Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Looking Back Tuesday - Wrong Way All Day in 1966

I wrote the following synopsis for a post back in May and at that time, indicated that a future post would tell what happened next. This is that original post clip.

When my sister, Laurel, and I drove our brother back to Ft. Leonard Wood after a weekend leave from the National Guard back in the spring of 1966, we arrived so late in the day that we had to spend the night in a motel. It was located right on the cloverleaf that would take us back to Indiana so we didn't need to look at a map to find our way home. We drove all day and had a great time. The muffler went out on the VW so we bought some white shoe polish, painted a huge mouse on the side of the car and the words 'the mouse that roared', and laughed and laughed. We saw signs that said Springfield so we knew we were headed in the right direction and since we didn't have to worry about changing highways until we got near Chicago, we just kept on going. About the time we were wondering why we weren't seeing signs of Chicago, the engine blew on our little 'mouse that roared'. A couple of helpful motorists, a truck driver and a local resident, stopped to help us. They looked at our license plate and asked where we were headed. We said, "Home, to Indiana". They said, "You're eight miles from the Oklahoma border". Laurel and I looked at each other and, you guessed it, laughed until we couldn't breathe. We had driven all day - the wrong way. And the Springfield signs we had seen were not for Springfield, Illinois like we thought. They were for Springfield, Missouri. How we got home will be a subject for a future post.

Now, here's the rest of the story.

One of the motorists towed us to the nearest truck stop. That truck stop was not the modern oasis that motorists enjoy today. It was truly a truck stop where mainly truckers stopped and ate lunch. You could gas up and eat and leave. That was about it. Of course, the proprietor knew the locals and knew the mechanic who would come and analyze our engine problems.

Soon there was a group of men standing around the car, looking at our mouse with the long tail artwork and saying hilarious things like, "she ain't gonna roar no more". And offering all kinds of help for my sister and I like "I've got a place you can stay tonight. bwhaha!" Soon, though, a very countrified looking southern gentleman (think hillbilly) named Pud proclaimed that the engine was truly blown and would cost hundreds of dollars to fix or replace. I turned to my sister and said, "what are we going to do?" and she replied, "let's just wait 'til the mechanic gets here". "That", I said, "is the mechanic". And we laughed and laughed and laughed!

Soon we realized we were going to have stop laughing and call our Dad and see if he'd send us the money to get the car fixed. Deep down we both knew that wasn't going to happen. But I called (probably collect) and, we were right. He wasn't going to send that huge amount of money. In fact he wasn't going to send any money because he seemed to think it wasn't a mistake that we drove all day the wrong way. He thought we were running away. Why we would do that I don't know but all he said was, "get home". But, Dad, I said, "we only have $13 between us. Just before he hung up he said it again, "get home".

In Dad’s defense, I’m sure he thought we were too smart to drive all day the wrong way but he was wrong.

My sister and I were nothing if not faithful so we decided to walk out in the beautiful field behind the truck stop and say a prayer. Probably we should have known when we climbed through that fence that there might be cattle in there but obviously this wasn’t a stage in our lives where we always wore our thinking caps. There was a herd of cattle but they were docile and we escaped unharmed.

And most importantly, our prayers were answered.

Pud lent us the money for bus tickets and towed our car to his house, we never called home again. When I think of what our poor mom must have gone through, it almost breaks my heart. There really wasn't a way for them to research where we were or who we were with. There were no cell phones or computers to help us find our way or help them find us once that connection was broken. We knew where we were and we knew we were okay, but we were too stubborn to share that with our parents. I'm thinking that about the time Dad hung up that phone, he was starting to regret being so curt and terse. On the other hand, he must have known that if we couldn’t figure something out, we’d call back.

We rode that bus overnight and arrived in downtown Chicago. From there we took the South Shore train to Michigan City. We called home then because it was about 13 miles from the train station to our house and we were REALLY tired. Sure enough, Mom was waiting for us when we got there.

Now all these years I've felt that we were greatly wronged that day. That Dad should have made sure there was a way for us to get home - that he should have helped us figure something out. Now, after thinking about this post, I'm thinking differently. (These blogs can be very therapeutic.) Now I'm thinking we should have kept the home front apprised of where we were those two days and what we were doing.

Nothing was ever said about those two days when we were out of contact.

And when my Dad and Mom drove to Missouri a few weeks later to pick up my car, Pud told them what nice girls we were. He said we were so polite that we even asked if we could smoke before we lit up in his truck. Ooops. We may have told Dad that we never smoked.

And as far as our being too stubborn to call home again? I wonder where we inherited that trait.


  1. Now this story, I've heard....but I'll NEVER get tired of hearing it. I love it. It is so dang funny....of course, there are a few parts that aren't funny, but I still love the story!!!

  2. The guy's name was "Pud"? As in pudding? Now THAT is funny. Thanks for sharing the rest of the story. :-)

  3. Your poor parents were probably scared to death. But, it is a pretty funny story. Has your sense of direction improved after all these years? Love this post and the others you've done about the past.

  4. This made me giggle. Shane has a hilarious aunt who has a terrible sense of direction. While driving from her house in Massachusetts to her sister's house in Connecticutt, she ended up at the Canadian border.


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