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Letters: Pit Bulls and Hitchhiking

Millie Jefferson

Full Episode Audio

Listening to your story of youthful travel, via hitchhiking, made me pause for just a few moments and reminisce about my own hitchhiking experiences with a college roommate in North Dakota in 1971-72. Having your own car was a luxury, but needing to make it home for the weekend frequently required a thumb. One weekend, after getting stuck along the interstate in a snowstorm, and then being picked up by a family with six kids in a very crowded station wagon, my roommate and I had to admit that the thrill was gone!

Julie Klosterman
Minnetonka, Minn.

Mary Anne, thanks for that story. I loved it.

In the spring of 1963 I was a freshman at River Falls and bet my roommate that I could get to Menomonee in an hour by hitchhiking. I won the bet and that started a series of trips I took by thumb over the next five years. I went to Madison, then Texas, then California, Oregon, Florida and even Catalina Island off southern California and finally Mexico City. There were many, many wonderful stories and times. A few rough times, but for the most part people were very kind and generous to me, as they were to you. Most couples or families who picked me up would say they don't usually pick up hitchhikers but I reminded them of their brother, seemed like a nice young man, etc. I was just a young kid, fresh off the farm -- and I looked like one, so that helped. Along the way I drove a semi, promised to keep many drivers awake, got warning tickets from the cops, got caught hiding from the cops, rode with a few crazy and dangerous drivers, slept in an old wooden jail and, in general, had many great adventures.

Would I give permission for my kids to do such things today? NO WAY!!

As Mark Twain said: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

Pat Powers
St. Paul, Minn.

What a great story and a wonderful adventure. I'm probably about Mary Anne's age (I too have a 17-year-old daughter) and I hitched one time alone in college at night. It still terrifies me to recall it. But it was the '70s, people were different and the person who gave me an hour's ride was a good person. (He also warned me to be careful. I never did it again.) But I wish I'd been one of Mary Anne's friends on this trip. I'm sure there are lots more stories within this one that would be fun to hear. Thank you for telling us this one. (My daughter loved it too!)

Catherine Partrick
Washington, N.C.

I listened with intrigue this story of hitchhiking and was taken back to my summer of travels across this land by thumb. I especially loved the part where the officer took everyone in and protected them. That, I feel, was the defining moment of humanity in the '70s. I have great stories of places and events, but it was the people that were so generous, so helpful and just wanted to share their slice of life in America, that when I think back, I feel "good all under." Mary Anne, thanks for sharing.

Debbie Smith
Reno, Nev.

I was disappointed and saddened listening to Weekend America's piece on home foreclosures on 26 April. While the reporting was informative, insofar as it dealt with the impact foreclosures have had on the quality of life in various neighborhoods, there was a segment of it that was inaccurate and offensive. As one of the neighborhood residents detailed the litany of blights that have befallen her area, she listed parties, broken down cars and pit bulls. While this person is certainly entitled to her opinion of this breed of dog, what bothered me is that the reporter then picked this up, commenting that this was a neighborhood in which you would expect to see golden retrievers, not pit bulls. This kind of bigotry is inexcusable.

Just to be clear, my family owns a pit bull. My wife is a pediatrician. I am an attorney. We live in a nice neighborhood. Our dog is as sweet and gentle an animal as one could ever meet. She is loving and patient with our 10-month-old son. Media sensationalism has done terrible harm to this wonderful breed, and NPR has no business perpetuating such stereotypes. A quick Google search will show that Helen Keller owned a pit bull. As did Teddy Roosevelt. Heaven forefend either of those miscreants should ever move in to your neighborhood. Jon Stewart owns pit bulls. He's certainly another one you wouldn't want next door.

As I said, the person being interviewed is entitled to her opinion, just as she would be if she said that there were too many blacks and Mexicans moving into the neighborhood. But just as NPR has no business propagating those repugnant stereotypes, it has no business maligning a loyal, loving breed that has suffered so much as a result of such ignorance.

Matthew Scoble
Sacramento, Calif.

This sampling is what is happening all over Las Vegas. The pit bull thing is symbolic of a lower-class of people, pit bulls belonging to single guys living in communities of families. Just a few weeks ago in Rhodes Ranch, we were awakened by gunfire. A guy working in his garage had a neighbor's pit bull approach him. Dog died and the other two dogs were taken. (True story, called Rhodes Ranch security for details)

What do dogs have to do with this? It's a sign of the times in Vegas. Everyone got in over their heads. Instead of upper-middle-class families moving into these nice "master-planned" neighborhoods, we now are looking at a surge of renters who care little about the properties they're in and even less about their neighbors. The greed and stupidity of many home buyers and investors have turned this town into a cesspool of trash. Our schools have suffered as a result, with the inability to attract new teachers due to housing costs, and a rougher group of kids due to the lowered standards that are now evident in every community across Las Vegas.

Don't move here, not if you come from a society with strong family values and community. It's a dark time here, and it is getting worse every month. No gates or master planned community can prevent what's happened here.

Mike Wilson
Las Vegas, Nev.

I was almost ready to let the first comment about pit bull vs. golden retriever slide, but then the whole piece had to end with it? While I found the piece interesting, it was completely marred for me by using "pit bulls" as a synonym for "undesirables." Why not say straight out what kind of people are "undesired?" Is the writer of the piece afraid of appearing racist or prejudiced and instead uses "pit bull" as her way out?

I happen to own American pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers. I compete in multiple dog events with them -- agility, obedience and weight pull. All the while, the neighbor down the road owns three out-of-control Labrador retrievers who have chased me down the road on my bicycle and have accosted me, my dogs and many other walkers in our neighborhood. I am not so sure that the interviewed woman would have preferred the Labradors over my "pit bulls" when it came to a real life choice.

Manuela McGee
Port Orchard, Wash.

  • Music Bridge:
    Fest Der Grillen
    Artist: Chica and the Folder
    CD: Under the Balcony (Monika)
More stories from our Letters series


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  • By mary ann mcgreevy-sims

    From highlands, NJ, 06/09/2010

    We recently obtained a 4month old pit mastive mix.We are renters in a condo.Im thinking of giving my dog up,who is a loving 7 month old now.Reason being that he barks alot,hyper,and sometimes my boyfriend and I argue on how to train him,as well he is 60 pounds,the so called association only wants your pet to be no more than 20pounds.I am attached to this animal,I hear remarks as I walk away from the beach about my dog.Any advice for my situation?

    By Jeremy Zaetz

    From Las Vegas, NV, 03/24/2009

    Mike Wilson,

    I happen to live in that Rhodes Ranch family community where more then 50% of the owners do not have kids or our single. I have a 96 lb red nose Pit Bull. I am married and own the home not a renter. You might have seen me walking my dog in the neighborhoods often without a leash. It is the low class people who would shoot a dogs that love people and who are working on cars in there driveway that are bringing down the property values in the neighborhood. Your ignorant thinking is also bringing down the community.

    By Monica Kennedy

    From encinitas, CA, 01/20/2009

    I am grateful that the responsible Dog Owners, such as myself are finally coming together and saying enough! I have been raised with dogs my whole life, they were poodles or small dogs but the day I lost my border collie mix was a day that changed my life. I tried to wait but my heart ached and I just couldn't live without the love of a dog. I found myself at the Nevada SPCA in Las Vegas and in my arms was a 3 month old Pit Bull. Now, I have not been around many Pits but as I walked out of the door with her I knew as with ANY breed of dog..she IS MY RESPONSIBILTY! I treat her with love, gentleness and respect. She travels in my car on long road trips, goes to beach and loves kids. We are in a time of change..so should the perception of this breed.

    By Carissa Bebblins

    From Memphis, TN, 01/20/2009

    I'm glad to see intelligence has rooted its way to the surface - thank you all who have cadvocated positively for pit bulls here. Our family has a pit bull and to deem him "formidable" or "vicious" would simply be oxymoronic. I loathe how ignorance in regards to this breed is constantly perpetuated - the breed itself is no more likely to attack anyone than a golden retriever. Size and appearance do not translate into inherent characteristics! This sterotype is laughable because it reveals how people refuse to think for themselves.

    By Joan McIntyre

    From Punxsutawney, PA, 01/20/2009

    Growing up, I have never owned a dog, so imagine my oppprtunity to get one I find myself with all things , a pit bull. With all the things I've heard about them in the past I was really leery abouy him, but he is so loving and likes to be around people so muce there is'nt a mean streak in his whole body. I've had him for 5 yrs now that I don't know what I would do without him

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