Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 17, December 1969
In December, Rosie came visiting on weekends. We were spending more time together, and I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t growing on me. One day after breakfast, we were on the porch lounging in the early morning sunshine.
Albert burst out of the house with a gun in one hand and a box of shells in the other. When he had picked up the tape deck from his parents’ house, he'd also retrieved a 22-caliber rifle. Stepping down off the porch, he proclaimed, “We’re going to have chicken for dinner.”
“Right on, great white hunter. Can we join your safari?” I teased.
“Grab your machete and follow along, boy.”
“Buana me wanta come too,” Rosie said.
Albert loaded the rifle, and we stepped into the yard. Beside the barn were three scrawny chickens, the least coveted of our flock. I didn’t know if they were of a particular breed or a crossbreed variety, but they were smaller than the other chickens and stayed off by themselves—perhaps because of an inferior position in the pecking order. These birds were black and gray with stubby tails and not much in the way of plumage—an unattractive bunch, similar in status to mud hens in the duck world. Albert decided that eliminating one would not be much of a loss to the barnyard community.
The largest of the three was standing to the left of the other two. Albert rested his elbow on a fence post and took careful aim at his target, which was pecking and scratching fifty feet away. The gun made a pop, and the shot must have been close because the chicken ran ten feet to the right before resuming his pecking and scratching routine.
I offered some support. “Almost,” I said.
“This time,” Albert whispered, as he took careful aim again.
Another pop, and this time the chicken ran a few feet to the left before continuing to forage.
Again a pop, with a similar result. And then another, with more of the same.
“Shit, I can’t believe I can’t hit the thing.”
“Man, you’re getting close, because that chicken wouldn’t scurry unless he felt or heard the bullet zip by.” I knew the bird wasn’t reacting to the sound, since a 22 makes a quiet report. Besides, the other two chickens weren’t bothered by the shots. “Can I give it a try?”
“Sure.” Albert handed me the gun, shaking his head in disgust.
I took the same stance with my elbow on the fence, aimed at Albert’s chosen chicken, and pulled the trigger. The fowl did his dodge move one more time and continued to scratch and peck. Two more attempts with identical results stumped me.
Albert took possession of the gun and tried once more. With a pitiful expression, he stalked towards the house. Disgusted, he said, “Guess we’ll have hot dogs for dinner.”
We laughed and returned to the porch. Several hours later, Rosie and I were near the barn. We came across that ugly chicken lying on the ground. Upon further examination, we found the bird was dead and had much in common with a cooking sieve. He had a dozen entry and exit wounds on his carcass. “Hell, this thing is Swiss cheese. Look at all the holes in it.”
“Are you kidding? You guys were on the mark after all. Albert will be jazzed to find out we’re having chicken for dinner.”
“Can you believe it? I knew chickens were brainless. But this proves chickens are so damn dense they don’t even know when to die.”
“That’s mighty dumb all right.”
In disbelief, we went to tell Albert the news.
* * * * *
There was a funky 40’s flatbed truck parked beside the barn. On a warm, cloudless afternoon, Albert and James were messing with the vehicle, hoping to get it running. Albert said, “We’re heading down to James’ place to get a gear-pull tool. We’ll be back in a few.”
They climbed into James’s Model A Ford pickup and drove off. The pickup had no top or hood and was a mosaic of faded grays and assorted rust. As they drove away, I hatched a plan. I knew it would be about thirty minutes before they’d return. So I grabbed a bandanna, my buckskin jacket, my cowboy hat, and Albert’s rifle. I checked that the gun was unloaded, pointing up and pulling the trigger a few times to be certain.
Next, I ran to the barn, fetched my riding equipment, and saddled Lady. The lay of the land offered a small knoll at the bottom of the dirt drive, large enough to conceal a horse and rider.
I led Lady to my hiding place, and then mounted and prepared for my theatrical debut. My idea was to wrap the bandanna over my nose and mouth and ride out waving the gun over my head like a highwayman. I figured it would be good for a laugh.
After waiting ten minutes, I saw the guys arrive at the gate several hundred yards up the drive. I kept low, listening to their approach. Then I gave Lady a nudge, and we galloped out in splendid form. I expected to get a chuckle out of my buddies, posing as a ghost from the past.
But as I looked at my friends, the tables were turned. James had put on a cap that could have come from a Little Rascals’ episode. He also wore World War I fighter pilot goggles. Albert, with his weathered straw hat, represented the same era. As they rode down the drive in the tattered Model A, it was a comical scene.
I laughed so hard I almost fell off my horse, blowing my part as the fearsome outlaw.
To be continued ...
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Trippin': Roads, Rails & Mountain Trails
In book 2 of his Hippie Adventurer Series, Rich takes us on another wild ride during the 1960s as he and his faithful canine companion, Charlie, hitchhike, hop freights, work in an Alaskan gold mining camp, and manage a Sacramento Valley cattle ranch.
A Message from Rich
Trippin’ is my gift to all of you. For me, the ’60s were a heartfelt time of growth, exploration, freedom, and brotherhood. I hope to impart a truthful account of what it was like to live as a hippie in that wacky, magical era. Enjoy the journey!
To receive episodes delivered directly to your email box, sign up HERE.
If you haven’t read the first book in the Hippie Adventurer Series, the award-winning Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, you can find it on Amazon and Audible.
1A. Escape from Heavy Caverns