Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 21, March 1970
One morning, Randy, another of our hippie neighbors, showed up with a paper bag. “Hey, Albert, I got them.”
“Right on, man. I’m ready to soar.”
Randy reached into the bag and pulled out a few greenish-brown objects. He noticed my puzzled look and explained, “They’re peyote buttons. I have enough if you want to join us.”
“Hell, yes! I’ve wanted to try peyote since I read the Don Juan books!”
Randy handed me a button. “It’s best to burn off the fuzz so you don’t get too sick. Sometimes it helps, but people usually throw up anyway.” He pulled out a lighter and rolled a button over the flame. He singed a few more, then held one out and said, “Cheers!”
We chewed on the tough, sour fruits and then took a walk through the oaks. When we returned, we were toasted. Randy said, “There's a ball game at Carol West’s place. She has a makeshift diamond in a backfield. Shall we go see what’s up?”
Albert looked really stoned. “Sure, man.”
I went inside and fetched my Kool-Aid flask, a pocket-sized pint whiskey bottle filled with sweet liquid. The flavor of the day was lime.
Twenty minutes later, we pulled into Carol’s front yard and walked towards a distant field. There were a dozen hippies, both guys and gals, playing ball. The bases were marked with extra baseball mitts, and the backstop was a crude chicken-wire affair.
James’s brother Roy was at bat, posing with a ball cap perched sideways on his head. James taunted him from first base with “Hey, batter, batter, batter. Swing, batter, batter, batter.” We stood off in left field watching the amusing spectacle.
Then Freddie shouted, “Hey, guys, come on! We can use a few more players.”
Being as ripped as I was, the thought of getting involved with all that action was overwhelming. “I don’t know, man. Maybe in a while.” I turned and walked off through a grove of trees. Albert and Randy must have felt the same because they followed along behind me. We walked to a cliff overlooking the county highway fifty feet below.
As I sat with my legs hanging over the edge of the seventy-degree slope, the guys plunked themselves down on either side. The view was magnificent. To the right, we could see the oak forest on the northern edges of the Hays’ place, with Putnam Peak in the background. Straight ahead we had a view of the tops of orchards all the way to Winters.
“No way I could handle a ball game right now,” I confessed. “I’m really zonked.” Pulling out my Kool-Aid flask, I took a slug of the sweet green liquid and passed it around.
Randy agreed. “I’m so fucked up I can hardly walk.” His voice sounded like he was speaking inside a soup kettle.
Suddenly, we heard music in the distance. From around a curve, a blue and white ’56 Ford convertible with the top down came into view. Behind it trailed a white and tan two-horse trailer. The driver wore a brown cowboy hat and we heard a Patsy Cline song blaring from his radio. She was singing one of my favorites: Crazy.
The tune started out faint, then rose in volume as the convertible approached. Patsy's ruby-throated voice was intoxicating. As the vehicle passed, the sounds faded off in the distance.
It’s great how the simplest little thing can make the world seem so perfect.
We sat in silence soaking in the sunshine and tranquility until a small black-and-white-striped, fluffy-tailed dog strolled up, below where our feet were hanging. Charlie was right behind, sniffing the dog’s butt. The pup disappeared into a small hole between my feet.
Black and white? Fluffy tail? Striped? “SKUNK!” I shouted.
We jumped to our feet and ran, with Charlie trailing behind us. After fifty yards, we stopped, hearts pounding. We sniffed the air and our bodies.
Randy sighed. “Wow. We didn’t get sprayed.”
“Whew. I can’t believe that skunk wasn’t threatened by Charlie. I guess it pays to have a mellow dog.” I reached for my Kool-Aid flask to soak my dry mouth. “Oh shit! I don’t have my flask. I left it where we were sitting.”
“Damn! What are you going to do?” Albert asked.
“I’ve got to go back. Oh, man. This is going to be tricky.”
“We’ll wait for you here.”
“Thanks, guys.” Was there a hint of sarcasm in my voice? My mouth was as dry as day-old toast. “Charlie, you stay here too.” Gathering my confidence, I trudged through the trees toward the cliff. I told myself, “OK. This skunk wasn’t threatened. Just go back and grab the flask.”
Slowly and quietly I crept through the field. From twenty feet away, I could see the green flask at the edge of the cliff and there was no sign of my stinky friend beyond the edge.
I crouched low, heart pounding, edging my way closer with an outstretched arm. The last few yards were intense, but I grabbed the flask and sprinted out of spray range. A wave of relief washed over me. A second wave followed when I quenched my thirst. With enough excitement for one day, we returned to the Hays’ place.
In the early evening, head still buzzing, the urge hit me to visit Gina. I drove my faithful truck, Evergreen, to Davis only to find out she wasn’t home. As usual, my luck with this woman was crap—some things just never change.
On the way home, I was singing the blues along with Ray Charles as he crooned the lyrics to Ruby over the radio waves. And damn if it didn't seem that Evergreen's engine was rumbling along to the music—and that we sang in the same key.
What a pleasant surprise!
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