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Hartselle Enquirer

A ride in a whirlwind 

By Clif Knight

 Hitchhiking was a popular means of travel for voyagers who had a long way to go without transportation or the money to hire a taxicab when I was a teenager back in the 1940s and 1950s. 

We had a pickup truck that our father used mainly to transport agricultural products from farm to market. I quickly learned how to drive it from field to field on the farm but was denied the privilege of using it on the road until I turned 16 and had a driver’s license. 

When I needed a ride to town, I had to rely on my feet, a bike I shared with a younger brother or a tenderhearted motorist who had an empty seat in his car or truck.  

Our farm was located on a lightly-traveled dirt road six miles from the nearest town. To shorten the distance, I’d walk or ride the bike a little over a mile to a busy state highway. From there, I’d begin walking toward town and show an uplifted thumb when a vehicle approached moving in the same direction.  

I usually walked no more than a few hundred feet before a motorist stopped and offered me a ride. 

Despite my mother’s warning about dangerous or drunken drivers, the fear of being in harm’s way entered my mind only once. 

I was thrilled beyond words when the relative of a neighbor screeched to a halt and invited me to crawl on the back seat of his brand-new Indian motorcycle. I’d seen the sleek, high-powered monster machine before and had heard adults speak of how dangerous it was for the young driver to be out on the highway, driving at breakneck speeds.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity of taking my first motorcycle ride.  

The driver told me to lock my arms around his waist, and off we went. The noise, wind and speed were more than I’d imagined. I knew it was too late for me to ask him to stop and let me off. All I could do was close my eyes and pray that slow-moving vehicles stayed out of his path.  

Fortunately, I arrived in front of the picture show without mishap. As we screeched to a halt, I slid off the back seat, thankful I’d just survived my first and last motorcycle ride.  

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