Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 12b, August 1969
The job was simple, and framing was easy to figure out by inspecting the existing structure. The real work came from the saw. With no power tools, every piece of lumber needed to be cut by hand. This was time-consuming and exhausting.
The solitude was refreshing, but I thought about Rosie far too often. And whenever I was sawing, I’d remember this tongue twister my dad recited way too many times when I was young: “I never saw a saw saw like the saw I saw saw in Arkansas.”
That phrase was haunting me almost as much as Jasmine’s kid sister.
Making a straight cut through thick boards with a not-so-sharp crosscut required a lot of strength. I was in the best shape ever after my horse ride and steering my heavy truck had built up my arms and chest. Still, I believe it was the pure frustration from missing Rosie that powered every stroke. Her consuming image never left my mind—always the same one—her standing there in that barn, ripe for a smooch.
I worked on cabin 2 for four days, pausing only for a few breaks. For those, I’d return to my cabin and indulge in my latest addiction: crackers, butter, and honey. In the evenings, with the sun still in the sky, I walked through the woods with Charlie, carrying the shotgun under my arm. But that bear never bothered us.
At one place, the moss on the ground was more than an inch thick—much too inviting. I leaned the gun against a tree and fell back into the spongy mattress.
After my walks, I‘d sit in my cabin reading Louis L’Amour dime westerns in the kerosene light. Falling asleep always involved scenes with Rosie by the rope swing, along with many pitiful questions: What is it with me? Can’t I ever learn? Why am I putty in the hands of a pretty woman—always helpless to the call of love?
It was clear that a major portion of my heart remained in California. Besides the longing, I found myself fantasizing in shameful ways. What cruel force decided to stick its hooks so deep?
I turned to my canine companion again and again for guidance:
“Man, I wish I’d kissed her when I had the chance.”
“Boy, Charlie, I really miss that lady.”
“Do you think she feels the same way about me, girl?”
“Damn, that woman’s driving me nuts!”
* * * * *
One day, Charlie Parker called me over. He handed me a large manila envelope with tie strings on it. “Here’s the mail. When the train comes by, wave this at the engineer, and he’ll slow down so you can throw it into the baggage car. There’s a potato inside for weight. We used to put a rock in there, but someone knocked out the conductor, so now we use a small potato.”
I wasn’t surprised. The conductor doubled for a paperboy, tossing the newspaper off every day as the train sailed by. My aim was good. Come rain, sleet, snow, or slow locomotive, the mail always goes through.
Mary, the wife of a bush pilot, hiked eight miles to Charlie’s camp every other day to cook a few meals for him. She wasn’t a large woman, but she was sturdy! She asked me to help her with a small tractor missing a wheel. “Slip this wheel on the hub when I tell you,” she said. Then Mary put her back against the tractor, curled her hands under the frame, and lifted the machine while I jockeyed the wheel into place. She had my respect! That thing weighed a couple hundred pounds.
Of course, seeing a woman didn’t help my drought any. It just made me think about Rosie, all the more. My riding partner Mitch had gone on and on about his Jasmine, leaving me to this day amazed and concerned—not that he loved the lady but that he spoke about dropping the big “I do.” What the hell was he thinking?
And what’s happening with me? Where there was a parade of lovelies occupying my mind, now there was only one. I sure wasn’t shopping for a relationship. Why would I want to fasten a ball and chain to my ankle?
On the fifth day, I finished building the room and went to Charlie’s cabin to see what was next. Charlie hung up the phone and said, “I’m expecting a package on the train today. Be sure to be there to pick it up, and bring it right to me when it arrives.”
I was waiting when the train arrived. You could always hear it approaching from several miles away. When the train slowed to a crawl, the conductor leaned out with a box hanging from a piece of twine. The daily paper was on top, tucked under the knotted cord. He let it hover a few inches above the ground until he was adjacent to me.
The box fell at my feet. I picked it up and delivered it to Charlie’s cabin.
“Come on in, son,” he called before I had even knocked. I stepped inside and he gestured for me to sit next to him on the bed. He had scissors ready and cut the twine away from the dog-eared box. Out of the box he tossed aside some crumpled newspaper and dry ice; then he pulled out a container of ice cream.
With a mischievous smile, he said, “I thought we’d celebrate the completion of the cabin.” He served us up a dish each, and we enjoyed some tasty chocolate ice cream. That’s when I learned more about old Charlie Parker.
“Sonny, I’ve been up here since ’98, came here with my folks and big sister. My daddy wanted to strike it rich finding gold. Back when this place was first settled, they called us sourdoughers on account of sourdough bread was about all there was to eat except game. I’ve been called ‘the last of the sourdoughers.’ Yeah, there ain’t too many folks who’ve been around here as long as I have.”
“Well, I hope you get to realize your daddy’s dream.”
“Oh, I will. The Chulitna Mine ain’t no small thing. You’ll see.” I admired the old guy’s passion, and I definitely enjoyed the ice cream.
The outhouse was almost finished when I started to work on it, so I had that three-hole’er done in a day and a half. I received my pay and caught the train to Marvin and Nina’s. Albert had left the day before, hitching the Canadian Highway back to the States. The following day, I tried to hitch to Anchorage airport, standing at the outskirts of tiny Talkeetna. I waited, and waited, and waited. Not a single car left town all day.
Discouraged, I walked to the inn for a meal. There was a small plane parked outside. When I inquired about it, I was directed to the pilot, who was sitting at a table in the corner.
“I understand that’s your plane out there. Do you fly to Anchorage?”
“For a price, I fly anywhere you want to go,” he said.
“How much to take me and my dog to Anchorage?”
“I actually need to pick some things up down there. I could take you for fifty-five bucks. Won’t leave until morning though.”
“You’ve got a couple of passengers. What time should we be ready?”
“Be here at eight.” We shook on it.
After eating, I walked to a large meadow behind the Quonset hut and rolled out my sleeping bag. In the middle of the night there was some commotion. Charlie growled. I calmed her, but she remained alert. In the morning, Mike at the inn told me, “A bear was trying to break into the Quonset hut last night.”
* * * * *
The pilot used the road as his runway, and the scenic flight to Anchorage was a thrill. The small plane bounced around but performed well and deposited us at the Anchorage Airport in one piece. I bought a ticket for a flight to San Francisco, fetched the dog crate from storage, and counseled Charlie about the adventure awaiting her.
In San Francisco, Charlie let me know in no uncertain terms, “How the hell could you do that to me again?”
I had enough money left to rent a car, which was another first for me. I put the dog crate in the back seat and Charlie in the front, then drove to the Hill’s house in Davis.
It was great to see Rosie, and she seemed pleased as well. I crashed on the couch, bushed but grateful —and encouraged by the presence of the woman who had dominated my thoughts and dreams for nearly a month.
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