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An Autobiographical Novel




Hume Ronald Kumpf

"Matchbox Ron"

Donald Robert Keats

Robert Owen

John Ronald Carter


Copyright 1999


"The Escape"


"No, I don't need a gun. If I can't escape from this stinking jail peacefully, I won't even try. I've got a plan that should work where I don't have to resort to violence", I told one of my jailmates who had just offered to help me escape by offering me a weapon.
I'd been in the Monroe County Jail for a month. Now, I was planning to escape. Just about everyone in the cellblock knew, and several were offering to help me.
My cellmate was a convicted murderer and was waiting to be sent to "death row" in another prison. I was in jail for an alleged marijuana offense.
"I've got to escape", I told him. I was paranoid and half crazy from the treatment I'd received and was feeling suicidal. "Tonight's the night, man. I'm going to try to escape, even if they kill me trying."


My name at birth was Hume Ronald Kumpf. Everybody in Key West called me "Matchbox Ron". I'd been selling matchboxes of pot for about a year. I'd buy an ounce, remove the stems and seeds, and put the pot in little wooden boxes in which kitchen matches were sold. The boxes I sold for $5 and usually doubled my money. I could pay the $10 a week rent on my shanty in Bahama Village and I ate fairly well by suplimenting what food I could buy with the welfare food given to me by my neighbors in this black community.
In 1969 and 70 it was difficult for a long haired, bearded hippy like me to find a job or a place to live. The residence of Bahama Village were very tolerant of the few hippies who had moved into houses which they no longer would live in. My little "conch house" was falling down, but I had patched the leaking roof and put plastic on the broken windows and was as happy as a bug in a rug. There was a hand painted sign over the entrance that read, "PEACE, LOVE, CO-OP", and sported a peace sign. Folks knew that they could come to my house to get something to eat, pot to smoke, or a place to crash.


In the fall of 1970 I deceided to sell my beat-up old Triumph Spitfire. It didn't run well and I couldn't afford to buy gas. I sold it for $100 and purchased a pound of marijuana which I stashed under the house. I continued to sell matchboxes for $5 and was sure that I'd be able to live off that pound of pot for several months.
I was walking home one night when out of the darkness someone tackled me. As I lay sprawled in the hedge at the side of the street, my neighbor, a black woman of about 80 years, whispered in my ear, "The cops are in your house". She was gone into the darkness as quickly as she had appeared.


While laying low for a couple of days in the trailer of a friend on Stock Island, I learned that the police had searched my house and had taken all my possessions; camera, stereo, clothes, pot, everything. It was obviously time to get out of town, so, I got my friend to drive me to my bank, where I drew out the few dollars I had left for the road. As we drove away from the bank we were pulled over by a policeman in a squad car. I gave my wallet to my friend and she put it in her purse. Even though I didn't have ID the policeman said he thought he knew me and insisted taking me to the station for questioning.
I was greeted by a big Cuban cop named, "Santana", who showed me my picture on a wanted poster. He took me alone into a room to interrogate me. Everything was quite cordial until I asked him if he had ever smoked pot. When he said that he had, I called him a hypocrite. In an instant, his fist was square in my face, my nose was broken, and I was sqrawled on the floor. He grabbed me by my belt with one hand and my long hair with the other, jerked me up, slammed me into the wall, and doubled me over with his knee as I fell.


As I walked from the interrogation room to my cell, I glanced up to see the Chief of Police looking sympathetically and rather apologetically at me. Several things went through my mind as I looked away from him and down at the blood spattered all down the front of my T-shirt. Just a few weeks earlier I'd had a conversation with him in his office. I truly believed that marijuana had been placed on earth to help mankind attain mental and spiritual enlightenment. I'd lent him a copy of the book, The Marijuana Papers, which was one of the earliest publications explaining the history of, and touting the benefits of pot. I had returned to his office later to pick up the book and to discuss with him the possibility of laxing his police officers' zeal for busting Key Westers for pot violations. How damn naive could anyone be? I'd set myself up for this bust.


During the month that I was held, the jailers had done many things to mess with my mind.
I'd be told that someone had come to bail me out and that I should get my things together. I'd find out later, after a long wait, it was not true.
When I requested to have a doctor look at my broken nose, they refused.
I'd been placed in a cell with an admitted murderer who loved to tell the story of how he shot a man and then watched the man's head bounce off the ground when shot again, in the head, at close range.
Sometimes, everyone in the whole cellblock was forced to strip naked and then jammed into a small hallway for extended periods of time.
A man who said he was a lawyer and had been assigned by the public defenders office to defend me, turned out to be a undercover cop!
My parents, in their frustration, wrote to me explaining that I was where I belonged. At that time, they felt that marijuana was the devil's own potion and that I was an out of control addict. They even refused to speak to me on the phone.
The lawyer which my parents sent to talk with me, said, "I know this judge. I've had dealings with him before. He's a crook. I can get you out by offering him something under the table, but, it's going to cost your parents a bundle."
Obviously, I was being held for ransom!


This wasn't the first time I'd been locked up, but, it was the worst. This time, I didn't know how long I was in for. In 1970 a marijuana offense could end you up in prison for several years.
The first time I had been locked up was while I was in the Philippines on a tour of duty with the US Navy. I'd been stopped at the main gate with too many packs of cigarettes, was placed behind bars under a stairwell for an hour or so, and released when it was determined that I could not be charged with black marketing.
Just prior to coming to Key West, in 1969, I was attending the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. To cover expenses, I sold the Miami Free Press, a local underground newspaper which was opposed to the Viet Nam War and police brutality. While on the streets of Miami selling the paper, I was arrested and jailed seven separate times in six weeks!
There was one Miami cop in particular who had it out for me. He would cite me for "obstructing pedestrian traffic" and other similarly awful offenses.
One bust stands out in my mind: I'd finished selling all my newspapers and was pulling out of the parking garage in my Triumph Spitfire. This vigilant cop was standing in my path and proceeded to cite me for having "out of state license plates". In court, I explained to the Judge that I had every right to have a New Jersey license, since I was a transient student at the University of Miami.
He agreed, until the arresting officer said, "This is the guy who sells that underground newspaper."
"Oh", said the judge, hesitating for a moment. "Since you are locally employed, you have to have a Florida license."
Because I never payed fines, and always refused to, I was given two days in jail!


Doing the two days each time was getting to be fun. I'd be scheduled to surrender myself at the jail late in the day. By the time I was processed it would be after dinner. I'd party a bit with the other hippies, sleep, and then be released before breakfast. In this way, I'd be credited with two days, but, not have to be fed a meal.
There were so many fellow hippies in the jail that I got this idea. I'd take a joint with me and smoke it with the guys who needed a good relaxing toke or two.
Usually, the jailers greeted me with, "Hi, Ron, looks like we've got you for another night, huh?" We'd laugh, I'd be finger printed, photographed, and put in the holding cell with everybody else.
This time, there were several other people being processed at the same time. We were lined up against a wall and the first guy was frisked, the second man had to strip, and so on, until they got to the man standing next to me. He was asked to take off his boots. By then, I probably looked white as a ghost with beads of sweat on my face, and my sweat soaked shirt sticking to my shaking body. I had put the joint in my shoe! It had become my turn and I cowering as the inspector turned to me and said, with a twinkle in his eye, "You, again. You're making a real habit of this, Ron. Let's go to the lock up." My knees almost went out from under me as I turned to walk with him to the tank.
I was taken, singly, to a cell I wasn't familiar with. It was very dark, had bunk beds lined up in rows, and had only a couple of inmates sitting alone in different places. I sat by myself on the edge of a lower bunk, still getting over what had just happened, when the guard came to the cell with someone else. This man in plain clothes was let in, came directly over, sitting down on the bunk directly across from me. The guard closed the gate and walked away. The man across from me softly said, "Hey, man. You wouldn't happen to have a joint we could smoke; would you?" At that moment I guess I believed in Frank Zappa's "brain police". Was it possible that these cops were really reading my mind? "No way. Are you kidding?" He then stood up, walked to the cell entrance, and the guard let him out. Needless to say, I didn't speak to a soul the rest of the night.
The next morning, I walked to my car in the parking lot, took the joint from my shoe, lit it, and drove away with a very welcome, relaxed buzz.


The last of the seven-times-in-six-weeks jail experiences was in connection with the final issue of the Miami Free Press. The publisher had planned a centerfold which pictured all of the undercover narcs in Miami. But, before the issues were to be distributed, the police broke in, ransacked the office, confiscated the centerfold, and announced that anyone who dared go on the street with the paper would be arrested.
The cop who had been routinely harassing me on my regular corner, told me, if I went out on the street with this issue, he'd shoot me!
The only two people in town with guts enough to go out and sell the paper that week were the publisher and me. We posted ourselves at either end of the "Miracle Mile". Within minutes we were arrested and taken to jail. We were placed in separate cells. A few minutes later the publisher started to yell, "Which of you bastards put this piano wire in my cell? Do you God damned pigs really think that I'm stupid enough to kill myself for selling a newspaper. You sons of bitches!"
We were released, without being charged, in about an hour. That was the end of the Miami Free Press and the last time I'd been jailed, until now.


"Tonight's the night, man," I told my cellmate. "I'm going to escape, even if they kill me trying. Here's the plan. I've got my bed stuffed. I'll be hiding in the shower down by the entrance. When the guard locks up all the individual cells, opens the gate and comes in to walk down through the cellblock for the head-count, I'll quietly slip out into the hall and hide behind a piece of furniture. One of the trustees drew me a map of the jail. By morning, I'll try to have worked my way downstairs, and, just walk out of this dump before anyone knows I'm gone. Wish me luck, man. It's almost lock-up time. I'm going down to hide in the shower. See ya."


I'm headed for the shower. Alright now, I just sit down here and stretch my legs across. My feet tight up against the wall. The shower curtain is over here in front of my body. Now, if the guard just glances over toward the shower, I doubt if he'll be able to see me. If he does, I'll pretend to be asleep.
Well, I guess I've got about 15 or 20 minutes before lock-up and I know nobody will be coming down to take a shower because they all know I'm in here. Wow, man, this is crazy.
I hope there's some furniture right outside. I'll just go right out and hide. That will make it real easy. I don't want to have to walk around to look for something to hide behind. When the guard leaves, then I'll have the whole upstairs to myself.


Oh yeah! I hear the guard comin'. He's comin' up in the elevator. Oh, wow! Yeah, this feels right. The shower curtain is in a good position.
He's unlocking right now. He's walking into the cellblock. He should be looking in the direction of the shower. Oh, damn, I hope he doesn't see me. If he does, I'll just predend to be asleep. I'm just acting like I'm asleep. Just relax. I hear him. I can hear him.
Alright! He went to the first cell. He's at the first cell. I've got to stay real quiet.
Pretty soon it's going to happen. I'll be free. I'll be free. Oh, wow, yeah, it's about time.
Get up now. Be real quiet. It seems as though he's down pretty far. I can hear him talking. The moment he stops talking, I'll know he's headed for the next cell, and that's when I'll peek.
Talking. Talking. He's stopped. I'll peek out now. Yeah, yeah, he's walking down to the next cell. Next time I'll slip out. As soon as he stops talking, I know he's got to walk a little further. He's down close to the end. He's got to walk a little further. He's gonna stop to talk to someone down toward the end the way he does.
OK, OK. He's talking. As soon as he stops, I'm out of here. OK. Here I go.


Oh, man, I'm out! Oh God, I'm out'a there. Let me look around here. Look! There's the control panel. For Gods' sake, look at this. All the keys are in there! Look at all the lights. All these lights are red. There's one green light at the switch right there. Oh, my God, that would have to be the control switch for this door. I could lock him in. I could lock him in! Christ, I could let everyone out! No, no way. There are some awful people in there. I just want out; just me.
I've got the keys. If I got the keys---Oh, man, think of the map. The map. I could go out the laundry door to the roof!
Flip the switch. I'll flip the switch. Ohhhh, the door's closing. He's locked in! Pull the keys out. I got the keys. I've got the keys!
Oh, wow, he's yelling and yelling. This is unreal. He's yelling and stamping on the floor.
Now, I'll grab the clothes I stashed earlier by the door. Put, on my shirt and shorts. Get my shoes on. Run into the laundry.
Oh, man, the grard is screemin' and yellin', stampin' his feet.
There's the door to the roof just like on the map. Got to get the key into the lock. Oh, no, it doesn't work! Try the next key---doesn't work. God, I can hear the elevator. Here come the other guards. Try the next key. Jesus, I'm bending these big brass keys, twisting them in the lock. Next key. The next key! Oh, my God, The guards are here. That's the key. Damn, the door's open. Alright, I'm on the roof. Look over the side. There's a gas tank. I've gotta jump! I gotta jump. I'm jumpin'. Oh, God, I feel like a grasshopper, bounce off the gas tank, right on my feet. Got to run.
Great, I'm headed down the street. Alright, I'm running down the sidewalk.


I'm running down the sidewalk of Whitehead street. I hear the sirens. They've got the sirens going now.
Oh, man, I hear more sirens down the street ahead of me. That must be a squad car coming toward me!
Damn, I've got to get over this fence. Got to leap up over this fence. A cop car's comin' from the other direction, now. Alright, I'm leaping way up---grab the wire at the top---catapult over. Shit, a barb got me in the palm of my hand. Damn! A barb from the barbed wire got me right in the hand as I was going over the top of the fence!


Alright now, I'm gonna, uh---wait a second. I don't have to run, now. I don't have to run 'cause I'm on the Navy base. I'm on the Navy base now---remember, remember. I used to be staioned here. I know this base. I'll just walk toward the water. I'll walk down this pathway here toward the dock. Oh, yeah, this is great being on the Navy base. The police won't be coming in here. This is great!
I've got to be real careful. Don't run. Just walk real easy. If I run somebody'll notice. So, I just walk along easy. Just walk like this.
Oh-oh, I see some people up there. Jesus! They're comin' this way. They couldn't have seen me. Just climb up into this tree. Be real still. Here they come. I can hear 'em talking. I'll just be real quiet up here. They're talking. Now they're walking under me. They're walking right underneath me, man. Alright, now they're walking away. All I gotta do is sit tight for a moment, 'til they've gone far enough.
OK, now there's nobody else, I can climb down out of the tree and start walking toward the water again.


I remember being here back in 1962. I was stationed here during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That's the dispensary right over there. I'm not far from the dock now. This is great. Nothing's changed. Yeah, there's the dock. Now I can climb down, slip into the ocean, and swim out to Christmas Tree Island.
Climb down and just slip quietly into the water. Oh, this is beautiful. The water is so warm. I'm free. Really free! This is so fabulous. This is so unreal.
I think I'm gonna take these dark shorts off, put them over my head, and swim real slow. I'll use a real slow "doggie paddle". Then, if anybody looks down from the dock, they'll just see what looks like some dark mass. They won't see me here.
All I've got to do is swim real slow. Take my time. 'Cause now I'm free. It's OK now.
What a night. Look at that sky. Wow, a full moon. This is beautiful. I can see real good. This is a piece of cake.
Damn, I forgot about my hand. Look at that, I'm bleeding like a stuck pig. That barbed wire really got me good. Shit, that's all I need is to be attracting some hungry sharks in this tropical water. I've got to squeeze my hand tightly. I'll make a fist, real tight, to stop the bleeding.
It's so calm tonight. The water is just like glass.
Huh? What's that? Shoot, here comes a boat. I guess I'm out in the channel. If the boat comes right at me I'll have to dive underneath. Good, it's going to pass by me. Pretty close, though. I'll just be real still. Keep down real low in the water. Just my eyes out of the water. They're going by. I'll put my head down real low.
It's just something floatin' in the water, guys. It's no big deal. Just something floatin' in the water. Good, they're just going right on by.


Mmmmm, man, there's quite a tide here. I'm not makin' it to Christmas Tree Island. Come on, man. This tide is takin' me out to sea. Well, if I swim real hard toward Christmas Tree, maybe I'll make it to Tank Island. I better get going. Forget clenching my fist, I've got to get movin'. I didn't think a mile was gonna be so bad, but, I didn't plan on this damn tide.
Oh well, this is OK. I'm makin' it to Tank Island where there isn't as much tide. Good, I'm out of the tide now. I don't want to stay here, though, 'cause I'm not familiar with this island. I know Christmas Tree really well. I've been comin' out here for a couple of years now. All I have to do is head up this way. This isn't a problem, 'cause there's no current here between the islands.
I'm about a mile from town now. Look at that. Wow, I can see all the lights reflected on the water. Key West. Beautiful! This is what I've been dreaming of. This fabulous warm water and now I'm almost to Christmas Tree Island.
All I've got to do now is swim up to the beach here. Alright, this is it. It's like a dream. Here I am on the beach looking back at Key West. Not a care in the world. I'm free.

I'll just take off my clothes and walk around naked. That's real freedom.
I'll walk around over this way, on the side away from Key West, there's a beach I love. Just make it through these bushes and past these trees. This is a great beach. This is where there's a wonderful wreck just off shore where I've done some snorkling. It's a neat boat and there are lots of beautiful tropical fish there.
Now, I'll head up the beach. There's a nice place there I've been before that should be a fine spot for a campsite. It should be just up past this thicket. Yeah, this is perfect. I'm gonna build a lean-to, and hang out here. There's lots of good building material lying around. I got this wood that I'll place these palm fronds across like this. Good, this will give me a little bit of shelter. I'll just leave my clothes here and go for a walk.
I think I'll start walking back around the island the way I came. Across this beach and around the end of the island here. Past these trees. I'm able to see Key West again. Guess this is the place where I swam up to the island.
Now I got the whole night to wander around and check things out. I got a full moon. It's nice and bright. I can walk all the way around the island. I might find something to eat or drink. I'll need water. Maybe I'll find some bottles. Later, if I have to, I can swim back to Key West at night and get some fresh water. I could tie several plastic bottles together and tow them. That might work. That way, I could have enough water to last me, while I hide out here for a few days.
Oh, good, there's lots of stuff washed up on this side of the island. Look at that, some plastic bottles. I bet I could even find some food, beach-combing like this. I remember finding things like apples and oranges that floated onto shore. I know people come out here to camp, and maybe they left something behind.


I must have come about a third of the way around the island. Over here, I might find a better place to camp. No, not such a good idea. It's best on the other side away from Key West.
What the hell is that blinking red light? Damn, it's a police boat. Oh, no it's comin' this way with the siren blasting. Oh, shit, they must be comin' out after me!
I got to get my clothes, cause if they find them they'll know I'm out here. As fast as they're comin' I don't have time to go back the way I came. I'll have to run straight across the island. I gotta run. God, its dark in these woods. Gotta run, though, Damn, I can't see, I have to run fast and get my clothes and tear down the lean-to. Owwww!---Ran smack into a tree! Damn shit! Got to get up. Get a breath. Got to get up and keep going. Didn't even see that tree in the shadows. Can't stop now, though. Almost there.
Where is the campsite? OK! This is it. Tear the lean-to up and throw the pieces around. Grab my clothes. I got to hide. If I hide here on the island they will find me for sure. Got to get into the water. I'll hide in the old wreck. I'll run down the beach toward the wreck.
Damn, here comes the police boat speeding around the end of the island!
There're the ribs of the wreck sticking up out of the water.
Christ, they got a search light---flashed right on me!
Dive into the water, now, right here. Need to swim real quite, right up to the wreck. I'll just hold onto this rib that's sticking up out of the water. I'll put my dark shorts over my head and put my face right up against this rib. God, I think they must have seen me. That light was right on me.
Damn, they're searching around with the light. Jees, the light's right on me, again. Got to be real still. Don't move, I'm not even going to move a little to look. I'm not even going to look.
I can hear 'em. I can hear 'em. They're getting out onto the beach. I hear 'em talking. They're searching into the woods. I gusss they didn't see me.
What? I can't believe what I'm hearing. That sounds like Santana yelling. Oh, God, he's yellin' to the other cops, "If you see that bastard, just kill him. Just shoot him! We ain't takin' him back alive. We'll just kill that son of a bitch and say that he attacked us. There's nobody out here but him and us. Nobody'll know. Ya hear me? If you find him, just kill that bastard!"


The police searched the island for hours, yelling back and forth to one another. Lucky for me, they never looked into the wreckage of that old boat. I held on to the rib of the wreck, motionless the whole time, submerged up to my nose, with my shorts over my head.
I guess it was just luck that the police boat beached where I had walked in the sand. Their own foot prints and maybe those of earlier beach visitors made my foot prints undecernable. Or, maybe, they just never looked.
When the police boat first came around the end of the island and flashed the search light on me, I can only guess, no one was looking in the direction of the beam.
In any case, still free, I swam back to the shore after the cops left and began to look for a more appropriate place to rest in hiding.
I found a garbage dump in the woods away from the beach, where I wrapped myself in a large piece of plastic. It was very difficult to fall asleep, even as tired as I was, because of the clatter of land crabs searching for bits of food in discarded tin cans, but, I finally slumbered.


In the morning when I awoke, my body was cramped and aching from the super-human strain of adrenalin powered jumping, leaping, climbing, and the collision with the tree, not to mention the hours-long, motionless soaking in the ocean from the previous night.
Immediately, though, I began an exploration of the island in search of badly needed water to drink. I found a tamarind tree and ate some fruit, but it just made me even more thirsty.
At the north end of Christmas Tree I found a stand of sea grape, still wet with early morning dew on its leaves. I tapped the large shiny leaf on the side, while holding my opened mouth under the pointed tip, and a few drops of water dripped off. After several minutes of this process, my thirst was quenched and I realized that drinking water was not going to be a problem. There was no need to chance swimming back to Key West for a supply.
Near the sea grapes, I located a very fine campsite nestled in the wood. There was a hammock stretched between two trees where I was to spend a week of nights, sleeping comfortably. I was especially thankful for the hammock when I saw, to my amazement, that the ground at night was a swarm of black and white rats!
Food and water was scarce, but, thanks to some campers who'd left some items, I ate rather well. An unopened can of brown bread, a jar of peanut butter and some honey, left behind because it had been invaded and permeated with ants, was my main sustenance. A plastic picnic jug of water, even though it tasted like lipstick, lasted a week through careful rationing.


Although I'd been to the island numerous times for snorkling, picnics, and private sex au naturel with girl friends, I'd never guessed that I could spend an entire week there, without ever seeing another person. That's how it was, until one afternoon, after a week of solitude, a single man came out in a small boat and caught me off guard.
"Hey, man, how you doing?" he asked cordially as he approached me.
"OK. What's happening?" I asked back.
He seemed a very nice fellow and was unmenacing, so I spoke with him for a while.
"I don't see a boat anywhere," he said. "How did you get out here?"
"Oh, a friend bought me out and is coming back for me."
"I'll take you back, if you want."
"No, thanks anyway. My friend would worry if he came out to get me and I wasn't here."
"Bye the way, did you hear about the guy that escaped from the jail? Everybody's talking about it."
It was obvious that he suspected I was the notorious, escaped, "Matchbox Ron".
I didn't know, at the time, that I was front page news. That my picture had been seen, even by people who didn't know me before.
"Yeah. How about that?"
"Well, I for one, hope he's OK. And so do most folks in Key West, I understand. You sure you don't want a ride back to town?"
"I'm alright, thanks. I expect my friend to be coming out for me pretty soon."
I felt this guy was sincere, and I guess I wanted to go with him. But, it was daytime and too many people could see me. I wouldn't want to outright tell him who I was, hide in his boat, and take a chance of getting him in trouble for helping me.
"Thanks for the offer, brother. See ya."
After he left, I got paranoid, and started to look for places to hide in case another search party was sent out in daylight. I found some concrete slabs, half submerged on the beach facing Key West, where there was a hole just large enough for me to climb in underneath. I then lay in wait, nearby, in the safety of the woods, watching in the direction of any possible invasion.


Luckily, there was none. And, in the late evening, I decided it was dark enough to swim back to town in relative safety.
As I climbed over the coral rock into the warm water and kicked my first kick for swimming away, the top of my right foot smacked into a sea urchin, stabbing me painfully with dozens of poisoned spines.
I carefully climbed back out of the water and inspected my foot. Spines were sticking up in all directions. I gingerly pulled several of the longest spines out as the pain and swelling increased. Many of the spines had broken off under the skin and several were too short for me to remove with my fingers. I knew I was in for serious trouble.
I remembered a single sea urchin spine penetration of my finger while snorkeling in the waters of the South China Sea while stationed in the Philippines. In that instance, my finger got so swolen, that, in desperation, I went to the ships' store and bought a snake bite kit. I put the rubber suction cup over the hole where the spine had entered and was amazed when, after several minutes, long strings of what looked like angle hair pasta were drawn out.
Now, I had numerous places all over the top of my foot which were going to fester and probably make my foot useless for several days. Obviously, staying on the island was now absolutely impossible. I had to swim back to Key West to get medicine, or whatever, before my foot got any worse.


I climbed back into the water, much more carefully, and began to swim. The force of water rushing over the exposed spines caused them to vibrate as I kicked. The excruciating pain I experienced forced me to kick only with my left foot and just drag my right leg motionless. Even though I'm a good swimmer, this handicap made progress across the mile between Christmas Tree Island and Key West quite laborious.
When I was about half way across the channel, a tropical squall hit suddenly with little warning. There was a downpour, lightning and thunder, and a wind that whipped up waves that rushed over my head. All I could do was tread water feebly and keep my head out of the waves enough to get an occasional gasping breath of air.
The storm ended as abruptly as it had begun. Now that I could once again see, it was apparent that I had been washed by the tide, northward, and was being swept into the Gulf of Mexico!
Immediately, I began to swim at an angle toward land, going against the tide. I coughed up water, which I had swallowed during the storm, as I slowly swam my way out of the pull of the tide.


It was rather late when I reached the docks and clambered out of the water. I found a walking stick to help me get around on my now, very swollen and painful foot. I put the make-shift patch I'd created for myself over one eye as a disquise and spoke out loud in the English accent I'd earlier practiced for the occasion. Since I had no ID, if the police were to see me, I'd have to be very convincing.
A good friend lived just a couple of blocks from where I swam ashore. He lived in a trailer park near "Lands End". I met no one as I hobbled to his trailer and knocked quietly. The door opened.
"Ron, is that you?"
"Yes, can I come in?"
We never spoke again during that week I stayed there in hiding, but instead, wrote each other notes. We kept all the windows closed and covered. I didn't even fluch the toilet when he was at work.
I performed some minor surgery on my foot, and, with medications brought to me, my foot began to heal.
Every day, my friend would bring me books to read from his used book store. One, A Crabs' Claw, impressed me. It was about a man who was washed from a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He managed to get hold of an uncharted rock which was only barely above the surface at high tide. At low tide it was rather large and to pass the time he named all the nooks and crannies, bumps and holes as though they were city streets. He ate crustaceans, fished, and experimented with sea weed as food when other things weren't available. As he began to starve and get poisoned by the things he had to eat, he hallucinated and began to speak, in his mind, in what, although you understood him, seemed like gibberish. If you tried to read the book from the last page, you would have thought it was in another language (it was). After the week I'd spent alone on Christmas Tree, talking to myself with a fake English accent, I could relate.


One day my friend brought a car home with him. That night we drove up the keys toward Miami. As we drove, he told me he had borrowed the car from an old lady friend who, he said, had mentioned to him that she hoped I was OK.
When we were part way, still in Monroe County, we almost collided with another car. My friend didn't know how to drive very well. The other car was a Monroe County Sheriffs' vehicle. We were pulled over!
The deputy walked up to the drivers side and trained his flash light into the car, first on my friend, and then directly into my face. He studied me for a moment as he asked a few questions of my friend, told him to be more carful, and then said we could go.
I wondered to myself, how many chances does one guy get?
When we arrived at the University of Miami, I told my friend how very grateful I was for his invaluable help, and he drove away.


Now that I was back at the University of Miami, I was in a safe haven that I was very familiar with. I looked up some student friends and told them what had happened in Key West. Telling the story, made me a minor celebrity among my dope smoking buddies. I told the story over and over. Also, we reminisced about the times when dozens of us would sit up in the limbs of the huge ficus trees by the campus lake and trip on LSD.
While in the apartment of one friend, I was introduced to a coed who said she had heard that I'd been in jail and hadn't had any sex in a few weeks. We were offered the bedroom and privacy. I made love with that lovely young woman whom I'd never met before, knowing I'd never see her again. The 60s and early 70s were, for some, an unusually free and wonderful period in time.
I bid farewell to my campus friends that evening and walked out to US Route 1 and began the long hitch-hiking trip north. I started walking backward with my thumb out and stepped on something. Under my foot was a wallet with $3 and a couple of pieces of ID!
I rationalized that the man who had lost the wallet didn't need it as much as I, and maybe, would have been pleased if he knew I'd found it. Now, I was no longer broke, and although the ID was not very good, and was for someone with an Hispanic name, I no longer needed to worry about being rousted by the police. Temporarily, I was Carlos Hernandez, and was on the road, absolutely free!

This way to Part Two - ON THE LAMB

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