Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 23, March--April 1970
Hal and Russ were employed at a lumber mill near Santa Cruz. I found Russ at his grandmother’s house working on Hal’s Jeep.
“Hey, Russ, what’s up?”
“Hey, man, what are you doing down here?”
“I needed some pavement rolling under me and a taste of sweet ocean air. What are you doing with Hal’s ride?”
“I bought it from him. Kelly flew back to New York last week to see her folks, and I’m going to meet her there. My old truck would never make it, so I’m rebuilding the Jeep’s engine. I’m driving back East in two weeks.”
“Cool. You guys are still tight?”
“Yep. We’re going to get married. She wants me to meet her folks first. We talked about it, and we want you to marry us, Rev.”
For ten bucks and an hour drive, I had picked up a Universal Life Minister ordination in the hopes it might provide a buffer against the draft—so I was qualified to marry or bury. “OK. Let me know when you‘re insane enough for a ball and chain.”
"I'll send you a note on asylum stationery. So, what’s new with you?"
"I've been making jewelry for that Earth Day gathering they're going to put on in Davis. I found if I shape and flatten baling wire on an anvil and add some horseshoe nails, I can make some cool stuff. Mostly necklaces and earrings."
"Better tell your customers not to wear them in the rain. They might rust."
"They'll just have to read the fine print."
* * * * *
On my way home, I took the scenic route north along the coast highway. As I left Santa Cruz, I stopped twice to pick up two hippie couples hitching north. I put the first pair in front with me and the other in the back with my dog, Charlie. Then I fastened the top of the camper’s Dutch door open so they’d have fresh air and a view of the Pacific.
The couple in the front shared a joint as we rode up the coast. They were heading toward Oregon, so I let them out before turning into San Francisco. As they jumped out, I walked to the back to check on the others. Peeking into the camper, I saw them stretched out on the bed with Charlie at their feet. “Hi, Charlie. Hi, guys. How are you doing back here?”
The guy answered, “Groovy, man. These are cool digs.”
“Hey, guys, I’m heading east on Lincoln, then Oak. When I hit Franklin, I’ll turn left and follow it north almost to Fisherman’s Wharf. Where do you want off?”
“We’re going to the Mission District. Let us off before Franklin.”
I walked back to the cab and proceeded into the city. A half block before Franklin, I pulled over. The couple climbed out and waved as they stepped to the sidewalk. I pulled back into traffic and crossed over two lanes making a left. I followed Franklin thirty blocks towards Hank’s apartment.
It had been a year since my last visit with my Kansas City friend Hank Dentine. I found a parking place about a block from his pad, stepped out of the cab, and went to the back to get Charlie. My heart stopped as I peered into my empty camper. I looked around and whistled in case she jumped out when I parked, but she wasn’t there.
Oh God! Where is she? My heart went into overdrive.
I hopped into my truck and tore around the corner. I couldn’t backtrack down Franklin because it was a one-way street. I made another hurried left and shot down Gough, which was a one-way in the opposite direction. “Oh shit, man!” My Charlie was lost among the traffic and population of this butt-hole city. A panicked fear enveloped me.
My heart dropped into my stomach, leaving an empty chasm in my chest. I prayed out loud as I rammed the gas pedal to the floor. “Please, God! Please, God! Please, God!”
I’d never seen any proof that God existed. But I always felt that to say there’s no God was as foolish as the blind faith that professed a Supreme Being existed. And now I was scared and desperate and ready to try anything to get my dear girl back. So I chanted, “Please, God! Please! Please! Please!”
I was racing and then waiting painfully through one stoplight after another. I tried to control my emotions as my heart hammered against my chest. My only option was to return to where I left the second pair of hitchhikers and retrace my steps. Charlie must have jumped out with them. It had been unusual for her to hop out without my instructions. I imagined her chasing after my truck.
What if somebody picked her up? What if a car hit her? My heart kept racing.
I mumbled, “ Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck!”
I finally arrived at the drop-off spot and turned left onto Oak. I drove slowly while searching the sidewalks. Nothing! I made another left on Franklin, prepared to follow it back toward Hank’s apartment. Still nothing! Shit, where is she?
At the end of the block, I stopped at still another damn traffic light. As I idled at the corner, I glanced to my left—and there she was with her nose in the open door of a corner bar.
“All right! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
A flood of relief and gratitude filled me. I whistled and opened the driver’s door, and Charlie ran and jumped over my lap into the cab of the truck. “Wow! Oh, man, am I glad to see you, girl! You gave me the scare of my life!” Charlie had some scolding of her own to do.
“I know, I know, I know.”
I stroked her with my right hand, steering with my left. I’d had enough of this damn city— no longer harboring any desire to visit my friend, Hank. Crossing the Bay Bridge into Oakland, we stopped at Mel’s Drive-In where I ordered two cheeseburgers, one for me and one for my Charlie.
* * * * *
April finally arrived and the days were warmer. Money didn’t flow from our wood-cutting and pot-farming enterprises, so when the apricot harvest came, I signed up at Pleasant Valley Ranch as a picker. Armed with a ladder and with a picking basket hanging from my neck, I joined my amigos pulling apricots off the trees. We were paid three bucks per box. The boxes were gigantic, but a fast worker could make thirty bucks a day.
I soon found, however, that there was a dangerous side effect to this line of work. After a few days of picking, whenever I closed my eyes I’d see orange apricots, green leaves, brown branches, and blue sky. It was beautiful at first and didn’t disturb me while I worked—only afterward. Every time I blinked, there was that Technicolor monster. It was driving me nuts!
Talk about going crazy. My mind and my heart had decided to gang up on me, and they were doing this on a regular basis. And when those two get together—a guy doesn’t stand a chance.
I was in possession of a pleasant picture postcard with a colorful country scene on the front. I addressed it to Rosie, scribbled a few words on the back admitting that I missed her, and asked if she wanted to get together. That afternoon, I stopped by the Winter’s Post Office and dropped it in the mail. I was worried she might tear it up—a fair response for breaking her heart.
Late the following night, and before she received my postcard, I woke up in a haze as her naked body slid between the sheets. I caught a glimpse of her face just before she pasted her moist lips against mine. When she pushed herself against me, I went from zero to sixty in about a second. Our bodies did all the talking as we surrendered to our passion, making up for lost time.
Boy, what a sweet surprise.
After sealing the deal, I was positive that nothing felt better than the two of us together. It’d been almost three months since I had held her. During our time apart, Rosie had found an attractive new strength. She’d left as an insecure schoolgirl and returned as a confident young woman—making me one grateful hombre.
* * * * *
The following weekend, Albert was off somewhere, and Rosie, Charlie, F-f-f-r-r-r-e-e-e-d-d-d the cat and I were on a walk when we came upon a pregnant cow that was lying on her side and panting. She was giving birth, so we settled down and awaited the magic moment.
After the cow struggled for two hours, we began to worry. So we ran to town to see if we could find Buck. I drove directly to the Country Club Bar. Sure enough, there was Buck, hugging an Olympia Beer in his left hand.
As I approached, I said, “Hey, Buck, one of your cows is having problems birthing a calf.”
From his seat at the bar, Buck looked over his shoulder and drawled, “Problems? In what way?”
“We found her lying down trying to give birth and watched her for two hours, but she couldn’t get it out.”
Buck jumped up and headed for his truck, moving faster than I had ever seen before. We drove back home and parked our vehicles close to where the cow was struggling in the woods. Buck put down his beer—something I thought I’d never see. He grabbed a towel and a lightweight chain from the back of his truck.
Before we knew it, he had his shirt off and his arm inside the cow feeling around. Once he knew the lay of the land, he started working the front legs of the calf out of the cow’s vagina. Then he picked up the chain and wrapped it around the calf’s legs. With one foot on the cow’s butt, he pulled on the chain, working the young bovine out of its mother. Soon the calf was out and coming to life.
Both mom and calf survived, and I must admit, Buck had gained my respect.
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!
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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