Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 40B, August 1971
After three long days in that Idaho hospital, I was grateful to see Rosie, who had brought our neighbor, David, along to share with the driving. The next morning, three orderlies wheeled me to my camper and loaded me into the back.
We stopped at the accident site, where I was amazed to find five craters that the bouncing bike left behind before it came to a halt. A second look at that corrugated drainage pipe reminded me of how damn lucky I'd been.
That was when Rosie told me about the mischief Lonnie had whipped up the night before. “It seems the pastor of this born-again church had taken an interest in you and Lonnie. While you were in the hospital, Lonnie didn't have a place to stay so the pastor said he could sleep in the church. When David and I arrived in your truck, I met the minister. He was a nice earnest type and he said we could park in the church lot. David would be able to stay inside with Lonnie and I could sleep in the truck.
“Well, Lonnie went out and bought a bottle of booze and that evening we indulged. Then he explored the church and found a large pool of water under the floor near the pulpit. So we undressed and jumped in, splashing about and drinking more until we emptied the bottle. We all passed out on the church benches—articles of clothing and splashed water everywhere. I woke up at 4 am, gathered my clothes, and dragged myself out to your truck.
“The pastor arrived in the morning and was sorely disappointed by the sight that greeted him! When I got up, he came out to talk to me. I pretended to be as disappointed as he was. I told him I’d gone to bed early and had no idea what had happened. Boys can be so naughty—you know?”
In Quincy, my routine involved the help of friends. Each morning, I scooted myself onto a padded board. They carried me to a lounge chair under the pines and firs, where I would spend another endless day. A reverse trip occurred every evening. I was bored and frustrated but worked on our homesteader’s book when I could get it together. I’d always been fiercely independent, so relying on others for the simplest things was a total bummer. I also didn’t like having to put Rosie through the chamber-pot shit. No pun intended.
The days didn't pass fast enough, and while I tried to be positive, it was a challenge. There were a few times when the sun’s position changed, leaving me to cook with no one around. Helpless to move, I fried inside and out. Something was changing with Rosie as well. I sensed a distance between us and I felt my infirmity had something to do with it.
I couldn’t wait to get back on my feet. The first time I tried crutches, my good leg buckled because, after a month, my brain had forgotten the basics. I finally got the hang of it, and though I was far from running, being able to move on my own was a taste of freedom. After one more month using crutches, I was back to normal. And I was proud to have survived a bike trip with Lonnie Nuttkake. What are the chances of that?
Now that I was on my feet and Mable had returned from Kentucky, it was time to re-position my trailer. Some friends of Sam's, Paul and Mary, had rented the old Gansner house near Quincy, a big Victorian built in 1868, with half a dozen ancient sheds behind it.
It required six-months of cutting, hauling, and storing enough wood to heat the enormous house for an entire Sierra winter. Sam and I had helped Paul on a few of his wood-cutting expeditions in the past. Now, Paul reciprocated by offering to let us park our trailer behind the house with the use of their bathroom whenever we needed it. So we hitched up the dwelling and hauled it to our new home-site.
I owed the hospital in Mountain Home $350, and they weren’t about to let me forget it. At least once a week, a rude, threatening letter arrived. I believed in paying my bills and told them I would when I got back on my feet, but the hate mail kept coming. Meanwhile, Hal and Russ had moved to Quincy to work in one of the lumber mills. When I was off my crutches, Hal helped me procure a job at the mill—where I went from one dangerous encounter to another.
I was told to stand by a shallow trough with a noisy conveyor that guided lumber leftovers towards a chipper. All day long, small and large pieces of wood would fall from the mill above. Sometimes the moving conveyor belt would hurl pieces of wood out of the trough in random directions.
My job was to keep things moving when a jam would occur, put hurling chunks of lumber back onto the belt, and try not to get killed by flying debris. The foreman told me about some of the unfortunate folks who had previously held this position. There were the people who had been speared by sharp lumber scraps. And one employee who disappeared. They later found a grisly patch of red color in their mountain of wood chips out back.
I worked at the mill for a few months, skirting several close calls. When I’d saved enough to pay my medical bill plus a little to put aside, I bid the mill farewell with all my limbs intact.
Now to attend to the heart. Could Rosie and I preserve our relationship?
To be continued...
Watch for the next installment of my true-life adventures from the ’60s. To receive chapters delivered directly to your email box, sign up here. All released episodes of Trippin’ are available here.
If you haven’t already 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.
“If you enjoy what you read, please share it with your friends!”
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