Jefferson Weaver • The Best Part of Running Away

Jefferson Weaver
Jefferson Weaver
Jefferson Weaver
Jefferson Weaver

It had been a particularly frustrating week piled on top of another similarly pestiferous seven days. I did beat the sun to the draw on that lovely spring Saturday morning, but the coming days didn’t have much in their favor, based on emails and text messages and unfinished tasks from the day before that were pushed aside when other things screamed louder.

The sun broke through the pines and hardwoods along the old railroad cut in front of my house, filling the lane as it always does, and for just a moment, I whimsically thought how nice it would be if the Wilmington and Manchester still ran, and how easy it would be to just hook a boxcar and run away.

It was a passing, fleeting thought, of course, and nothing to be taken seriously, with no more substance than the steam from my coffee cup or the echo of the morning’s first robin. It was nice to think about, but grownups don’t run away.

Then again, I knew one grownup who ran away, and was gone for quite some time. He literally walked away from his home, the church he pastored, and his farm. Long before society became enraptured with Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates, this friend of my father’s just walked away one day. There was quite the scandal and uproar, with folks trying to find him (this was pre-cell phone, so there was no handy-dandy Big Brother way to trace someone via satellite.) He turned up several months later, somewhere out in the Midwest on another farm – which he one day left with the same lack of preliminaries as when he first left home. From what I understand he walked through the door of his old church one Sunday morning and went straight back to the pulpit.

That  sabbatical caused a few serious problems for the wandering preacher, but it apparently solved a bunch of them, too. He was a different man on his return, and dedicated his life to focusing on the things that matter.

Thinking about situations like that make it awfully hard to resist the urge sometimes. I mean, face it. We have all, at some point in time, wanted to run away.

Some of us have done so, albeit generally for shorter periods of time than we originally planned, especially when we were kids. I made it overnight a time or two, with varying results and levels of parental redirective discipline.
One particular time, I was smart enough to leave a note, and filled a reasonable backpack. I don’t think that incident was technically running away, although it might qualify as such, since it was unauthorized, unannounced, and unsanctioned. My dog Dudley and I went six or eight miles from home. We spent part of the night under a bridge that spanned a river that was really neither creek nor river, but somewhere in between. We finally ended up following it downstream to a forgotten little beach where said overgrown creek joined the Cape Fear.

The weather was perfect for running away – clear, bug-free nights, days warm but not oppressive, and not a raincloud in sight. There was a lot of thinking and talking and not enough praying as my dog and I shared a couple freshly-caught fish cooked over a small fire at the place I was seriously considering making a new home, as seriously as a teenager can consider anything. Whatever demons I was attempting to exorcise were dispelled by late that morning, however, and we made our way toward home.

A quarter and an apology over the payphone meant our second roadmarch was exchanged for the Old Man picking us up at a country store. I don’t recall any particular fallout from that failed attempt to flee perceived persecutions. Other, earlier, poorly planned excursions had ramifications that few modern children will ever understand, since well-applied switches, flyswatters and paddles are nowadays considered abuse, not proper parenting.

Literature and music are full of people who decided to run away from broken hearts and broken dreams, or toward things they hoped would replace the everyday, the humdrum, the frustrating and fruitless endeavors that really aren’t, but are required for existence, either as a little kid or as a grownup.

There was one time I am not sure I was even missed when I ran away, since I am of the generation that was often shooed out the door and given no more direction than to be home before the street lights came on. For whatever reason, I had decided that I was running away, and that was that.

I had either read the book or seen the movie about Jeremiah Johnson, and heard howlin’ stories of the shinin’ times of the fur trade era, so with the much younger version of my dog Dudley we lit out for the wilderness, upset at some slight and determined never to be seen again.
I never caught a single beaver in the traps I contrived in the creek that may or may not have actually been a  drainage ditch that ran through our neighborhood. I didn’t spend a single night in the leanto that would suffice until I could skin enough bears to buy some tools and build a proper cabin. The sights on my  Daisy were never laid on an elk to provide food for the winter, but I did manage to feast on blackberries and a cantaloupe that was unwisely left on its own toward the rear of a garden. There was nary a beaver plew touched by my sheepsfoot Barlow, and I hadn’t grown even the slightest hint of a beard. By the end of the day, when the sun was low and the skeeters rising, whatever grudge I held or injustice committed by my mother was forgotten, so Dudley and I trudged on home.

The world stays in the way nowadays, and I have a hard time even just getting away for a few hours, much less saddling up Melanie the mammoth donkey, tying on a bedroll and a coffee pot, and whistling up a dog to run away. I am too crippled and responsible for such shenanigans, anyway. That realization helps me understand why my father was so sadly frustrated sometimes – he too, ran away once, as a young man, all the way to California — but again, I follow his example and take pleasure in the little things.

As I stood there the other morning, perplexed and pestered and peeved, wishing ever so briefly I could “hook” a boxcar and disappear, I realized that running away has its draw, but when I did so in the past, the best part was always coming home.

There again, perhaps running away isn’t such a bad thing, especially if it gives the runner time to think, pray and ponder, and time to realize that you can’t run away from yourself, and home is almost always a better destination than some far blue mountain that may or may not even exist.

If you never run away, then you can never come home.

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About Jefferson Weaver 1588 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at