A lone traveler is baffled by strange sounds in the night.
| Who’s Out There?
I’ve been on the road for the last seven years now. I guess somewhere deep down inside of me I’ve always had some sort of a nomad streak but I was always able to keep it pretty well under control until Gracie died.
We’d been married for forty one happy years and then one day she was gone. I stayed in the house for almost a year after she passed but somehow it just wasn’t quite right anymore, being there without her I mean. The kids were all grown and gone and I had a steady retirement check coming in complete with all of the bells and whistles. One day I realized the walls were starting to close in on me and I knew it was time to leave and so I did.
I sold the house, picked up a nice second hand 24 foot Chinook motor home and hit the road. The kids thought I was crazy at first and threatened to have me committed, but after awhile they settled down and got used to the idea. I call them about once a week and swing by to visit every few months or so and that seems to be more then enough to keep them happy.
I like it out here on the road. Every day is a new adventure, new people, new scenery, new weather and new roads. When I find a place I really like, I hang around for a few days before moving on. With the price of gas back down to something more or less reasonable I can actually live as cheap out here as I could when I was stuck back at the house.
Excuse me for babbling just a bit. When I started writing I had no intention of giving you my life’s story but I guess I kinda got it scribbled out before I knew what I was doing. The real reason I’m writing this is because I had something happen awhile back that just seems to need telling. Being out here on the road like I am I meet a lot of people, but I never stay any one place long enough to really get to know anybody well enough to share these kinds of stories with. By writing it all down, I can just sort of throw it out there for anyone who wants to read it. So here goes:
After cruising around Teton Park in Wyoming for a few days, I’d left south bound on highway 189. A ways down the road I’d spent a day hanging around Marbleton and Big Piney because they just seemed like a couple of nice little side by side towns. Leaving there I’d continued on towards I-80. I’d gassed up in Kemmerer and was on the last thirty five mile stretch of two lane between me and the interstate. It was a late afternoon in mid august and I had planned on spending that night roadside before hitting the main highway.
As I drove south I saw a pile of angry dark clouds building off to the southwest and headed my way. I’ve always liked thunder storms and all that goes with them, celestial fireworks if you may, so I decided to pull off on the next wide spot to ride out the storm and spend the night.
A bit further down the road I came up on a small clump of Cottonwoods along with a pull out area and a picnic table. It was a Tuesday night and traffic was pretty much non-existent as my tires crunched in on the roadside gravel. I shut everything down and stood and stretched.
When I stepped outside I could see that the storm was quite a bit closer now. The rising cliffs of dark clouds were lit up by frequent flashes of lightning and as I listened, rumbles of thunder rolled across the prairie. The air was growing colder and as the wind picked up, I was bathed in the aroma of the distant wet sage. It starting to look like it was going to be a pretty good storm which was fine with me and after a few more minutes, I turned and went back inside the motor home.
I had no great plans for dinner and so a can of chili, some bread and butter and a glass of juice was just fine. After I finished eating I cleaned everything up and decided to read myself to sleep. I’d picked up a local paper in Kemmerer and I proceeded to read it from one end to the other. I always enjoyed small town drama and the best way to find out about that kind of stuff is to browse through the local paper. With that done, I grabbed a mystery novel to finish out the evening.
Outside the storm was in full force as the wind rocked my little home back and forth on it’s wheels. Huge raindrops were pounding onto the roof and sides like hard pebbles and the thunder boomed and cracked as flashes of lightning illuminated the surrounding countryside. I took a break from my reading and just lay there looking out of the window as the sage and hills lit up and seemed to leap and flicker in the strobe light lightening flashes. Above me, the cottonwoods were doing an insane wind dance and showing the light undersides of their leaves whenever the gusts tore into them. All in all, it was magnificent.
And that was when I heard it.
At first I thought it was just the wind whipping around the corners of my motor home. After a few more moments I had hoped it was the wind because if it wasn’t, there was someone outside crying. Puzzled and just a bit alarmed, I put on my raincoat, grabbed a flashlight and opened the door to go outside. Just as I did so, a gust of wind hit and shoved it shut, driving me back inside. Determined, I laid my shoulder into the door and pushed my way into the storm.
Outside, in spite of the wind, the crying seemed louder and it was coming from the other side of the motor home, over by the road. There hadn’t been a car by in over an hour and I was a bit baffled as to what anyone would be doing way out there.
The flashlight blazed a path of rain dotted light in front of me as I moved around towards the crying. As the wailing grew louder and apparently closer I cast the beam about, looking for it’s source. Seeing nothing, I continued walking until I was standing in the middle of the wet, rain washed empty highway.
The crying was just about the saddest and most mournful sound I had ever heard and yet, I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Standing in the middle of the road it seemed to come from in front of me, from my left, behind me, to my right and even from inside of me all at the same time.
I called out into the darkness and for a moment the crying stopped, leaving me alone in the wind. When I called a second time the crying started again, but still my light searched in vain. I walked over to the far side of the highway and looked down into the barrow ditch, but found nothing.
Gradually the weeping faded until the only noise left was the sighing sound of the dying storm winds in the trees. I looked for a while longer before I finally gave up and went back inside to get some sleep. The storm had grumbled off to the northeast and the prairie seemed to be pretty much settling down for the night.
A few hours later I awoke in the darkness and lay listening to the stillness that had become the night. Somewhere, far off across the desert, I couple of coyotes were singing to each other and once I heard an owl hoot from a nearby tree. It all seemed so incredibly peaceful.
As I was rolling over to go back to sleep the crying started again. This time there was no mistaking it. There was no wind to blame it on and I was completely familiar with all of the other night sounds. Someone was out there crying.
I lay completely still for a few moments, trying to get a bearing on where it was coming from. Again I was touched by how sad and hopeless it sounded and I determined to find out who it was and help them.
As nearly as I could tell, it was still coming from the middle of the road just it had before. I got up and got dressed, grabbed my light and went outside.
This time there was no hesitation as I strode around the motor home and out onto the center of the highway. The crying continued as I stood straddling the white line, shining my flashlight into the darkness in a futile attempt to locate it’s source.
In desperation I called out.
"Hello? I’m here to help you. Where are you?"
As if a switch had been thrown, the crying stopped and the stillness of the night came crashing back down around me. As before, I again searched the far barrow ditch and shined my light up and down the empty black two lane. Nothing. I searched a bit longer then I had earlier but finally, as the silence continued, I gave up and went back inside.
Not surprisingly, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Although I was warm, dry, safe and comfortable, I lay with my eyes wide open as my ears strained to hear anything more, but the night remained silent.
As the dawn began to break I vowed to use the coming light to again inspect the area outside to see if I could find anything. I dressed and went out to greet the new day and continue my search.
The empty two lane seemed to be just as it had been the night before. I re-checked the barrow ditch and then walked a few hundred yards back the way I had come the night before towards Kemmerer. Nothing. Turning, I started back. As I reached the turnout I looked on down the road and in the gentle morning breeze I saw a quick glimmer of white from between the waving fronds of roadside sagebrush. Puzzled, I moved closer for a better look.
Now don’t get me wrong when I tell you this because I’ve never been one to believe in ghosts or the supernatural or anything like that. I’ve always been pretty much down to earth and I’ve never placed much stock in anything that I couldn’t either put my hands on, feel or see or, well, I guess, hear. But after that roadside night out on Wyoming 189 I gotta say that I’m just a bit more open minded when it comes to that type of stuff then I used to be. For you see, when I walked over to the sage and pulled it aside I found one of those highway crosses. You know, the kind they put up where someone gets killed in a traffic accident. According to the little brass plate which was tacked on to it's middle, a lady by the name of Melva Groves had been killed on that spot fifteen years before.
Hey, if you’ve made it this far I’m much obliged to you for reading my story. It’s been quite a relief to get this off of my chest. Thanks.