Brother Take My Hand

Bro. Robert F. (Duke) Robbins

May 1961

Pushing my 18-wheeler at 65 MPH about fifteen miles from Los Angeles, I was all smiles. After six long months, I was returning home from a distant location in Mobile, Alabama. The thought of being home with my wife and two sons had me tingling with joy. Then I saw him. He was old and looked half scared to death. He was standing alongside his automobile and giving the "Grand Hailing Sign" over and over. Son of a gun, I was past him before could pull over safely. I scanned my rear-view mirrors hoping desperately to see someone come to the old man's assistance. Nothing. I felt myself wondering where all the members of the Craft were today. I glanced back once more. He was still valiantly and hopelessly seeking help. I sought out the next crossover and headed back. As I passed him, I blew my air-horn and waved an assuring hand. The old man seemed to collapse against the car. After making my turnaround, I pulled up behind the stopped car and turned on my flashers. The old man fell into my arms sobbing. Arm and arm we walked back to his car. Other than luggage, it was empty.

The long and short of it was simple. He had lost his wife several months ago and his daughter had persuded him to come to Long Beach to share their home. But you must picture this. In his seventy-five plus years, he had resided in a very small Kansas town and had never been four hundred miles from home. Now lost, and scared out of his wits, on an eight-lane freeway with cars passing on all sides, he was in hysteria. As we stood there face-to-face, I couldn't keep from laughing. His white linen revealed a roll of money above his sleeve garter where his bicep should have been.

"What's this Pops" I said as I touched the spot where the money was. "You a travelin' man aint'tcha?" His face searched mine. "Mount Olive Lodge #506, right here in Los Angeles, Hiram." Our hands met. His eyes twinkled with relief as he spurted out his Lodge back in Kansas. He dug out his roll of bills. "Here, Hiram, take it — please. Hold it for me 'till I get to Sister's so I won't lose it."

I gripped him squarely by the shoulders. "Look, Pop, I want you to.." That's all he let me get out, when "Oh, please, Hiram, O Dear God.. I can't drive on that thing," his thumb indicating the freeway. "Oh, please don't leave me here." "OK, OK, Brother." I looked at the 'No Riders' sign on my truck and shrugged my shoulders. Stuffing the old guy in my cab-over was no easy chore, but by the time I got up behind the wheel, he was grinning like a school boy.

The bottom time was — getting off the freeway, calling his daughter, and waiting for their arrival. In the interim, my new-found brother and I found a small cafe and as we sipped our coffee, the story trickled out. He had owned a two-chair barber shop. Raised eight children. A boy had been killed in Iwo Jima. A daughter and her boy-friend had been coming home from a football game and were killed at a grade-crossing by a train. The voice trailed off. We sat silently and the old man stared into his coffee as if seeking an answer.

Suddenly, his family arrived. After the hellos, after I gave 'Sister' the money, and after we retreived the car, as if as an afterthought, the old man straightens up, "I was Master of my Lodge, son, did I tell you that?" With that, he turned and got into Sister's car.

I climbed into my rig and forty-five minutes later was in the yard at Warner Brothers Studio. I took my luggage over to my char where the hugging and kissing makes homecoming so sweet. "You're almost two hours late, Honey," my wife said. "What happened?"

"Had to help a brother get squared away." From the back seat came a squeal of glee from my oldest. "You're a trip, Dad, always joking. You know you were an only kid. He's putting you on, Mom. He ain't got no brother.

They couldn't see my smile in the dark.