Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 42, November 1971 - February 1972
IN THE END, ONLY THREE THINGS MATTER:
HOW MUCH YOU LOVED, HOW GENTLY YOU LIVED,
AND HOW GRACEFULLY YOU LET GO OF THINGS NOT MEANT FOR YOU.
Back in Quincy, winter had set in and I loved taking evening walks with Charlie along the snow-covered streets that wove throughout the quaint neighborhoods. As the frozen snow crunched under my feet, lighted windows behind groupings of icicles revealed cozy family dinners and the soft blue glow of televisions. These treks became the highlight of my solitary days.
I first laid eyes on Jodi at a potluck in the woods near the town of Meadow Valley. To call it a town was generous. It consisted of scattered forest dwellings on the road to Bucks Lake. Paul and Mary had invited me to tag along on an unusually warm, sunny day.
The festivities took place amongst pines and spruces, near a cabin inhabited by a full-bearded longhair named Isaac. While Isaac’s goats protested from their pen, ten hippies and one small child gathered around a crude wooden picnic table. The feast included brown rice, squash casserole, salads, beets, green beans, apple pies, and, oh well ... goat’s milk (not my favorite!).
Joints were passed, beers were popped, and everyone was jovial and digging in. That is, everyone except for one tall slender woman with long brown hair. Her soft, pale, face was plain but appealing, and her long, delicate blue dress covered her shoes. Wearing a serious expression, this woman wandered around, helping here and there. Someone would say “Pass the rice,” and her outstretched arm would appear between merrymakers to snatch a dish and deliver it to the person requesting it. She was constantly passing a plate, tidying up, or hovering silently in the background.
Immersed in the revelry and focused on a myriad of delightful flavors, I was barely aware of her presence. But as time went on, I realized that she never sat down and didn’t eat anything. Considering the abundance of delicacies, it struck me as unusual. And the entire time, I never heard her utter a word.
There was something about this mysterious woman that stuck with me. As we drove back toward Quincy, I wondered about her.
Paul said, “Damn, that was good grub! I’m so stuffed I can barely fit behind the wheel.”
Mary clapped her hands together in a childlike gesture. “That apple pie was to die for.”
I agreed. “You said it. Notoriously yummy for sure! Hey, what was that lady’s trip?”
Paul glanced back towards me from the driver’s seat. “What lady?”
"That thin woman who never sat down. I don’t think she ate a bite the whole time.”
“Oh, that’s Jodi. She’s a religious nut, but quite a nice person. Today’s Sunday. She goes on a food and speech fast every Sunday.”
“Why come to a feast when you’re fasting? That’s got to be tough with all those temptations.”
Mary said, “She’s really very pleasant. Just a bit different. She lives in that log cabin over there.” As we drove by, she pointed to a small rustic cabin with an open woodshed alongside it.
It made me think of a lame religious joke. “Hey, you know how much a nun gets?”
Mary said, “Huh? Uh ... no.”
“None!” I chuckled.
I thought about Jodi for a few days, fascinated by her behavior and her discipline, until she faded from my mind. I’d forgotten about her until late January when her name came up again. I was in the big house, gabbing with Paul and Mary, soaking in the warmth from their blazing fireplace. Paul said, “I heard that Jodi’s pump broke on her well and she has to fetch water from that creek down behind her cabin.”
Mary said, “That’s a long way to carry buckets of water.”
Paul continued, “But wait, get this. With her shower out of commission, she walks through the snow every morning and takes a bath in the freaking, freezing stream to keep her body clean for the Lord. She’s gotta be fucking crazy!“
Mary’s eyes were wide. "You’re kidding, right?”
Paul held his hands out, palms up. “It’s the truth,” he said. “I bumped into Isaac at the hardware store and he told me about it.”
I scratched my head. “Sounds radical. I've heard of Jesus freaks but that takes the cake."
Paul added, “More than that. She’s into Krishna too.”
I watched an explosion of sparks in the fireplace and said, “I’ve seen Krishna freaks in Berkeley. They take freakishness to another level. I mean, damn, they’re freaks-and-a-half, man! She doesn’t look like the ones I saw.”
Mary said, “That’s not all. She’s into Yogananda too.”
Paul explained, “Yogananda. He’s like a yogi guy. You know, a pretzel man. I also heard she thinks her ex-old-man was Krishna himself. The blue guy. Seems a bit nutty to me.”
Mary stared at Paul with a perturbed look and said, “She’s a really nice lady. She’s a devotional freak is all. Into all those guys—Jesus, Krishna, and Yogananda.”
I didn’t know what to think. “Wow, that’s different.”
“Tell me,” Paul said, shaking his head. “But as Mary attested, she’s a good lady. But wading through the snow every day to jump in the stream?”
“She doesn’t have a bath or shower?” I asked.
“Like I said, her pump froze up. Got no water in the house.”
My reaction was “Damn! Jeeze, that’s a good way to get your ass froze off!”
On my nightly walk with Charlie, I couldn’t get the image of that woman bathing in an icy stream out of my head. She seemed like a fine person, and it was a shame that she was in a pinch. “Someone should help her, Charlie! Maybe we'll take a ride up to her place tomorrow?”
The following morning, I drove to Meadow Valley to look at the lady’s water pump. I didn’t know if I could help but I thought I'd give it a try. Her house was easy to spot—on a corner where a logging road branched off.
I wasn’t sure how she'd react to a stranger showing up but I parked in front of her shed, which was half full of cordwood. I figured she was home because smoke was streaming from her stovepipe. A bit apprehensive, I knocked on her door.
After a few moments, the door opened. Jodi appeared wearing the same long blue dress she wore at the potluck. She looked at me with a puzzled look. “Hello?” The pretty little girl I remembered from the potluck peeked around her, clinging to her legs.
From Jodi’s reaction, I assumed she didn’t have many visitors. “Hi, I’m Rich. We kind of met at Isaac’s potluck. Paul said your pump was broken and I thought I might be able to help. Would you like me to take a look? I’m not a super mechanic or anything but maybe it’s something simple.”
She looked me over for a moment and then said, “Oh, uh ... yeah. That would be nice of you. Wait for a second while I grab my coat.”
She ducked inside for a few minutes and reappeared buttoning a blue coat. Her daughter followed her out, bundled up in a puffy, faded green parka, a few sizes too large for her.
“This is Hanna. Hanna this is Mr. … er …”
“Rich. Hi, Hanna. And that’s Charlie.”
The little girl looked at my dog and then back at me as if I had two noses or something. Jodi said, “The well is back around here.” She led me past the house to a small shed at the back of her property. The shack was used for storage and was built over her well. Some broken boards provided a view of the water far below. The pump stood alone in one corner of the shed. It didn't take long to determine the problem since a noticeable crack was apparent in a part of the housing.
I retrieved some tools from my truck and removed the damaged part. Then I drove Jodi and Hanna down to the hardware store in Quincy. After consulting with the clerk, I realized we’d have to go all the way to Oroville to get the part. I drove back to Meadow Valley where we made plans for an early start the following morning.
I spent the whole next day with Jodi and Hanna, driving down to the valley and back. Jodi purchased the part and I was able to play the hero by restoring water to her house. I was rewarded with a beautiful, home-cooked meal when the task was done.
We said good-bye, but something was going on. I felt a weird sensation, a strange attraction, which created a conflict that turned into a battle deep inside my head. I’ve considered myself to be a rational being—never into religion or any other kind of spiritual stuff. This lady, keen on Jesus, Krishna, and Yoga-whoever, was the embodiment of all that crap! I was more of a Mr. Natural per Zap Comix type of guy.
A perfect match, right?
I liked kids okay, and her daughter Hanna was cute and sweet as far as children go. But children were definitely not my bag! So why in the hell was I entertaining thoughts about this lady? What the hell was going on here?
Several days after, Hal loaned me his motorcycle, a sleek-looking Harley Sportster with a deep blue tank. I hopped on and rode off toward Bucks Lake. Against my better judgment, I stopped at Jodi's and asked if she wanted to go for a ride. She left Hanna with a neighbor and we rode up the road as far as we could, until snow covered the highway.
It was fun, and it felt good to have her arms around my belly. I tried to laugh it off, but the following day there was that strange sensation again. Call it a pull from my heart—a pull I had no interest in entertaining!
The struggle continued. A week later, I found myself possessed. I drove begrudgingly up the hill towards Meadow Valley, cursing and swearing at myself. Halfway there, I pulled my truck to the side of the road. Charlie stared out the window as I paced back and forth, talking out loud to myself and several hundred uninterested evergreens.
“What the hell are you doing? This can’t turn out good. She’s a Jesus freak, for God’s sake. I mean, like, she’s into the blue guy too. Hairy Krishna, man! Give me a fucking break! Just go back down the hill. You’re not ready for daddy-hood, damn it. Go home, man. Be smart. Shit!”
I kicked a large rock down the road and got back into my truck with a sore toe and a bruised ego. I sat there for a long time. Then, like a conflicted fool, I drove on. I hated what was happening. But I couldn’t fight the invisible magnet bent on my destruction. The hook was deep, and the pull was strong. There was no doubt in my mind that I'd gone completely nuts.
A few more visits occurred, and before I knew it, I was deeply immersed in the strangest relationship of my life. Even the consummation of our affair proved wacky.
For over a year, Sam and Lil had threatened revenge for a Halloween night at the Hays’ place. When I’d called to invite them to the party, Lil had asked me if they should wear costumes. I replied, “Sure.” Whatever turns you on, right? Well, they showed up in costumes: Lil wore construction worker clothes, Sam and Jason dressed as an Army guy and a sailor, and Jack was in drag, caked with lipstick for God’s sake. They all felt like sore thumbs, especially the ones in uniforms, among a bunch of rebellious freaks who had never even considered costumes.
Of course, they never believed it was an innocent mistake. Sam and Lil took it as a premeditated prank. Too often, one of them would warn me that they would find their retribution. Lil said on multiple occasions, her eyes reduced to slivers and her voice altered to a frightening tone, “Just wait, Richard. One day when you least expect it, we will get you. Better watch your back, son!”
In early February, after one of Jodi's tasty dinners, she put Hanna to bed in the back bedroom. One thing led to another, and we ended up in the unused cubicle next to the living room. The only items in the space were a plug-in heater and a thin mattress on the floor with sheets and a blanket. The passion was rising, and just as we were in the heat of it, we heard an off-key crowd singing Jingle Bells from the front porch, which was only a few feet away through the thin exterior wall. I recognized the voices behind this crude rendition of ridiculously late holiday joy.
Needless to say, a romantic moment was shattered!
And if that wasn’t enough, we woke up in the middle of the night with flames sprouting from the bed covers. The blanket had wandered too close to the electric heater. The fire was easily tamped out, but how many signs did it take for a man to walk—no, run at full speed—away from this dilemma.
But before I knew it, we were a couple, my trailer was parked next to her shed, and oh my golly, I was playing daddy.
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