Archive for the ‘Nebraska’ Tag

It’s a Small World   7 comments


Ainsworth, Nebraska

Hitchhiking on U.S. 20 in Nebraska.

[25 February 2010]

Yesterday I was walking east on U.S. 20 between Bassett and Stuart, Nebraska when this car pulled over to give me a ride. This guy’s name was Shawn and he was going to Atkinson on an errand. We got to talking and he just got back from a mission trip to Mexico. Shawn used to be a pastor at a few churches. He recently lived in the Star Valley area of western Wyoming. He now lived in Valentine, Nebraska with his wife Theresa.

After Atkinson, we drove to Ainsworth to pick up his wife. We stayed at their friends’ place for supper and then drove west of Ainsworth to this farm to see a couple that they knew. We walked to the house and the man motioned for us to come inside. I looked at the man and he looked familiar. His name was Greg and his wife was Marla.

We talked for a while and Shawn told Greg and Marla that he had picked me up on the road earlier that day. I think Shawn then asked Greg if he had ever picked up any hitchhikers. Greg said that he and his wife picked up this hitchhiker in Idaho four or five years ago and that the hitchhiker had written a book. They dropped the hitchhiker off in Missoula, Montana.

Greg then said that the hitchhiker sent him a copy of his book. He searched for a short while and then produced the book [typescript]. It was my book! (High Plains Drifter)

It was a photocopy that this lady in Lewiston, Idaho had sent to them. She picked me up hitchhiking in the fall of 2004 and told me to give me a floppy disk of my book and that she would make some photocopies and then send it to anyone I wanted. She owned a print shop in Lewiston.

I told Greg that he probably picked me up on U.S. 12 somewhere between Kooskia and Lolo Pass, Idaho in the fall of 2004. We talked about it some more and I believe he picked me up at a gas station at Lowell or Syringa, Idaho.

We stayed at Greg and Marla’s place for an hour or so and had some excellent fellowship.

It’s a small world.

[Published by Digihitch–July 26, 2011]

A Ride in Nebraska, Blue Highways and William Least Heat-Moon

The First Time I Rode a Freight Train   6 comments

Hobo climbing a freight car

Back in July of 1980, I was house sitting for some friends in Ames, Iowa. They and their two daughters were gone for a month or so seeing relatives in Southern California.

One day I decided to hit the road and see how far west I could get. I took my backpack and some of my belongings and began hitchhiking west on U.S. 30.

I got a few rides to Denison. Then this young lady picked me up near Dow City or Dunlap. She had a can of beer in her hand and offered me one; I declined the offer. I went to enough beer parties in high school; my beer-drinking days were pretty much over. She was fairly drunk and she would swerve over into the other lane every so often and then correct herself.

Finally, I said, “Hey, if you want, I can drive for you.”

She said, “No. I’m doing just fine.”

A few minutes later she barely missed hitting this tractor-trailer coming from the opposite direction.

I had had enough, so I said, “Pull over and let me out.”

She pulled over onto the shoulder and I got out of the car. She gave me the finger and drove off. I was so glad to get out of that vehicle. That was the first time (and maybe the only time) I asked to get out of a car because the driver was drunk.

So I walked down the road and this guy picked me up. He had just graduated from the veterinary school at Iowa State University in Ames. This guy was going to Nebraska to take his boards for the state of the Nebraska.

He dropped me off someplace and I later made it to Blair, Nebraska. The sun was setting as I walked down main street. I walked past this gas station and this kid that worked there was sitting in a chair.

He looked at my backpack and asked, “Where ya goin’?”

“I’m heading out west,” I replied.

“Have a good trip.”


I walked through Blair and was a mile or so out of town, when a sheriff deputy stopped me. He asked me where I was going and then he checked my ID. At the time, I was a little annoyed that they would stop and check me. I was walking down the road minding my own business. What’s the big deal, I thought. That was probably the first time I had been stopped by law enforcement for walking or hitchhiking. I was a little rattled about the whole thing.

The sheriff deputy gave me my ID back and I continued walking due west on U.S. 30.

The sun was down, so I decided to jump over this fence and hightail it to the railroad tracks. It wasn’t long and I was walking down the tracks of the Union Pacific.

I had been walking for a while when all of a sudden this powerful light came around the bend behind me and this locomotive was bearing down on me! I didn’t even hear it coming! I took evasive action, quickly jumped off the tracks and ran into the ditch. The four or five engines roared past with its grain cars in tow. That was a close one, I thought.

I later learned that the sound of the engine travels out from the sides of the locomotive, not from the front. I had been hitchhiking in New Mexico back in the late 1990s, when this man and his wife and kids picked me up. He worked as a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad. He told me about the sound traveling out from the sides and not from the front. He and his fellow welder almost got run over by a train while they were welding “frogs” on the tracks. They never heard the train coming–just like in my case.

So I continued to walk down the tracks. I then camped out in some grass. It was hot and humid–it was probably in the upper nineties that day. The mosquitoes were bad. I don’t think I got much sleep that night.

The next morning I got a couple of rides to Fremont.

I was walking in downtown Fremont heading towards the railroad tracks (I was thinking about hopping a freight train) when a local cop stopped me.

“Where you going, son?” he asked.

“I’m heading west,” I said.

“You’re going in the wrong direction. Hop in and I’ll give you a ride west of town.”

“Sounds good.”

He dropped me off near this pond of water; it looked like a state park or campsite. I thanked him for the ride and he drove off.

It was now around a hundred degrees and I was getting hot, so I spent some time swimming in the pond. After a while, I lay down on this picnic table and took a nap for an hour or two.

Then I heard this low rumbling. I woke up and saw this freight train slowly moving westward on the tracks maybe a hundred yards away. I quickly put on my socks and boots and grabbed my backpack and ran to this brand, spanking-new flatcar. It had my name written all over it.

I climbed onto the flatcar and put my backpack against the bulkhead. I sat down and rested my back against my backpack. The train merged from the siding onto the main line and gained some speed. I was now in business.

It was exhilarating and free, sitting on that flatcar watching the green Nebraska countryside go past. Eventually, I took off my boots and socks and sat on the flatcar barefoot. I felt even more free. The train was now traveling at around fifty miles per hour.

The Union Pacific tracks ran parallel with U.S. 30. Cars and pickups would drive down the highway and people would wave at me and laugh. I would wave back and smile. Some people would honk their horns. It was a lot of fun.

The train rolled through North Bend and Schuyler and finally slowed down and stopped in Columbus. We weren’t stopped very long. They were switching out some cars, I’m guessing.

The train slowly moved out and we were heading west again.

My plan, when I left Ames, was to see some relatives in Ogallala, Nebraska. Well, I didn’t know their names and I didn’t know exactly where they lived in Ogallala. I just knew that I had some relatives in Ogallala and this is why I headed west. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense now, but back then I was twenty years old and all I wanted was an excuse to hit the road and head west. Relatives in Ogallala: sounds good to me. (I later did meet these relatives in Ogallala back in 1983–just before I hitchhiked to California for the first time.)

The train was now going down the tracks at a pretty good clip. I was absolutely enjoying everything about life on a flatcar when I saw this Nebraska Highway Patrol drive by on U.S. 30. I smiled and waved at him, but he didn’t wave back. He gave me a dirty look. It was then that I began to think that maybe I wasn’t supposed to be riding this freight train.

I didn’t think it was illegal to hop freight trains (but that maybe some people might frown on it). My great-grandfather, who was born in County Roscommon in Ireland, lived for thirteen years in Australia herding sheep and prospecting for gold. He came to America and settled down in southwest Iowa. He used to ride freight trains between Iowa and western Nebraska all the time. But that was back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I began to think that sitting on this flatcar in plain sight of everybody was not such a good idea.

The train rolled through Central City and soon began to slow down. As the train slowly made its way through the small town of Chapman, there was this cop in his car stopped at the intersection. I smiled and waved at him, but he didn’t wave back. Then I began to get this sinking feeling. Maybe I better get off of this train ASAP.

Well, the train stopped maybe a quarter of a mile from where the cop was sitting. I saw the cop car back up and drive down the service road that ran parallel with the tracks. He stopped his car next to my flatcar and motioned for me to get off the train.

I looked at him and said, “Who me?”

He nodded his head as if to say, “Yes, you.”

I put my socks and boots back on and climbed off of the flatcar. I didn’t like this one bit.

I got in the car and the cop told me that it was illegal to ride freight trains. He drove me to Central City to the police station. He said that he was going to contact the “U.P.” (Union Pacific) detectives and see if they wanted to prosecute me.

I sat at the police station as the officer phoned the Union Pacific. The guys in the jail asked me why I was there. I told them that I got caught riding a freight train. They howled in laughter. I sort of laughed, but not really.

The officer hung up the phone and told me that the Union Pacific didn’t want to prosecute. He told me to get back in the car and that he would drive me east to the county line.

As we drove east on U.S. 30, the cop asked, “So Tim, do you ever think about where you will go when you die?”

I answered, “Yeah, I think about it all the time.”

So he began to tell me about Jesus and the Gospel. We had an intense talk. I was not yet a Christian, but this cop definitely sowed some good seeds into me. I asked Christ into my life two years later. Getting caught on a freight train by a Christian cop was definitely the hand of God–but I didn’t know it at the time.

I was restless and seeking something: truth, beauty, literary aspirations, freedom from Adamic slavery. I dropped out of high school twice because it was so oppressive and unchallenging. I was hungry and desperate. Heaven was on my mind. I was looking for God, but did not know how to truly access Him. In July 1980, I was not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.

The cop dropped me off in the middle of somewhere. It was ten o’clock at night, it was hot and humid and I forgot to fill up my water bottle back in Central City. I was not a happy camper. I thanked the officer for the ride and he turned around and drove west into the Nebraska night.

The next town was six miles away. So I walked past the corn fields and the hay fields of eastern Nebraska. I was thirsty. The noise of diesel engines roaring away pumping water into irrigation circles could be heard as I walked back east.

Eventually, I made it to the small town of Duncan. I found a water hydrant and drank a ton of water. I then found a pickup parked next to the railroad tracks. I climbed into the cab of the pickup and slept there that night.

The next morning, I walked to the shoulder of U.S. 30 and began thumbing for a ride to Columbus. Within half an hour, some guy walked up to the pickup that I had slept in the night before and drove off in it. Sometimes it is a good idea to get up early in the morning.

I got a ride to Columbus. This guy took me to the bus station. I met a lady there that helped me pay for a bus ticket to Des Moines. I got on the bus and it went through Omaha. I got off in Adel, Iowa that evening. Adel is just west of Des Moines on U.S. 6.

I phoned a friend in Ames. He picked me up in Adel and drove me back to Ames. He thought that it was funny that I hitchhiked to Nebraska and hopped a freight train. He thought it was really funny that a cop told me to get off the train. I didn’t think it was so funny.

[Originally published by]

Iowa Blackie
The First Time I Rode a Freight Train & other hitchhiking stories
Hobo Shoestring–King of the Rails
The Life of a Hobo
Stobe the Hobo


A Ride in Nebraska, Blue Highways and William Least Heat-Moon   9 comments

Dreams from the LORD 2007-2010
22 May 2008

Yesterday, I was somewhere between Bridgeport and Alliance, Nebraska when this car pulled over to pick me up. There were three guys in the car; I got in the back seat. As we started to drive down the road, the guy next to me asked, “Aren’t you from Ames, Iowa?”

I looked at him with a surprised look and said, “Yeah. How did you know that?”

He said, “I picked you up hitchhiking a few years ago and gave you a ride to Alliance. You made a photocopy of your book [High Plains Drifter] and gave it to me.”

I was stunned. We shook hands and then he said, “My name is Harold. I read your book and really enjoyed it. I passed it around to some friends of mine.”

It’s a small world. I remember making a photocopy of High Plains Drifter in Alliance for somebody, but I think it was more than a few years ago. I told Harold that he probably picked me up in 2001 or 2002.

So they drove me to Alliance and took me out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. The guy who was driving was Doug. Doug owned a junkyard nine miles from town; he let me and Harold stay at his place last night and Harold bought me breakfast this morning.

While we were eating breakfast, Harold told me that he was hitchhiking in Missouri back in the 1970s and William Least Heat-Moon picked him up and gave him a ride to Iowa. William Least Heat-Moon later wrote the book Blue Highways. I believe Blue Highways was a bestseller in the early 1980s. While I was living in Venice, California in the spring of 1984, I read Blue Highways and thought it was a very good book. I wrote William Least Heat-Moon a letter telling him how much I liked his book; he wrote me back, but I no longer have a copy of this letter.

Book Review:  High Plains Drifter
An American Pilgrim:  Some Reflections on High Plains Drifter
Days Without Writing

A Speed Skating Coach, a Dream and a Former Drug Dealer   Leave a comment

Dreams from the LORD 2007-2010
23 July 2007

Just got back from a fast trip. I hitchhiked out of Jackson on the 19th of July. I was walking north of Ashton, Idaho when this tractor-trailer pulled over to pick me up. I climbed up into the cab and the truck driver said that he had picked me up before. His name was Stan and after a few minutes I recognized him. He said he picked me up in Billings, Montana a year or two ago and took me to Sheridan, Wyoming. Stan said that he never picks up hitchhikers, but that he has picked me up twice now.

I remember the first time Stan picked me up he told me that he was a speed skating coach in Holland. He was born in Holland and then was raised in Poland. His English wasn’t so good, so it was a bit difficult to understand him. Stan said that he coached speed skating in Holland for fifteen years and then came to America and coached speed skaters here. He helped coach Ard Schenck (Olympic Gold Medalist from Holland), and later, Eric Heiden and Dan Jansen (Olympic Gold Medalists from the United States). He is now retired from coaching and drives a truck for a living. Stan lives in the Salt Lake City area. He dropped me off in Bozeman, Montana and I slept in that junked van for the night.

The next day I walked outside of Bozeman for a mile or two and got a ride with a truck driver all the way to Norfolk, Nebraska. I then hitchhiked south through Columbus and made it to Stromsburg where I slept at a construction jobsite a few miles south of town. That night I had a dream. In the dream I was in a room (it might have been a bathroom) in a house that was filled up to the shins with water. There were a lot of clothes floating in the water–looked like someone’s dirty laundry. I saw a dark cloud in the water. A former housemate of mine from Ames, Iowa was in that same room. We lived together in the same household with a few other Christian men for two and a half years [they went to Great Commission Church]. I walked up to him and asked him, “Have you repented of your sin?” He didn’t say anything. Throughout the dream he was always looking down–he never looked up at me–it looked like he was convicted of sin. I later found the drain, uncovered it and all the water drained out of the room. I walked out of the house and then the dream ended.

I was a bit curious as to why the Lord would give me a dream about a former housemate whom I have not seen since the early 1990s–we lived in the same house from 1987 to 1990. It was just over twenty years ago when I had hitchhiked from Ellensburg, Washington to Ames, Iowa. I think I arrived in Ames around 10 July 1987; within a week I got my job back at Hanson Lumber Company. I lived in that same house for seven years. The two and a half years I spent with the above housemate were unpleasant: he was very carnal, he went to a church that hated the power of the Holy Ghost (praying in tongues, healing, deliverance from demons, etc.); we really had nothing in common; he made my life fairly miserable while I was living there. We were living in a Christian household, but I was always leaving the house looking for Christian fellowship–I would even go out into the woods and pray and praise the Lord–I didn’t know what else to do. Why would the Lord give me a dream about someone I knew twenty years ago? I am sure that in time the Lord will reveal more to me about this dream.

The next morning I got rides south on U.S. 81 to Salina, Kansas. I waited for quite some time in Salina and finally got a ride to Colby, Kansas on I-70. I then got a ride to Seibert, Colorado where I got a cheeseburger. From Seibert I got a ride with a guy named Dave all the way to Jackson, Wyoming.

Why the fast trip? The Lord’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts; the Lord’s ways are higher than our ways. The trip from Montana to Nebraska went very fast and was very blessed–the truck driver even paid for my supper in Gillette, Wyoming and my breakfast in Murdo, South Dakota; in Belvidere, South Dakota, he stopped at a rest area and slept in his sleeper and I jumped over the fence and slept in a grassy field that night. After he dropped me off in Norfolk, I got a ride with two Hispanic teenagers to Columbus. The one guy told me that he was very interested in my travels and that he really wanted to learn to speak English well–he was going to be a sophomore in high school this coming fall–he had come from Mexico just three years ago. South of Columbus this man and woman and their three kids picked me up. He used to be a drug dealer and had spent some time in prison. He told me that he was a real bad ass at one time. He told me that he once drove to this guy’s place so that he could kill him, but the other guy sprayed his car with bullets and two bullets grazed his arm and shoulder. He told me that he should have been dead. I told him that the Lord protected him because He had a purpose for his life. After he got out of prison (he became more committed to Christ in prison), he got a good job and now is taking care of his wife and children. I told him that the Lord was using him as a light for the Gospel in his hometown. We had a real good talk. Maybe the Lord had me hitchhike so quickly from Montana to Nebraska to talk to that Hispanic kid and that former drug dealer (I gave both of them my CD). If the Lord wants you to get someplace fast, you get there fast, let me tell you.

Looks like I will head up into Montana tomorrow.

A Dream of a Miscarriage

At a Cafe in Merriman, Nebraska   4 comments

Nebraska Sandhills

[3 March 2010]

Yesterday I hitchhiked from Valentine to Merriman. I phoned Steve and he drove to town and took me and his son, Will, to a local cafe for dinner. Steve and his wife Carol have a cattle ranch thirteen miles from Merriman. Their son, Brock, and their daughter, Tiffany, also work on the ranch. Steve had picked me up hitchhiking back in 2006, so I thought I would stop by and say hello.

Steve, Will and myself sat down at a table and ordered something to eat. A few minutes later, this other guy walked in and sat down with us. He looked like he was in his late 50s. His name was Chuck.

We talked about various things: ranching, hitchhiking, politics. Chuck then started talking about his experience in the Vietnam War. He was a Navy SEAL that had graduated from BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) Training in 1972. Chuck talked at length about some of his firefights in the jungles of Southeast Asia. He said that the average life expectancy of a lieutenant in Vietnam was eleven minutes. Chuck was once shot out of a tree by an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade); he was providing covering fire for his team when the explosion of the grenade knocked him out of the tree. He had intense, penetrating eyes; it looked like he had been to hell and back.

I asked Chuck if he had seen the film We Were Soldiers and if it was a realistic account of combat in Vietnam. He said that he had seen the film and that it was very realistic. Chuck said that he had met Hal Moore (the author of the book We Were Soldiers) and thought that he was the best officer in Vietnam. I believe Moore had retired as a general in the U.S. Army.

Chuck had a son who fought recently in Afghanistan. He was an Airborne Ranger. Chuck talked a little about his son’s combat experiences on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Some people think that the Navy SEALs are the best elite warriors in the world and some people think that the British SAS are the best. I asked Chuck if he had ever met any British SAS; he said that he had met a few. I could tell that Chuck knew where I was going with this: are the SAS the best warriors in the world? Chuck told me that the Israeli Special Forces were “deadly”; he had absolute respect for them and for Mossad (Israeli Intelligence). He said that the Israeli Special Forces were the best elite soldiers on the planet.

We finished our dinner and I shook Chuck’s hand. It was a great honor to talk with a U.S. Navy SEAL.

I remember watching a documentary on President Harry Truman. Since a child, Truman had to wear glasses—he was pretty much blind without them. In a World War I photo of Captain Harry Truman, he had his glasses off. The commentator of the documentary said that Harry Truman had eyes of steel. Chuck, the Vietnam Veteran, had eyes of steel.

I stayed overnight at Steve and Carol’s ranch. Steve, Carol, Tiffany and myself had excellent fellowship at the supper table. Tiffany was hoping to get into a Christian college in North Carolina. I told them a number of my stories of hitchhiking around the United States. They have a beautiful ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. I was grateful to have met Steve’s family. I also met Steve’s dad and step-mom. Steve’s dad writes for three newspapers in Nebraska and one in South Dakota. Steve’s dad gave me a copy of a booklet that he had published; these were newspaper articles that were published during the previous year.

Right now I am in Chadron. I may be heading south to Alliance tomorrow.

A Ride in Nebraska in 2006 or What Goes Around Comes Around
A Conversation with a World War II U.S. Navy Frogman
No Jump Tonight!
A Conversation with a Vietnam Veteran
When Gibson Stays on Script
On the Mend
It’s a Small World
Where Have all the Warriors Gone?

Hitchhiking in Nebraska   12 comments

Prairie Sunset

Sand Hills, Nebraska

High Plains Drifter: A Hitchhiking Journey Across America
By Tim Shey

Excerpt from Chapter Five:

Psalm 18: 19: “He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.”

In May of 1997, I hitchhiked west towards Nebraska. I have always loved going through Nebraska. In all my travels, I believe that the people of Nebraska and Texas were by far the best people I have ever met. Nebraska was in my comfort zone. Whenever I had been wandering out west and came out of Wyoming and into Nebraska, I felt that I was back on my home turf. The people of Nebraska are gold, silver and precious stones.

I got some good rides all the way to Osmond, Nebraska. It was getting close to sundown when this guy driving a tractor picked me up.

“You can sit on the fender if you want,” he said.

“Sounds good to me,” I said.

He drove me to Plainview and we talked about the things of God and the Bible. He asked me what I was doing. I told him that I just quit my job and thought I would hitchhike by faith and see where God would take me. He offered me a job right there. He had his own construction company and lived on a farm with his wife and kids. I told him I would love to work for him, but that God was calling me out west for some reason. We stopped in Plainview and we shook hands. I hopped off the tractor and I got a motel room.

The next morning this tractor-trailer picked me up.

“I’m going all the way to western South Dakota,” he said. “I got five drops: three in Nebraska and two in South Dakota.”

We stopped at three places in Nebraska and I helped unload his van–he was hauling some small trees and shrubs. We got to a truck stop near Kadoka, South Dakota and he told me he would buy me some supper.

We were eating supper when he looked at me and said, “You know, right before I picked you up I saw this man pointing at you. It was like he was telling me to pick you up.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “I didn’t see anybody out there. I was alone.”

“I saw him plain as day. When I picked you up I didn’t see him anymore.”

I was flabbergasted. So I sat there and wondered and looked out the window and asked him, “Do you think he was an angel?”

“He must’ve. It was the strangest thing I ever saw.”

On our trip we talked a lot about the Word of God and certain preachers on TV. He lived in Sioux City and was very well self-educated. I enjoyed talking with him. After supper he said he was going back to the sleeper and get some sleep. I took a long walk—for two or three miles—out in the country. Lots of grassland; it was beautiful.

I walked back to the truck and the trucker was sound asleep. He had a double-decker sleeper, so I got in the top bunk and turned on the VCR. From midnight till four in the morning I watched two films. The first film was The Professional—it was about the life of a mafia hit man and a twelve-year-old girl named Matilda. It was very good. I forget the other film.

The next day we stopped in Rapid City and Spearfish and we unloaded his truck. He bought me breakfast and I hit the road.

A Book Review for High Plains Drifter
Are You An Angel?
A State of Existing, North Dakota
Hitchhiking in Wyoming
It’s a Small World
The life of a hobo
Hitchhiking Stories from Digihitch
A Thumb and a Prayer
An American Pilgrim:  Some Reflections on High Plains Drifter