Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 16b, November 1969
I was about to fetch refreshments for everyone when Nancy yelled, “Sergei! No!”
We looked over and saw Sergei and Charlie racing after Albert’s black and white rabbit among a group of stunted oaks. “Sergei!”
The rabbit was weaving in and out, with the dogs chasing behind. “Charlie!”
Then the rabbit was heading this way and that with two dogs and four stoned freaks following in its wake—running circles, dodging trees, and avoiding each other in our unruly pursuit.
“Sergei!” “Charlie!” “Sergei!”
That agile rabbit kept zigging and zagging and looping and zipping at incredible speeds. Now it’s hard to describe the level of confusion that can be generated when your mind is supped-up on hallucinogenic chemicals and a hare-induced, chaotic crisis like this one is swirling around you.
So I stopped in my tracks to get my bearings. It was a miracle there were no fatal collisions. The rabbit ran by me, and I could see she wasn’t really at full speed. She kept her distance from the hounds and seemed to be enjoying the game. More fun than being caged up, I bet.
Now, every old farm has a pile of rusty bed-springs somewhere on the property. Our pile of four bed-springs was stacked against one of the oaks we'd been galloping around. The silly rabbit leading this dance was ready for a rest, so she slipped under the bottom bed-spring. Confident that she was in a safe place, she sat there completely visible while scratching her ear with her hind-foot.
The thundering herd of dogs and stoners came to a halt.
“Guys, this rabbit has things under control,” I said. “We don’t have to worry. The dogs can’t touch her there.”
Albert found a small hole in the rabbit hutch and mended it with a piece of baling wire. Charlie stayed glued near the rabbit, and Sergei was soon stowed in Nancy’s car because he started chasing chickens. As darkness set in, we moved inside, and I passed around a package of cookies and a jug of wine.
Albert was tinkering with something in his room, so I went in to see what he was up to. He looked at me and said, “I picked up this old tape deck and some tapes from my folk’s house in Sacramento. I stopped using it a long time ago because it overheated, but I figured out how to make it work.”
“What’s your plan?”
“I’m going to hang an electric fan underneath to keep it cool.”
I looked at the tape deck hanging from the ceiling on four strands of baling wire. “Mr. Wizard rides again.”
Just then, a car drove up, so I stepped out on the porch to see who had arrived. It was Ray and Julie. They had come out to check on their horses. I invited them inside and introduced them to Hal and Nancy. Albert, absorbed in his project, waved from his room. Hal began talking to Ray—and Nancy and Julie started their own conversation. While they were chatting, I fetched a lid of grass and rolled a joint for the newcomers.
I lit it up and handed it to Julie, who took a drag and passed it on. When the joint had made the circle, I brought it into Albert’s room. He took a toke as I admired his work. The tape deck hung from the ceiling at eye level with the horizontal fan hanging below it, blowing upward. Both were plugged into sockets on the wall.
Albert held up a cassette and spoke with smoke dribbling from his mouth. “I never labeled any of these, so I don’t remember what I have on this.” He inserted the cassette and pushed a button. We waited ... and I was stoked to hear Ricky Nelson’s smooth voice singing “Travelin’ Man.” It was amazing the difference the music made. That funky fifties stuff was perfect for our scene.
I stepped outside to piss, and as I drained my bladder, I noticed Charlie. Her eyes were glued to that rabbit, still sitting under the bed-springs. She must have been standing in that position for two hours. Hal came out of the house and joined me in my watering ritual.
“Man. You almost gave me a heart attack when you brought out that grass. Those guys look so straight. I never imagined they did dope.”
“Yeah, they’re cool, man.”
“Ray’s a kick. We had a great conversation. He’s stationed at Travis. You remember when we got busted there protesting?”
“I’ll never forget it. That was a trip.”
“I wonder whatever happened to that poor schmuck they sent to Nam.”
“Hopefully, he made it out alive. We were lucky to escape that shit.”
“You’re not kidding. My friend Peter came back all fucked up. He can barely cope. He’s strung out on crack now.”
“That’s heavy. War is such a damn bummer.”
Hal finished his business and went back inside. I walked over to where Charlie was frozen in place and crouched on the ground beside her. She looked like electrical energy was coursing down her back in the direction of that darn rabbit. Her hunting instincts had her under their spell. I sat there, but she paid me no mind.
I wondered how long she would stand rigid like that. My father once lost his hunting dog for eight hours. The dog had been on point with a pheasant the entire time, which left him too stiff to walk. My dad had to give him a rubdown so he could make it back to the car.
In a convincing tone, I said, “Charlie, that rabbit is our friend. These rabbits are going to live with us. We don’t want to hurt the rabbits.” I could tell she was listening because her ears quivered, but it didn’t change her position or her behavior.
Our cat, Fred, and Charlie had become great friends. So I tried another tactic. I changed my tone and said in a disbelieving voice, “Charlie, you wouldn’t eat Fred, would you?” Charlie thought for a moment... and then fell on her butt in a sitting position. She was now relaxed, simply observing the rabbit.
Wow! My mind was blown, and my heart was filled with affection as I stroked her soft fur. “Now you get it, girl. Good girl! These silly rabbits are our new friends.”
Bursting with pride, I headed back to the house thinking Charlie was the smartest dog that ever lived.
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