Monument to the Unknown Hitchhiker

Back in March, I wrote a post that I titled (oh-so-cleverly, I thought) No Sissy reply. In that post, I reported that I had written Even Cowgirls Get the Blues author Tom Robbins a letter about Sissy Hankshaw’s thumbs and received no response. I also expressed very little faith that I would receive any response. So today I’m here to tell you that my faith in cult-status novelists has been restored. I should never have doubted.

I wrote something like:

Dear Mr. Robbins:

For my master of fine arts in creative nonfiction, I am writing a book of essays revolving around the human thumb.  Bla bla bla blah … (to read full letter, see No Sissy reply)

I’m wondering what you were thinking when Sissy Hankshaw entered your consciousness. Which thumbs inspired you to create Sissy? . . .


Ann Beman

His reply, dated May 1:

Hola Senorita Beman:

As near as I can remember, it went something like this. One night in the early seventies, I was sitting around with a couple of sculptors getting pleasantly stoned. At some point in the evening, we began riffing, as the stoned will do, on an imaginary monument to the Unknown Hitchhiker. By the next day, the sculptors had forgotten the fantasy, but I began thinking what a novel about the Unknown Hitchhiker might be like.

Thinking about that potential character, I began thinking about hitchhiking in general, and this eventually led me to focus on the human thumb. As the days and nights went by, I found a way to make my newfound interest in thumbs dovetail with other themes that interested me at the time. For example, the plight of the whooping cranes and that of adventurous young women. And as the writing took shape, a number of other interests leaked into the plot, as well.

My thumb research is just a vague memory now, but I do know that I read books on palmistry and interviewed at length a plastic surgeon whose specialty was hand repair. 

Wishing you great good fortune … , I am . . . . .

Yours to the Marrow,

Tom Robbins


4 thoughts on “Monument to the Unknown Hitchhiker

  1. Great to see the reply from Robbins. I’ve enjoyed his books over the years and quite a few quotes from them are in the rotation on the digihitch homepage. Among my favorites, in the words of Sissy:

    “As I developed, however, I grew more concerned with subtleties and nuances of style. Time in terms of M.P.H. no longer interested me. I began to hitchhike in something akin to geological time: slow, ancient, vast. When I am really moving, stopping car after car after car, moving so freely, so clearly, so delicately that even the sex maniacs and the cops can only blink and let me pass, then I embody the rhythms of the universe. I am in a state of grace.”

    We’ve added a snippet of Robbins’ letter on his bio page ( ), with a link to it here on your blog.

  2. Yours to the Marrow….wow. That rocks. Robbins’ story of “stoned” sculptors and monuments reminds me of the sculptures of a guy in Auburn, CA that were larger than life–a very large (in scale) woman comes to mind. Apparently the sculptor had some success getting various women around to town to model for various body parts. I met the woman who supposedly modeled for the statue’s torso, but now I’m wondering who modeled for her hands…she did have rather large thumbs…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s