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Jeff Emtman left home in the summer of 2011 to hitchhike the United States, to see if strangers would chop him up and put him in their trunks, if he gave them the option to. He was 22 years old with straight teeth, a trimmed beard and a strong fear of strangers.

This episode picks up just after Jeff came a little too close to true violence, in the form of a fatal shooting at a restaurant in rural Mississippi. He turns around, decides to head back to the land of dry beds and predictability, Washington State, his home.

It was a summer of thunderclaps and heavy rain. Jeff learned to judge the weight of clouds, learned to determine when they might fall from the sky from holding too much rain.

It was also a summer of uncertain interactions with strangers, including a lead-footed grandmother, a chain gang, a child who could nearly levitate, and a car mechanic who whispered Jeff’s ear a strange blessing.

This episode takes place roughly in between two previous episodes of Here Be Monsters about Jeff’s hitchhiking. The two previous episodes are How I Learned to Love Rejection, parts 1 and 2. Jeff’s full photo/audio diaries from the trip live here.

This piece was written and produced by Jeff Emtman, with editing help from David Weinberg, Nick White, Bethany Denton and Rebecca Brunn.

Music: The Black Spot | | | Serocell | | | AHEE (New!)

This episode marks the beginning of our 5th season of Here Be Monsters. That means that we’re bringing you another 20 wonderful, beautiful and troubling stories over the next 9-ish months. We’re currently working on stories about sexual synesthesia, brain tumors, and flesh eating beetles. Keep an eye out on your podcast feed every other Wednesday. Subscribe here.

Photos Jeff Emtman took during his hitchhiking trip of the storms that came most evenings:


 Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Probably somewhere in Nebraska

Near Denver, Colorado 

Little Rock, Arkansas

Probably somewhere in Nebraska

Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln, Nebraska

Photographs of hitchhiking Mississippi and Arkansas:
Jeff's turning around point. Near Marks, Mississippi .

Aftermath of fatal shooting mentioned in episode. Marks, Mississippi

 Aftermath of fatal shooting mentioned in episode. Marks, Mississippi

Ivy grows everywhere, chokes the landscape. Rural Arkansas

14 Miles to Forrest City, Arkansas.  Near Marianna, Arkansas

The forest full of (presumably bloodthirsty) razorbacks.  Near Marianna, Arkansas

The storm starts with dry lightning.  Near Haynes, Arkansas

Jeff Emtman rides in the back of a pickup truck full of heavy equipment. Near Haynes, Arkansas

Jean Paul (or possibly John Paul) in the center, and his six co-workers stand in front of their truck. Forrest City, Arkansas

Lightning strikes ground. Near Forrest City, Arkansas 


Jeff Emtman
Bethany Denton

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