pay much attention to his son.

       He no longer had Jack to go coon hunting with him.   There was no one left to train his dogs. How much more could they have done together and taught each other?   About the best places to go and the best weather for coon hunting: early fall when the weather might get bad and the snow fell and where there were a lot of trees and you could catch stragglers before they could run and hide and to know what a good coon dog was all about.   Now that was what Jack’s dad’s had in mind.

       Throughout those long months of fearing the worse, and during this crisis filled with self-incrimination, was exactly when the rest of his family needed him the most.   He could’ve taken Margo fishing and, instead of buying his wife the newest and latest washer and drier, could’ve paid her more attention.   That could’ve really been something that he could’ve been tickled and proud about.

       Nevertheless, because of the worrying, many people who knew the family and of Jack’s disappearance, especially because of his efforts by distributing fliers and offering a substantial reward, could tell that the father desperately wanted to find his son.

       He searched the cities and towns along U.S. Route 40 and never gave up.   Thinking he knew his son, he thought the boy wouldn’t go too far, he, in those first days, drove west as far as Terre Haute.   He asked at every gas station, restaurant, and grocery store.   He followed every lead and prayed that something dark and sinister hadn’t occurred.

       To him his wife seemed occupied and ill at ease.   To have asked more of her seemed like too big of a deal.   As far as she was concerned, she felt useless.   She viewed her husband as an unemotional person and could only hope he would someday change.   In her mind, their failure was a typical failure, as typical as anything she had ever seen on television.   The lack of excitement in her life was a well-established fact, rooted in pretended happiness.   All the searching he therefore did he did alone.   He felt obligated to protect her from each disappointment.

       But then, as he crisscrossed the state, he began to accept his son’s disappearance.   He came to the conclusion that it was natural for a young man to seek his independence.   Having grown up in a community nurtured by a national highway, with this road stretching clear across the country, the final attraction for his son had to have been San Francisco.   Whether you’re talking about the trolley cars or the Golden Gate Bridge, here was a city that was more of a magnet than Indianapolis or Terre Haute.   While at the same time, all roads in Indiana seemed to lead to Indianapolis, Indianapolis where a changing skyline was synonymous with prosperity, and where anyone skilled at gamesmanship could still become an entrepreneur.   Indianapolis had all of the incentives, from new buildings to opportunities any young person with ambition might’ve wanted, or as Jack’s father often said, “Indianapolis is a lovely city,” which he thought should’ve attracted his son and kept him close to home.

      Randy Ford

Leave a comment

Filed under Snapshots of history