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Chicken Wings

Just past the Price Chopper on Route 15, heading home after meeting a guy to pick up a used chainsaw for my son unless I decide to keep it for myself, I stop for a hitchhiker. His name is Ed, and he’s in his mid-60’s I guess, long black hair going grey, old tee shirt, worn-out jeans, faded tattoos on his forearms. Smoking a very thin handrolled cigarette that’s he’s considerate enough to extinguish before entering the car. Carrying a backpack and one of those reuseable shopping tote bags full of his just-bought groceries. A deli-container of chicken wings poking out the top.

Ed lives way up East Hill one town down the road, in a cabin with his dog. He doesn’t have a car but says he might get one, though I don’t sense much commitment to the idea. I tell him I’ll take him all the way home, and this makes him very happy, because East Hill is long and steep and it’s hot out. And he’s got those wings. Plus who knows what else in that bag. As we drive, he points out houses along the way, ones he says he’s worked on over the decades. His voice is soft and I have to lean in a bit to hear him. I learn that he came to own his 10-acre parcel 26 years ago, having traded his Harley for it. Been living there ever since. Or that’s what I think he says, at least.

I drop him at the end of his driveway, which is really just a wide footpath into the woods with a chain across its entrance. Mailbox off to the side. He thanks me, and I say no problem, it’s my pleasure, and it is, in part because it’s been a long time since I picked up a hitcher and Ed’s reminded me of how much I enjoy it, that passing intimacy with a stranger whose life circumstances so often differ so drastically from my own.

And in part because even now, two days later, I like thinking about Ed and his dog in the cabin on the land he got in trade for a motorcycle, the chicken wings presumably long gone, their thin bones tossed out back into the swamp, and maybe tomorrow or the next day he’ll make the long walk down to the main road, where he’ll stick out his thumb and head back to Price Chopper for some more.

14 thoughts on “Chicken Wings”

  1. It’s been a long time (25 years?) since I have either hitchhiked or picked up a hitchhiker. I don’t even remember the last time I saw one. It feels good to know that it is still a possibility.

    1. I see them pretty regularly around here. My rule is to stop, but I do make exceptions. Part of the privilege of being a 6’3″ 180lb able-bodied male.

  2. I’ve picked Ed up a few times, and had a near identical experience every time. Once was in a blizzard, and he worried I’d trouble myself too much driving up the hill and offered to walk. My Subaru managed and he was as grateful as ever.

  3. OMG. i must have hitched thousands of miles in the late sixties and early seventies.
    t00many stories to tell.

  4. I love your hitchhiking stories. Always such wonderful characters! There is a tune by Jewel that I don’t believe is on any of her records, about a hitchhiking experience she once had as a young adult. It’s a riot! She’s a mixed bag for me musically, but no doubt a wordsmith. And you’re a fan of words so I think you’ll get a kick out of it. Search Jewel Race Car Driver Woodstock on YouTube for the best rendition.

  5. Yay! Those are some good stories….and yes wings are all about the sauce. The nerve when they skimp on the sauce, how can people get their hot high?

  6. Hi Ben….What a wonderful story about Ed and I can easily see me being him on my own 10 acres and not much else but with probably great piece-of-mind and enjoyment of the simple stuff, the good part of that perhaps having a good dog as your best companion.

    Did you keep the chainsaw?

    Thanks for this post. Like all of them, I enjoyed it, maybe even a bit more than most! Thanks for picking up Ed.

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