Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 31, August 1970
Rosie jammed the last bite of my home-cooked quesadillas into her mouth, “U-m-m, muy bien senior.”
“They are good, aren’t they? I put lots of cayenne in them because I know you like steam coming out of your ears.” I gave her a wink.
“No harm in adding more spice to our lives. Do you like that look on me—the steam and all?”
She was wearing her cut-offs and a bikini top, white with tiny blue polka dots. “It’s definitely a hot look, babe. You’re one steamy chick.”
Rosie picked up our plates and began washing the dishes. “What shall we do today? It’s already sweltering out.”
As if to answer her question, James and Carlotta drove up, their pickup bouncing and jangling to a stop beside the house. We met them outside as their dogs, Daisy and Bo leapt from the truck bed and danced around Charlie and Lucy.
“It was getting hot so we decided to stop by for a swim,” Carlotta announced, sweeping her long hair behind her ears. She wore her stunning Spanish features (olive skin, mysterious eyes, dark hair, tall shapely body) like a princess in Isabella’s court.
Rosie gave her a hug, “It’s so good to see you, lady. I’m ready for a dip. I always keep my birthday suit on under this, just in case.”
James walked to the back of the truck, adjusted one of the straps on his overalls, then hoisted a large wood fruit box. “We come bearing gifts.” He placed the box of English walnuts at the end of the front porch.
Albert came out of the house, “Walnuts, all right. Our supply was running out. Thanks, neighbor.”
Carlotta said, “A house isn’t a home without nuts in it.”
I laughed, “I’m not sure how to take that.”
Winters was truly the land of plenty as far as tree fruits and nuts were concerned. There was a bounty of active and abandoned orchards close by and the abundance was shared generously among our hippie friends. The story I’d heard about the early settlement of the area spoke of a Spaniard with a land grant riding his tall stallion through the valleys of early California looking for the place where the wild oats touched the belly of his horse.
All our homes contained a box of walnuts and almonds, complete with a nutcracker—along with an unwritten rule that if you were a guest plagued with the munchies, you helped yourself to a few nuts whenever you pleased.
The funny thing was that the community dogs also figured this was a swell tradition. It was commonplace to see one of the dogs get up during an evening of visiting, stroll over to the nut box and carry a walnut back to where the pooch had been lounging. After cracking the shell, the dog would work meticulously to extract the nutmeats, a process that could take up to five minutes. The other dogs would follow suit and each would repeat the process until they had devoured two or three walnuts. The piles of shells would be swept out when festivities wound down.
After soaking and chatting for nearly two hours, Albert said, “I have some righteous weed back at the house you guys have to try.” We got out of the water just as Russ and Kelly showed up. As they stripped off their clothes, Russ said, “Man, way too hot in town. I gotta cool off.” He splashed into the water, submerging below the surface. Kelly stepped into the water with a little more finesse, “Are you guys leaving?”
Albert pulled on his jeans, “We’ve been here a while. We’re heading back to the house. See you up there.”
We wandered back toward our home and on the way, I noticed the watering trough was running over at one end and pooling on the ground. One of the cows must have pushed against the toilet float which shut off the water supply at the proper level. I filed a mental note to fix the thing.
At the house, I pulled out the fine china, which we only used on special occasions. Of course, every day was special since we didn’t own many other dishes.
I walked into the kitchen and carefully stacked five cups in my left hand, leaning them against my body for balance, then slipped my right index finger through the glass loop at the top of our gallon jug of Red Mountain wine. RM was one of those rare vintages that cost less by the gallon than most brands did by the pint.
I carried everything to the porch, passed out the cups, and went about filling them.
Rosie grabbed a plate of cookies and Albert went to work rolling a few joints. There was no shortage of hospitality at the Hay’s place.
We sat about jawing and partying for a spell when the need to fix the water trough came to mind. I left the festivities to tend to the chore and after I re-bent the toilet float at the proper angle, I stepped back to admire my work.
Russ appeared behind me coming from the direction of the creek, his wet hair slicked back. He was clad only in his ragged jeans, his left knee peeking out between the shreds like a curious ground squirrel. I noticed his expanding forehead was leaving little doubt who’d win the race to Mt. Baldy.
“Hey Rev, we want you to marry us now.”
A couple of years back, I was ordained as a Universal Life Minister as a possible determent from the draft. Therefore, I was dully authorized to marry and bury—all that power procured for a mere ten bucks.
I turned to face him, “Didn’t you guys put on the shackles in New York?”
“Yeah but that was just a courthouse thing to spite and appease her folks. We want a real wedding.”
“Right now? Where’s Kelly?”
“She’s waiting down at the swimming hole. Here’s the thing—we want it to be a naked, silent ceremony in the creek.”
I shook my head, “You don’t say. Anything else my son?”
“That’s it. Get the others and come on down.” With that, he turned on his heel and hurried off in the direction from which he came.”
I walked back to the house and announced, “Hey guys, put on your Sunday best. We’re going to have a wedding.”
A smile spread across Carlotta’s face, “A wedding?”
“Yep. Russ and Kelly want me to marry them and here’s the kicker—they want it to be, and I quote, ‘a naked, silent wedding in the creek.’”
“When?” James asked, draining his cup of wine.
“Like now.” I climbed the steps and headed into the house.
Rosie got up, “How cool.”
Albert scratched his head, “Holy matrimony, Batman.”
I disappeared into my room to grab a tall stainless-steel goblet I scored at the dump. It had metal vines with leaves circling the stem and the cup, studded with gaudy red, blue, and green glass jewels—perfectly outrageous for the occasion. I filled it with wine and headed for the creek.
Our entourage passed the barn as several chickens scooted out of the way, discharging upset poultry sounds. We hung a left at the chicken house and after walking past the beehives, descended down the steep incline to the creek-bed below.
The dogs took the lead as we worked our way fifty yards upstream to the swimming hole, where we found Russ and Kelly standing naked like two Greek statues in calf-deep water, eyes locked and hands intertwined at their sides. Kelly wore a halo of dandelions in her hair.
The spot they had picked was quiet and serene—a hallowed site.
We lined up on a spit of sand beside the water, where we removed our clothes, placing them in neat piles behind us. I picked up the goblet and waded into the water beside and alongside the bride and groom, handing the wine to Kelly. She took a sip and handed it back. I passed it to Russ who did the same. I took a sip and handed it down the line. When everyone had shared some of the wine I placed one hand on Russ’s shoulder and the other on Kelly’s.
After thirty seconds, I removed my hands, stepped out of the water, picked up my clothes and wandered away with the others following, leaving the newlyweds to enjoy their privacy and the remainder of the wine.
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!
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