Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 20, February 1970
Albert adopted a shepherd pup named Lucy, and Charlie tolerated Lucy’s constant playing. One day, while Albert and I were sitting on the porch watching their antics, he said, “You know, Rich, I was looking at the old water tower and had a brainstorm. If I took off the roof and replaced it with clear plastic, it would make a hell of a pot greenhouse.”
“Yeah. We could build a floor halfway up, and no one would know anything was there. Come on. I’ll show you what I’m talking about.”
Several chickens scurried out of our way as we walked past the barn. Most of the shell of the ruined house that had been converted to a chicken coop was damaged by fire, but the attached water tower was unscathed.
We stepped through a small wooden door, the only access to the tower. Standing on the dirt floor of the twelve by twelve room, I stared up at the peaked roof twenty feet above.
“There must have been a water tank up there,” Albert said, pointing above us. “I can climb on top and remove the roof with a chainsaw, just leaving those beams. Then we can take heavy-gauge clear plastic and wrap it over. Presto, we have a greenhouse!” Albert reached up with his hand. “If we put a floor about here with a trap door for entry, no one would know anything was above. We can cover the floor with plastic and haul dirt up there. I have plenty of pot seeds that I've saved.”
“I’ve got some too. We could attach a hose to the faucet outside and bury it so no one would notice. That would provide a water source. If we put some tools in here, it’ll look like an ordinary tool shed. The trees will hide the top.”
“So,” Albert said, “Shall we do it?”
“We couldn’t let anyone know what we’re up to. Even close friends.”
“Absolutely. Only you and me and Rosie—if you trust she won’t mention it.”
“Haven’t talked to her in a while but if I do, I’ll feel her out. OK, partner. Farmers we are.”
Within two days we had the roof converted to plastic and a floor built with a two-foot square door we could lift upward for entry. There was a twelve-inch lip around the door, and the whole floor was leak-proof with a layer of heavy plastic running a foot up the walls. The hose outfitted with a spray nozzle was hidden in the earth and behind a beam.
The walls were completely covered with tinfoil, and wooden fruit boxes filled with dirt were nailed to these a few feet above the base. The flooring was filled with topsoil that was wheel-barreled and lifted with five-gallon buckets. It was killer hard work.
Tired from two days of hauling dirt, we finally planted our seeds: two per hole, six inches apart in eighteen-inch rows. Including the wall boxes, it left us with two hundred plants after thinning.
Three weeks later, it was a sight to behold. The plants were fourteen inches tall, and we hadn’t told anyone about it. When Sam and Lil arrived from Quincy for a visit, Albert and I went into a huddle.
I told Albert, “They don’t live nearby, so it should be Okay.”
“Sam and Lil are cool. I don’t see any harm as long as they swear not to tell anyone. It’s so beautiful. It would be great to show it off.”
After swearing them to absolute secrecy, we all walked into the tool shed and stood there. They looked around and Lil said, “So, tools. This is what’s so mysterious?” Albert and I smiled at each other, satisfied that we had done a good job concealing our secret garden.
Then Albert grabbed a ladder and moved it across the room. He climbed up and pushed on a section of the roof. When he stepped back, he gestured for our friends to climb up. Sam and Lil’s eyes widened as they entered the bright, sunlit, silver room, packed with gorgeous green pot plants.
It felt great to share this dazzling sight with them.
* * * * *
A few weeks later, Buck was out checking on his herd. He told me that the police were looking at our place. Freddie stopped by the same day. “I was at the dump, and Jeff said the police had found a book belonging to someone named Al Bixby. It had dope-dealer notes in it.”
“Someone with the same name as Albert! What are the chances of that?”
“Yeah. Jeff said be careful. They’re talking about raiding your place.”
After Freddie left, my heart was beating faster. I said to Albert, “Shit. What should we do about this?”
“Let’s make sure the house is clean. If they do come, they’ll never find our plants. They’re too well hidden.”
We made sure the little weed we had in the house was stashed in the woods. Then we cleaned and swept so there would be no traces, and I went over to Pleasants Valley Ranch to see if my friends had heard anything else.
I scored dinner but no new information, then headed for home. Paranoid feelings overtook me as I drove through the dark. How to talk Albert into destroying the plants? When I arrived, I spotted him with a Santa Claus bag over his shoulder.
“Hey, man, what’s up?”
“I pulled up all the plants. I’m going to ditch them far down the creek.”
“Cool, I came to the same conclusion.”
“Why don’t you take that padlock on the kitchen table and lock the front gate. If the fuzz do come, they won’t find anything. But we might as well not put out the welcome mat.”
“Got it handled.”
The police never came. Or maybe they figured we were onto them when they found the gate secured.
At any rate, our pot-growing days had come to an abrupt end.
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