Walking down the hill proved much less pleasant than going up had been. Not only was it more painful going downhill, but the downhill side was much steeper. With traffic coming from both directions, it was also necessary for me to move back and forth across lanes to avoid passing cars. The road ditch was much deeper (and with steeper banks) than it had been on the uphill side.
Before I reached the bottom of the hill, I encountered another concern. Cars coming to meet me, would swerve across the other lane, in an obvious attempt to run over me. As I would jump off in the ditch and scramble up the bank to avoid them, the drivers would honk, shout obscenities, and laugh before swerving back into their own lane. It seems they were quite enjoying their drive to work. This happened several times within the next couple of miles. Had I been slower or less alert, I have no doubt that I would have been hit.
Another mile and a half, with the stars fading into the gray light of dawn, I walked past a mobile home and was greeted by dogs. Not your average happy to see a stranger type dogs. These were large mix breed dogs, one coming out in front of me and the other behind, teeth bared and hackles up. One was barking loudly while the other just kept creeping up and snarling. The barking brought the lady of the house to the door with a gun. Did she call off the dogs? Did she offer to call someone for me? Did she even have a kind word? Absolutely none of the above. Instead, she shined a very bright, red filtered spotlight on me, and asked what was going on. I told her that my vehicle had broken down and I was trying to make it home. Her reply was simple and to the point. "Well, I guess you better just keep walking then", she stated in a very rude tone, and went back inside. No, she did not call off the dogs before going inside, so I had to maneuver very carefully to get beyond their territory.
Another mile and it was daylight, and by now, I was in an area where most people know me. Imagine my disapointment when I started seeing people I was acquainted with speed on past like I wasn't there. Even my former brother in law was going the opposite direction. He smiled, waved and drove on. Did he bother to call any of my family and tell them I was walking? Of course not.
At the corner which marked the point of only three miles remaining, an old man had stalled his little pickup. He had been taking it to the shop to have the starter fixed and missed his turn. In turning around, it had stalled and would have to be push started. His friends were coming to help and would be there shortly, so we had a few minutes of conversation. When his friends arrived, I helped them push his truck to start it. He told them that I had been walking all night and could use a ride, but they completely blew it off. So I walked on.
About a mile from home, and only about a hundred yards from the gravel road I was dreading with my now sore feet, my little sister came around the curve to meet me. I was not really expecting her to stop, since she has not been willing to speak to me in over a year, but she did stop. Actually, she acted like there had never been any bad feelings between us and we had a good conversation. Very strange.
Finally, being home was great, but still lots to do. I hurried inside to call Anna, who had been expecting a call about an hour after I left her house, to let her know I made it back safely (our standard routine) She had left two messages on my phone just in case my call didn't go through to her cell phone. This happens often and she doesn't get my message until she dials my number. The third message, as calm and sweet as the other two, was letting me know that she was hoping it was just my phone not working and hoping I would get a good night sleep. However, something in the tone of her voice said she was terrified. In the absence of information, the imagination can do terrible things. I quickly called her to let her know what had happened, then went to care for the animals who had missed their evening feeding.
These things done, it was time to take the truck to Anna's, hook up to the trailer, and haul the Jeep home for repairs. The hauling went well, and by the time evening chores had been done, I was ready to crash. Considering the walk, the hauling and the fact that I hadn't slept in about forty hours, I wasn't really doing all that bad. I knew I would be sore in the morning, but it was good to finally get horizontal for a few hours. Yes, I was very sore in the morning, but surprisingly enough, my body handled that walk and sleep deprivation about as well as it did in similar circumstances about forty years ago (except for the ankle injury), and with a much better appreciation of the stars than I had had back then.
Several lessons were also learned, as follows: (keep in mind that there are others but these are what comes to mind)
1. We have become too dependent on cell phones. Everyone
expects that you have called and have help coming.
2. People are afraid to help strangers. In fact, they seem afraid to
slow down, as if expecting a rock through a windshield.
3. There are now people out there who will make sport of trying to
hit you with their car.
4. If you are not in contact with your own personal support base,
whether it be friends, family or some other support, you are ON
5. A good star and meteor show is hard to beat, whatever the
6. Just because I am older, doesn't mean I am not just as tough.
I hope you have enjoyed my midnight stroll. Thank you for reading.