When I was a mere teenager,
my dad made a little wager.
Could I manage to exist
by guile and craft and will and fist
without allowance or assistance?
It was not at his insistence,
and in no way was I miffed
at his challenge aimed at thrift.
I packed a bag and caught a lift.
For one year I would simply drift.
Quietly would I abscond
and win my keep as vagabond.
I’d leave a life humdrum and canned
to live a life less gray and bland.
And thus I started my vacation
around our great and varied nation.
In California, I mowed lawns,
in Texas, worked at shucking prawns.
Combined wheat in South Dakota.
Then made off for Minnesota.
Washing pots and dishing curry,
worked my way down to Missouri.
In Tennessee I met with luck
and crossed the whole state in a truck,
but by D.C. and Baltimore,
grunt labor had become a bore,
so when I finally reached the ocean,
suddenly I had the notion
to make a call to dad from son
telling him his son had won.
The call I made was not in vain,
for next day I was on a plane.
Tattered, back-sore, sunburned, chapped,
I showed my dad the miles I’d mapped.
He slapped my back and said, “Well, son,
you’ve done what I wished I had done
before I did each of those things
that doing what one ‘should’ do brings.”
He slapped a check into my hand
and promised college, job or land.
I would be sent to school or hired—
whatever now I most desired.
I told my dad I’d let him know
but for just now I had to go.
I hit the bank and cashed his check,
bought new clothes and washed my neck.
Grabbed my passport, kissed my mom,
let her feed me, dropped the bomb.
Hugged my dad, then counted coup
and hopped a plane for Katmandu.
I hadn’t traveled my last mile,
but from now on, I’d go in style!