“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
I don’t usually walk in the afternoon, but it has been so hot, I haven’t been walking much at all. At about 6:00 p.m. yesterday evening, I got the sudden urge to go walking. I changed my clothes, packed up my day pack with some water and the cell phone, and I took off down the road.
I have increased my mileage to the point that I have been going all the way to where our dirt road meets the highway. That’s about 4.5 miles, one-way. I thought I could make it there and back before dark. I had made it to the end of the road, and was walking extra fast on my way back. The sun was going down fast. I lifted my hand to the horizon to judge how many hours I had left of sunlight. I recently learned that you can extend your hand in front of you, line it with the horizon with palm facing you, and each of your fingers between the horizon and the sun, is equal to 15 minutes. I figured I had about an hour of daylight left. The only problem is that it gets dark MUCH quicker in the hollows due to the hills causing shadows as the sun gets lower on the horizon.
As I neared a ‘T’ in the road up ahead, I saw a guy who looked to be in his 20’s hanging outside of the gate. I initially thought it was a grandson of the people who own the house at the ‘T’ in the road. I felt a little uneasy and started psyching myself up to look confident and deciding what I was going to say. I yelled out a cheery and confident, “Hello!” as I drew near, and right when I got close coming down the hill, my feet slid on the gravel, but I recovered. No sooner had I gained my footing, than I slipped again and this time landed on my derriere.
About that time, two ladies were walking from the house beyond the gate. They looking distressed and asked if I was okay. I told them I was. One lady, in particular looked distraught, but not over my fall. She immediately launched into a story about how their car had broken down, how they couldn’t get help (no one had answered the door to the house they had just come from.) She raved about how Newton County was worthless. She was older…my guess was between 50-60 (though I’m not a good judge of age.) She looked like she’d had a hard life, was slurring her speech, and was scantily clad. It looked to me like she was in her bra and panties with some sort of towel or loose bathing suit cover over her. It was open in the back, though, and it looked like she was wearing underwear, rather than a bathing suit.
There was also a younger lady in what looked to be a swimsuit (no cover.) She looked to be in her 20’s. Her hair was wet. The guy said little or nothing. I surmised that they had been swimming. (They later told me they had not been swimming when I asked them about it, but offered no explanation as to why they were dressed like they were, or why their hair was wet.) They pointed back toward a less traveled road (the other half of the ‘T’) and said that their car had broken down. The said they lived in a town at the exact opposite end of where we were, and were going to walk home. Some friends were supposed to have come to get them, but had never showed up.
I told them they would never make it before dark…that it was a really, REALLY long way down there. The 20-something girl seemed undeterred. The older woman looked like she was hyperventilating, and the guy still had not said anything.
I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid. I didn’t know if they were telling me the truth. I didn’t know if it was a setup to rob me and murder me, or what. A lot of what they said just didn’t make sense to me, however, I also strongly felt that I needed to help them. When it gets dark out here in these hills, it gets so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face! I couldn’t just ignore them. I told them I would try to call my husband and see if he could meet us with the car and take them home. (Thankfully, Bud had told me to take the cell phone with me when I left. I hadn’t thought of it.) The older, inebriated lady started talking about how thirsty she was, so I offered her a Gatorade bottle that I had filled up with water before I left home. I had filled two of them, and the one I had drunk from tasted slightly like fruit punch. I figured that if the lady was thirsty enough, she wouldn’t mind the fruit punch flavor, OR my cooties.
They started following me down the road as I tried to phone Bud, and after about five minutes, the hysterical, older lady shrieked, “WHY ARE WE WALKING SO FAST?!?” (In her defense, I DO walk fast, and was walking even faster because I didn’t want to get stuck on that road after dark!) I told them I was going to walk ahead…that my husband had gone to bed early and would need to get dressed (he had taken his shower early and was just lounging in bed when I left. He had gotten overheated while working out in the sun that day, so it wasn’t a lie.)
We only have one of those pre-paid cell phones (since we can’t get service at our house) and I wasn’t sure I could get service on the road. Getting a signal depends on where you are at on the road. You usually can’t get any service in the hollows. I dialed the number by hand. I haven’t memorized phone numbers in YEARS (except my own) and I automatically dialed the Soap Lady’s number without thinking about it. It just rolled off my fingertips as the most natural number to dial. That is an indication of how much of a friend I consider her to be. Though I don’t call frequently to ‘chat’, we do communicate in one or two-minute calls (to say one or the other of us is on the way there, to exchange need-to-know quick information, to check on one another, etc.) That’s my kind of call that I can handle–straight and to the point. She accepts that and respects it, and it works for us.
I told her that I had called by mistake. I eventually got ahold of Bud. I’d had to leave a message (he had gone to lock the chickens up for the night) and he called me back. After I put the phone back in the pack, I must have auto-dialed the Soap Lady again, because I heard her voice emanating from my pack on my back saying, “Hello? Hello? Heeeelloooo!” I got the phone and explained what was going on, though I couldn’t explain in detail what was going on, or how uneasy I felt, because the people were just behind me and could hear me. She said she would call Bud for me.
Bud eventually called me and said he was on the way. I was glad to see his car round the bend. I had left the threesome in my dust trying to beat the darkness, and also, to put some distance between me and the potential axe-murderers. I got in the car, and Bud and I went slowly down the road looking for the stranded people. They had disappeared! We were sure we had not passed them up. It was as if they had vanished into thin air. I think I would have heard a car if it had picked them up and turned around, because they weren’t that far behind me. If they were truly going where they said they were headed, any car that picked them up would have passed us.
We got to the ‘T’ where I had first met them (still not having seen them) and went down the narrow dirt road where they had indicated they broke down, thinking that maybe they had decided to go back to their car. We drove a long way down that road and saw NO CAR, no people. We went back down to the end of the dirt road where it meets the highway, and saw no one! We started driving back toward home. It was pretty dark by that time. We rounded a corner and in a flash of headlights, the distraught lady walked into the road, along with the guy. She looked terrified and tears were streaming down her face. It was like something out of a horror movie. The 20-ish woman continued strutting down the road, not stopping, while giving us a ‘display’ in the headlights of her bathing-suit-clad body.
The older lady was almost in hysterics talking to me through my rolled down window. She was losing it. I can’t say I blame her, because that road is SCARY at night. Bud has stopped in the middle of the road before and turned the lights to the car off at night and you can’t see ANYTHING. I get scared just sitting in the car like that, much less being stranded out on the road on foot!
The older woman was apparently on the phone with 911. She ended her call, by telling them that a ‘hiker’ had come with her husband to pick them up. I could hear her reassuring the person on the other end of the phone that she was okay. She later told us that she had called 911, and didn’t know how to tell them where she was, and that they were going to send police cars down from both ends of the road. (I guess Newton County is not so worthless after all.) She apologized profusely for being so hysterical. I told her that I completely understood–that it’s very scary out here when it’s dark. I told them to get in the back of the car and we would take them home. The older lady had to yell to the 20-something to come back and get in the car….and she DID…with her supermodel, runway strut…come back to the car and get in.
They got in the car (it smelled like a distillery) and we started the long trek to their home. I was getting drunk on the fumes in the car. It takes a very long time to get from one end of the dirt road to the other, even by car. From our house, it takes about 20 minutes to get to the other side, but we were waaayy down the road in the opposite direction.
Bud had brought 4 bottles of water. I hadn’t even told him they were thirsty. I thought that was very sweet of him to think of it, and I handed a bottle to each of them. I told them we had been looking and looking for them and I didn’t know how we missed them. The older lady apologetically told me that she’d had to get off the road to go to the bathroom in the woods. (I don’t know if they all went with her or what!) It just didn’t add up to me. If I had two other people with me, and I had to go to the bathroom, first of all, I’d want privacy! Second of all, I would have had the other two stand vigilantly looking for the people who were supposed to come back with a car. Did they not want to get a ride with us? We never drive over 20 mph on that road, and even that feels like speeding on that gravel road. They couldn’t have missed us unless they had wanted to. Weird.
At this point, I didn’t know if I could believe what they were telling me, or if they were going to shoot us in the back of the head or what. I just kept praying. They said that their car was much further down the narrow road than Bud or I had been…that it was past a low water crossing that Bud and I had never reached. If that was the case, they must have been walking a long while before I came upon them.
We eventually found their house and got them home. They thanked us profusely. We didn’t get home until 10:30 p.m. I was dirty and sweaty and took a shower, and then I was keyed up and had to read for a long time before I could fall asleep. Bud let the chickens out this morning, bless his heart, so I was able to sleep a little. (Don’t I have a great guy? Love that man.)
These people we’ve helped have been on my heart and mind almost constantly since we dropped them off at home. The 20-something girl had mentioned the night before that she had four kids, was living with her grandparents (who had raised her,) and was getting a divorce. She also said something I understand really well…she said she didn’t WANT any friends…that she had her kids and those were the only friends she needed. I told Bud that she had probably been hurt, maligned, rejected, and had her trust abused, and that was probably where the woman’s sentiment came from. It’s a defense and protective mechanism to prevent from getting hurt again.
I don’t know if the older lady was her mother, but I presume it might have been. At one point, she turned to the 20-something and said, “(NAME)…I love you and I hate you…for (list of things she hated her for.)” My heart began breaking for these people. Still the 20-something guy, whoever he was, said nothing, though he did thank us for the ride (as they all did) when we arrived at their home. There is obviously a lot of heartache, hurt and dysfunction there.
If you are a praying person, and you could find it in your heart to pray for these people, I’d appreciate it. They are heavily on my mind and heart.
If you have made it all the way to the end, thank you for reading. I really needed to put it down in writing in order to process everything.
I hope you all are having a great weekend. 🙂