An Artist Life

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Hitch hiking from Austin Texas to Battle Creek Michigan

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Chapter Five

Submitted: March 15, 2019

Reads: 5

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Submitted: March 15, 2019

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Me in 1980 up in Michigan. 

 

"Freebird" Ink on paper. One of the many fantasy type pieces of artwork I was doing at the time.

 

It was now the summer of 1980. Summers in Texas could be really hot. This year was even hotter than usual. And in fact this Summer set record high temperatures and I believe we went something like 40 days in triple digit heat with no rain. It was crazy hot. The big movie of this time was Urban Cowboy with John Travolta and everyone had moved from the Disco joints which was pretty much falling to the way side in favor of country music and learning how to line dance. I tried a little bit of it myself before Robin came into my life down at the Broken Spoke on South Lamar in Austin. But I digress.

 

Robin and I were really happy together. She was beautiful. And guys I think would get jealous of her being on my arm. I think some of her friends too thought I was a cutie. Who knows. I just know that in the apartment complex we lived in we had a close circle of friends that would come to our apartment and hang out and smoke and sometimes I would create art and such like I did when I was painting “The Door”. There were 4 or 5 of us in our little circle of friends that hung out with each other all the time during this period of time. For a brief while, her sister Teresa and her sister's boyfriend Jessie would stay with us in the apartment but eventually they would leave and head back to Michigan. Neither Jessie nor Teresa really liked living in Texas and they both were home sick for Michigan.

 

Robin of course was from Battle Creek Michigan and she was getting home sick herself. And me, I had a bit of gypsy in my blood and wanted to see more of the world. So we got to talking and we came up with this plan to sell everything in the apartment ( which was mostly my things), get a couple of back packs and carry what we could and hitch hike up to Battle Creek from Austin.

 

On hind sight I probably wouldn't do this again. You certainly take your own life into your hands if you hitch hike these days. But this was 1980 and people were more likely to give you a ride back then. It wasn't unusual for me to hitch hike around town in fact. The big bear of a guy who turned me on to the Hawaiian weed picked me up on the road and gave me a ride so it could happen.

 

We gave our selves two weeks to put in our final notices from our respective jobs and to collect our last pay checks and for me to sell off all my stuff in the apartment. We ended up having a house sell type of deal in the apartment for a couple of days and my landlord ( who had become my friend ) was willing to keep or give away whatever was left. In fact we broke our lease but because I was friends with the daughter and the mother and dad they were cool with me breaking the lease. I had hung out with them a couple of times in a little honky tonk club and even talked about buying an electric guitar from them. I would give it back to the husband and everything was cool.

 

We had a pretty good turn out both days and there were some interesting people that showed up for the sale. I remember two geeks getting into a bidding war over a couple of slide rules my dad had given me at the time. It was pretty funny to watch. I had them on sale for like 50 cents each and they bid them up to about 5 dollars each which was pretty cool. Another party couple ( I call them a party couple because they looked like they would have been a couple Robin and I would have partied with ) showed up and they looked through everything and the only thing they would buy was a Frisbee I had. There was a couple of guys that had lived in the apartment complex that were told to leave and when the landlord was away they showed up and bought a box of my records for something like 30 bucks which was pretty good money back them. It would come in handy later.

 

Towards evening that guy who had bought the box of albums showed up again and when I asked him about the money he owed us he claimed he didn't have it. We almost got into a fight because of it but I would eventually get paid. He had told us he didn't have any money but then we found out from the landlords daughter he had been flashing around a huge wad of money so I confronted him about it and he relented. He was dick for that but I'm glad I did get that money from him because we would end up needing it later on. They took off and they gave me a look like “I'm gonna come back and fix you” bu they never did.

 

That night one of the guys in our little group threw us a going away party in his apartment so we smoked it up and drank some and stayed up a bit too late I think. We would finally go off to our own place to crash and I felt like me and Robin were like heroes to everyone because we were gonna hitch hike across country, which few people ever did. We would end up going something like 1500 plus miles straight up from Austin to Battle Creek Michigan, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

 

By now we had sold most everything. We had bought a couple of back packs and had packed them. I had my guitar in a guitar case and a packet of arm wrapped up in a blanket and duct taped with the painting “The Door” and that's all we would take with us.

 

Everyone said goodbye and someone gave us a ride down Ben White Blvd to a Jim's restaurant near IH 35 and dropped us off after saying goodbye to us. I think it was the landlord or her daughter or both. I can't remember now. In any case we were on our way. After stopping and getting some coffee at the restaurant Robin and I walked over to the highway and waited by the side of the rode with our thumbs out and we waited. After a bit a guy gave us a ride to North Austin and dropped us off.

 

We were definitely on our way now.

 

The next guy was a middle aged man in a beat up older car called Weldon who would give us a ride from North Austin up to Sulfur Springs Texas. He went the long way around Dallas and took forever and we were both so happy to get away from the guy. He would talk some crazy stuff in the car and it made both Robin and myself quite nervous. He had invited us to go stay with him and his sister at her house but we kindly declined and spent our first night in a hotel room. We would take a shower and eat a little bit in a little restaurant there near it and then call it a night. I think it was like 3 am when we finally did crash.

 

After some coffee the next day we went back out to the highway and put our thumbs out and the next guy to pick us up was an off duty cop from Dallas. We felt much better about things then and he was pretty cool. He told us about his job and how the radar in his car worked and so on. He would take us through Arkansas ( which was amazingly beautiful ) up to Missouri and drop us off in a little town called Bald Knob Arkansas which must have had a population of about 35 people or something.

 

It was pitch dark here with very little traffic. We were in the parking lot of a store that was closed and we had to wait a while for another vehicle to come pick us up. A truck would slow down and the driver asked us if we needed a ride. It turned out to be a couple with their three kids in the bed of the truck heading up to Illinois.

 

So we climbed into the back of the truck. Robin and I and the kids chatted a bit in the back of the truck and eventually we all laid down and went to sleep ( or tried to). I had a hard time sleeping but Robin dozed off right away. I remember looking up at the night sky and watching the stars slowly traveling by over head and the feel of the early morning when the sun was barely peaking over the horizon. That was pretty amazing.

 

Eventually the couple would slow down and stop in the edge of a parking lot and we would climb out and say good bye to the three kids and the couple. They would drive off and there me and Robin were, now in Illinois in a little town called Centrillia Illinois right at sun rise. It was chilly out and there was hardly any cars on the highway here. I will never forget. Robin and I looked at each other and it seemed like a romantic moment, the perfect moment to kiss so we both leaned forward to do so and the bills of our caps hit one another and we both had to stop and it made us both laugh. It was a funny moment.

 

So we walked over to the Stuckie's to get some breakfast and coffee. I had been buying bumper stickers of each State we traveled through and put them on my guitar case. I remember the looks everyone gave us when we walked in. It reminded me of that line from Bob Seeger's song “Turn the page”...”Most times you can't hear them talk, other times you can” type of deal. I was a bit too tired though to worry what some rednecks thought about us. We were about half way through our trip and we were doing something exciting and seeing part of the country we hadn't seen. It was amazing really. The first night we had stayed in the motel room in Sulfur Springs and the next time we slept in the back of a truck with three kids and their dog.

 

After some breakfast and coffee we went back out to the highway and put our thumbs out. Our next ride was a sweet lady who was a retired teacher who was going to see a relative in Indiana. That was on the way. So she took us through Illinois all the way around Indianapolis Indiana and then dropped us off on the north side.

 

Here we waited a bit for a while. About an hour but finally another truck driver in a semi truck would pull over and give us a ride. He was going all the way up into Michigan so off we went. We sat way high up on the road too and we could look down at the other drivers around us. His rig had no shocks on it so it was indeed a very bumpy right.

 

It was super late at night by the time he dropped us off in the middle of no where on a tiny little highway. It was as far as he could take us. We were about miles outside of Battle Creek and there was a truck stop not too too far away but too far to walk in the dark so we waited in pitch darkness with no traffic whatsoever.

 

Robin and I both had flashlights so I turned my own and would wave it around for a bit and luckily a State Trooper going the other way noticed us and he would turn around and come by and ask us what we were doing. It was like 1 am now I think. You wouldn't normally see a couple out in the middle of no where stranded like that. We explained our story and they checked out I. D.s and they checked out so they offered to give us a ride to the truck stop and would drop us off.

 

We were getting closer.

 

Robin and I went into the truck stop and got some coffee. The place was semi busy with truckers and such. We asked around and found out that their was a hotel across the street. I was dead beat tired at this point, having been mostly awake since the hotel room in Sulfur Springs so we slowly dragged our stuff over to the hotel.

 

And guess what. The cost of the room for us this night was almost all the rest of our money. In fact, had I not forced that one guy to pay up on the albums I had sold him we would have been stuck, so that was a good thing we did.

 

I'm telling you that that shower and bed never felt so good. We crashed right away and slept like babies.

 

Well the next morning of course we had to check out. We got dressed and walked back over to the truck stop and waited. Robin was trying to get a hold of her sister Teresa and eventually would. But she didn't have a car and would have to wait for some people to come get us so we waited most of the day in the truck stop. I bet they were glad to finally see us go. I know I was certainly glad when Robin's sister and her friends showed up. Of course her friends were sort of jerks to me at first but I blew it off. I suspect the one guy was a bit jealous but who knows. It could have been just the way the guy behave with everyone.

 

It turns out her mother was staying in their summer trailer a few miles away from Battle Creek. Her parents had gotten a divorce many years before and Robin had a slightly strained relationship with her dad but she was close with her mother and she wanted to surprise her mother so we couldn't tell her yet that we were in town.

 

Eventually we got into town and then sometime after that we went to go see her mother. We would stay a few days there at the Summer Trailer and go back to her mother's place to stay. Now came the job search. We both wanted to work and get our own place again so off we went.

 

It took us a day but eventually we both got jobs in a Pizza place. I think Bob, the manager liked our story of how we hitch hiked across country. He felt that if two young people could do that then they could accomplish anything and that we had to be something special about us so he hired us both just on the story. I'm glad too. I was so happy to get a job right away. Apparently jobs were hard to find these days here in Michigan. Many of the people I talked to were thinking I was crazy because I had left Texas where there was an oil boom and jobs were easy to find.

 

I would end up leaving my art packet with my painting “The Door” with her dad for safe keeping and would carry around my guitar. At one point I would sit down and write my song “Passing Time” about the whole experience of hitch hiking from Austin Texas to Battle Creek Michigan. I wouldn't be doing much art though in this time period but mostly just living.

I would end up living up there for a year and a half and have many adventures but those would come later.

A couple of weeks after we got up to Michigan and after I had gotten a trailer I would end up writing the song "Passin' Time" on my accoustic guitar. It has a two step beat to it and sounds a bit like "Me and Bobby MaGee". I wrote it and dedicated it to my friends I had left behind in Austin Texas. 

"Passin' Time" song lyrics by Jim Green. copywrite : Jim Green. 1980

Well here I am fifteen hundred miles away from my hometown
Thinking about my friend’s way back there.
I’m wondering if they’re doing fine, and still remember me.
And thinking about the times that we once shared.
It’s been a while since I have seen the wonder of their smiles
Though the memory is still fresh in my mind
But the road ahead is where I’m bound, and I have come to know
All those ‘yesterdays’ I’ve had to leave behind…

And maybe I’m just a gypsy for doing what I’ve done 
But I took the only road that I could find.
And maybe someday we’ll meet again, and I can play this song my friends.
But for now, it’s all just ‘passing time’.

I met a woman who took my hand and led me down this road.
We hitchhiked all the way with just our clothes.
We rode in the back of pick up trucks with people we’ll never see again.
And how we made it, well, God only knows.
I seen the stars late at night while the wind blew on by
And I’ve seen the sun come up the very next day.
And every mile we traveled down this dusty country line
Was another mile I left you further away.

Well, who can say what tomorrow will bring, or what it has in store
Though its something that we’re all bound to find.
I know deep down inside of me, there ‘s a bright new shiny day.
But for now, its all just ‘passing time’…
 
So my friends, way back home, or wherever you may be
I haven’t forgotten about all those times.
When we would sit and laugh at life, and takes things as they came
But for me there was simply something else to find.
And please don’t ever forget this ‘boy’
Who somewhere down along the line became the ‘man’ that I am now
I’ve simply got to follow these dreams that have always been in my heart it seems
And I’m headed down that road to where I’m bound…
 
Well, it’s just a dream that I’ve always had in my heart,
To travel down this dusty country line.
And someday my friends, you’ll see this ‘boy’ again,
But for now the ‘man’ is just ‘passing time’…

 

"Crayola Lady" Done sometime before we left for Michigan. Crayons on an orange piece of contruction paper. 


© Copyright 2019 Jim Green. All rights reserved.

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