Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 13, September 1969
“TIME YOU ENJOYED WASTING
IS NOT TIME WASTED.”
– Marthe Troly-Curtin
Rosie and I spent more time together—and there were definitely sparks flying. I finally got that kiss … and more. We were smooching in the Hill’s living room one evening after the family had gone to bed. Rosie stood up and, without a word, took my hand and led me to her bedroom.
“What about your dad?” I whispered.
She giggled, “Oh don’t worry. He’s cool.”
“Out of sight!” And many of my fantasies of the past month became reality.
* * * * *
Albert arrived a few days later. We swapped traveling stories and decided to find a country house west of Davis near the town of Winters.
“I love that area, Albert. You think we can find something affordable?”
“Yeah, most country places are cheap. We just have to make a firm mental image of what we want.”
“Is this from one of your ESP books?”
“Sure is. This stuff works, man. It really does.”
“That freaky thing you did in Vegas made me a believer. What do I do?”
“Just picture in your mind a farm that we’re living at, and keep visualizing it. Next thing you know, it’ll happen.”
“OK, I’ll try.”
“I‘ve already been doing it. Just wait. You’ll see it works.”
So we engaged in this exercise and spent a day and a half driving the country roads near Winters. The second afternoon, we were checking out an abandoned, burned-out building when I noticed some men gathered in a corral across the road. “Hey, Albert, let’s find out if anyone over there knows of something.” We strolled across the asphalt to see what we could learn.
That’s when we met Buck Hays. Buck was a large, rugged cowboy, dressed in Denim, shitkickers, and a weathered cowboy hat. He and two others were magically turning young bulls into steers with the help of a razor-sharp pocketknife. He would throw the gonads in a bucket for a later feast, spray on disinfectant, and brand the calves.
We watched the action until they took a beer break. I asked Buck, “Do you know of any places for rent around here?”
Buck popped the top on an Olympia can and looked us over. He took a long swig of his beer, cocked his head, and began speaking in a slow drawl. “I got a place up on Pleasants Valley Road where you can live for free if you want to keep an eye on my cattle.
“Sounds like something that might work for us. Can we take a look at it?”
“Go out 128, take a left over the fishing bridge about half a mile. At the top of the rise is a gate on the left. Make sure you close all the gates after you go through. I don’t want my stock getting loose.”
“We’ll make sure they’re secure and be back in a while if we’re interested.”
On Pleasants Valley Road, we found the gate, which took us down a long rutted dirt track along an open field. We passed through another gate into an enclosure with a rundown farmhouse, an old barn, and a half-burned house with a water tower. A section of the burned building had been converted into a crude chicken coop.
The main house, which had probably been home to farm laborers, turned out to be a weathered, unpainted, tin-roofed shack with covered porches in the front and back. Inside, there were two good-sized rooms and a small kitchen. The two larger rooms were empty and devoid of color. The weathered wood boards on the walls showed slits of daylight seeping between almost every slat.
The kitchen contained a cold-water sink, a cabinet above it, and a large, upright wood-cooking stove. The sink area was painted in bright blue and yellow hues—the only color in the place. There was no heating system, and the only light was a lone bare bulb hanging over the sink. I pulled the dingy string dangling from the bulb and, to my surprise, the light worked.
The spacious back porch included a working refrigerator and an old fashioned, open-top washer. A pair of rollers hung above the washbowl to squish excess water out of the clothes. Off the back porch we discovered a small storage trailer and forty feet back in the trees stood an unpainted outhouse—which was equipped with a classy whittled corncob toilet-paper holder.
A half-acre corral next to the barn housed two horses—a chestnut and a strawberry roan. Cattle grazed outside of the fenced area encircling the house and barn. We also spotted a dozen neglected beehives past the chicken coop.
Near the house on the other side of the fence, an old bathtub served as a water trough for the cattle, and a toilet float rigged to the tub kept it full. A hodgepodge of chickens roosted in the trees and barn and scratched for seeds and bugs around the house. A tributary of Putah Creek flowed right through the property, just beyond the chicken house.
What could I say? It was beautiful. The place needed work, but it was rural—and that’s what we were looking for.
We headed back to tell Buck he had a deal. He was still changing young bulls to steers, but took a break to outline our duties. “You’ll look after my cattle and the horses boarded there. I’ll come by tomorrow evening and show you a couple of things,” he said, as he wiped the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. Then he asked with a big grin, “You fellows want some Rocky Mountain oysters?”
I said, “No thanks. I’m trying to quit.” I wanted to make it perfectly clear that gnawing on calf balls was not in my job description.
The next morning, Albert and I picked up some things in Davis and stopped to see my ex-roommate. Tammy had just moved into a house with her newlywed husband and they had a black cat named George they couldn’t keep in their current digs—so we adopted him as a mouser. They also gave us a set of beautiful, flowered china since they’d been gifted a second set for their wedding. We drove away with a huge box filled with more plates, cups, saucers, and accessories (including George) than we knew what to do with.
As I was carrying the box of china into our new house, Charlie stood rigid on the porch, intent on a small group of chickens that were pecking and scratching. She was eyeing them, most likely deciding which one to chase down first.
The last time she had been close to chickens was at Brad’s place, where she and Pee had done considerable carnage. She understood that chasing chickens could spell trouble, but I could see that her instincts were tugging at her common sense.
I thought about these wildfowl that belonged to no one in particular, and I decided to try an experiment. I put down the box and knelt on one knee next to Charlie.
Pointing at the chickens, I said, “These are your chickens, Charlie. I want you to take care of them. Keep an eye on them for me, Okay?” I watched her ears twitch as she struggled to understand. Then she relaxed and stretched out on the porch, staring at the birds. I gave her a few gentle strokes behind her ears, picked up the box of china, and carried it to the kitchen.
I scrubbed the sink, counter, and cupboard shelves. As I was stacking our “fine china” in the cupboard, I glanced out the window above the kitchen sink. A pecking parade of four full-grown chickens with a half–grown fowl lagging behind caught my attention. George the cat, was crouched down, stalking the young straggler. Charlie dashed out and placed herself between the young pullet and George with all her glistening teeth on full display. George got the message and backed off.
Boy, I love that dog. These were Charlie’s chickens now! And I knew I’d never have to worry about her chasing poultry again.
The king of the barnyard was definitely Cassius, a truly magnificent creature. Cassius was qualified as centerfold material in a poultry magazine. Judging from the dagger-like talons protruding from his ankles, (if roosters have ankles) he was also capable of cock-fighting fame. A sight to behold, Cassius was decorated with interlacing green, black, red, orange, and tan metallic feathers cascading down his long neck, a tan breast, and a jet-black body. His well-formed, iridescent green tail plumage was spectacular.
With mutual respect, Cassius and Charlie shared the task of overlooking the barnyard flock.
Around six that evening, we heard the rattling of a truck as it parked outside the gate. We walked around the house and found Buck next to his blue Dodge pickup with a can of Olympia Beer in his hand. He led us to a pile of hay bales in a small, fenced enclosure beyond the dirt drive. Cattle that recognized Buck’s truck had already started to congregate.
Buck entered the enclosure, cut the wire off a bale, and kicked it into a dozen flakes. Cattle trotted in our direction, mooing and raising a ruckus. He sailed the pieces over the fence in all directions. More cattle hurried towards us from out of a grove of oaks. Buck repeated the procedure with two more bales, sailing them in different directions so the cattle wouldn’t bunch up. He accomplished all of this without putting down his beer.
“So, you fellows need to give them three bales every evening, just like that.”
“Sounds simple enough. How many head do you have?”
“Should be forty-four.”
Next, we went to the barn where alfalfa hay was stored. Buck removed a few flakes and threw them into the horse’s enclosure. They, too, were waiting, aware of Buck's schedule.
Buck tipped his Oly can and said, “A fellow named Ray and his wife Julie board the horses here. You also have to feed the horses daily.”
“Can we ride them?”
“You know horses?”
“You bet. I rode from Taos to Aspen on a horse earlier this summer. I sold him in Aspen.” I could see that Buck was surprised.
“Ray and Julie come out every so often. You could ask them. I bet they’d like it if you exercised them once in a while.” He drained some more of his beer and pointed out the water troughs for the cattle and horses. “Make sure these stay full. If any stock gets out, you drive them back in and repair the fence where they escaped. There’s plenty of barbed and baling wire in the barn to mend fences with. Any questions?”
Albert shook his head, “We’ll take care of things, Buck. How far does the property go?”
“I lease 110 acres here.” Buck traced the boundaries and we were impressed at the size of our new backyard.
I was more than impressed with the results of Albert's "firm mental image!"
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