When she turned to go I could have flung my cap in the air and shouted. I thought I had fooled her and could go on playing hookey, but you know the old adage, “There’s many a slip.” Just at this time my mother looked out of the window and asked who was there and what she wanted. Well, mother came down, and things were made straight as far as she and the teacher were concerned; but I was in for it; I knew that by the way mother looked at me. The jig was up, I was found out, and I knew things would happen; and I did not want to be around when mother said, “You just wait!” I knew what that meant, so I determined to go out into the world and make my own way.
I was a little over thirteen years of age, and you know a boy does not know much at that age, but I thought I did. I went over the fence with mother after me. If dad had been home I guess he could have caught me, that is if he had been sober. Mother could not run very fast, so I got clear of the whip for that time at least. I got a good distance from the house and then I sat down to think. I knew if I went home a whipping was waiting for me, and that I could do without.
There was a boy just a little older than myself, Mike ——, that was “on the bum,” as we used to say. The boys would give him some of the lunch they had brought to school, and I thought I would join forces with and be his pal. I saw Mike and told him all about the licking, and Mike said, “Don’t go home; you are a fool if you do.” We went around, and I was getting hungry, when we thought of a plan by which we could get something to eat. Mother ran a book in a grocery store, and Mike said, “Go to the store and get a few things, and say you don’t have the book but will bring it when you come again.” I went to the store and got a ham, a pound of butter, two loaves of bread and one box of sardines.
[Footnote 1: Where proper names are left blank they refer to real persons or places.]
Some people will ask how I can remember so many years back. I remember my first night away from home as though it was yesterday, and I’ll never forget it as long as I live. After I got the things the grocer said, “Where is the book?” I told him mother had mislaid it, and he said, “Bring it the next time.” We built a fire and cooked the ham and had lots to eat.
Up to this time it had all been smooth sailing; it was warm and we had a good time in general. We had a swim with some other boys, and after telling them not to say that they saw me, we left them. I asked Mike where we were going to sleep, and he said, “I’ll show you when it’s time.”
After a while Mike said, “I guess we had better go to bed.” Off we started across the lots until we came to a big haystack, and Mike stooped down and began to pull hay out of the stack and work his way inside. Remember I was green at the business; I had never been away from home before; and Mike, though only a little older, was used to this kind of life. Well, I pulled out hay enough, as I thought, and crawled in, but there was no sleep for me. I kept thinking and thinking. I would call Mike and ask him if he was asleep, and he would say, “Oh, shut up and let a fellow sleep!”