What is Thumb Flagging? In a word, Hitch Hiking. In many ways a long lost art. As a teenager in the 60’s and early 70’s it was my preferred mode of transportation. In the summer a couple of us would hit the tarmac heading off to one music festival or another. A bedroll, a two man tent, and the wind in our hair. The funny this was, we never had any money, yet somehow we never went hungry or thirsty. Oh the glorious days of being a hippie!

It is funny how times change, when my kids became teens I would have become unglued if they had repeated my performances. Is it that I have changed, or it that the world has changed? I for one would never dream of thumbing anywhere today.

Jerome Peterson does not give us many clues as the the time period that Thumb Flagging is set in, but I am guessing it is sometime in the 1970’s. As soon as I laid eyes on the cover I has a feeling that this was going to be a book that I was going to enjoy. In fact I picked it up and told my wife I was just going outside to smoke a cigarette and glance at the first couple of pages. Well 4 hours and 220 pages later I came back in. “That was a long cigarette”, my wife sarcastically remarked!

Our hero is Jay Patterson, a mild mannered young man, who learns the joy of the open road from his nomadic drifter friend Willy Jacobs. As the pair travel, Jaybird, as Willy christens him, learns the art and myths of conquering the ‘concrete diva’. What a great term ‘concrete diva’, it is these little phrases that are scattered throughout the book that really drew me in.

Jaybirds first journey is from Phoenix, Arizona, to Malibu, California, their destination, to look at Bob Dylan’s house, and maybe even meet the great man. This odyssey is more than a mere road trip, it is a journey of self discovery, and discovery of others. Nothing quite beats the intimacy of strangers. People tell you the most bizarre personal things in the knowledge that they will never meet you again.

Hungry and in need of a place to stay Willy reaches deep into his ‘roadsmithing’ bag of tricks and introduces Jaybird to the world of the church mission. A place where a hot meal and a warm bed can be found. When I read this part of the book, I reflected back to an occasion in 1970.  I had Thumb Flagged some 200 miles in order to see one of my then (and now) favorite musicians Al Stewart, or, as he is known in our household $90 Al (leave a comment and I will explain). I had enough money to buy a ticket for the weekend festival, but none for food! I spent the weekend alternately being fed bean stew by the Hari Krishna people, and being saved by some kind hearted Christian Youth group who at least had meat in their meals!

Willy is a born nomad, and takes off for Maine. Jaybird, bored with Phoenix and having roots and responsibilities, decides to take to the road once more, this time to find the wandering Willy. Along the way Jaybird finds a kindred spirit in Chloe, a young lady who offers no past, an enigmatic present, and an uncertain future.

To share more of the plot would spoil this richly satisfying read. I will say that there are some subplots, that are interesting, and as a retired road warrior myself, I once again found myself floating back to my own experiences.

Thumb Flagging makes for a wonderful read, Jerome Peterson has done an outstanding job on the character and plot development. We meet the young neophyte Jay Patterson, and end knowing the worldly wise Jaybirdy!

Thumb Flagging is available through Amazon, Jerome also has a web site.

Simon Barrett

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