Hitchhiking down Hwy 90 in Mississippi

Mississippi 1978 someplace between Biloxi and Gulfport: I was at the time stationed in Gulfport Mississippi at the US Navy Seabee base. It was Sunday and although I normally restrained from going off base to drink on Sundays, I would indulge partying this particular Sunday at the relentless urging of one of my unit buddies. My buddy, a young farm raised southern boy, whose name I can’t remember as 33 years has passed and as hard as I try names from that long ago seem to elude me, badgered me all morning to go with him to the “Cave.” The Cave was a nightclub, or the proper term in those days would be DISCO.

The Cave was located in Biloxi about 13 miles from our base in Gulfport and was for whatever reason was the drinking place of choice for us when we were not terrorizing the flyboys in their enlisted mans club at Keesler Air Force Base, besides, there was allot of local tail at the Cave that you didn’t find at Keesler. It would be past 9:00 pm before we would get to the Cave. There wasn’t near as many people at the Cave this night which was not surprising since it was a Sunday. My buddy was not scoring as he thought he would be, so shortly after a couple beers a discussion ensue about who could out drink who, this of course let to a waitress setting up 5 shot glasses in front of each of us and watching as to very young and very dumb Seabees drank shot after shot until one, him, said enough not because he out drank me but because he ran out of money, my funds were also dwindling at this point so I agreed that the challenge could wait for another day, by the end of the night I would be down to my last ten dollars.

While I sat at the table nursing the last beer I planned to purchase that night, my buddy danced the night way with a woman that as near as I could tell though my slightly blurred beer goggles was just short of Neanderthal, he however thought he had landed Goddess Athena herself. Lucky for him this night, and that’s a whole other story, he would not “get lucky” and score. This would be of use numerous times in the future in ribbing him to get a laugh at his expense.

Broke, drunk and skank free, we wandered out of the Cave somewhere around 1:30ish AM Monday morning, some 6 hours before muster. Being broke left very few alternative ways to travel the 13 miles back to base, walk or hitchhike, both would be the answer.

In the 70’s it was still illegal to hitchhike in Mississippi and those ‘good ol boys’ troopers lived to catch a couple of drunk Seabees wandering down hwy 90 hitchhiking. Getting arrested and tossed in the cage for a night was not an option that was open for me as having that happen would mean I would miss muster, be subject to court marshal and allot of other very bad military things to happen to me. So when hitchhiking you just had to be sure that when you stuck out your thumb no state trooper was where he could see you.

This works fine until you have a buddy who’s drunk and thinks the wrong thing to do is funny. The first three or four were uneventful, that lack of traffic plus the time of day made it hard to get a ride, after all would you pick up to guys wandering down the highway at 1:30am? Walking side by side down the highway I looked over my shoulder and saw vehicle lights coming our way, I wait and could see that what was coming was a police car. I told my drunken buddy “it’s a cop car!” and at that point he not only stuck his thumb out, he jumped out toward the police car as it was passing us. I knew as soon as I saw the brake lights come on we were in trouble. As luck would have it we were walking next to a 3 or 4 foot chain link fence that ran the length of a military retirement home or something of that sort, whatever it was it was government property and I grabbed my buddy that nearly tossed him over the fence once over the fence I dragged him under a large weeping willow tree that was about 50 or 60 yards from the fence. By the time the police officer got his car to where he could have seen us we were under the willow branches and out of site. Soon another police car came and blocked the entrance to the compound. The officers were ordering us to come out and looking around the only way out I could see would be to low crawl at an angle relative to the two police cars toward the buildings at our right. I told my buddy that we needed to low crawl toward the corner of ‘that’ building at an angle using the tree to hide us. We would be exposed at one point but should be okay I thought if the idiot with me did as I told him.

Low crawling, a technique taught to us by an ornery drill sergeant who would yell expletives at us while running back and forth pushing our asses and faces into the mud would prove to be useful training this night. Our low crawl would take out over the grass, down a curb across the asphalt of a road, up a curb across another 30 yards of grass to the corner of the building were we ducked into the shadows and peeked out to see if we had been spotted. Running to the back of the building that though a hedge of bushes we ran in to a tall chain link fence with barbed wire at the top, we could see, or at least I could see, that the fences lead down to the highway. We followed it but when we got near the end we could see that the police had stationed yet another car within view of where we would come out. There would be no way to escape should we continue that route. So we ran back up the fence line until we came to a point in the fence where it intersected a residential street.

Removing my jacket and placing it in my mouth, I scaled up the fence and threw my jacket over the barbed wire and shimmied over, I instructed my ‘buddy’ to do the same. A dog barking I feared would give us away so I urged my ‘buddy’ along with a few expletives as well. As far as I know my jacket may still remain at the top of that fence today. We ran down the street until we hit an intersection that led to the highway, making sure we could not be seen by the police we crossed the highway to the beach. Walking along the water’s edge so that we were far enough from the highway we would not be seen, my ‘buddy’ collapsed into the sand and didn’t want to move. It was only because of my threats that I would push on without him did he follow me, I was mad as hell.

 After a couple miles I could see the a hotel so we came up the beach and crossed hwy 90, I’m not sure what the hotels name was no but I know it was a nice on as the when we door man saw us he told us we were not allowed to enter the lobby because my friend was wet and covered in sand. I nearly had to beg him to let me in to use the phone to call a cab. I had the number of a cab driver that I used regularly when I went out, so I called his dispatcher and ask them to have him pick us up at the hotel. When he arrive we loaded in the cab and I said “All I have is $10.00 take us as close to the base as you can” as he drove off toward the base he said “so are those cops looking for you Bill?” I told him the story and he had a good laugh.

He ended up taking us all the way to the base. I was a grateful Seabee and I never went out with that ‘buddy’ again.

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