I was 11 years old.
In the summer of 1966 a man my father employed from time to time, began showing an interest in me. In his mid twenties, he drove truck for dad part time, delivering tobacco to the warehouse, or grain to the local elevators. He was a cool guy, or so I thought. He paid attention to me.
It started gradually. At first, he would linger at the house for a short visit after finishing work. After a brief period of time, he would drop in after dinner ostensibly to teach me how to play cribbage. We would sit for a couple of hours at a time at the kitchen table and play 2 to 3 games in an evening. I became quite proficient, at least insofar as an 11 year old can use strategy. That said, he was patient and supportive as I slowly became more confident in my card playing skills.
There didn’t appear to be anything amiss, as one or both of my parents were always in proximity. But why would a man in his mid twenties want to spend so much time with a child? Sometimes the most obvious is also the hardest to grasp.
Over time it became “normal” for him to pop by for a visit and a game of cribbage. A few weeks later, he asked me if I would like to go with him on a trip to Quebec City. He was driving a big rig for a company in Tillsonburg, delivering coat hangers to various places east of Ontario.
I was beyond excited. What an adventure!! Driving in a big old 18 wheeler all the way to Quebec City! I had never been out of the province before. My parents were dubious, but I begged them to allow me to go. He was harmless and a friend. We played cribbage together after all – in plain sight of my parents.
The Big Adventure
The big day came and I was packed well in advance for the 2 day trip. Excited, I could hardly wait for morning to arrive.
It would be an early start. He picked me up at the house early in the morning, around 5am. We drove to the depot in Tillsonburg where he would pick up the big blue rig. I believe the trailer read “Sylvan”, but I could be wrong. I felt like a king in that rig, so high up and overlooking everything. Climbing inside I beamed like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary. My friends would be so envious.
On the way out of town we stopped at a small roadside diner in Salford, north of Tillsonburg and just a mile from the 401. He order bacon and eggs and I had toast and jam with an orange juice. I recall him bantering with the waitress behind the counter. He had been there before. He paid for our breakfast and on the way out the door quipped “screw ya later” to the waitress.
This guy was so cool. How lucky was I too be on this trip!!
That was one of the last things I remember in the following 2 days. By the time we were in Kitchener I was asleep. For the life of me I could not keep my eyes open. I tried. I apologized for being so sleepy. After all, he asked me to come along to keep him company. As hard as I tried, I could not stay awake. I would wake briefly and soon fall back to sleep.
At some point late that day or early evening we arrived at our destination in Quebec City. I have no memory of the trip. I don’t recall stopping for lunch or dinner, though we may have. I don’t recall discussing the scenery, the landscape, the road signs, the language changes, sports, cribbage……..anything at all.
Load delivered, it would be a quick turnaround. We began the return trip.
Late that night or early morning, I vaguely recall stopping at a roadside motel. It may have been in Quebec – I suspect it was. I remember, because I had to get out of the truck to stumble into the motel room. One bed or 2? I don’t know. I was so tired, all I wanted to do was sleep.
No matter how much I slept, I wanted to sleep some more. I was embarrassed and continued to apologize. I was so sorry that I was no companionship – or was I?
In the early morning, perhaps around dawn, we got up and back into the rig. It would be another long day and I was determined to stay awake for the trip home. We stopped somewhere for breakfast – more orange juice. My eyelids continued to betray me and felt like massive curtains were being pulled over them time and again. The darkness was all consuming. Again, I have no recollection of conversation, scenery, the trip – nothing.
After a whirlwind 36 hours or so, we arrived back home late afternoon or early evening. He dropped me off at my house and I once again apologized profusely, thinking I will never have another opportunity like this again. I had let him down. What a bore I was!
Dad greeted me and asked how the trip was. I explained that I didn’t remember too much – I was asleep much of the time. I blamed it on the sun, constantly beaming through the window of the big rig. As hard as I tried I could not stay awake. I felt so badly for this man that went out of his way to take me on such a wonderful adventure.
It all seemed so innocent. Perhaps it was. Given that I don’t have irrefutable proof, I will not divulge his name. Though I have wondered hundreds of times throughout my life if I had been molested. Other kids my age from the area may recognize the pattern. I know there were others that went on trips with him, but I don’t know if they had the same experience I did.
The modus operandi of gaining trust of a minor is a well documented pattern of predatory behavior.
Several years later, this same man was accused of sexual assault of a minor.
Coincidence? Or something more nefarious?
I can’t say that I have ever suffered trauma, physical, emotional or otherwise. But I have always wondered about that sleepy trip to Quebec City.
Maybe some things are better unknown.