Friday, October 19, 2007


Continuing in the Halloween vein(so to speak) for this month,
there is another story from my days as a camp counselor on
Cape Cod that if I’d thought about I would have also submitted
to the Carnival of Genealogy this month.

We had counselors from all over the country and one year from
other nations. This particular summer, one of the staff was from
Minnesota. He’d never seen the ocean so part of the reason he’d
taken a summer job in Massachusetts was to see the Atlantic.
Since we hiked the kids down to Dennis Beach several times
during the summer Gary accomplished his goal early on, but a
few of us decided we’d take him down to Provincetown so he
could tell the folks back home he’d been as far out to the edge
of the States as he could get without leaving land.

This was back in the late `60’s. We were a bit more innocent back
then and so four of us thought nothing of hitchhiking on the
MidCape Highway. Luckily for us we made it safely down to
Ptown and spent the day walking around the town, poking about
in the great old Army-Navy Surplus Store on the main street,
and then finding and eating the cheapest meal available since we
weren’t exactly in a high paying job.

It was late afternoon when we started back for the highway. Now
I’m not sure of the exact location, because it’s forty years since it
happened, but we took a shortcut through a graveyard and as
we walked along the road we looked at some of the headstones.

And that’s when I saw it: a headstone with my name on it.

“William West”.

You can imagine the jokes from the others. It did spook me out
a little bit but I laughed it off and we eventually moved on to the
highway to “thumb” our way back up the Cape to Brewster.
Since drivers were less likely to stop for four hitchers than two,
we split up into two pairs and made plans to rendezvous at our
exit off the highway.

My companion and I were picked up by a pair of sailors who’d
been sightseeing the hippies at Provincetown as well as doing a
little drinking and it wasn’t long before I realized that perhaps
the one driving the car was a bit drunk and his friend was a whole
lot more drunk. He had a bottle and offered us a drink and when
we declined, he got insistent about us taking a swig. So we did.

By this time I already flashed back to that gravestone with my
name on it. Was it some sort of warning? So I did the sensible
thing. I lied and told the driver that the next exit was where we
had to get off. The other counselor nodded when he asked if we
were sure. He laughed, drove by it, and eventually let us out two
more exits up in what they must have thought was a cool joke.
We eventually caught a another ride, met up with the others,
and made it back to camp safely.

Apparently the sailors made it back to Boston alright as well
since we didn’t hear about any sailors killed in car crashes. And I
took a bit more ribbing over “my” grave.

It was the last time I hitchhiked on Cape Cod. The next summer
that I worked there I had my own car.

And occasionally I think about that headstone. I don’t recall
anything about the dates or the inscription. Maybe someday I’ll
look up the information.

But I certainly won’t do it around Halloween.

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