Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 30, July 1970
We drove to Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas—where Rosie’s friend was vacationing with her folks—stayed two nights, and then headed north. My muffler pipe blew a hole, making my pickup sound like a semi-truck. A cut-up soup can wrapped around the pipe and secured with baling wire took care of the problem. No sensible hippie wants to attract unwanted attention in the great state of Texas.
I had a dream of learning the boot making trade since I discovered they used to construct them to last a lifetime. In Amarillo, I stopped at a bootmaker’s and told the owner, "I'd like to learn how to craft quality boots. Any chance of you taking on an apprentice?" He thought a minute, before saying in a strong Texas drawl, "You'd have to work with me for two years, and I couldn't pay you anything."
I stepped outside and leaned against a hitching rail, looking at the deserted dirt street. Texas is where you go to find a good bootmaker, but it's no place for a respectable hippie. It didn't take long to decide that I wouldn't be happy spending years in this isolated, red-neck infested town.
So long, Amarillo.
We found a campground near Los Alamos, New Mexico. Sitting in the camper, I added up our funds. “Twelve dollars and fifty-seven cents! Hey, babe, we’ll never make it back to the West Coast on that. We need to earn some money. I doubt if I can find any work in this desolate place. There are people in the campground. I wonder if there's something people would pay us to do.”
She teased, “I can always sell my body.”
Then, I eyed a God’s eye hanging on the bookcase. Rosie had taken two straight sticks about eight inches long, crossed them at the center, and wove different-colored yarn concentrically outward to fashion the attractive piece. She had told me it was a spiritual object from south of the border that was supposed to protect your home.
“Do you think people would buy one of those?” I mused.
“They're easy to make and I have plenty of crochet yarn left. Problem is finding sticks in this desert.”
I thought for a moment. “I’ve got just the thing—tons of baling wire. Hang on, I’ll grab some.” I hopped out of the truck and unwound a length of baling wire from the post near the taillight. Then I pulled my tool kit from behind the front seat and sat on the tailgate. Rosie plopped down next to me with an interested expression. I cut two six-inch lengths with wire cutters, straightened them with pliers, and handed them to Rosie. “Can you use these?”
“No reason I can’t.” She disappeared into the camper and returned with several colors of yarn. As she started to work, I observed and copied her actions with my own set of wires, using different colors of yarn. It was quite easy, and twenty minutes later we were both finished with our pieces. We crafted several more, all different in size and design, and decided to price them from three to ten dollars.
Around suppertime, when the campground was full, we wandered from campsite to campsite with the familiar line, “We are trying to work our way back home to California. Would you like to buy a God’s eye?”
Most of the tourists admired our handiwork and wanted to help. We were excited and encouraged as we counted out eighteen dollars. After another bout of production and another dinner tour, we earned another nine bucks. Feeling flush, we drove to Aspen, with short stops in Santa Fe and Taos.
In Aspen, we picked up more yarn. Difficult Campground was three times larger than the site in New Mexico with frequent tourist turnover. Before long, we had plenty of money for our travels.
“I can’t do this anymore. I can’t tell people we’re trying to earn enough to make it home now that we have more than we need. It feels too much like lying,” I confessed to Rosie.
Rosie agreed. “It doesn’t feel right, does it? Only one thing to do.”
Her eyes sparkled as she said, “Retire, dear.”
So the God’s-eye factory was shuttered—and we went for a long walk in the woods.
I missed my former pony, Geronimo and often wondered if he’d found a good home—so I stopped by to see Dusty, the man who had helped Mitch and I sell our horses. . “Oh yeah, I remember that buckskin. I sold him to Hank Griffon. He told me a while back that the gilding took over the herd. A real macho-man. They’re up in a pasture not far from here.”
Following Dusty’s directions, Rosie and I found Geronimo grazing in a grassy field among a dozen other horses.
“Hey, Geronimo, how're you doing?” Geronimo looked up and stared our way for thirty seconds. Then he walked over and he and my dog, Charlie, touched noses through the fence.
“Good to see you, boy. It looks like you're doing all right.” I bent down, pulled some tall grass, and offered it to him. He chomped on the greens as I stroked his neck. It was great to see that he was living the good life.
We cruised along the arrow-straight highway through the flat, hot, dry deserts of Utah and Nevada. In Reno, we stopped at Greg and Jeanette’s place, which, as usual, was filled with marijuana smoke and merriment.
The next day, we cruised down the slopes of the Sierras into the Sacramento Valley. I dropped Rosie off in Davis so she could hang out with her family, and finally rolled down the bumpy, dusty drive of the Hays’ place.
Home at last!
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