Sunday, February 10, 2013

Time: About 4:00 pm – Colorado Springs to Denver
Wait: Less than five minutes
Hitcher: Man, 67 years old
Profession: Retired military/ police
Vehicle: silver car

I walk from my brother’s place to Unitah exit, footsteps crunchin on a thin layer of snow that has covered the ground since this morning. I’ve just barely raised my cardboard hitchhiking sign when a man pulls over in a silver car.

He wears a Vietnam veteran hat, and has a humble, wise manner about him. He tells me that his son’s wife just gave birth to twins, sooner than the doctor had anticipated, so he now has two more great grandchildren as of today. He lives in Aurora and came to Colorado Springs to be at the birth of these new lives.

“I was a cop for the University of Colorado in Boulder for many years”, he tells me. Jim’s name was pulled during the Vietnam draft in the 70s, and he tells me that he was working at one of teh Denver hospitals but had to quit because it was too reminiscent in his mind of the things he had seen in the war. “The psychologist told me that I should quit, so I did”, he tells me. Jim is now retired at age 67.

He was very much involved in the motorcycle community, up until a few years back when he was T-boned by a car at an intersection and it crippled him for some time. He is doing better now he says, but the injuries that impaired him then still affect him now.

He tells me that together with his riding buddies, they once got together over 100 people and did a long ride in Colorado, finding some bars along the way that were willing to sponsor their trip. Every single dollar they raised went directly to the charity, and nothing for their own troubles of organizing the motorcycle event.

“We saw what Harley Davidson did with their huge events one time”, he tells me. “They made over a quarter million dollars for cancer, and over 40% went into their own pockets. It was kind of ridiculous, because during the event they were thanking the volunteers and such with this big speech, and it was all a farce because the volunteers had really made even more money for Harley that they were still pocketing a big chunk of… when we called to organize the charity for the event, the lady was surprised that we did not want to keep any of the profit for ourselves. The standard is for the companies to take at least forty percent for themselves… it is sad.”

Jim likes to talk, and I like listening to him. He say shis wife and him also rode their motorcycle along Highway 1 in California, the same route that I took on one of my bicycle trips. He says that even though he likes to drink beer, he has never smoked pot, even though most soldiers in Vietnam did.

“I didn’t like the idea of not being completely aware in that jungle”, he says. He tells me that one time he had recieved a brick or marijuana as a gift from someone while in Vietnam, and trying to be polite, he did not turn it down.

He gave it to some of his friends who did smoke, and they were forever grateful. “You don’t want some money for it?”, they asked. Jim said that he did not. They promised that the beer would be on them from then on.

There is something about a guy like Jim that a person immediately admires. I can tell that he has been through so many struggles in his life, but he was mustered the courage inside himself to overcome setbacks. He is someone at first glance that still has faith in the human spirit, otherwise he wouldn’t have picked me up.

I think to myself that if even one quarter of the people in this world were like Jim, we wouldn’t have all the problems we do. Its also unfortunate that someone as kind-souled as Jim had to be part of a foolish, horrendous war called Vietnam, and I’ll spare the rhetoric of what many have already said in regards to that.

He was raised Catholic, and at one point was actually studying the priesthood. He jokes that he ended up quiting because they “didn’t have a baseball team.”

He drops me off along Colorado Boulevard. I give him two CDs of my music, one for him and one for his wife.

He drives off; I walk away.


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