Chapter 3

I walked until almost dawn and by then I was so tired I could not go any farther, so I started to look for somewhere to hide and, if possible, get some sleep. I spotted a small house with an attached stable that seemed deserted so I made my way to it and found I was in luck. I found the door open, the house deserted and not a stick of furniture anywhere, let alone a bed. I went into the stable, scraped together some straw on the floor and made myself as comfortable as possible. I was so exhausted I fell asleep at once and slept right through the early morning until I felt someone shaking my shoulder. I woke up and there stood a young man with a pitchfork who wanted to know what I was doing there. I never have been able to figure out just what made him go into the barn or what he might have been looking for in the barn. I did not answer his question, but instead asked him for something to eat. He also did not reply to this, but just turned and left. I watched him from the stable window as he went up a slight incline to the neighboring field and started to break up cow pads with the pitchfork. Every now and then he would stop, look at the house, and then go on with his work. I felt he was trying to figure out just who I might be and what he should do about it. After about one half hour of this, I began to feel I had better get out of there because it did not appear as though he would be any help either with food or any contact that might help with an escape. The next time he turned his attention to the job at hand, I dove out the window and ran into the cover of the nearest trees. I then proceeded to walk through the fields but parallel to the road so I might have some idea of the direction in which I was going. Finally, it occurred to me that I could not stay in the fields as the fences made it obvious I was where I should not be, and I did not want any trouble with the farmers, so I cut over to the road and walked the shoulder, trying to be one of the natives. I did not see one soul since the man that morning until suddenly I heard trucks coming, so I slid into the ditch aside the road, put my back to the road and waited. The trucks were loaded with German soldiers but they paid no attention to me. My green outfit must have paid off again. I started to leave the ditch when I saw a man coming out of a farm just down the road a bit, so I slid back down, turned my back again and waited. But this time I heard someone lay a bike down and slide down beside me. It was a man and I assumed it to be the man from the farm. He said nothing but reached into my jacket and pulled out my dog tags (army identification tags), and asked if I had fallen from the sky from a plane. I answered that I had, figuring at this point I was in the soup and had nothing to lose. He got up, motioned for me to do likewise and we proceeded back down the road to the farm where he put me into the barn, telling me to stay there until he returned. Without further talk, he turned and went out the door. Should I stay? Should I run? What should I do now? Could I trust him? Had he gone for the Germans? Oh God, what to do! So, as any good sensible soldier, I did nothing. I stayed there and a good thing I did, because this man, whom I later knew as Jean, was my contact with the French underground. He gave me food, clothing, and helped me dispose of my green flying suit as well as my uniform. At this point I had decided that if I were to effect an escape, I was going to have to take some chances. So, we burned all my clothes, buried the ashes and the wires from the heated suit, and struck out for Paris.

Jean brought along two knapsacks; he carried one and I the other. I never thought to question him about the contents of the sacks. I just took one and carried it, as I was instructed. We walked about a mile, finally arriving at the rail station. It was small with no waiting room so we wandered around outside for what seemed like hours. We could hear a train coming and Jean thought it was ours and prepared to get aboard, having already purchased our tickets. I had no idea where he was taking me and was not about to muddy the waters by asking. Suffice to say I was relieved just to be with someone I could trust. The war did not allow for the best of train schedules so we were not surprised to see that the arriving train was not ours, but was a heavily loaded freight train with German soldiers all over it as well as special flat cars carrying anti-aircraft guns shielded with sand bags. Thank God the soldiers did not get off the train and stayed at their posts while the train took on water. Jean and I tried to look commonplace and not too interested in all this, just hoping the train would move on down the tracks and that ours would come along so we could be on our way. This proved to be wishful thinking because due to bombing raids on railheads as well as strafing by fighters, the train had been delayed and was hopelessly off schedule. In all, we waited about four hours for our train, and when it did get there it was loaded to the hilt with people, all seats filled and all aisles filled. It was a case of squeeze in and stand with your back against the wall for support because it was going to be a long trip. Jean talked to me as well as to other people nearby, but I did not reply--although I was surprised at just how much I understood. He got hungry, opened his knapsack, and extracted two eggs, giving one to me. I thought, how nice, hardboiled eggs, certainly better than nothing. Jean motioned for me to watch closely, took out his pocketknife, knocked a hole in the end of the egg and sucked on the shell. Oh, my gawd, raw eggs. I had never eaten one, never intended to eat one and now here I was hungry as the devil and knew I had to eat the thing. Because I was so hungry, I could have eaten the thing shell and all. I poked out the end, as Jean had and, with great difficulty, got the darn thing down and to my surprise it stayed down. We followed this with a little cheese and bread, making for a sufficient meal in a pinch. Everyone on the train was having a good time and soon Jean started them singing and they sang and passed the wine around. Aside from two stops due to rail damage, we made the trip without incident and finally arrived at our destination, which turned out to be Paris. But it was late---and there was a curfew. What happens now?

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