Karny Wilson Adventure Series / Book One
By Marcus Polk
It was Granny Baker. He could not see her, but she was the only one with a key that would be snooping around this time of day. She must have heard the glass break. Her hearing was better than he had anticipated. The wind blew into the house carrying her peculiar smell.
Quickly putting down his sleeping and duffel bags beside his bed, he moved into the bathroom. Crossing to the bathtub and stepping in, he quietly pulled the shower curtain shut. He stood and waited for Granny Baker to find him or decide he was not there and leave.
As she made her way through the house, she was calling his name and asking if he was there. She was warning him, “Karny Wilson, you had better not have snuck into this here house by breakin’ that basement winder. You shameful child, you gonna be in a heap of trouble.”
She came into his room and walked to the bathroom door. She didn’t think to open the shower curtain. She turned and shuffled out. He could hear her mumbling to herself as she searched the house. About five minutes later, which seemed much longer, he heard her going out the kitchen door and locking it.
His heart was racing. Granny Baker would be calling his mom right away. He hoped she hadn’t noticed his bags. But even if she did, he would be long gone before his mom got home. He stepped out of the tub, grabbed his bags, and walked to the kitchen. Looking out the window he saw Granny Baker entering her house.
He opened the pantry door and began taking cans of potted meat, Vienna sausage, boiled peanuts, a box full of Moon Pies, along with some saltine and graham crackers. He carefully placed jars of jelly, pickles, cheese whiz, marshmallow topping, and crunchy peanut butter into his duffel bag. From the silverware drawer he took a spare can opener. He wasn’t taking anything his mom liked. He didn’t like most of the stuff she ate anyway.
He examined the refrigerator, an appliance he knew as well as anyone. Even though he did little cooking, he was constantly hungry and raiding the fridge, as he called it.
Taking several slices of Merrita bread, along with some sandwich meat and cheese, he hurriedly made three sandwiches. After wrapping them in aluminum foil, he placed them, along with three cans of cola and the remainder of the bread, into his duffel bag.
Pausing, there was one thing he hated to do most of all, write his mom a goodbye note. When his mom found him missing, she would be calling the school, the police, all his friends, and anyone who may know where he might be. She would be going to all of his hooky hiding places, at least the ones she knew about. He needed to hurry. Taking a sheet of paper and a pencil from his mom’s catch-all drawer, he began:
I love you, and Marti and Grandma Taylor. I am happy you are my mom. I am glad you did all the things you have done for me and Marti. I know you love me and want the best for me, but staying in school and hating it, and hating my life ain’t what’s best. I’m leaving and going to find a job and hopefully my father. I hope I can find some happy times. I would do it here, but you would make me go to school. Tell Marti bye. I’ll be OK.
Mom, don’t cry too much. Karny
Placing the note on the dinette table, it was time to slip out and get to the outskirts of town where the railroad tracks ran near the Hobo Jungle. This was a place that shiftless and sometimes pretty mean characters used as a way station. They would jump off the trains they had used for a free ride before entering the train yards. They waited in these Jungles to catch other trains leaving. These small, makeshift villages were, and have always been, part of the American landscape since the early beginnings of the railroad system, even dating back to May 10, 1869 when the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads, one coming from the West Coast and the other from the East Coast, met at the Golden Spike Historic Site in Utah. During economic hard times when jobs were scarce, men would stowaway on a train and ride for free as they looked for work.
If there were no jobs available, they would hop another train and look elsewhere. In between train rides, these travelers would need a place to rest, cook, eat, and in some cases, hide. Those hard times and circumstances necessitated Hobo Jungles.
The railroad companies’ warehouses, loading docks, and refueling stations were areas where the trains would stop for supplies and cargo to be loaded or unloaded. These stops provided ideal opportunities for hobos to get off or on the trains. When the trains slowed and approached the railroad yards, the freeloaders would jump off and scurry to these shanty towns situated close by.
The jungles were usually concealed from view deep in the wooded areas nearby so the hobos could avoid apprehension by the cops.
Karny thought about hitch hiking but knew there would be too many people on the roads around Maxwell. Everyone knew him. His ruddy complexion, carrot red hair, green eyes, and matching freckle filled face made him stand out like a sore thumb. These physical characteristics also made him a perfect target for other kids to tease. If it had been anyone else, they would have showered him with names like carrot top, red on the head, or I’d rather be dead than have red on my head.
But this was Karny Wilson. Standing a head taller than anyone else in school and older than most, no one even close to his age or size was willing to take the chance of calling him names. Not only was he the biggest student at Maxwell Jr. High School, he was the toughest. Most of his misbehavior at school had been over fighting.
But that had eventually stopped. Not because Karny had changed. It was due to no one wanting to fight him. Not if they didn’t want a busted lip or black eye, and on some occasions, a broken nose.
Karny was what the guys called pretty darn tough. He was tall, filling out, solid, and hard to handle. John Fuller and Billy Seaford, unfortunately, had not learned that lesson until this morning.
Gathering his things he headed down the basement stairs. Standing on the ladder, he unlocked and opened the broken window frame. He pushed his two bags out onto the grass, stopped, turned, and said goodbye to the only home he had ever known.
Then pulling himself out of the basement, he headed to Hobo Jungle and the ten o’clock train. He didn’t know where it was going but really didn’t care. As long as it was taking him far away from Maxwell and that darned school.
His mom had told him so many times that he was just like his dad, and now he was going to be like him; he was leaving too. Well, not exactly. He wouldn’t be leaving a wife and two kids behind.
His best shot at getting away unnoticed would be to stay as close to the hedges as possible and ease toward the back fence. Once there he could slip through the ragged gate into the alley. Keeping his head down, he would meander his way to Hobo Jungle where he would soon be home free.
Karny had often lain awake at night listening to the train whistles as they would come and go up and down the tracks to places like Kansas City, Charleston, Miami, and New York. Those names fascinated him. He could see himself living in these cities and having a good life.
He wondered if his dad had been on any of those trains, or if he had ever thought about stopping to see his kids.
His heart was pounding with anticipation. He knew that getting to where he was going would be the most difficult thing he had ever attempted. The bigger question, Where am I going?
Part of a three-book Karny Wilson Adventure Series, Flight for Freedom will be published in paperback and ebook by Hallard Press in October 2021. An accompanying Teacher’s Guide will also be available. Both will be available from Amazon and IngramSpark, and in bulk for schools and libraries from Hallard Press.