فصل 03

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فصل 03

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  • زمان مطالعه 5 دقیقه
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Chapter three

The Greatest Ride of My Life

The greatest ride of my life came outside of the town of Gothenburg. A flatback truck came by, and six or seven boys were lying out on it. The drivers were two young blond farmers from Minnesota, and they were picking up everybody they saw on that road. They were a smiling, handsome pair of young men.

The truck stopped and I ran up to it. “Is there room?”

“Sure, jump on,” they said. “There’s room for everybody.”

I jumped on and the truck drove off. I looked around at the others. There were two young farmer boys from North Dakota. Two city boys from Columbus, Ohio, who were hitch-hiking around the United States for the summer. A tall slim fellow from Montana. Finally there were Mississippi Gene and his young friend. Mississippi Gene was a little thirty-year-old dark guy who rode on trains around the country. His friend was a sixteen-year-old tall blond kid, who was quiet and seemed to be running away from something. He had a worried look. Both of them wore old clothes that had turned black from the smoke of the railroads and from sleeping on the ground.

“Where are you going?” Mississippi Gene asked me.

“Denver,” I said.

“You got any money?” asked Montana Slim.

“No,” I said. “Well, maybe enough for some whisky till I get to Denver. What about you?”

“I know where I can get some,” he said.

“Where?” I said.

“Anywhere,” he said. “You can always follow a man down a dark street and rob him, can’t you?”

“Yes, I guess you can,” I said.

“I’ll do it if I really need some money. I’m going to Montana to see my father. I’ll have to get off this truck at Cheyenne. These crazy boys are going to Los Angeles.”

“Straight?” I said.

“All the way,” he said. “If you want to go to LA, you got a ride.”

I thought about this, but decided that I’d get off at Cheyenne too, and hitch-hike south ninety miles to Denver.

I was glad when we stopped to eat. We all went into the restaurant and had hamburgers and coffee, while the two blond farmers from Minnesota ate enormous meals. They were brothers, and they took farm machines from Los Angeles to Minnesota. On their trip to the West Coast, when the truck was empty, they picked up everybody on the road.

When we got back to the truck it was almost dark. The drivers smoked cigarettes.

“I’m going to buy a bottle of whisky,” I told them.

“OK,” they said. “But hurry.”

Montana Slim and the two city boys came with me. We wandered the streets of North Platte and found a place to buy whisky. They gave me some money, and I bought a bottle, then we went back to the truck.

It got dark quickly. We all had a drink, except the two Minnesota brothers. “We never drink,” they said. But they drove fast, and we were soon looking southwest toward Denver, a few hundred miles away.

I was excited. “Whooppee!” I shouted.

We passed the bottle of whisky to each other, and the stars came out, and I felt good.

When we came to the town of Ogallala, the two Dakota boys decided to get off and look for work. We watched them disappear into the night. I had to buy more cigarettes. Gene and the blond boy followed me and I bought a packet for both of them, and they thanked me.

It was nearly midnight, and cold, and the stars were getting brighter. We were in Wyoming now. Mississippi Gene began to sing a song: “I’ve got a pretty little girl, she’s sweet sixteen, she’s the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen,” repeating it with other lines about how far he’d been, and how he wished that he could get back to her.

I said, “Gene, that’s the prettiest song.”

We got to Cheyenne, and saw crowds of people moving along the streets, crowded bars, and bright lights.

“It’s Wild West Week!” said Montana Slim.

He and I jumped off and said goodbye to the others. We watched the truck move slowly through the crowds and disappear into the night.

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