Emergency Exit

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Day 1Day 2Day 3The Trek BeginsDay 4WalterboroDay 5SummervilleExits and Entrances

Summerville . . .

Summerville is a city. Not on the order of a New York or Atlanta, but you can’t call it a town. Lobeco was a hamlet. Yemassee was a village. Walterboro was a town. This was a city, at least a small one. Several fast food chains, gas stations, convenience stores, a movie theater, schools, a couple of strip malls. It had the advantage of being right next to a major interstate highway, I-26, and as such had become a major stop on the way south to Charleston.

I kept my backpack low until I had gotten a bit of distance between me and the bus stop. Then I shouldered it, proudly displaying the bold, reflective, red on off-white Emergency Exit sign. This was my Emergency Exit. I knew now what I was doing.

I stopped in a convenience store and asked for directions to Monks Corner. Even then Monks Corner was beginning to die. The attendant didn’t know the name. Marty had given me her address, so I gave the name of the road. The attendant perked to life and pointed me in the right direction.

I purchased a chocolate milk and headed on my way. I had no idea of what to expect, how I would be greeted. But I felt certain that I would at least be allowed to camp out somewhere in the yard. That was a good feeling after the night I had just had. Knowing that I wouldn’t be hassled was a relief in itself.

The trek to Marty’s place was about three miles. A breeze at this point. I felt light and energized. I had been through some experiences. I understood what this whole thing was about, why I had wanted to do something like this in the first place. I was heading toward a friendly face, which was also a comfort after seeing nothing but strangers for a few days.

It was easy to identify Marty’s place from a distance. The family kept and trained horses. Given the address, and the amount of land, the fences and stables, the place was obvious well up the road. My insecure nature began to creep into my happy feeling. How would I be greeted by other members of the family? What would I say? “Hello. I just met your daughter a few days ago and I’d like to sleep over.” Oh, that would go over well.

I walked up to the place and knocked on the door. I heard heavy footsteps from inside, and the door popped open. There stood a tall, heavy set bull of a man. His head was completely bald, but he had a huge, bushy, thick, salt and pepper beard. He wore jeans and a T-shirt. He had piercing blue eyes that shone from under equally thick and bushy salt and pepper eyebrows. I gulped.

I said, rather timidly, “Hi. Is Marty here?” “No, she’s at work right now. Can I help you?” “Well, I just met Marty a few days ago. My name is Keith, and…” Before I could finish, the man’s face took on a huge smile, “Oh yes! We’ve heard all about you. Come in. Come in. Take a load off. Put your pack down there.” He stuck out one of the largest, thickest hands I’ve ever seen, and gave me the warmest handshake I think I have ever had, nearly dragging me into the house. “So how did you get here?” He yelled toward the back of the house, “Hey Dear, come here. You’ll never guess who this is.”

This was not what I expected at all. I had hoped for a nice greeting, sure. But this was a truly warm welcoming into a loving home. In minutes I was surrounded by the Father and Mother, and younger Sister and Brother, all wanting to hear about my journey. I relayed the story, without a lot of detail, mostly discussing the route I had taken and not any of the real adventures along the way. The Father listened for a while, but had some things he needed to attend to. Before he left, I asked, “If it wouldn’t be a problem, could I camp out in your yard tonight?” He laughed and replied, “Camp out? No. You’ll sleep in here.” He directed the Son to make sure there was room enough for me in the son’s bedroom, and then he went about his business.

The Mother kept shoving food and drink at me. It was hard to refuse. Then she took me on a quick tour of the house, showed me where all the toiletries were, and told me I was free to shower and do whatever I needed. Which I did. You simply cannot refuse that amount of kindness.

The younger Sister asked me if I liked horses, and if I had ever ridden. I do, and I had. So she suggested we go for a ride. Now, I say I had ridden a horse, and I had more than once. But there is horseback riding, and there is riding on a horse.

When I was young, in Las Vegas, we often went horseback riding at a nearby stable. What I did not know is that horses can be trained to the bit, or to the rein. Rental horses of the type I had ridden were usually trained to the bit. Pull the left rein so the bit pulls the horse’s head to the left, and the horse goes left. But show horses are trained to the rein. It is much more humane. If you want the horse to go left, you tap the left side of its neck gently with the rein. Marty’s family trained show horses.

So younger Sister saddles up two horses. She gives me the docile one. I mount up with no problem. ‘Good, at least I didn’t look like a dork,’ I thought to myself. Then off she goes, and I try to turn my animal to follow. I tug left, the animal’s head goes left, but the horse turns right. I try to correct, but things only get worse. In a quick moment, I have the poor thing dancing in a circle, and I’m more mentally twisted up than the horse. Left and right lost all meaning.

The young Sister comes trotting back, laughing, and I get my lesson on bit versus rein. You see, as I was tugging left, the right rein would touch the horse’s neck. So while I was yanking the smart animal’s head leftward, the horse was getting the signal to go right, so right it would go, even though I was keeping it from looking in that direction. I am sure the horse was thinking, “Get this idiot off me.” Eventually it got worked out, though I had a hard time getting use to the different approach.

Evening came on, and Marty came home from work, quite surprised to see me there. Hugs and laughs, and tales. A gorgeous meal was served, with lots of talk. The night settled in. I rolled out my bed roll on the floor next to the younger Brother’s bed. We talked for a bit, and soon I was asleep.

A snip of M's Dad's Beard

A snippet of Marty’s Dad’s beard.

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