As a teen in the early 1970’s, my sense of adventure and love of freedom led me to often “sneak out” to meet with my friends. In retrospect this was actually amazing, because I had a father who would have punished me very severely had I been caught! My activities were innocent; my friends and I just met each other, walked, talked, and enjoyed the freedom of being out on our own in the starry night. One night in particular, though, pushed my very survival skills to the max! I share this as a testament to the brave audacity and the resourcefulness of youth.
It was winter in Lewiston, NY. My two friends Daniel and Barbara and I had planned to meet after all our parents had gone to bed. I slept on a cot in the basement—as I often did—and after I heard my father go upstairs to my parents’ bedroom, I stealthily climbed the basement stairs, opened the inner garage door and then the outer one, and I was off. I made my way down the street to Danny’s house. Lights were off but for a candle in his window: the sign that his parents were also to bed. So I threw a pebble up to Danny’s window; his cue. He unfurled a rope of sheets tied together and climbed down into the bushes. Now we greeted each other and headed off for our big adventure. Our goal that night was to walk about a mile and a half down from the escarpment neighborhood we lived in, down to our friend Barb’s house, and she would join us for a visit ‘out’.
Dan and I had to cross a major, 4-lane highway before we could begin our descent down the escarpment to visit our friend. We had done this before without incident, but this night was not to be such a lark. Almost as soon as we reached the highway to cross, a police car coming up the highway stopped. The officer called us over and asked us for our names. I knew the last thing I wanted was for my father to be called from a police station to be told his daughter had been arrested. No time to think, Dan and I looked at each other and we knew what we had to do. We bolted! We ran and leapt down a little indentation we knew because of a secret fort we had cultivated for years right near where we had been stopped by the policeman. We ducked into a railroad tunnel and across the highway from underneath, then we fled down the snowy escarpment on the other side from where the officer probably thought we had gone. We thought we were free then but that was only the start of our adventure!
At the base of the escarpment we started toward our friend Barb’s house, along a two-lane road, Creek Drive. No sooner had we begun that trek on the open road but a police car came up from behind! We dashed behind a house; the cop parked in that driveway and got out with a flashlight to chase after us. We bolted through back yards, losing him.
What we did not know until hearing it on the news the next day was that a pair of teens—a boy and a girl–had broken into a drugstore in town that night; the policemen thought we were them! So, we were in for quite a chase.
Dan and I wended our way through dark yards from house to house and tree to tree. (I get an image of Peanuts’ Snoopy as a WWII ace here, behind enemy lines in France.) We finally arrived at Barb’s house. We tapped on her basement window, and she snuck out from her kitchen’s sliding back door to join us. Dan and I were pretty agitated, of course. We told Barb what was up and agreed that Dan and I had better head for home. Barb went back inside then, and Dan and I started our return trip.
We made it about half way up the escarpment, walking parallel to the highway in the brush. But then, guess what? We saw lights, alot of bright lights, moving slowly down the highway in our direction and on the side of the highway we were on. It was—can you believe it?—a search truck, coming down the highway at about 5 mph, casting searchlights into the escarpment brush while several police officers accompanied the search truck on foot, walking before and behind it!
Dan said, “Let’s meet at the railroad tracks!” and we both started to run as fast as we could to get up to the trees and climb to the tracks. But I slipped on the icy ground almost immediately and fell. Instinctively I knew that if I would stand up and run, the truck was now close enough that there was no way for me not to be seen.
So, I huddled. I drew my brown winter coat around my full body and balled up into as small a lump as I could muster. I said to myself, “I am a Rock!” A rock does not think, or move. I kept repeating this phrase over and over, the only thought I allowed myself at all: “I am a Rock; I AM a rock; I AM A ROCK!”
The truck and police pedestrians advanced, nearer and nearer. I could hear their quiet conversation as the lights of the searchtruck were upon my very form (“I’m a rock; I’m a rock; I’m a rock”). They were past me then, moving slowly away, maybe 15 yards or so down the highway. Then all of a sudden I heard one of the officers say, “Hey, do you see that funny looking Rock?”
I bolted! Immediately I was up and running for the cover of trees and the tracks! And, of course, they were after me. But Dan and I knew these parts better than they did. I reached the tracks where Dan was waiting breathlessly. Without a word we were off, clambering along the tracks, across the highway from underneath, then we climbed a rocky trail up to the top of the escarpment, right into our hidden, secret fort!
We huddled in the fort for what must have been two hours, at least. The police released dogs! Fortunately, if they had some fabric or property from the teens who really had broken into a store that night, their scent did not match with ours, so the dogs did not find us!
After a while, the voices near the tracks and in the woods just below our precarious hiding place faded. We had evaded capture. Around 4:30 AM, we gathered enough courage to emerge from our hideaway. We parted company at my parents’ house; I snuck back down into the basement and Dan climbed back up to his bedroom. We were safe.
That was a Sunday night. The next day, Dan and I went to school as usual. During the school day, Dan was asked to write an essay for English class about a true adventure. He wrote about exactly what had just transpired the night before. When he received his paper back on Tuesday it was graded a C- with the teacher’s comment: “This is not true; it is not believable at all. Nothing like this would never happen!”
Such an adventure. It galvanizes me even today to remember how Dan and I survived that night what could have been a life changing, disastrous capture. I found then I can rely on my deepest instincts–and perhaps spiritual inner guidance and protection–to accomplish whatever worthy goal must be accomplished. I have needed to call on this inner resourcefulness and protection a few times since this adventure; facing even more life-challenging threats.
Remember you are the same person now that you were as an Innocent Child and an audacious youth. They are still within you!
Coming this next week: Better Endings with Dreams! Please feel free to send your own stories, insights and comments!