The Ghost of Dixie Highway - A Halloween Story
Samuel Drake has an exciting Halloween night on a lonely highway in central Illinois known as “The Dixie Highway.” There’s sex, danger, and, of course, the supernatural in this relatively mild story– no VERY mild story– intended for Halloween.
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It was 1958. Route 66 was in its glory as the primary route from Chicago to Los Angeles. While still in Illinois, shortly after the road passed through Springfield, just outside the small town of McLean, you passed by what was the premier truck stop of its day, the Dixie Trucker’s Home, usually referred to as “The Dixie Truck Stop.” This nationally-known truck stop was open 24/7, 365 days of the year. The huge sign with the word “Dixie” emblazoned on what looked like pilot’s wings was visible for miles welcoming you in. Truckers and travelers stopped by at all hours for food for their bodies and fuel for their vehicles.
After eating, you could go back out on Route 66 or go out the side exit onto Illinois 136, known in the area as “The Dixie Highway.” Route 136 wasn’t part of the national road designated as “The Dixie Highway.” It was so named because you turned onto Route 136 at The Dixie Truck Stop.
You could use 136 to get to Havana, Illinois, and connect with Route 24 which took you up river to Peoria and from there on north. It was a little bit longer, but you avoided most of the small towns and could easily go to either Rockford or Chicago or even the Quad Cities. Since Peoria and Rockford were both bustling manufacturing towns in those days, The Dixie Highway was the preferred truck route north for many drivers until Route 66 became four lanes. Then almost all truck– and auto traffic– moved to Route 66. By 1958, The Dixie Highway was all but abandoned except as a way for farmers to get to their fields.
Samuel Drake knew many of those farmers. He was a seed salesman. He had finished a leisurely meal at the Dixie Diner before heading west on Route 136. He would find a motel in Havana and then start his sales calls in the morning. But first he had to get to Havana without falling asleep from fatigue and boredom. Even if the night had not been so dark, Sam wouldn’t have had much to see. There wasn’t anything but cornfields and pastures on this thirty-mile stretch of road. To make it worse, it was Halloween and all the fields had been harvested. With nothing but empty fields along the highway, it was as if the world ended just past the shoulder of the road.
Right after harvest was the time for Sam’s most important visits. If his seed had done well, he was almost guaranteed a sale for next spring. If his seeds had not performed as hoped, he needed to start damage control immediately before some other seed salesman convinced his customers to switch brands. And, of course, he would do the same– stop by those who used his competitors seeds and hope to convince them that his brand could have done better. Such was the life of a traveling seed salesman.
An oncoming truck’s headlights created glare on Sam’s dirty windshield. He squinted and tried to keep track of the lines that marked the center and edge of the road. Then, just as the truck went past, another set of headlights flared directly in front of him... in his lane! Someone had evidently not seen him and was swinging out to pass the slow-moving truck.
There wasn’t time to hit his brakes. Sam swerved to the right. He could see the truck moving to the left. Maybe there would be room after all. ... And then it was over. Sam gripped the wheel tightly and took several deep breaths. “That was a close one,” he said aloud, “... an extremely close one.”
As he continued down the road, again and again he had to squint through the glare of high-beam headlights. “What’s wrong with everybody tonight?” he yelled as another car passed without dimming their lights.
He thought about just pulling into one of the field entrances and spending the night, but before he could find a decently-wide entrance, he saw a young woman standing by the side of the road with her thumb pointing west.
He shouldn’t have stopped. Even without the legend of the Dixie Highway Ghost Hitchhiker who appeared every Halloween, stopping at night for a pretty woman hitchhiking was dangerous. She could very well be a trap luring him to the side of the road so her accomplices could strike. For some reason, despite a very bad feeling in the back of his mind, he pulled over and stopped.
“Where you goin’?” he asked through the rolled-down passenger-side window.
“Havana,” she answered brightly. Then she added, “You going my way?”
“Well,” he said slowly, still wondering if this was a trap of some sort, “I’m so tired, I was planning on pulling into a field entrance soon and catching some sleep. The traffic is crazy tonight and it’s killing my eyes.”
He looked up at an oncoming car with its brights lighting up the inside of his car and said, “It’s like they don’t even see me.”
“I’d go for that,” the young woman said brightly. “I can sleep in the backseat of a car as easily as I can on that lumpy bed at my apartment.”
Sam wasn’t sure what he said or did next, but the young woman was now beside him on the seat and they were heading down the highway. In another few miles, there was a wide field entrance that would allow him to pull off the road without entering the field itself.
“You sure about this?” he asked as his wheels left the hard surface and crunched across gravel.
“Should I be afraid that you will ravage me?” she asked with a mysterious smile.
“No,” he answered. “You’re safe there.”
“What if I ravage you?” she replied, still smiling.
“Backseat sex has never been one of my favorites,” he answered, hoping it would end the subject.
“But you have a blanket back there,” she said firmly. “We could spread it on the ground alongside the car. No one could see us from the highway. You’re right next to the field and it’s been ploughed and disced. It would be softer than my bed at home.”
“But what about the cold?” he answered, still wary of the situation.
“Then we might have to keep it to a coolie,” she replied. When he looked confused, she said with a slight laugh, “That’s a quickie in a snowdrift.”
There weren’t any snowdrifts, but it was a cold, almost November evening when Sam had left the truckstop. He started to say something else, but instead gave a huff and said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
He was surprised as he stepped out of the car that the wind didn’t seem to be blowing. Normally, it was always windy on The Dixie Highway, especially in the fall. He was further surprised as he lowered himself down on the blanket that it felt almost comfortable.
Once he was on the blanket, he said, “My name’s Sam. What’s yours?”
“Edith,” she replied. “I was named after my grandmother.”
“An old-style name,” he said. “Do you prefer Edith or Edie?”
“My dad used to call me Edie,” she said. “I kind of like that.”
“Well, Edie,” he said as he reached up and stroked her face. I think we should get to ravaging before the cold shrinks me down to nothing.”
She laughed and said, “You are such a direct man.”
As he slid her heavy sweater down her arms, he said softly, “I’m not the one who asked to be ravaged.”
They continued to kiss and explore as Sam slowly removed Edie’s clothing and his own. When they were both naked, she lay back and pulled him over on top of herself.
“I usually spend a little more time getting a lady ready,” he said in almost a whisper.
“I’ve been ready for a long time,” she said as she thrust herself up against his body.
In response, Sam entered her slowly and then began thrusting. Her orgasm was long, but almost silent. Her body relaxed almost as soon as Sam was finished.
“I needed that,” she said softly. “It’s been a really long time.”
As she was getting herself dressed, he asked, “How’d you end up out here?”
“I was a waitress at the truck stop,” she answered, “and was hitchhiking back to my home in Havana. With gas and tire rationing a lot of people had to hitchhike in those days.”
She paused to watch as Sam tried to make sense of what she had just said.
After a few moments she gave a slight smile and said, “Yes, it was during the war– October of ’43. There was just a little slip of a moon that Halloween and a light haze hid most of the starlight. I didn’t see the truck coming and with only his war lights on he didn’t see me. He hit me in the head with the mirror. It was really strange to watch my lifeless body roll into the ditch and disappear in the cold, black water. The driver stopped, but when he couldn’t find anything, he assumed he had hit a deer that ran off into the fields. It didn’t seem real to me. I guess I never realized I was dead and just kept hitchhiking.”
She paused to adjust her skirt and then said sadly, “I never get there. No matter how many people stop to give me a ride, when I get out of the car I am always right back here on the highway. And somehow it is always still Halloween, but a year later. I guess I’m stuck in Halloween with all the rest of the ghosts and goblins.”
“You don’t look like a ghost to me,” he answered. “And you absolutely didn’t feel like a ghost,” he added as he reached over and stroked her leg.
She got very quiet, then pointed to the traffic passing on the roadway. “Look at the cars,” she said firmly.
“Why?” he asked, as he raised himself up to peek over the car. “Oh,” he said as a look of confusion came over his face. “They look weird,” he finally said.
“That’s because they’re modern,” she replied. “They aren’t big and boxy like your fifty-one Chevy.”
Sam watched the cars for several minutes and then said, “I don’t understand. And why are there so many of them? Since they made Route 66 four lanes, there’s hardly any traffic on this road at night.”
“Route 66 doesn’t exist anymore,” Edie said quietly. “It’s was replaced years ago by an Interstate. All this traffic is because the area has grown up so much lately. Some people live in Havana and work in Springfield. A lot of people go into Springfield to shop. And people just use their cars more.”
She finished buttoning her blouse and continued, “Every Halloween I start out leaving the Dixie Truck Stop as if I had just gotten off work. I hang around for a little while so I can see and hear what is going on.” She laughed quietly. “The Dixie Truck Stop isn’t really The Dixie anymore. It’s a Road Ranger.”
“I still don’t understand,” Sam said looking at Edie and then out at the traffic on the highway.
“I started seeing you in ’58,” she said with a smile. “I wasn’t sure what would happen if we actually met so I always stepped back into the darkness so you wouldn’t see me.”
“But you stayed by the side of the road tonight,” he said. It was obvious that it was a question even though he had not specifically asked why.
“I thought maybe you could drive me home,” she said quietly. “Maybe you could drive us both home.”
Sam took both of her hands into his own and said, “I still don’t understand. How can I drive you home?”
Edie took a deep breath and asked, “Did you look in your rearview mirror when that car almost hit you head on?”
“No, why?” he answered.
“You would have seen two cars merged together in a flaming pile of wreckage,” she said firmly.
“We’re both ghosts,” he said in almost a whisper.
“Yes,” she answered. Then pointing to herself she said, “I’m the Dixie Highway Ghost Hitchhiker.” Pointing to him she said, “You are the Dixie Highway Ghost Car.”
Opening the front door and getting back into the front seat, she said, “What do we have to lose? If you can drive us home, we are home.” She leaned over and kissed him before saying, “And if it doesn’t work, I’ll be waiting by the side of the highway for you next year.”
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END OF STORY
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