Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 16a, November 1969
Out front, there were two rickety rabbit hutches leaning up against the barbed-wire fence that surrounded the yard. They were no more than rough wooden frames on legs, with rusty chicken wire wrapped around the upper part. Each had a door hinged with baling wire on top. All they needed were bunnies. And one day, Albert came home with two of them, one tan and one black and white. “I decided to raise rabbits. They’re supposed to be good eating.
“Do you have a boy and a girl there?”
“Yep. The black and white one is the chick. We should have about a million of them by next week.”
He placed the bunnies in one of the hutches, which put Charlie on full alert. When we lived on Road 97-D, her favorite sport was chasing jackrabbits with her friend Arlo. She’d never seen a domestic rabbit. I told her to leave them be, but she was as transfixed as a housewife watching her favorite soap on TV.
Hal and Nancy, who now lived in the town of Winters, arrived with Nancy’s dog, Sergei, a Russian wolfhound. Thin, lanky, and nervous, he never stopped pacing. I found it funny that Sergei had pent-up energy similar to what I sensed in Nancy. After a few minutes, Hal made a confession. “We took some mescaline about an hour ago. We thought it would be groovy to hang out in the country while we were tripping.”
“That’s cool. You’re welcome to spend time here as long as you want.”
“Hey, Albert! James laid a couple of hits of acid on me. Shall we get silly with these people?”
“You bet. I haven’t tripped since Heavy Caverns, like three or four months ago.”
"Same here. That's a long time to have your head screwed on straight.” I fetched the capsules from the secret compartment in my desk, and we took the plunge.
Then the four of us went for a walk. Hal noticed that the cow skull fastened to my front bumper was no longer there. “What happened to that cow-bone hood ornament you had?”
“Oh, man, that was a trip. I was in Berkeley, and Lil needed a ride to a draft-dodger trial in San Francisco. I was driving in the city, and I pulled up behind a huge delivery truck that was stopped at a light. The rear bumper of the truck stuck out further than I estimated and I rolled into it going about no miles per hour. I just barely bumped it, but it was enough to cause that cow skull to burst into a huge cloud of dust—a total white-out.” The thought of it made me grin.
“It hit me as so funny that I just started laughing. When the truck driver came back to inspect his bumper, I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to say a word. There was no damage, and he didn’t know what to make of me, so he got back in his truck and split. You couldn’t believe the explosion.”
Hal cracked up. “That’s crazy. Nan, you should tell them what happened to you the last time you went to Berkeley.”
Nancy took on a serious look. “Oh, wow! You won’t believe this. I was standing at the end of University Avenue with my thumb out, trying to catch a ride back to Davis. This guy pulled over and I jumped in. I shut the door before realizing that there was no door or window handle on the inside. That raised alarms right away, but the guy had already pulled onto the Freeway. He asked, ‘Where are you heading?’ I said, ‘Back to Davis. I go to school there.’ ‘OK,’ was all he said. I had this creepy feeling, and when he turned off at the Pinole Exit, I knew I was in trouble.”
“Shit. Did you ask him to let you out?” I asked.
“Yeah, but he didn’t respond. He just looked straight ahead. He was really freaking me out. You know that’s a desolate area, and he kept driving for maybe ten miles until he pulled off onto a dirt road and parked.”
“Oh shit!” This doesn’t sound good.
“Holy fuck!” Albert's face held an intense expression.
Nancy continued her story. “Yeah. I didn’t know if I was going to get out of this alive. I told the guy, ‘If you want my body, you can have it. Just don’t hurt me.’ He said he didn’t want to hurt me, and we talked for a while, and finally, he apologized and said he’d drive me to Davis.
He was just a really lonely guy and perhaps a little sick too. But we talked all the way to Davis, and when we got to the house I asked if he wanted to come in for some tea. He followed me to the door. When I opened the door, I called Hal’s name. The guy turned and ran back to his car, then peeled out of there. I just wanted to see if Hal was home and wanted to join us.”
“Heavy duty, lady.” I was glad she was all right. “Man, you must have learned some things in your psychology classes.”
“It was really scary, but it turned out good in the end.”
Albert and I were starting to get a buzz, and Hal and Nancy were already there. As we walked, I told Hal and Nancy about my new job. “I’m a farm laborer, pruning apricot trees at Peaceful Meadows Ranch.”
Nancy said, “Putting your college education to work I see.”
“You bet. Most of the orchard workers I toil with are Mexican migrants. I set up an orchard ladder and prune all the limbs within reach, then I climb down and reset the ladder. When I’m finished with a tree, I move on to the next.
“So a couple of days ago, I went out with a pruning crew of about a dozen guys. We’d been working for several hours when I stepped down to the ground. I started to pick up the ladder when I looked around and realized I was all by myself. There were plenty of ladders, but no one with them. I couldn’t figure out where everyone had disappeared to. It was like in the Twilight Zone.” I paused to do my Twilight Zone interpretation: “‘Duh-Dah-Duh-Dah! Duh-Dah-Duh-Dah!’ It was really weird.
“Then I stooped down so I could see below the branches, farther out into the orchard. I still couldn’t see a soul. But then I noticed a Border Patrol car parked beside the road. I was laughing so hard I could barely talk to the officers when they arrived to ask where everybody was.”
We all had a good laugh. It was late in the afternoon when we made it back to the house. We were already zonked by then and not at all prepared for the excitement to come.
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