I got the ride, but I do remember that I got to Great Falls that night and I remember most of the ride well, even though I shouldn't considering the wine I drank along the way.
I was standing on the side of the road when this Oldsmobile, either an 88 or a 98 came to a screeching halt with a cloud of dust, settling about 75 feet beyond where I was standing. I ran up to it and was told to hop in, so I tossed my trash into the back seat and hopped in front. "Nice bumper sticker," he said as I clambered in.
It was then I noticed the driver was the biggest Indian I have ever seen before or since. If anyone has ever seen the movie 'One Flew over the Cukoos Nest' and remember the Indian in it, then picture his bigger brother. The man was a monster and he had a gallon wine jug between his legs.
As soon as I had closed the door the wheels started spinning and off we went!
It wasn't too long before I figured out that this guy knew only two speeds in that big Olds. Either he drove pedal to the metal or standing on the brake pedal with both feet.
I was young then and too damned stupid to be scared, so when I looked at the wine bottle between his legs I was curious as to if he would offer me some. The bottle was nearly empty and he reached to grab it by the handle and finished it in one last swig. He readied himself to throw it out the window as we roared along at well over 100 mph.
"Hey, are you going to throw that out the window?" I asked.
"Yup," he replied.
"Hey, haven't you ever seen that ad where the Indian chief finds the pile of beer cans in the woods and starts crying?" I asked.
'Nope, never saw that," and with that he slung the bottle out into the pavement where it shattered into a million pieces. "Got any weed?"
I had a joint the girl in Colorado had given me, but I don't smoke it. I accepted it because I knew I could trade it to some hippie or someone for something else I needed. I fished it out and gave it to him.
"Get us a wine," he said.
I reached in the back seat and there was a case of gallon bottles. I grabbed one and handed it to him. He looked at me curiously. "Aren't you going to get yourself one?" he asked.
So I grabbed a gallon of that cheap red wine he was drinking and opened it and had a snort.
We roared through Billings, and headed on toward Great Falls.
Along the way we stopped somewhere and he drove up to some ranch of some type and got out. He had been expected and he headed into a barn somewhere and apparently fixed something because I saw him wiping grease off of his hands when he came out and I saw the rancher offer him some money, which he didn't accept. I heard him tell the rancher that his checks were good, and that would be fine.
I waited in the car for some time while he worked, and grabbed a little shuteye as an effort to try and let some of the half-gallon or so of wine I had consumed by that time.
We were both invited in for a meal, which we gratefully accepted and I ate and gabbed with the rancher's daughter while the other two were discussing machinery. Apparently the guy I was riding with was a pretty well known mechanic of some sort and I was astonished to see that even though we had been drinking wine and he had smoked a joint that you would never know it by looking at him. I was to meet a few more people like him in that respect later on in Alaska.
I had a rough time fighting the negative effects of the wine, but I guess I succeeded enough so they didn't think I was as plastered as I really was.
After the meal, we left at the usual 100+ mph and we both started in on the wine again.
Things get a little fuzzy here, but I can remember roaring down some mountain pass with smoke pouring out of all four wheel-brakes as he slowed down as fast as he could when we neared the bottom and some sort of traffic signal. My feet were sore from standing on an imaginary brake pedal by the time we arrived in Great Falls
We arrived in Great Falls and I grabbed my gear and hopped out and fell flat on my ass.
I was smashed and only now I realized it. I could barely walk and to this day I don't know how I made it to the phone, looked up a number and made a call. It was later explained to me that I had called my friend there and told him to pick me up at the corner of 'Telephone and Telephone'. Fortunately I also mentioned that I had seen a pink flamingo and he knew that I was probably in front of a local night club. He scraped me up in a matter of minutes and I woke up on his couch the next morning sick as hell.
The first words he said to me when I woke up were "We're even, friend."
We were. Back when I was an Army Sp/4, he was a short timer sergeant and I had saved his bacon big time downtown. He had gotten knocked silly in some kind of brawl and I had charged in and gotten him out. There were no heroics. His assailaint was a lot bigger than I was. I simply nailed the big guy's skull with a ball I snagged off of the pool table, grabbed the sergeant and dragged him outside. Then I hauled him back to post and got one of the docs there to check him out.
We had developed a friendship and instead of reenlisting, he had gotten a year's extension and had gotten out a year or so before I did. We had stayed in touch and I had let him know I might be passing through Great Falls a few days before I left Colorado Springs.
After a particularly greasy breakfast he whipped up, I was slowly starting to return to the world of the living and by early afternoon, I felt pretty good. We spent the time looking into our futures. He was planning on going back into the Army as civvie life wasn't his bag. He seemed interested in my plans to see Alaska and reminded me that I had told him I was going to hitch-hike to Alaska sometime after I got out of the army. Back then, he just figured it was empty talk, but then he realized that I was one of the few people born to follow his dreams.
I spent the following night on his couch and he dropped me off at the exit headed north. In a few minutes, I managed to snag a ride in a semi. I had just snagged a ride north as far as Shelby, Montana.
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