KENTUCKY HOME

I pulled the car seat as close to the steering wheel as it would go. That old Ford jerked and shuddered as I drove away. I had no idea how to get to Kentucky. I just knew it was somewhere to the east. Turning my back on Ontario and all the misery I’d experienced there, I headed that direction. I’d figure out the rest along the way.Most kids my age would have been afraid to drive for just under 2,000 miles. Not me. I was afraid to stay. I felt certain I wouldn’t survive another school year in Ontario. I would end up dead and I figured Dad would preach my funeral himself. As the sun glinted off the road ahead, I imagined him taking off his hat and speaking from his heart.“He was a rotten kid. I reckon he got what he deserved.”

I saw roads heading off in every direction and got nervous. At the next truck stop I pulled in and asked some truckers how to get to Kentucky. They were nice and pointed me in the right direction. When night fell and I got too sleepy to drive, I pulled off the road and slept in the car.The next day, I heard the whup whup of sirens and saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror. “You only have one headlight and it’s taped on,” the officer said.“Yes, Sir.”“Who are you? Where you heading?”I told him.“I need to talk to your parents.”“Talk to my Grandpa, that’s where I’m headed,” I said. “Here’s his name and number.”After talking to Grandpa, he let me go.

I enjoyed driving through Arizona. I saw lots of cowboys and cattle. It reminded me of Little Dixie only on a larger scale.I made it all the way to New Mexico before I had a flat tire. I stood next to the car and kicked the tire. It was as flat as roadkill and I didn’t have a spare. The Sheriff pulled up and got out of his car. “Where you headed?”“Henderson, Kentucky.”“You’re a long way from home.”“Yes, Sir.”“You been sleeping in your car?”“Yes, Sir.”“This town gets rowdy on Friday night. You wouldn’t be safe out here. Get in my car and I’ll take you to town.”He drove me into town and checked me into a hotel. Handing me the key he said, “Don’t leave. I’ll be here in the morning.”

Sure enough, the next morning he took me to breakfast and then to my car. He’d had my flat fixed overnight. Never asked for a penny, just sent me on my way.After driving 1,974 miles, nothing ever looked so good to me as my grandparents’ house. Grandpa was 6’ 4” with sandy blonde hair. A deacon in the Southern Baptist Church, he was the kindest man I’d ever known. He wrapped me in a bear hug and welcomed me home. Grandma told me she loved me and put a hot plate of food on the table. Their youngest daughter, my Aunt Kay, was only eight years older than me and lived at home.“You going back to school?”“No.” I’d already been told I wasn’t bright. Didn’t see any future in going back.“What’re you going to do?”“Find a job.”“You can work for me,” Grandpa said.

Grandpa specialized in building and remodeling churches all over Kentucky and Indiana. I was thrilled to work for him. I got paid and there was no fighting. Even better, there was no strife or upset at home. It was a wonderful life. I was happy for the first time since we’d left Little Dixie. Everything was great until my dad stuck his oar in the water and messed things up.My parents had written me off as bad seed. They never called to talk to me. Never even asked how I was doing. Instead, Dad called Grandpa and convinced him that I was jittery and didn’t sleep much because I was on drugs. Grandpa sat me down for a talk.“Son, are you on drugs? You need to tell me.”“No, Sir.”

My dad had turned Grandpa against me. Destroyed my new family life. It felt like he couldn’t stand me to have any kind of happiness.I didn’t know it at the time but I was dyslexic and had attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. I couldn’t sit still. Once a week either my grandpa or my uncle sat me down to talk about drugs. Aunt Kay believed me that I’d never taken any drugs. My grandparents let me stay but my father had muddied the water.I could tell they were afraid of me.

I couldn’t stand seeing the fear in their eyes. With each passing day, I felt more like my emotional boat was overloaded and starting to sink.The sky was pewter and icicles hung from trees, glistening like ornaments as I drove to work one morning. The road was slick and when I pressed the brake to stop, nothing happened. My 1949 Ford slid into the back of another car. No one was hurt, but I didn’t have insurance.I figured it was time for me to leave.By now I was 16 and had a Kentucky driver’s license. Pondering where to go, I remembered how much I’d liked Arizona. I saved a few paychecks and told my family goodbye, certain they would sleep better when I’d gone. In addition to going to Arizona, I had one goal in mind. Years before, I’d seen a rodeo and decided that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to become a rodeo cowboy.

Read from the Bible every day. Check everything against the truth of the Word (Acts 17:11). And when there is a conflict between what the Bible says and what anyone else says, go with the Bible. “I will listen to what God the LORD says” (Psalm 85:8).

StevieRay Hansen

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