The Hitch-hiker and the Cop

Three college classmates who didn’t have two nickels to rub together decided to hitch-hike to B.T. Biggart’s home in Reynoldsburg, OH for the Thanksgiving holiday.

One of the rides was like the one in Steve Shoemaker’s story “Hitch-hiking” posted just minutes ago here on Views from the Edge. The three of us sat in the back seat of the driver’s big 1960 Ford 500 while he and his buddy passed the bottle between them, belted out country music, and swapped stories about women that are un-publishable. Eventually, by the grace of God, they dropped us off on the interstate in downtown Cincinnati.

Soon after we had stuck out our thumbs on the Interstate about 3:00 a.m., a Cincinnati squad car pulled over.

The officer asked for identification.

I had no wallet. My wallet was back at the college.

The officer declared that he could take me in for vagrancy.

“What’s your name, son?”

“Gordon Stewart, Sir,” I answered with my heart pumping faster and my knees about to buckle.

“Where you from, Gordon?”

“Broomall, Pennsylvania, Sir.”

“What’s your father do?”

“He’s a minister.”

“What church?”

“Marple Presbyterian Church in Broomall where I grew up.”

What kind of church?”

“Presbyterian.”

“What’d you say your name was?”

“Gordon Stewart.”

“Did your father serve in World War II?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where did he serve?”

“Saipan, Guam, and Tinian in the South Pacific.”

(PAUSE)

“What branch of the service was your father in on Guam?”

“Army Air Force, Sir. He was a chaplain.”

“What’s your father’s first name?”

“Kenneth – Kenneth Campbell Stewart.”

“O my!!! After all these years! Red Stewart! Chappy Stewart! Well, I’ll be darned!

“You can go son. Just get a ride out of here as soon as you can. God bless you.”

So the cop who could have taken me in for vagrancy celebrated a vicarious reunion with his old Chaplain while we hitch-hiked to B.T Biggart’s for Thanksgiving – thankful for a serendipitous rescue from the boys in the Ford 500 and from the holding cell for vagrants.

Thanks, Dad! And thanks, Officer Anonymous! I never got his name. Grace abounds…even when you have no money and no identification.

9 thoughts on “The Hitch-hiker and the Cop

  1. Pingback: Seeing God from the Back | VIEWS from the EDGE

  2. Gordon, don’t you wonder about just how serendipitious these meetings are? We were on a small boat going Iona withonly the four in our party and one othe passenger. Who happened to be Pres Pator whom I had taught in the DMIN program. Two yrs later I was the Presby’s rep At his curch which was trying to oust him. The chance meetiing was of importance.

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    • Jim, great question and story. I do wonder. I’ve been on that boat from Mull to Iona and can picture it. That your meeting took place on that passage to Iona is itself sacred in my book. My favorite place on earth because of its heritage and its barren simplicity at the edge of the sea. Wonderful that you could be there during his time of trouble.

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  3. Yeah, no hitch-hiking on Interstates & Turnpikes in the 1960s or now. Back when it was safe (for males, usually) to thumb a ride–before drugs & increased crime–you had to ask your driver to drop you off at a Service Center before they exited. Cops would get you on the road and at entrance ramps. I always wore a shirt & tie, would approach a male driver fueling his car, explain I was a college student trying to get to XYZ, & usually get a ride in spite of my extreme size (6′ 8″) which could be intimidating.

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    • We had just been dumped out of the Ford at the exit ramp. I didn’t have a shirt and tie, but was 18 and squeaky clean. I was a foot shorter than the 6’8″ hitch-hiker. He probably took one look at me and had pity. In your case, it would have different. Arrest on the spot!

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