Getting around in high school was a snap. If the family car was free, it was mine. If not, I always had friends headed in the same direction who were glad to give me a lift.
College transportation was a problem. New town, new people, and new destinations farther away than the Dairy Queen down the road.
Since I had to get from here to there to connect with old friends and play some music to pay the bills I got pretty good at standing on the side of the road and sticking out my thumb.
From Atlanta I went as far west as Oxford, Mississippi, as far south as Tallahassee, and as far north as Durham, North Carolina. No regrets and mostly good memories.
The guy guzzling white liquor from an unmarked bottle was a little scary, but I bailed out while he was still sober. A chihuahua pooped in the back seat we shared, but if you’re begging rides, you can’t be too choosy.
Once I got a car of my own, I made an effort to support the hitchhiking community. But I was still picky about who I picked up.
I always shied away from folks who were clearly under the influence of anything stronger than the Holy Spirit. I took a pass on a guy toting a caged parrot but was generally happy to pick up riders whose traveling companions included dogs, cats, and one time, a hamster.
But where critters were concerned, there was a certain line I didn’t cross.
I never, ever volunteered to share a ride with a serpent. I know people who like snakes and make friends with them. And that’s fine. It’s just not for me.
Ever since I heard about the trouble caused by that snake that showed up in the Garden of Eden I’ve kept my distance.
Not everybody feels the same way. Among them is Richard Hurst, who lives in North Mississippi. I came across his adventure in a story written by Mark Price for the “Charlotte Observer.”
Not so long ago Richard was ready to run down the road and do some chores. But as he started to hop in his truck he spotted a timber rattlesnake in the driveway.
The snake’s tail waved a hello at Hurst. That would have sent me in search of a shovel, hoe, or shotgun.
Hurst didn’t flinch. Instead of reaching for a rifle, he offered the snake relief and relocation.
“I just eased a long piece of cane under him and picked him up,” Hurst said. “He was calm and I probably could have pinned his head to pick him up but there’s no need in taking chances.”
Hurst put the snake in the truck bed and drove a couple of miles, planning to release the snake in the woods. Apparently, the reptile was made for the road.
Hurst said when he finally stopped he looked to his left and saw his hitchhiker relaxing on the truck’s driver’s side door handle.
Hurst eventually got the creature off the door handle and into the woods and later said, “I think it enjoyed the ride.”
What a great statement. And what a great way to look at life.
I have no idea how many chance encounters with strangers I have left on my schedule. But if I can look back on most of them and say, “I think he—or she—enjoyed the ride,” I’ll be happy.
Alex McRae is a writer and ghostwriter and author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love.” He can be reached at: email@example.com.