It was the the early 1980s, when two eighth graders though a good idea was lying to their parents and embarking on a secret 1200-mile trip to meet their favorite author. Since we couldn’t drive and didn’t have money, freight trains seemed like the next best thing. Fourteen-year-old minds don’t always make the best choices and we though Mr. King would take pity and sign our books.
Unable to learn much about train routes in the pre-Internet age, we assumed hobos were available at every stop and directions would be easy to come by. In Buffalo NY, we discovered that wasn’t the case and our trip hadn’t gone as planned. Instead Maine, we were headed to Chicago and the trip was taking much longer than expected.
Expecting to be in Bangor by the second day, we pack food accordingly and were out. We didn’t consider food for the return trip. The plan was Ride trains to Maine, have King sign the books and be back home in a few days. Easy!!
We finally made it to Maine – after three nights in box cars – and started hitchhiking to Bangor. Wow the world was different back then. We were fourteen and no one thought anything was abnormal for two kids to be thumbing north from Lewiston.
We considered how to find the address and headed to the courthouse to search property records and that’s where our story came to an end. It hadn’t occurred to us that two grubby kids, who smelled like a stockyard and looked even worse, might draw unwanted attention, and we did.
A nice lady at the courthouse was very helpful and ask us to “wait” while she found Mr. King’s address. Of course we had been honest about or trek from North Carolina to Maine and the diversion to western New York. She of course, asked about our parents. We were too focused on meeting Stepehn King to pay attention to her probing questions.
Two police officers arrived and asked what we were doing. We explained our quest; knowing they would understand and immediately take us to meet Mr King. Instead, parents were called, showers were mandated, bus tickets were purchased and promises were made to “beat our asses” when we made it home.
If my mother was alive, I’d still be grounded.
After spending the night at the Bangor police station, we were taken to a bus depot and sent to Boston, where an officer was supposed to meet us – they didn’t. We hitch hiked to the airport and boarded planes home, to North Carolina. It was a different time and this seemed normal.
After being gone nearly six days, we made it home and were summarily grounded for the rest of our lives. This was our summer vacation, but NOT the story we told our friends when school restarted.
At a school reunion several years ago, the story was a topic of discussion; probably because we hadn’t been truthful with our friends about the summer adventure. Most never knew we were stopped short and hadn’t made it to Stephen King’s house. In fact, the story we told included meeting Tabitha and Stephen King at their house in Bangor.
We embellished. Actually we lied. We told friends about meeting the couple and receiving personally autographed copies of Cujo and Carrie. We lied about walking through the house and seeing the room where he wrote the books. In other words, we lied our collective asses off.
This story dates back to 1984 and was believed by friends until recently, when we finally set the record straight.
Several friends said they had thought I was destined to be the next King or Koontz, because of my prolific writing in school.
After seeing the friends and “coming clean” I reread Stephen King’s “On Writing”, and decided to give it a shot and finish a novel. The story had been started and left for dead many years before.
Recalling this adventure was part of the catalyst to completed my first manuscript and publish my first novel, Black Friday – An American Jihad.
I’ve often wondered what Mr. King would think if two boys wondered up to his front porch in 1984 and told a story of traveling thousands of miles to get an autograph.
A few years later – still in middle school – we told our friends that our trip was the inspiration for Stand By Me and we regularly corresponded with Stephen King. We went as far as forging letters (typed of course) from our dear friend and famous author.
Wow. Kids can be so gullible. What stuns me most is that some believed the story until recently.
One day soon, I will post the story we told our friends. It will have to be recreated from memory, because the original was lost in a 2009 house fire. But, I will rewrite the best recollection and post it here.