Life lesson 22: sometimes you need to make a stand
I’m not certain why the experience Rooster and I encountered back in 1974 has played at the edges of my mind. Maybe it was because of our recent trip. I know it started when we sat out on the patio in St Ignace and listened to the old hippies play songs from the past. The memory surged to the front of my mind and won’t disappear. The only way I know to put it to rest is to write about the experience. I won’t write this piece with any pretense that we acted heroically. All of us were scared out of our wits through the experience. I am writing to say that sometimes you need to make a stand.
The best place to start is to set the scene. The year was 1974. The Vietnam War ended. Watergate was fresh in our memories. Our generation lived through the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy. Dr. King had only been dead for six years. Rooster came to Indiana a few years earlier with a friend. He lived a rather nomadic lifestyle in his younger years. It wasn’t uncommon for people in our generation to ramble. Hitch-hiking happened all the time back in the day. He grew up on Orange Street in San Bernardino, California. His family lived in California for four generations. Why he ended up in Indiana is a complicated story. His sister came to join us not long after we got married.
Sometimes You Need to Make a Stand
The important part of the story is that the two of them got homesick. We bought bus tickets and headed to Southern California. My sister-in-law sat with an African American woman on the bus. By the time we reached Texas, they had formed a casual friendship. It only seemed natural that the four of us should walk into the restaurant where the bus driver decided we should eat. We sat down at a table, and a nice conversation took place. Our sisters-in-law’s new friend sat down with us at the table, and a waitress moved toward us. We thought she planned to take our orders, but we were surprised at the next words that came out of her mouth.
“She can’t be in here,” the waitress pointed at our new friend.
“What are you talking about?” Rooster said.
“Colored people ain’t allowed in here.” She said, taking on her pad of paper with her pencil.
“Where is she supposed to eat?” my sister-in-law asked,
“We got a window around back,” the waitress pointed at the door.
Our new friend stood to her feet and walked toward the door.
Sometimes You Need to Make a Stand
We couldn’t allow her to stand out in the Texas heat alone. The three of us rose to our feet and went with her. I am not going to lie. What happened next became one of my life’s most frightening experiences. We stood in the gravel-covered parking lot and ordered food through the window. Strange men in trucks drove past, kicking up dust. Every once in a while, one of them would shout something nasty from a truck window.
We’d all seen Easy Rider. Rooster did look a little like Dennis Hopper with his beard and long hair. This small Texas town frowned on hippies. We didn’t march for Civil Rights or register anyone to vote. We ate our lunch quickly and hopped back on the bus. What we did wasn’t much of a stand, but at least we didn’t let the woman we were with eat alone in the Texas heat.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.
Be sure to follow Molly on Twitter!