When last we visited, I had just gotten laid by way of a friendly, frisky, pre-AIDS era hitchhike hookup. It was the only time such a thing happened during my years thumbing rides, but not for lack of offers. Unfortunately, at least for a straight guy like me, all the other offers I got after getting picked up were from men.

As I’ve stated before, I was sheltered growing up in Shreveport. Good family, good schools, my father an off-hours play-by-play announcer at the local little league games. My understanding of same-sex attraction was dim to say the least. Dad didn’t like homosexuals, and my mother just shook her head in silent agreement. I would grow to the ripe old age of seventeen before I knew there was such a thing as a lesbian.

Check out the previous adventures of Carlos Stranger:

Part 1: Back in the Saddle

Part 2: I Am Joe’s Elevated PSA

Part 3: Driving Toward Gomorrah

Part 4: Hitch-Hike Baby

So, I didn’t quite know how to handle it when I was picked up one afternoon by a young man who immediately asked me if I wanted to make some money. I thought he might be offering me a job, because that happened from time to time, mostly offers of entry-level construction positions like site debris clean-up or the scraping of peeling paint.  I must have blanched like a boiled onion when he expressed his true interest, and described what he had in mind. When I said no, he become apologetic and overly polite, saying, “That’s ok, no problem. Hey, where you headed, I’ll drop you off.”

I lied and said I was going to the Safeway which I knew was two blocks up, and then got the hell out of the car. The whole thing struck me as alarming, the come-on aspect, the offer of payment. But also a bit sad. Although I didn’t know such words at that age, the feeling was that the encounter, and all such encounters between homosexuals, must be furtive and clandestine. A back-alley thing, fraught with desperation and legal jeopardy. The fact of the matter is, in Louisiana in the late sixties and early seventies, everything I guessed was true.

The handful of times it happened again were similar; about every thirtieth time I’d hitchhike some dude would try to put the make on me. I’d resigned myself to the reality that such queer overtures came with the territory. Look, I’ve already covered that I’m a handsome man, and as a teen I was long, lanky, and radiated an aura of energy. Plus, that chestnut brown hair I’ve written about in earlier installments reached down to the middle of my back in those days.

The occurrence of getting hit on by men while hitchhiking became so routine that I developed an all-purpose pass line: “No man, I don’t swing that way.” It seemed to work well, I guessed because homosexual guys could relate to the New York Dolls-esque parlance. Sometimes they’d pull over coolly and immediately let me out of the car when I wasn’t interested. More often they were like that first guy, accepting and friendly, while obviously disappointed.

Unlike my Pop, I didn’t hate them. But I sure as hell didn’t want to hang around them, or, God forbid, be thought of as one of them. Then one summer night, attempting to hitch home from a Three Dog Night concert at Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, I learned that all the friendly and unthreatening homos that had picked me up had given me a false sense of security.

I was in trouble the minute I got into the older man’s car. Instead of staying on the arterial in the direction I was hitchhiking,  Miami Street, he hung a hard right on Common Street. Before I could grasp what had happened, he took the onramp onto Interstate 20, headed away from downtown.

Once on the freeway, he turned to me in the dark interior of his nondescript sedan and said, “Fuck me.” Then he reached over and grabbed my leg, pulling my legs apart and reaching for my private parts. I was scared shitless and absolutely without options. We were doing seventy miles per hour on the freeway, so fighting back in any serious way would potentially be as harmful to me as it would be to him. On one of his grabs at my crotch he swerved and we almost went off the road.

The situation was past any glib lines about “not swinging that way.” My only recourse was to keep batting his free hand away. It’s been many decades, but I think I remember saying something like, “No, man, what the fuck are you doing. Stop the car, let me out.”

He kept saying, “Come on, man, fuck me.” It was almost as if I’d been picked up by a mental defective, who was also queer.

He took an exit, I’ll never forget it was the Greenwood exit, and soon we were barreling down Greenwood Mooringsport Road, AKA State Highway  169. It was along that road, with forested acres stretching out on either side, that I began to seriously fear that I was about to be forcibly raped, and possibly worse.

“What are you doing, man?” I asked, not panicky, just kind of solemn and resolved.

He seemed in possession of a new resolve as well, had stopped grabbing at me, stopped saying “fuck me.” I figured that was because he knew he had me now.

Suddenly he pulled off the highway and onto a dirt road. Dry-season dust was kicking up furiously in our wake, and the further we went into the forest the more I knew that at some point I was going to have to fight for my life. After he negotiated a bend on which the sedan’s rear-end fishtailed, we both saw that what looked to be some kind of Forest Service gate had been closed and locked shut, blocking the roadway. My abductor slammed on the brakes, which found little purchase on the dusty dirt road, and we careened to a stop just inches from the gate’s steel crossbars.

Heavy dust from our traverse caught up with the vehicle, and enveloped it in a shroud as thick as the explosive cloud of death that fell upon the streets of New York after the twin towers collapsed.

I made my move, throwing the hardest overhand right I could muster in close quarters, catching the deranged and dangerous man squarely on the bridge of his nose. He exclaimed something like “yow” as I opened the car door—older model, no automatic driver side locking device, thank God—and bolted into the scrubby forest. I moved quickly away in the dark, careful not to fall, zig-zagging to throw him off any possible pursuit. A halfmoon that wasn’t apparent downtown shone, and made my way around the spindly Blue Beech and sycamore trunks less a matter of luck. About what I would guess was a quarter mile into the forest, I stopped, crouched, and listened.

It was silent except for the far-off sound of a hound barking. You don’t get over on Louisiana hounds.  I waited, ten, twenty minutes, crouching in the parched duff beneath the trees. I tried to locate a rock in the gloom, something to wield in case he tracked me down. But everything I picked up crumbled to dirt. More long minutes, nothing. My sense was that unless he was some kind of military-trained stealth expert, he wasn’t coming.

The knee I was kneeling on felt wet, and I realized I was crouching atop a bog beneath the dry surface of the forest floor. There are venomous snakes in the Shreveport outlands.

Understanding that my life was threatened by more than just a dangerous homosexual, I began to pick my way back towards the roadway. It didn’t feel like a long time, or necessarily a short period of time, since I’d made my escape. My sense of the passage of time had been skewed by adrenaline. But crazily enough, as I once again laid eyes on the Forest Service gate that might have saved my life, I saw that my assailant’s shit-bronze sedan was still parked there.

The door I’d bolted from was closed. As I watched and waited, I saw a cigarette cherry just distinguishably flare though the layer of dust that had settled on the windshield. A puff of smoke out the driver’s side window. Minutes later he started the engine, backed up in incremental turns on the narrow road, and drove off into the night.

The way I look at it now, my exposure to “gay” men while hitchhiking provided the only balance of my perception of them before starting at Yale University. Outside of that, I never knew any, or even knew much about them. It’s probably a good thing that most were “ok.” Good that the crazy fuck who’d absconded with me after Three Dog Night wasn’t the only example. If he had been, I probably would have been well down the road of thinking like my old man did.

I walked back to Greenwood Mooringsport Road. Four vehicles passed my outstretched thumb, and the fourth one stopped, a teenager, friendliest kid you could ever meet, right off the farm, happy for the company, America’s “Horse with No Name” blasting on his AM radio.

My hitchhiking would fall off precipitously after that. I discovered a thing called the city bus. But there would be one more ride, far from Shreveport, a rescue that would end my thumbing forever…


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