Gypsy girl, Idaho Falls, 1964

In 1964 I was hitchhiking west, meandering from a stop in Minnesota aiming at making Seattle by early August. Somewhere in South Dakota I was picked up by a bunch of guys going to Portland. The first thing they asked was “Can you drive?” And that’s how I joined a Gypsy caravan bringing used vehicles for resale in Oregon.

We moved with no particular urgency, hopping from one small town to another always stopping at the little local shop with a large hand on the sign outside advertising “Palmistry”, “Your Fortune Told” or “Your Future is in Your Hands”. That’s how I twigged to the “Gypsy” thing. Our caravan continued to grow in size — more drivers were picked up, additional vehicles added. Our meals were paid for but the drivers were never invited inside to meet the local friends/relatives.

Late one day we rolled into Idaho Falls, Idaho. I parked the pickup behind the fortune teller’s. The sun was bright but the clouds were dark and heavy.

A young girl came out and started sweeping the back porch. In an instant a dog barked and she looked up. And then the sky exploded.

Lightning erupted from a neighbour’s yard and buckets of rain landed on us all. The girl disappeared safely inside while I sat in the truck wondering if its steel shell would protect me.

I remember nothing about the remainder of the trip but those few seconds in Idaho Falls will always stay with me.


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