Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 33, October 1970
On Halloween, we pushed ten hay bales out of the loft and placed them around the fire pit for seating. We had plenty of Red Mountain wine, Albert’s killer white lightning, and a lid of weed “to create the proper party atmosphere,” as Albert put it. We were ready to party hearty.
The first to arrive was the Quincy contingent. Sam showed up in a soldier’s uniform. Lil was decked out as a construction worker. Jason wore a navy sailor suit. And Jack was in his electric wheelchair in drag. He was quite a sight with lipstick, purse, dress, and wig
A few minutes after they arrived, we had a surprise visit from Buck Hays. We met him in the drive so he wouldn't see that we were using his hay bales. Meanwhile, Jack was doing circles in his wheelchair, waving his purse in the air behind us.
Buck, not exactly knowing how to deal with this circus, pretended my friends didn’t exist. He gave a perturbed look, shook his head, and focused on the purpose of his visit and his can of Olympia Beer.
It was hilarious, but I managed to keep a straight face.
"I need you guys to come down to where we feed the cattle,” Buck said. “I have a chore for you.” Albert and I followed Buck. Sam and Lil were curious, so they walked along behind us. Buck’s pickup was parked near the enclosure where hay was stored for his stock. The bed of his truck was filled with large cardboard boxes.
“I got this deal with Frito Lay where I can pick up their stale potato chips for my cattle. I want you guys to open the bags and pour the chips out on the ground.”
We joined Buck as he unloaded the boxes. Then he opened a dog-eared box, reached in, and pulled out three tiny vending-machine-sized bags of BBQ potato chips. He tore the tops off the bags, one after another, and dumped them on the ground. Albert and I dipped into the box and did the same. Sam and Lil stepped up and pitched in.
Once Buck saw that we grasped the picture, he said, “I’ll be picking up a load three times a week. Just put the empty boxes and wrappers in the barn, and I’ll haul them to the dump when we have enough to fill my pickup.” With that, he climbed into his truck and drove away.
We continued with the project for twenty-five minutes without making it through the first of fourteen gigantic boxes. I did some calculations in my head and then turned to Albert.
“Hey, man. It’s taken nearly thirty minutes for four of us to do this one box. That means it will take an hour for the two of us to do a box. There are fourteen boxes here. That’s fourteen hours, three times a week. We’re talking about a forty-two-hour work-week for each of us. I don’t know about you Albert, but that sounds an awful lot like a career.”
“Damn! No way! That’s not happening!”
“You know what I think?”
I threw up my hands. “I think we need to do some serious partying.”
Everyone was in agreement, so we strolled back to the house. Sam lit up a joint and passed it to Jack, while Albert doled out the white lightening. Then he educated his clientele on the combustible aspects of his product.
I opted to pour mine in a yellow cereal bowl shaped like a large teacup—so I wouldn’t need to be bothered with cumbersome refilling. I placed a chair in the sunshine where I could sip my kerosene-flavored beverage while greeting guests as they arrived.
Iris came along with her boyfriend Roy, looked at my over-sized cup, and said, “Whatcha drinking there, Rich?”
“White lightening from Albert’s still. I’m a spiritual person, and he claims it’s 180 proof spirits.”
“I’ll say one thing about you, Rich. When you have a good time, you really have a good time. Don’t go blind on me now.”
I looked in her brilliant blue eyes. “And miss your pretty looks? No way.” Iris, who was love incarnate, always brought a smile to my face.
By dusk, there were more than twenty revelers. I lit the bonfire, and everyone gathered around passing joints and jugs of wine. Only the Quincy crew wore costumes. But late in the evening, one very tall individual appeared, wearing a long wizard’s robe. It turned out to be a couple—the lady on the shoulders of her partner. I never figured out who they were, and when I inquired about them in the following days, no one had any idea what I was talking about.
Sunday morning came late, along with fuzzy heads and a visit from my Quincy friends, who threatened to get back at me for telling them to wear costumes. The two in soldier uniforms felt especially out of place among a gang of hippies. I denied any premeditated intent, but they didn't buy it. They soon took off, leaving just Albert and myself, since Rosie was away with her sister.
It was time to assess the potato-chip situation. As we approached the area, we found what looked like a lake, glistening in the sunlight. It took a moment to register. Those boxes of chips had been replaced by a thirty-foot-wide circle of potato-chip wrappers.
“Oh shit! The cattle tore the boxes apart to get at the chips. What a mess.” I was gripped by a combination of dismay and humor and I started laughing, which proved contagious.
Albert finally gained his composure and said, “My head’s in no place to deal with this right now. Anyway, James and Carlotta invited us for lunch. We should get a move on.” He turned, and I followed him back to the house, before driving off to see our friends.
As we finished a delicious spaghetti dish that Carlotta had whipped up, Freddie burst in, all revved up. “Hey, man. I stopped by to see you and there was some guy who looked like the town drunk sitting at the gate with a shotgun and a six-pack of beer.
“I asked him, ‘What’s happening?’ and he said ‘Buck hired him to keep everyone out. Tell your friends that Buck will meet them here tomorrow night at six. For now, the place is closed up.’”
Albert said, “Give me a break. He must have seen the potato-chip lake. Damn!”
I thought out loud, “Shit! What do we do now?”
We mulled over our situation and James had an idea. “Look, that guy probably won’t stay there all night. We can take all of our trucks, slip over there in the middle of the night, and get your stuff. If he does pull an all-nighter at the gate, we can always come in on foot across the creek and grab the important things.”
I thought about a recent encounter I had had with Buck. “Buck has been getting pretty surly lately, anyway. A few weeks ago he showed up with his perennial Oly can and was being a real ass. I’m tired of his grief.”
Carlotta said, “I’ll cruise by there around ten and see if anyone’s still there. I bet that guy’s gone.”
James added, “We’ll all be ready to slip in and do a quick raid when the coast is clear. If we can get in, we can heap everything on that old flatbed, then pull it out with Freddie’s truck. You guys can put your personal stuff in your campers, and if there's overflow, I’ll have my truck.”
Freddie said, “There’s a little trailer near my house that you can sleep in for a while if you want.”
So the plans were set. Carlotta came back from her reconnaissance mission to report that no one was at the front gate. “I even drove down to the house, and everything is vacant,” she said in a triumphant voice.
James, Carlotta, Iris, Billy, Roy, Hank, Albert and I took off in a caravan of trucks for the Hays’ place. Once we arrived, a beehive of activity began. Albert and I directed the loading operation, while James and Freddie attached the non-running flatbed truck to Freddie’s bumper with a chain.
In less than an hour, the house and storage trailer were bare. Albert even removed the oil-drum fireplace that he had built. Not much was left anywhere, except for a circle of hay bales around a pile of charcoal and that sea of potato-chip wrappers out in the meadow. Saying goodbye to all that, our caravan disappeared into the night.
Boy, I'd hate to see the look on Buck’s face when he shows up tomorrow.
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