|Rik 'n Che: Chasing the Almighty Dollar in the Spring of 1970 Photo: ML Rocha used by permission|
Rik 'n Che on the long, winding road to The Land
When I was a little kid, my vision of glory, my fulfillment of adulthood, was to be the last man standing in the machine gun nest when the enemy stormed the hill. I wanted to excel. I wanted to exceed expectations. I wanted to be the American Hero. I would kill them all.
Nobody ever told me about the Korean War. Not even in school. It was as if it had never happened.
But they never stopped talking about World War II.
I never heard President Eisenhower say this. I was just a little kid. Little kids don't care about big people stuff.
But it doesn't appear that any big people listened to him him, either.
What's the old saying? Money talks, bullshit walks. President Eisenhower walked and the big money took over.
I was watching Pete 'n Gladys with my little sister when President Kennedy got shot. We were horrified. We hadn't been told that that kind of thing could happen in America. We loved President Kennedy. He was handsome. His wife was pretty. He was my hero because he shot rockets into space. Presidents made the world better. That's what Americans did. Why would anybody shoot him? That person must have been a bad, bad man.
They showed the vice president take the presidential oath, standing with the pretty lady who was President Kennedy's wife. They were on an airplane. She looked so sad. My sister and I cried. It was the first time we saw A REAL BAD THING happen.
Then the bad, bad man got shot on TV. They showed it over and over. The guy stuck a gun in his belly and pulled the trigger. He opened his mouth like it really hurt, and tucked in his arms and fell.
"That's what you get, you bad, bad man," I thought. I was glad. He deserved it. He deserved any awful thing.
They caught the man who shot him. I thought they should let him go.
"He was just doing what anybody else would do," I thought. Like John Wayne. John Wayne would have done that. Shot the bad, bad man...
But John Wayne would have shot him from the other side of the street. With a rifle. From the dark.
That's what you did when democracy didn't wok.
It was a beautiful thing.
It always brought a lump to my throat.
It didn't occur to me that that was exactly what Lee Harvey Oswald had done.
I was 13.
I never heard Joan Baez sing.
Well, I did but I never listened. I was into rock and roll. I liked Steppenwolf. The closest I ever got to folk music was Johnny Horton.
And I never heard Dr. Martin Luther King speak. In my home, in the white California neighborhoods where I grew up, a black man leading crowds of black folk and speaking loudly was regarded as a dangerous man. I wasn't sure why. But he was dead before I started thinking about the War. Shot by some redneck in the South.
Sure, it was wrong. But everybody was getting shot down there in the South. I was glad I was in California where my skateboard's wheels were made from crushed walnut shells and the teenie-boppers wore short shorts in the summer time.
The Vietnam War just went on and on and on. All through high school, it was as close as the new color television in the living room but as far away as the other side of the world. Freshman year. Sophomore. Junior. Senior year. I was studying. I was chasing girls. Girls were like magic. But they were hard to catch. Like wildebeasts!
I was building hot rods. Hot rods I could understand. Girls and why the army couldn't win a stupid little war in a backwater jungle - those were mysteries.
And the war itself? That was another mystery. But I was sure it wouldn't affect me. It would be over soon. Christ, it had already been going on longer than World War II. How could we have destroyed Germany and Japan and not be able to pulverize a bunch of evil commies who wanted to collapse the Asian countries like dominoes? That would be terrible. At least, that's what they said on TV.
But it didn't end. It just kept grinding along. One day, in my senior year, something clicked and I realized the Vietnam War was nothing but a jobs program. A meatgrinder. People were getting rich off it. They had found a way to turn helpless human beings into mountains of cash by blowing them up.
We weren't trying to win. The Arsenal of Democracy needed an enemy. We needed Russia and China to send their side more weapons so we could send our side more weapons. Build, sell, buy, send, kill, blow up. Build, sell, buy, send, kill, blow up. Bombs and bullets were like food. You always needed more the next day.
And look at all the people over there. Millions of pissed-off rice farmers clammoring for AK-47s. We could never kill them all. What a deal!
War was big business. Victory was the last thing the Arsenal of Democracy wanted. That would put an end to profit.
That sent a chill through my spine.
Everything was a lie.
The War was going to last forever...
I started listening to the folk singers.
I was 17.
Early in 1970, my Sociology professor pulled me aside and said, "Rik, you'd better be careful about what you say."
I might be just a kid but I wasn't stupid. They were going to make me their slave, to fight, and maybe die, for their imperial profit. I was hurt. How could our parents' generation do this to us? Why hadn't they paid attention? They had raised us, their sons, for this? No wonder Jerry Rubin was telling us to kill our parents. (Unthinkable - but I finally saw where that distasteful radical was coming from.)
I was thouroghly outraged. I didn't have a country. I had lost my country! Someone, something, had taken it from me. I wanted it back. I wanted revenge. It was either run or stay and fight. But I knew how that would end up. Me, riddled with bullets or rotting in prison...
There was no solution. Only a short list of bad choices.
I needed to escape. I needed to figure this out. Everything I had been taught was, obviously, bullshit. I needed to wind back down to zero and start over.
And there was one more thing I needed to know. A burning question that kept surfacing in my sea of paranoia.
How did Richard Farina really die?
I was 19.
So I bought an old Chevy van with what was left of my semester savings and disappeared from the face of the Earth, heading north on a slow, winding, almost aimless trip towards Canada with my new Doberman pup and a couple of like-minded friends, Bruce and Cindy. But when I reached the Bay, something made me stop by the Institute for the Study of Non-Violence to see what it was all about. I didn't care about non-violence so much, whatever it was. But Joan Baez had finally captivated me with her voice and with her lyrics. There was something there that pulled at my heart - her compassion, her understanding, her mistreatment by the governent, her loss of a husband to prison for refusing to kill - and of course, her beautiful, plaintive, unforgettable voice.
I felt for her. I had nothing to offer. I just wanted a closer look.
|Rik 'n Che in the Chevy van Photo: ML Rocha used by permission|
Non-violence was a new concept for me. The first time I learned about Ghandi was right there in the Institute's library at the Lytton House. He fought the entire British army with open palms and won. So there was another way...
I laid some cobblestones in the driveway for Joan. Some guy was there with a guitar, trying to sell her a stupid song, playing it through the window. "Man," I thought, "you just don't get it."
I found myself invited to a seminar at the Mountain House. These people had a plan. They weren't running and they weren't giving in. I was intrigued. Then something clicked. I decided to stay.
I really, really freaked them out when they found me cleaning my shotgun on the patio.
"I'll get a better price for it if it's pretty," I said, slipping the freshly-oiled 20-gauge back into it's case. Non-violence was going to be a brand new thing for me.
And it was funny. It was as if a terrible weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had traded a futile, insignificant, loud weapon - a weapon the domestic foe could easily deal with - for a much more powerful, encompassing and quiet weapon that they had no hope of ever understanding. I would present them with the confusing quandry of the unarmed objector, the passive resistor, the grain of sand in the gears of the machine.
"First they laugh at you,
then they ignore you,
then they fight with you,
then you win." -- Ghandi
If I was to be ground to dust, at least I wanted to accomplish something.
Sand in gears I understood.
Then the transmission exploded on my truck.
I guess it wanted to stay, too. But Will and Janis needed the parking space, so they had someone tow it up to this place past Struggle Mountain they'd been talking about.
"The Land", they called it. An old ranch.
We pushed my van into the bushes and trees. It kind of blended in.
They drove off and left us there, me 'n Che. I crawled in the back of the panel with Che. It was freezing. Good thing he was so warm!
No food. No money. No wheels.
"Christ," I thought. "I'm gonna die up here!"
We heard the rumors trickling back from the War.
From vets, from soldiers on leave, from field medics, from the wounded - but mostly from the deserters who passed through the Institute, the Resistance or The Land. Stories often passed from one person to another, to another... Most common were the unending stories of killing children by accident - almost never officially admitted. After what we were hearing was done at Mai Li, we didn't doubt any of them.
The horror of warfare is a double-edged sword. It cuts the innocent as well as the guilty. Stepping across that white line at the induction center to serve the souless weapons makers, amoral oil corporations and the evil politicians they owned was one's final act of self - an act less than patirotism, more than fatalism, less than duty, worse than surrender, more than gullibility or the now incredible excuse of ignorance.
It was the first step of willingly rendering one's soul into offal.
"But I'm not givin' in an inch to fear
Because I promised myself this year.
No, I feel like I owe it to someone..."
-- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
|The Kent State Massacre -- America Turns on its Children|
|from The May 4 Shootings at Kent State University: The Search for Historical Accuracy|
by Jerry M. Lewis and Thomas R. Hensley Kent State Public Domain
...The decision to bring the Ohio National Guard onto the Kent State University campus was directly related to decisions regarding American involvement in the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was elected president of the United States in 1968 based in part on his promise to bring an end to the war in Vietnam. During the first year of Nixon's presidency, America's involvement in the war appeared to be winding down. In late April of 1970, however, the United States invaded Cambodia and widened the Vietnam War. This decision was announced on national television and radio on April 30, l970 by President Nixon, who stated that the invasion of Cambodia was designed to attack the headquarters of the Viet Cong, which had been using Cambodian territory as a sanctuary.
May 1, 1970
Protests occurred the next day, Friday, May 1, across United States college campuses where anti-war sentiment ran high. At Kent State University, an anti-war rally was held at noon on the Commons, a large, grassy area in the middle of campus which had traditionally been the site for various types of rallies and demonstrations. Fiery speeches against the war and the Nixon administration were given, a copy of the Constitution was buried to symbolize the murder of the Constitution because Congress had never declared war, and another rally was called for noon on Monday, May 4. Friday evening in downtown Kent began peacefully with the usual socializing in the bars, but events quickly escalated into a violent confrontation between protestors and local police. The exact causes of the disturbance are still the subject of debate, but bonfires were built in the streets of downtown Kent, cars were stopped, police cars were hit with bottles, and some store windows were broken. The entire Kent police force was called to duty as well as officers from the county and surrounding communities. Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom declared a state of emergency, called Governor James Rhodes' office to seek assistance, and ordered all of the bars closed. The decision to close the bars early increased the size of the angry crowd. Police eventually succeeded in using tear gas to disperse the crowd from downtown, forcing them to move several blocks back to the campus.
May 2, 1970
As the Guard arrived in Kent at about 10 p.m., they encountered a tumultuous scene. The wooden ROTC building adjacent to the Commons was ablaze and would eventually burn to the ground that evening, with well over 1000 demonstrators surrounding the building. Controversy continues to exist regarding who was responsible for setting fire to the ROTC building, but radical protestors were assumed to be responsible because of their actions in interfering with the efforts of firemen to extinguish the fire as well as cheering the burning of the building. Confrontations between Guardsmen and demonstrators continued into the night, with tear gas filling the campus and numerous arrests being made.
May 3, 1970
Nearly 1000 Ohio National Guardsmen occupied the campus, making it appear like a military war zone. The day was warm and sunny, however, and students frequently talked amicably with Guardsmen. Ohio Governor James Rhodes flew to Kent on Sunday morning, and his mood was anything but calm. At a press conference, he issued a provocative statement calling campus protestors the worst type of people in America and stating that every force of law would be used to deal with them. Rhodes also indicated that he would seek a court order declaring a state of emergency. This was never done, but the widespread assumption among both Guard and University officials was that a state of martial law was being declared in which control of the campus resided with the Guard rather than University leaders and all rallies were banned. Further confrontations between protestors and guardsmen occurred Sunday evening, and once again rocks, tear gas, and arrests characterized a tense campus.
May 4, 1970
Although University officials had attempted on the morning of May 4 to inform the campus that the rally was prohibited, a crowd began to gather beginning as early as 11 a.m. By noon, the entire Commons area contained approximately 3000 people. Although estimates are inexact, probably about 500 core demonstrators were gathered around the Victory Bell at one end of the Commons, another 1000 people were "cheerleaders" supporting the active demonstrators, and an additional 1500 people were spectators standing around the perimeter of the Commons. Across the Commons at the burned-out ROTC building stood about 100 Ohio National Guardsmen carrying lethal M-1 military rifles. Conflicting evidence exists regarding who was responsible for the decision to ban the noon rally of May 4th. ...The decision to ban the rally can most accurately be traced to Governor Rhodes' statements on Sunday, May 3 when he stated that he would be seeking a state of emergency declaration from the courts. Although he never did this, all officials -- Guard, University, Kent -- assumed that the Guard was now in charge of the campus and that all rallies were illegal. Thus, University leaders printed and distributed on Monday morning 12,000 leaflets indicating that all rallies, including the May 4th rally scheduled for noon, were prohibited as long as the Guard was in control of the campus.
Shortly before noon, General Canterbury made the decision to order the demonstrators to disperse. A Kent State police officer standing by the Guard made an announcement using a bullhorn. When this had no effect, the officer was placed in a jeep along with several Guardsmen and driven across the Commons to tell the protestors that the rally was banned and that they must disperse. This was met with angry shouting and rocks, and the jeep retreated. Canterbury then ordered his men to load and lock their weapons, tear gas canisters were fired into the crowd around the Victory Bell, and the Guard began to march across the Commons to disperse the rally. The protestors moved up a steep hill, known as Blanket Hill, and then down the other side of the hill onto the Prentice Hall parking lot as well as an adjoining practice football field. Most of the Guardsmen followed the students directly and soon found themselves somewhat trapped on the practice football field because it was surrounded by a fence. Yelling and rock throwing reached a peak as the Guard remained on the field for about ten minutes. Several Guardsmen could be seen huddling together, and some Guardsmen knelt and pointed their guns, but no weapons were shot at this time. The Guard then began retracing their steps from the practice football field back up Blanket Hill. As they arrived at the top of the hill, twenty-eight of the more than seventy Guardsmen turned suddenly and fired their rifles and pistols. Many guardsmen fired into the air or the ground. However, a small portion fired directly into the crowd. Altogether between 61 and 67 shots were fired in a 13 second period.
Four Kent State students died as a result of the firing by the Guard. The closest student was Jeffrey Miller, who was shot in the mouth while standing in an access road leading into the Prentice Hall parking lot, a distance of approximately 270 feet from the Guard. Allison Krause was in the Prentice Hall parking lot; she was 330 feet from the Guardsmen and was shot in the left side of her body. William Schroeder was 390 feet from the Guard in the Prentice Hall parking lot when he was shot in the left side of his back. Sandra Scheuer was also about 390 feet from the Guard in the Prentice Hall parking lot when a bullet pierced the left front side of her neck.
Nine Kent State students were wounded in the 13 second fusillade. Most of the students were in the Prentice Hall parking lot, but a few were on the Blanket Hill area. Joseph Lewis was the student closest to the Guard at a distance of about sixty feet; he was standing still with his middle finger extended when bullets struck him in the right abdomen and left lower leg. Thomas Grace was also approximately 60 feet from the Guardsmen and was wounded in the left ankle. John Cleary was over 100 feet from the Guardsmen when he was hit in the upper left chest. Alan Canfora was 225 feet from the Guard and was struck in the right wrist. Dean Kahler was the most seriously wounded of the nine students. He was struck in the small of his back from approximately 300 feet and was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Douglas Wrentmore was wounded in the right knee from a distance of 330 feet. James Russell was struck in the right thigh and right forehead at a distance of 375 feet. Robert Stamps was almost 500 feet from the line of fire when he was wounded in the right buttock. Donald Mackenzie was the student the farthest from the Guardsmen at a distance of almost 750 feet when he was hit in the neck.
WHY DID THE GUARDSMEN FIRE?
The most important question associated with the events of May 4 is why did members of the Guard fire into a crowd of unarmed students?
When I was drafted during the Vietnam War, I had a dog whom I loved very much. I could look into his eyes and see the essence of God. Not a personification of some deity, but the force of life which dwells within the animate body. He was not unique, but he was close to me and I recognized the worth of his being.
That morning, the morning I was to report to induction, two eagles flew out of the West and circled over The Land above me. They then returned to the West. I did not flatter myself as an animist at the time, yet their visit wrought a profound effect upon me. I had been searching - desperately searching - for a reason - a justification - to go kill, but I had not found it. To me it was nonsense. I took the meaning of the eagles' visit to be the essence of God, saying to me, "Do not compromise those things which you know in your heart to be true."
My dog came to me and sat. I looked deep into his eyes. There was another universe there within him, as there is within all living creatures. Deep within the eyes of life it shines in triumph over inanimate stasis. And it begged me to stay. To love. To be. To be there, with him. It was right. And I knew then what I must do. I must stay. I must be. I must love. In my dog's eyes shined the light of God. It was a simple choice.
"I shall return tomorrow," I told him.
On the bus, I asked the others to be true to themselves. Two joined me and refused to step over the white line. Scores of others gave themselves and their souls into the hands of the corporate killers. The FBI was outraged that I would not participate in the slaughter. They kept me for a day. They sent me to a psychiatrist and he asked me why.
I must stay. I must be. I must love.
My dog held the essence of God, and his simple request was sufficient.
They held no power over me. Then they set me free.
If one ponders on objects of the sense,
there springs attraction;
From attraction grows desire;
Desire flames to fierce passion;
Passion breeds recklessness.
Then the memory, all betrayed,
lets noble purpose go and saps the mind,
Until purpose, mind and man are all undone.
-- The Gita
June 25, 1970 Thursday Mountain House, Palo Alto
Cindy, Bruce and I have entered the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence. Joan Baez founded it. It has three or four different locations. The Lytton Street house on Lytton Street. is the yet unfinished Center. We laid cobblestones in the driveway for a couple of days. The Land is where the sessions are held. We stayed there two days, starting last thursday. Here at Mountain House, most of the other sessions are held. We have been working on it for the last few days.
July 9, 1970 Thursday
Sometimes I wonder if it's all real: the evil, the horror, the destruction my ancestors have wrought. Could God, in his game of change, have taken his innocent essence from the Atman and placed it in my body - and I'm watching a movie for my own benefit? And I exist not only to learn from the incredible trip Babylon presents to me - but to act. To write my own script in such a way that I make a decision and act on it. A puzzle. A maze of infinitely intricate pathways. To find the cheese is to make my dream from the nightmare. But all the evil merely being the contrast the fantasy must present to me to create the need for a decision...
Silly, though... It's real. Too real. Then again, acid says it's not. Pot says appreciate it but enjoy it. And check your mortality, kid.
Che's retching phlem. Sally came down with distemper. Could Che get it? She's doing the same thing. He didn't shiver in his sleep last night, though. Christ, I'm hard inside. I could make it through Che's death. I'd hate it but I'd make it.
Cindy wrote me a letter. She expressed her concern over my depression. Said I needed to "share some of that blasted affection I give Che with some nice girl who could return it in many other ways besides slobber."
I freaked out and wrote her a long letter. I told her that I'd have to find the right girl. A special girl. That everytime I felt genuine love, it vanished from me."Besides, I've got a future to change, with no time to give that special girl all the love I'd be inclined to give her." Also, that I probably set my standards too high, anyway. I ended it with, "Flow on. I love you."
I had no right to do that, I know. It wasn't fair to Bruce. All I can say in defense was that I was on an honest rap, thought it out and did it anyway. Once you write something, you can rationalize and say that since it's written in ink, you can't erase it, and that's that.
She must mean a lot to me for me to have said that.
I asked Dick if he'd like to go back east in my truck a few days ago. He accepted. But my transmission fucked up going down a steep San Francisco hill when eight of us went to see "Traffic" at the Fillmore West. It's half out, now, parked in front of the Mountain House. They want $75 for a guaranteed rebuilt. Fuck that. There's a '38 truck abandoned at The Land. I'll check it out.
We're going to tour quite a few of the major peace centers across the U.S. Bruce and Denise are going, too. Denise likes me. She's nice.
Bruce and I made $20 at Stanford, singing and rapping to people. Hitching back, a van going the other way pulled a "U" and the guy asked Bruce to sing him a song. He did 3 or 4 and earned "high 5's" from the driver. One really far out dude, super concern radiating from his eyes, gave us $10 when we told him what it was for. He was really interested in the Institute, too.
|Bruce and Riddle Sis at the Long House in 1970 Photo: ML Rocha used by permission|
July 15, 1970
A couple days ago, Bruce returned from Santa Cruze in a Blue Volvo with a 76 Union credit card. He's always managing to do something like that. It turned out that he had been hitchhiking on Skyline Drive when the people who had picked him up stopped to help at an accident. No one was hurt so he started playing his guitar. Can you see him playing angry protest songs to a group of OH-MY-GOD-I-WRECKED-THE-VAN! people? A chick stopped to put out some flares. Bruce saw a guitar in her truck and it led on from there.
I heard about her for the first time when Bruce asked me to go back to Santa Cruz with him and turn her on to the Military-Industrial-Political-Union_University Complex ("MIPUUC - Me puke!") He said she was a 30-year-old school teacher who was really interested and didn't know anything.
Of course, I went.
I asked Bruce if she was good looking and he said, Yeah!" He always does, so imagine my surprise when Barbara, this beautiful chick who looked as if she couldn't have been more than 19, reading Siddartha, gets up from a red-toned sofa bed, under a hanging lamp in the corner, and greets us as Bruce walks into her house. Wow. She has a far out voice, too.
We talked all night about the U.S. economy, foreign policy, the military trip and our own lives. When my eyes met hers, they locked on, held by a tiny thread of invisible energy.
We went to Steve Pickering's wedding the next day. He held it in Dick Clark's gigantic wigwam, erected on someone's backyard - he didn't know who. It was far out but I couldn't tell if it blew Barbara's mind or not. Two gallons of Red Mountain Burgandy and many incredible joints later, we left the wigwam to the care of a 15-year-old runaway.
We found Roy beside the road on the way up. He was supposed to be in New York. What a FREAK to see him hitching outside of Santa Cruz! We split to Frank's. Barbara and Kristin left - mutual goodbyes. I felt sad - and that I'd never see her again. But I was too stoned to let it keep me awake.
Bruce, Roy and I hitchhiked back to Palo Alto via Roy's in San Jose. Bruce, Roy and a friend good with a harp went to Stanford to try to make some bread. $7.
I got off at the Mountain House. Barbara was supposed to visit the Mountain House sometime that day or the next. I waited until 10 pm, not really expecting her nor knowing what to do if she came. I finally crashed in my truck. I ran through various fantasies of what I'd do if she drove up. Probably during this surrealistic scheming, she drove up and walked past my truck.
In a dream, a girl I wanted very badly reached out her arms to me and I touched them, running my fingers over them and pulling her closer. Closer...
"Huh... Eh? Wha...?" Dream fades.
"Rik? Hi." Beautiful chick looking over bucket seat at half-asleep Rik. Far out eyes. Green. Long blond hair. "I slept on the hill last night."
Wow. My mind was expanded and confused. Chaos had set in. I pulled on my pants with trembling hands, thoughts centered around finding a place where I could pull myself together. The Mountain!
We split to the top of the mountain Peter and I had found one night, lost and stoned in total darkness, and rapped and rapped.
She took off her sweater but I kept cool. Nice. Very nice. We found creatures in the clouds. Hers was an eagle. Mine was a skull, glowering down at Lockheed.
July 21, 1970
PENS - People steal pens at the Mountain House. Some people come all the way from Connecticut to steal pens. It's impossible to find a pen to write with because they have all been stolen.
I'm writing this with a stolen pen.
PENCILS - No one steals pencils at the Moountain House. You could store all your pencils everywhere, then come back years later and find them right where you left them. One pencil stayed on the kitchen sink for 5 weeks, Another has been on the hot water heater for 2 years. No one steals pencils. Pencils are free.
MONEY - No one knows how to make money at the Mountain House. They all rely on magic. Sometimes they recycle food. On August 6 or thereabouts, we (4) are going to the beach to make some money. Pacing off a liberated 40-foot square area, we'll start at the middle with a crater and work outward until we have a scale replica of Hiroshima after the bomb. Then we'll sit at our respective corners and wear dark glasses, holding cups in our hands and wearing signs reading "HELP THE BLIND".
We also have plans for a "FAR-OUT BANK OF AMERICA", since there is not one people's bank in this country! We could call it INVESTORS RISK or FIRESIDE THEFT.
July 25, 1970
I have $3.
"Chesire-Puss," she began, rather timidly... "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the cat.
"I don't much care where," said Alice.
Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the cat.
|September 11, 1970|
Reported in CNN NewsStand Vol. 141 No. 23 - June 15, 1998
|The targeted village was believed to be harboring a large group of American G.I.s who had defected to the enemy. The Special Forces unit's job was to kill them.|
Based in Kontum, South Vietnam, the men involved in Operation Tailwind were known as a SOG team, standing innocuously for Studies and Observations Group. Officially, SOG units didn't exist, but they were America's fiercest warriors, conducting classified "black operations" with unconventional weapons and unusual targets. They did little studying and a lot of fighting. According to SOG veterans, they had no rules of engagement: anything was permissible as long as it was deniable. Their motto, according to Van Buskirk: "Kill them all, and let God sort it out."
During its preraid briefing at Kontum, the SOG "hatchet force" was told to kill anyone it encountered. "My orders were, if it's alive, if it breathes oxygen, if it urinates, if it defecates, kill it," says Van Buskirk. In keeping with the compartmentalization of information necessary to protect top-secret missions, only a few of the SOG officers knew the precise target. And very few knew the exact type of gas available for their mission, although the unit was promised anything in the non-nuclear U.S. arsenal it might need to complete the mission. The commandos understood there was an agent commonly known as "sleeping gas" available for last-resort situations; they were aware that the gas caused respiratory distress, sudden vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and often death. The unit leaders were advised to equip their soldiers with bulky but effective M-17 gas masks before the raid.
Several days before the operation began, a small reconnaissance force was dropped into a lush Laotian valley near the town of Chavan. As Jay Graves, a SOG recon-team leader, put it, "We went in, snooped and pooped, moved around." Through a special field telescope, Graves' men spotted the prize--several "roundeyes," Americans, in the village. That report was radioed back, and the recon team was told to "groundhog"--remain silent and in hiding until the hatchet force arrived. The sighting of defectors is confirmed today by Air Force "rat-pack" commando Jim Cathey. "I believed that these were American defectors," he says, "because there was no sign of any restraint. They walked around as though they were a part of the bunch."
On Sept. 11 the 16 SOG-team members and about 140 Montagnard tribesmen, who had been hired to fight the communists, were loaded aboard four big Marine helicopters at Dak To, near the border with Laos. The sight of the assault force, which included 12 Cobra helicopter gunships and two backup Marine choppers, alerted Jack Tucker, one of the Marine pilots, that trouble lay ahead. "I saw them walking across the tarmac, loaded down with those grenade clips," he says. "And there were these little bitty Montagnards humping so much stuff. I just went 'Oh, man' and knew we were in for some real deep shit." Tucker and the other pilots had also been equipped with special gas masks to protect against chemical warfare.
As soon as the helicopters approached the landing zone near Chavan, they came under heavy fire. "It was a hairy situation from the time we got there, " recalls Jimmy Lucas, a squad leader. "Ground fire on insertion is something you are not supposed to get." The SOG team hit the ground several miles from the targeted base camp and spent the next three days fighting its way toward it. "I feel like in them three days I just cheated death," says Lucas. "We never expected to come out. I didn't."
On the third night the commandos hunkered down near the village as the Air Force A-1s "prepped" the target. In the morning the SOG forces attacked. Van Buskirk's platoon led the charge. "I went hi diddle diddle, right up the middle. I was on the offensive," he says. Tossing grenades into the hootches in the village and spraying machine-gun fire ahead, the assault force met little resistance. "It was minimal, nothing like you would expect for the amount of people there," says Craig Schmidt, a fighter in Van Buskirk's platoon. "It was very unusual, kind of eerie."
Suddenly Van Buskirk spotted two "longshadows," a name for taller Caucasians. One was sliding down a "spider hole" into the underground-tunnel system beneath the camp. The other was running toward it. "Early 20s. Blond hair. Looks like he was running off a beach in California," remembers Van Buskirk. "Needs a haircut. This is a G.I. Boots on. Not a prisoner. No shackles. Nothing." The lieutenant gave chase but just missed the blond man as he slipped into the tunnel. He shouted down the hole, identifying himself and offering to take the man home. "Fuck you," came the reply. "No, it's fuck you," answered Van Buskirk as he dropped in a white phosphorus grenade, presumably killing both longshadows.
The village raid lasted no more than 10 minutes. The body count, according to Captain Eugene McCarley, the officer in charge, was "upwards of 100." Sergeant Mike Hagen says "the majority of the people there were not combat personnel. The few infantry people they had we overran immediately. We basically destroyed everything there." The Montagnards searched the camp for documents and booty. They reported to Hagen and Van Buskirk that there were "beaucoup roundeyes" dead in the hootches. Says Van Buskirk: "A dozen, 15, maybe 20." But the SOG team says no bodies were identified or recovered.
With the camp destroyed, spotter planes overhead ordered the SOG unit to the rice paddy where the rescue helicopters would land. As the enemy closed in, the commandos were told to don their "funny faces," the M-17 gas masks. Then came the explosions of the gas canisters. "To me it was more of a very, very light, light fog. It was tasteless, odorless, you could barely see it, " recalls Hagen.
The gas spread toward the Americans even though the downwash of the chopper blades was pushing it away. Some of the gas masks had been damaged in the four-day battle, some had been discarded, and some were too big for the diminutive Montagnards. "Everything got sticky," says squad leader Craig Schmidt. "We turned our sleeves down to cover ourselves as much as possible. It doesn't surprise me in the slightest bit that it was nerve gas. It worked too well." Some of the Americans began vomiting violently. Today Hagen suffers from creeping paralysis in his extremities, which his doctor diagnoses as nerve-gas damage. "Nerve gas," says Hagen, "the government don't want it called that. They want to call it incapacitating agent or some other form. But it was nerve gas."
As many as 60 of the Montagnards died in Operation Tailwind, but all 16 Americans got out alive, although every one of them suffered some wounds. Van Buskirk and McCarley earned the Silver Star for valor. Van Buskirk personally briefed General Creighton Abrams, the top U.S. commander in Vietnam, on the mission. But when the lieutenant wrote his after-action report, a superior officer, now deceased, advised him to delete the part about dropping the white phosphorus grenade--a "willy pete," in Army lingo--on the American defectors in the tunnel.
Confirming the use of sarin, Moorer says the gas was "by and large available" for high-risk search-and-rescue missions. Sources contacted by NewsStand: CNN & TIME report that GB was employed in more than 20 missions to rescue downed pilots in Laos and North Vietnam. Concludes Moorer: "This is a much bigger operation than you realize."
Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense at the time of Operation Tailwind, says he has no specific recollection of GB being used, but adds, "I do not dispute what Admiral Moorer has to say on this matter." And the admiral points out that any use of nerve gas would have had approval from the Nixon national-security team in Washington. Henry Kissinger, National Security Adviser at the time, declined to comment.
As for the defectors and the policy of killing them, Major General John Singlaub, U.S.A. (ret.), a former SOG commander, confirms what was the unwritten SOG doctrine in effect at the time: "It may be more important to your survival to kill the defector than to kill the Vietnamese or Russian." The defectors' knowledge of U.S. communications and tactics "can be damaging," he explains.
"There were more defectors than people realize," says a SOG veteran at Fort Bragg. No definitive number of Americans who went over to the enemy is available, but Moorer indicated there were scores. Another SOG veteran put the number at close to 300. The Pentagon told NewsStand: CNN & TIME that there were only two known military defectors during the Vietnam War.
--Additional reporting by Amy Kasarda, associate produce r for NewsStand, and Jack Smith, senior producer for NewsStand
Before broadcast, CNN’s top management gave both Tailwind stories (aired on June 7 and June 14, 1998) and their producers its full backing and support. They then withdrew that support and fired us. These actions have profound and far reaching implications for this kind of difficult and serious journalism. We hope that every thoughtful journalist with an interest in this controversy will take the time to read both the AK Report and this response in full before coming to any conclusions.
APRIL OLIVER is a producer for NewsStand, and PETER ARNETT Is a CNN international correspondent
November 25, 1970 Monterey Pop Festival
Don't really know how I got here. I came with the Institute to act as nonviolent troubleshooters for the concerts. One at 1 pm and the other at 8 pm. Joan, Mimi, Kris Kristoferson and a whole load of really far out Nashville people. I did the whole thing on acid. It was really beautiful.
The heaviest part of the trip was acting as a doorman to the resturant where the entertainers ate. I worked in the kitchen. I met Mimi Farinaat the door. I told her I'd done my college thesis on Richard.
Joan asked me if Che dug kids. All the people were really beautiful.
Judy bummed out on some mescaline. She took it the night after acid. Dumb kid, she has so many personal bad trips happening... I'd really like to help her but the involvement would be very great and I don't think I'm ready for that.
Back at The Land, alive and well Monday night
All my tools got ripped off along with Craig's while we were at the Monterey Pop Festival. But it's all right. I hope they get good use. My car thing is all over.
Craig said he might loan me $25 for a transmission. John, who seems to dig The Land, might loan me the rest. I sure would like to do an Oregon thing in my truck.
Janis Joplin died. OD'd on skag.
Hendrix OD'd on something. We seem to be losing some very heavy people. Jimi Hendrix's death was supposed to have had some dark, mysterous bad happenings about it. He went to a different London hotel than the one he had registered in - with a chick he had never seen before or some other bullshit.
Oatmeal and Brown Rice and Oatmeal Tuesday
There is a 50 lb. bag of oatmeal and a 100 lb. bag of brown rice in the kitchen left over from the last session. We won't starve.
[[Jeffrey+Shurtleff|Jeff]] came over to work on the garden and turned us on to some good hash. I've been mostly stoned on sugar - something I've been doing all my life but never realized.
It's cold in this partitioned-off room in the Long House. I typed up a list of the ripped off tools but couldn't price it. I have an uncontrollable nose drip.
Larry, Bonnie, Howie and Cindy (from St. Louis) came by to see Judy in a rebuilt Morris (Hi, Morris!), all stoned out of their gourds. Judy made a nice organic supper for Eric and us. We sat in the main room until late, reading. I should have asked her if she would like her back rubbed but I conked out like usual.
|Rik and Riddle Sis by the barn at The Land 1970 Photo: ML Rocha used by permission|
November 20, 1970 Friday
Wednesday, I left The Land, hitchhiking down to San Jose. I was trying to reach Standard Transmissions in San Carlos. I was going to sign a work order for a rebuilt Chevrolet four-speed gearbox for my panel truck, my cold, cold immobile home stranded in the trees across the driveway from the Big House.
I caught a ride along with Craig, who was going to the Lytton house with a defense worker, to Wolfe Road. I walked about four miles with my Doberman Che to Stevens Creek Blvd; no one gave me a ride. I got a ride with a group of teenagers to Lawrence Expressway, and that was the last one. I walked and walked and walked into and through San Jose. After all this walking and no ride, I began to think that maybe it was a sign not to get the transmission.
When I came to a glowing time-of-day sign at a car dealer's that read 5:79, I figured that it was the last straw on the sign-recognizer's back, and split across the road with Che and started hitching the other way. Within three or four minutes, a dude picked me up and gave me a ride to some street that led to 280. I walked across the intersection.
As I crossed the street, I thumbed a head driving an orange Subaru 360 with a ecology flag painted on his roof. The back seat was full of things so Che sat on my lap. Try it sometime. When Che lays down, he's longer than that car is wide. We got out at an onramp. Che started freaking out in the ice plants looking for "beggers" He didn't find any, but he was sure they were there, somewhere.
A weird guy in a Plymouth day-glow green Roadrunner stopped. The inside was all custom covered. Che sat on the floor. I was afraid he was going to scratch it and bum the guy out. He took us to Lawrence Expressway, and we walked to the next onramp to 280 on Stevens Creek. Three rides and I'd gotten to where I'd started walking hours ago. Che started chasing the invisible beggers in the ice plants again. I watched helicopters and the like fly into Moffett Field and went through an unpleasant flashback of a night I'd spent hitch-hiking out of San Jose going south. Five hours...
I kicked an ice plant, and Che decided my foot was a begger, and pounced on it. Grabbing my foot in his mouth and shaking it, he pulled me over. This was freaking out some of the wonderfully nice people who kept driving by, so we did it for a while. I acted like I was being attacked. All the people going by were thinking, I bet, "My, what a stupid hippy; allowing himself to be attacked by a fierce Doberman Pinscher. Serves him right."
Then these two chicks in a new Camaro stopped. It was quite unusual, to say the least, but I'm not one to complain, so we got in. I looked at the passenger first. Young and blond. Made me think of my one-time girl friend Chris, in a way. Then the driver. That was a different story. This chick was really far-out. She had a perfectly beautiful face. She wore rimless granny glasses and had her long brown hair in a ponytail behind her. She asked me if I went to school.
"No," I said, "I've been working with Joan Baez's Institute for the Study of Non-Violence for the last few months. She thought that was far out, and I thought she was far out. She stopped at a friend's. There wasn't anybody there. She had on a long overcoat and high heels. She'd broken her ankle somehow. A really fine-looking chick. She had class. She said that she would take me to Steve's. She works at a gas station on Homestead - a Gulf station. She told me to drop by and see her some time there. I asked her if she was attached to anyone as I got out.
"Can I get a number?" I asked.
"Sure," she said.
"I have a memory," I said.
Her name is Sandy.
[File:http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/untitled-1.jpg external image untitled-1.jpg]
December 10, 1970 Monday
Yesterday I drove the '61 Corvair that Dick Donavon gave me back up to San Francisco and picked up 200 copies of RAGS magazine. If I can find places down south that will sell them, I'll make up to $20 a month. At any rate, I don't think I can lose. The only problem is that I'm almost completely broke. I don't have enough gas money to drive south.
Yesterday was work day for the Institute here at The Land. I met a chick I like named Janis whom I've never seen before, even though she'd been with the Institute about a year. She had a silver wedding band on her finger. She said she had done some work with the farmworkers in Delano. I found her some coffee. I wish I wasn't such an introvert. Maybe I'll see her tonight at the pot luck dinner at the Lytton House.
Reggie, an AWOL Army medic is staying here. He pawned off his stereo in San Francisco today. He says he has killed a lot of men in Vietnam.
"We shot two civilians once. We didn't know they were civilians at the time. We were given orders to shoot anything that moved after a certain hour. Afterwards, to keep from getting in trouble, we placed gernades on the bodies to make them look like the enemy."
He'd been wounded by an M16 - our side - which had broken his femur. He said abiout 50-percent of the wounded were from mistakes from our own side. He had spent six weeks in a Japanese hospital in traction before they had shipped him back to Ft. Browning.
February 17, 1971 Thursday
I didn't work today. Went to the Bhuddist Zendo in Las Altos with Larry, Craig, Reggie, Judy and Carrie, Bill Garaway and Karen. Ate. Rapped with some militant people. We split to hear William Kunstler speak at St. Ann's church. He spoke at the alter about the Berrigan case.He related this trial to the trials in Germany in 1933.
March 6, 1971
I just got through doing a Volkswagen engine swap today. I had talked a guy into giving his fucked-up '62 VW to the Institute Community so that we could use it for parts. I towed it up from San Jose to The Land with a chain this morning. We have another fucked-up VW up here but the engine is fairly good in it so we decided to swap the good engine into the '62 and give it to Lee and Carol to use for transportation on the flatlands.
Lee and Carol and Will and Janis and Leah, who just had a baby girl, and her husband, Elmont, who will be sentenced this month for draft refusal, have started a land trust in East Palo Alto, the black community - renamed Nairobi by the people who live there. The way it works is that the land and the house they live in are bought, not rented, over a ten year period. This way the land is never resold, but rather recycled among people in the Institute Community who need housing. It is essentially taken off the market - taken off the capitalist merry-go-round of buy and sell and buy and sell.
A really incredible thing is starting to happen up here. It's called Draft Refusers Support. It's the middle class community getting themselves behind supporting draft resistors. I couldn't believe it when I went to the first meeting. Resistors never used to get that kind of support from the community.
Chris Jones, who just got out of Safford Prison and has just moved into the attic, showed a color film he had taken inside with a smuggled camera to all these people.
On saturday or sunday nights I go over to Struggle Mountain and play chess with Robert Stagey. He owns that big green flatbed truck that wasn't running but we finally got it running with the help of my truck's battery. He and his wife Christie and little Gabriel came up for dinner tonight. We had sauteed zuccini squash and bean sprouts over boiled bulgar wheat with butter and Tamari soy sauce (aged two years). Also a good salad. We are now a full-fledged commune. Communes are illegal in Palo Alto, but since illeagle is a sick bird, we don't have to worry about it.
Yoga is really far out. We have a couple of people who are really into it: Bill Garaway and his chick Karen, who can tell incredible stories. They are building a treehouse across the road to live in. Squatting. Bill did over a year in prison for resistance.He says that all the heaviest Yogis are coming over here to America because their most serious students are not from India or Europe but from the white middle class of the United States. I heard one talk at Golden Gate Park last summer. He said that the white middle class finally had what civilization had worked thousands of years for, materialistic fulfillment, and now they had the choice to either take it or turn away and say it wasn't worth shit. I'd like to get more deeply into yoga but I'd only succeed with more disipline than I have now.
I left Che outside a bookshop yesterday. I was watching him from inside, through the storefront window, when a little kid, not much more than a toddler, maybe two years old, no parents to be seen, walked up to him as he was laying down, waiting for me to return, and started petting his head. Che didn't like it. Before I could do anything, he swung his head at this little kid and seemed to bite him on his face. This totally freaked me out and I ran outside to see how badly he was hurt - really scared for the little kid, for Che and for me. Was I surprised to find that Che hadn't bitten the child at all but rather knocked the brat away, sprawling him on his ass with a swing of his big snout! He seems to understand the fragility of children. One far out dog, huh?
|We had gotten a ride to the black section of Palo Alto. We all climbed out of the truck and there in front of us were about 10 or 12 negro children - their eyes all bugged out at Che.|
"Does that dog bite?" one girl asked, standing with the rest about 20 feet away, quite apprehensive.
"Only on Tuesdays and Thursdays," I replied, bending over to raise his lips and show them his big teeth. Their mouths all gaped. "What's today?"
"It's Tuesday!" one little boy shouted - and they all turned in unison and ran down the street in blind terror, screaming at the top of their lungs.
"He's only a puppy," I cried.
But they didn't hear.
March 22, 1971 Monday
I am standing at the streetlight near US 280 on Page Mill Road. Dozens of people driving expensive cars keep passing me by. One dude stopped. His bug reeked of grass.
After maybe an hour, Chris came down off 280 from San Jose and gave me a ride. Chris spent 14 months in Safford Prison for refusing to register when he was 18. He had a really rough experience. He said that all the "hacks" - guards that couldn't quite make it at other federal prisons - are sent to Safford since it is a minimum security prison and the prisoners are less likely to be violent.
March 24, 1971 Induction
The alarm rang about 4:30 A.M. I jumped up, got dressed, walked outside the big house and called Larry in the middle cabin. I opened Judy's door, put my hand on her shoulder.
"Judy, do you want to go?"
"No," was the sleepy reply.
Larry came in. He said that Marian might like to go. I called. her through the open attic door. Larry made us all buttered toast. I packed 125 of the leaflets I had printed on the A.B.Dick 360 into my Hawaiian flight bag. We took Marian' s car, the four-speed Grand Prix. She drove. It was a cold morning and the air was very clear as we drove down the mountain. It had rained earlier, and the lights from the myriad cities that lined the bay and extended below it sparkled brilliantly. Highway 280 was deserted, and in the cold early morning dark, it felt strange to ride this normally crowded six-lane concrete ribbon alone.
Larry knew the way. He had been busted there a few months before for refusing to get off a draft bus when ordered to do so by a policeman.
The Greyhound bus depot was full of young men standing in quiet groups with their families or sitting alone - all with yellow Selective Service envelopes in their hands. Larry, Marian and I split up with an ample supply of leaflets and began talking to people and distributing them. Nearly all the people we approached took one, even those who had enlisted.
I walked up to a dude with shoulder length-blond hair, moustache and scraggly chin. He had a resistance button on the lapel of his coat. I asked him if he was resisting.
"Of course," he said.
Some guys were hugging their girlfriends and didn't have time to read a leaflet or sometimes even take one. Before we expected it, the P.A. system rang out: "Will all Selective Service inductees line up at Gate Two, please."
The crowd moved slowly, sporadically forward. Someone opened the door and they walked outside into the waiting buses. I stood at the rail by the door and handed each guy a leaflet as they walked by. They walked by so fast I couldn't get to them all. I couldn't imagine why they were in such a hurry.
Their girls stood outside, leaning against the rail at the edge of the walkway, some smiling weakly, some biting lower lips and waving. Some just looking - expressionless. Their boyfriends, fiancées and husbands gazed somberly out the bus windows. The scene was affecting them. The strangeness, the alienness - the wrongness - that such a tableau could exist was coming home to them. None smiled but artificial smiles.
"If there is anyone on the bus who does not have an order for induction into the armed forces," the pasty, fat and ugly woman bellowed, "will they please remove themselves from this bus."
'How sick this woman must be,' I thought, 'to work for the Selective Service System.'
She looked as if she had been watching noyhing but television commercials all her life. She waddled to the rear of the bus and began checking induction papers and marking off names.
Across the aisle and out the window, I could see another bus full of kids; a giant sardine can on wheels - fresh meat for the war machine. I strolled off the bus and entered the other one. A younger woman was checking forms at the rear of the bus. I reached over her shoulder and passed leaflets to the guys in the rear seats, then everyone else. I wasn't worried about getting kicked off. After all, I had my induction notice, too. I returned to my bus and as soon as the woman checked my form, I proceeded to leaflet all the fellows in my bus.
We started rolling. Girls waved. Their men returned waves. I watched. Our bus led on Highway 17 north. I knew that I should say something to them, but I was afraid to speak. I've never done much public speaking but as the bus rolled further and further away from San Jose, I felt something inside myself. An anger burning, growing. A disgust so overwhelming that I knew I either had. to speak or throw up because the vibrations I was receiving from the people on this bus were so weird and jumbled.
Suddenly my hand was on the baggage rack and I was standing. Walking. I had run out of excuses. The radio news was over. The sports was on (I didn't want to offend anyone). We weren't passing by any big, noisy trucks. I punched the radio to turn it off. It only changed stations. I punched it again to put the dial in a quiet place between stations.
It played, "and I feel like I've been here before…." Then Steven Stills' voice faded into static.
I asked the driver to turn it down. I had heard him remark earlier to one of the inductees, "Oh, it's not so bad. You do two years, then you're out."
I was afraid he might give me trouble but he ablidged me - and the bus was quiet save for the noise of the wind and the engines and tires rolling. I stood, black leather jacketed, clean shaven in my $20 shirt, arms braced against the luggage racks.
All eyes were on me.
"Your life belongs to you," I said. "Not the weapons manufacturers who created this war. Not to the government who runs it for them. But to you. Your life belongs to you!"
"For God's sake," I said, "don't throw it away."
That's what my leaflets said in big black letters.
YOUR LIFE BELONGS TO YOU.
They listened attentively. Even the jocks. The air was very, very heavy.
No one said anything.
|Rik by MLM|
War is for killing. This I know.
It's evil and my senses tell me so
And as springtime rises up from bitter winter's snow
The seeds of love I sow here
May they grow.
Oh Mother, please protect me from the cold
I fear this world will not let me grow old.
That Killing Floor is calling. Yet may I be so bold
To try to burst the burden of the mold.
Living in darkness isn't right.
We're blind until we drive it from our sight.
But if we sit and only dream of morning's light
We may never make it through the night.
So come on, give your friend a helping hand.
Lift up your head and wipe away the sand.
If you can't see him then, my friend, you stand
Upon the Killing Floor of the damned.
Oh Mother, she once told me as a child,
"Beware this age, my son, for fear runs wild.
The Killing Floor may see all love defiled
And darkness may close in after a while.
No one's ever got through life alive.
The Killing Floor may not let you survive.
But if you refuse evil, let love be your soul's guide,
You'll cross this dark land to the other side."
April 2, 1971 Rattlesnake Pit Morn
The morning is so beautiful out here in the Rattlesnake Pit. This is Che's and my first morning out here. There are twelve panes in the window on the uphill wall. The sun shines through each one until they are all bright. I took Cindy to San Francisco airport yesterday morning. She was a flash. In and out of my life so quickly, I wonder if it even happened...
I was working at the print shop when Al called. The phone was for me. It was Bill Garaway at The Land. He said that a girl had called and would be arriving from Reno at 6:30 at the bus depot down the street.
"Who is she?" I asked.
"I don't know. It was person to person. She didn't say."
"Person to person? To who?"
"Me?! Jesus Christ. And you don't know who it was?"
So I spent the rest of the day fucking up, trying to figure out who I was going to meet at the bus station. Waiting at the bus station was a trip, too. Weird!
Cindy walked in.
I hugged her, took her bags. We walked to the University on ramp to El Camino and hitched up Page Mill.
We talked in the cold Rattlesnake Pit.
She gave me a book. The Only Revolution by J. Krishnamurti.
[ see Krishnamurti Speaks with Dr. Anderson ]
April 19, 1971
It's really quiet now and there is no one here but me. Che and Oly, the Doberman-Samoyed puppy, are wrestling each other on the living room carpet; Che's mouth envelopes Oly's head and I wonder why he doesn't bite Oly's head off. A fly buzzes against the picture window next to me trying in vain to penetrate the invisible it from somewhere. I summon the royal fly-swatter: "Che!" I say. He looks up from his play. "Bugguses!" I say, pointing to the flies. Che jumps up and chomps them out of the sky, then looks at me, ears up, for something else to vanquish.
An old yellow pickup jounces up the-driveway and stops in back. Two fellows from Black Mountain Commune, our next door neighbors, have come to place their weekly order in our organic food cooperative. Black Mountain is a dome commune. The people who live there live in geodesic domes in the forest.
|Rik filling Co-op produce order Photo: ML Rocha used by permission|
Tomorrow, I'll drive my panel truck up to the farmer's markets around San Francisco and buy enough poison-less bulk organic vegetables to keep our communities, totaling nearly 100 people, supplied with fresh food for a week at the incredible cost of less than 50 cents per person per day. Try that!
They left, so I sat down and tried to play the guitar a little. It's a very difficult instrument to master, but - wow! - is it spacey! I bought a guitar - a Harptone. The one Ringo Starr likes. Its really nice. Great sound. I wanted to have a good guitar - in case I went to prison. Music is really where it's at.
I can't talk about my guitar without playing it, so I walked out to the Rattlesnake Pit where I live. The Rattlesnake Pit was a disused water tank last year. Now it is a house with hardwood floors (2 levels), windows, doors, and a shingled roof . The only drawback is that I had to put the doors in the roof because the sides are all concrete. It overlooks a big, wild, forested valley. If I walk up the hill behind it, I can see from San Francisco, jutting out into the bay, to downtown San Jose. Really incredible.
April 26, 1971
Hi. Rik here. Its past midnight but I thought it might be be a good time to write you this letter.
I live in a rattlesnake pit. Bet you didn't know that! And I stood outside the doors on the roof of the rattlesnake pit and looked at the sky. I couldn't see the Milky Way because the glow of the city on the other side of the hill obliterated it.
"God," I said, "please turn off the city so that I may see the sky."
But the city stayed on.
So I climbed in here, lit my kerosene lamp and took out my notebook to write you a letter. Perhaps you think I'm stoned to go and write you a letter after midnight when I have to go to court early the next morning and then to ugh-work. But I'm not. I'm 100% straight.
I'm writing you this late because I can't sleep until this letter is done. I've seen you all day. In my mind's eye, I've seen you walking across the polo grounds in Golden Gate Park and standing on the hill of the gun emplacements overlooking the bay. Recurring images, again and again.
It was so hard today to work at the print shop. The copies would shoot out of the press and mesmerize me into seeing your face, and I'd have to snap myself out of it or ruin the run. I wanted to be somewhere, anywhere except the print shop, with you.
April 28, 1971
What's up? I thought I'd write you a letter this morning before I went to work. I just woke up. It's foggy outside the giant open air window of the Rattlesnake Pit, and a little cold. But I'm warm because I have lots of blankets over me.
Che woke me up by walking around on the roof. I spent many weekends shingling and building the roof. I used old, old shingles from the old swamp houses and now this place looks like its been here a hundred years. Che was mad because I wouldn't let him in the shutters on the roof. He doesn't understand why I wouldn't let him in last night. That's because he's grown accustomed to his smell and I haven't. Last night he routed a skunk from the trees nearby. It sprayed him, and the smell is everywhere.
Ugh! I can still smell it.
Tell Bruce I traded the Moserite guitar for a Martin. I think I like acoustics better, too. Almost everyone up here has started playing guitar, now. Every night we all sit together at dinner (organic vegetarian) and talk about whatever is on our minds.
Bill bought an old psychedelic school bus, that runs on propane, up here the other day. We are going to take it to a draft board next week from the Greyhound station where everyone gets ripped off. We'll serve tea and cookies to anyone who wants to follow the regular busses up and give our draft raps besides. It was my idea, so I get to pay the gas.
I got my truck running the other day. It runs like a top. Took it down to get it registered. On the way back up from work, I got pulled over by The Man. I gave him my draft resistance rap and he let me go, even though only one headlight worked, period.
Did you get the leaflets? The demonstration was kina heavy. We could look in back of us for about a mile and the street was filled with people. The polo field at Golden Gate Park had more people than I have ever seen.. La Raza, a militant Chicano group, seized the stage before Dave Harris could speak. They called everyone (all 200,000) "motherfucking honkies" and brought up the POW issue. They must really be gullible to swallow that Establishment rhetoric, since the POW thing is used as a political ploy (it was used to extend the Korean War, too.) A hundred thousand people walked out as they had the stage for more than an hour. Everyone booed. Ever hear 200,000 people boo at the same time? Heavy.
Gotta go. Work is a drag but it is a must. Need shocks for truck.
April 27, 1971 Big House
Incredible things have happened since I started this letter. The food conspiracy, for one, has jumped from 100 to 400 people. I just got back, from a grain run to the City (S.F.) with Che in my truck. I spent nearly 400 dollars at a dry goods warehouse. A girl from the FLYING SAUCER INFORMATION AGENCY turned us on to 150 pounds of avocadoes for $5. We sold them at 50 cents a pound.
All day I've been hungry for a dried banana, since I've never had one. (How do they dry bananas?) I didn't eat anything except garlic cloves, though, since I'm on a garlic fast. Nothing but garlic and seed-bearing fruit juice. It really gets me high.
Garlic is a very incredible plant, although I I've never heard it praised by the AMA (American Murder Association). I had this incredible cold with runny nose and sneezing over and over, uncontrollably. I skipped dinner (never eat when you are sick) and ate a few cloves of garlic and three hits of vitamin C. Yesterday morning it was gone, only 12 hours later. Garlic's been used to cure many aliments by many cultures for over 5000 years. It seems to me that if it didn't work, they would have stopped using it.
rik here + che-droggie. got your letter.
i've been in the mountains with che dozens of miles from roads and people. not from smog, tho, it seems to be everywhere except places over south pacific, i hear.
sad news: hitched to lobos state reserve last month to try and get some info on the mysterious sea-lion deaths happening just north and south and all over. semi-paralyzed sea lions floating onto shore and being eat by sharks because too weak to swim. why? didn't know.
Decided 2 ask someone who's job it was to know - ranger rick. he didn't know. what's worse, he'd not even heard about it. this was be4 the papers heard about it. Now it's worse because boats are running into sea lion corpses up and down the coast. found out why, finally: around this summer the maximum "safe" level of DDT concentration in salable government-inspected meat was 7 parts per million. A research team did a national study of dead (accidental) people's corpses to ascertain the DDT concentration in the average u.s. person's body. it was 14 parts per million. now, get this, a team from, i think, stanford university (would be associated with Dr. Paul Ulrlch) analyzed the sea lion corpses for DDT concentrations and found (ya find this figure in the papers, I bet) that they contained tree thousand, nine hundred parts per million.
I find life very good for my head, how about you?
Everyone says that my way of life is the way of a simpleton.
Being largely the way of a simpleton is what makes it worth while.
If it were not the way of a simpleton
It would long ago have been worthless,
These possessions of a simpleton being the three I choose
To be fair,
To be humble.
When a man cares, he is unafraid.
When he is fair, he leaves enough for others.
When he is humble, he can grow;
Whereas if, like the men of today, he be bold without caring,
Self indulgent without sharing,
Self-important without shame,
He is dead.
The invincible shield
Is a weapon from the sky
against being dead.
-- Lao Tzu
A letter from Peg that I received the 14th of May, 1971
Dear Rik and Che,
High! What's happening? Its about time I wrote you a letter. I sure am a creep! Wow! You're terrific!! Where shall I start?
Oh Yea! I saw you on T.V. What a coincidence! I was up seeing Mom and Dad. We were talking (Dad was watching the T.V., of course, while reading the paper and so forth) anyway -- the news came on and showed blocks and blocks of people and I said, "That's where Rik is!"
Suddenly you appeared on the screen. I started screaming and shouting "There's Rik!" I was so excited! I'm so proud of you. I probably brag about you too much, but you are what you are and that's "good!"
O.K. No. 1 - The anti war March leaflets - oops! - posters, I posted them all over the college. The U.P. of the student body (I gave him a whole bunch) passed them out to all the high schools. They were everywhere. The custodians took them off. So I tricked them and posted them everywhere the next morning with masking tape. Everyone knew about the March. Several people went to San Francisco. They brought back buttons and peace treaties.
About this time I got your peace treaties (which were better cause they were more detailed). At the moratorium we passed them around and even drew lines on the back for more signatures. Several Vets, spoke on loud speakers against the war then laid their medals on a coffin with a flag dropped on it. It was together. We all sang songs and talked and planned. I wish you could have come to speak because we need someone like you to really tell the people about the movement. Later on we had a big vegetable stew and talked and passed out leaflets he got in S.F. at the march.
We planned a march on the federal building and hoped for two-hundred people. Night before it was to start, two investigators came to David's house and questioned him. It really freaked him out and a lot of people, too, cause only 15 people showed up the next day for the March.
The new things you sent me are being circulated throughout B.C. Its so nice to receive information. David put your treaties with his and wrote a letter and sent them to the Center. He was really excited about it, so I let him send them directly to a center, instead of to you first. I hope it was ok.
Gee -- Its really hard to find time for everything. I'm beginning to understand why its so hard to attend school and be an anti-war protester at the same time, but I'm trying my best!
I LOVE YOU, please take care! Tell that old "skunk chaser" to take a bath in tomato juice. Give him hugs & kisses from me! You too!
Love you both, Peggy
My love has flown far from here.
I may not struggle on
Now that she's gone.
I read my legend in the mirror.
It said I couldn't smile
Or frown. So long.
You taught us "right" through all your wrongs.
You measured love with diamond rings.
You taught us fear and who to bomb.
"Mad Babylon - the Golden Whore!" we sing.
We must have thought a lot of you.
We let you chain our lives without a fuss.
You must have thought us simple fools
To try to take that sacred part from us.
You taught us "right" through all your wrongs.
You measured worth by tone of skin.
To use your toys, we'd work so long.
"Mad Babylon - the Golden Whore!" we sing.
The table's turning, Babylon,
The rules you've made, the games you've played are through.
How can we thank you, Babylon,
When hate and wealth and war were all you knew?
You've killed a half a billion friends
In over half a dozen wars.
You worship gold and buy your dead.
"Mad Babylon - the Golden Whore!" we sing.
My love is in a distant land.
She knows that I am coming; won't be long.
I etched my saga in the sand.
The tide rolled in.
The seasons changed.
THE MAN FROM ANIMAL LIB
Copyright 1971 Rik Masters
The eyes glinted in the darkness as they examined the lonely hillside from behind a clump of brush. After searching carefully for movement, a shape appeared in the moonlight . A withered, hunchbacked silhouette moved joggedly, erratically up the hill, grasping something sharp and glistening in its hand.
The bees waited silently in their hives. There was an aura of tenseness in the air. Worker bees, slowed by the night chill, vibrated their wings to express their uneasiness. The queen was hyper-aware, unconscious of the drones mulling about her, all her senses keyed in on the approaching form.
Leaves rattled in the branches of the trees as the wind rose. A whirlwind scooped up a bushel of leaves and, swirling madly, dissolved at the edge of the forest. A cloud skimmed low between land and moon. It's shadow engulfed the hillside.
The hives were cast into black shapes by the cloud. The hunchbacked thing found them, rose to its full height, and swung the blade in an arc over its head, jamming the point between the top lid and the side of the first hive. With a downward motion of its arm, the hunchback popped off the lid. Out fled a swarm of confused and astounded bees.
"You're free!" the hunchbacked thing cried in a wretched, hoarse howl. "Free!"
It raised its arms, one shorter than the other, to the sky in a gesture of freedom. The bees buzzed madly in circles around him. Then their confusion was over-ridden by a sudden euphoria. All fear was quelled and joy took its place.
"Freeeee!" buzzed a bee. Another took up the cry. "Freeeee!"
They were joined by others as more lids were pried from neighboring hives. Dancing wildly on fluid currents of air, they let themselves be carried by the wind, sometimes colliding drunkenly with each other, but never ceasing their cry of "Freeeee!"
Suddenly the moon shown through the clouds, illuminating The Land. All was silent. The bees were gone. The hives were empty. The hillside was deserted.
In the forest, the trees trembled.
Jeffery was aghast. His eyes relayed total noncomprehension.
"They're gone. They're all gone," he said to Judy as they stood in the kitchen hallway. "Every one of them! It's incredible. Somebody stole them. They must have stole them. All the tops were ripped off the supers. They stole the bees! But they left the honey..."
"Hmm," hmmed Judy. "That's all very interesting. But how the fuck do you steal bees?"
"Maybe they used a vacuum cleaner," said little Carrie to her mother as she spilled her applesauce on the floor.
"I just can't understand why anyone would do a thing like that. It doesn't make sense!" exclaimed Jeffery, bugging his eyes and pouting.
Just then, Rik walked in, grabbed a cereal bowl from the shelf and filled it with puffed rice. Noticing Jeffery's pout, he asked, "What's wrong?"
"Somebody stole his bees," replied Judy.
"With a vacuum cleaner!" cried Carrie.
"With a vacuum cleaner?" asked Rik, amazed.
Jeffery shrugged. He looked about to cry.
"You just walked over this morning and the hives were gone, right?"
Jeffery shook his head. "They didn't take the hives. They just took the bees."
"What? That's impossible. You can't take just the bees and not the hives!"
Jeffery nodded. Judy shrugged.
Carrie said, "You could do it with a vacuum cleaner, Rik!"
The tomatoes were starting to turn orange, still speckled with spots of green. Karen plucked a weed from the tomatoes' earthen row. Next to her, Bill hoed in a freshly turned square of earth, silent and content in garden meditation.
"Did you hear, Bill," began Karen, breaking the easy silence, "that somebody stole Jeffery's bees?"
Back came Bill's mind from timeless suspension in the Atman to the puzzling world of reality, which, he knew, was an illusion. His gaze traveled from the garden, slowly up the hill, and stopped at the row of five white bee hives.
"Someone stole Jeffery's bees, you say?"
"That's right. Every single one of them."
"But they didn't take the hives!"
"No... Its all very strange."
Jeffery gazed out the window of his house into the forest below. But the peaceful scene could not calm his troubled mind. He was thinking about his bees. The bees he had raised from tiny larvae. He had nursed them through the wet, cold winter months with gallons of sweet sugar water. He had moved the hives halfway up the hill to allow them to be warmed by direct winter sunlight. He had felt a kinship with them. And he had believed perhaps they had felt the same toward him. After all, they had never stung him even when he took their honey.
How wrong , how senseless, for someone to take them from him!
What would become of them? Would they be given a new home? Maybe, heaven forbid, empty hives, miles from the nearest flower! Or worse yet - and he hated to think of this, although it seemed the most likely given the odd circumstances - chocolate covered honeybees!
There was a knock at the door, then Tramp walked in with a thump as he bumped his head on the ceiling. With a moan, he sat down on the floor, rubbing his head with one hand as he gestured down the path with the other.
"I called the police," he said. "I told them to keep a lookout for anyone trying to sell ten thousand bees without hives. I also asked him what bees went for on the black market."
"What did they say?" asked Jeffery in abject curiosity.
"Well, he wanted to know what kind of drugs I was on and where I was calling from."
"What did you do, then?"
"I hung up. Sometimes I just don't trust those guys."
The sunset embossed orange fire on the clouds as Bill walked up the hill. The hive lids were scattered randomly on the ground. In the hives were row after row of wax and honey. He scooped out some honey with his fingers. Delicious! It was mostly wildflower honey, by taste.
Suddenly a figure rose up from behind the last hive. It was Larry with a magnifying glass in his hand. His knees were wet where he had been kneeling, searching for clues.
"Hi, Bill," said Larry.
"Good evening, Mr. Holmes," greeted Bill, a question in his eyes. "Find anything?"
"No. Not a clue. No wheel marks, just footprints everywhere. Mostly our own, I'd guess." Larry shrugged. "Even though it's impossible, it's true. They've disappeared without a trace!"
They starred at the hives for a while in silence, then started back to the house.
The moon was radiant. The stars sparkled brightly in the crisp night air. And the clouds were few and far between. On the ridge, a coyote howled, then another took up his call. The frogs in the swamp croaked in time with the crickets and katydids. The night was alive with the celebration of the Equinox.
On top of his box, in the pen, stood Sam the goat. He could feel the joy of life outside his pen, but he himself was lost in emotionless Fence Meditation. The timeless fence, never ending or beginning, stretching forever to the right and forever to the left in endless circles. A great mystery of the universe. It was beyond his understanding.
The artichoke rustled its leaves as a gentle breeze wafted through the garden. The onion shoots stretched their roots and soaked in the metaphysical radiation of the half moon. A field mouse nibbled on a radish leaf, then ran across rows of freshly turned soil and was gone in the night.
A rustle of bushes broke the harmony and beady eyes glinted from the forest at the edge of the garden. A dark shape slinked from the shadows to the corner of Sam's pen. Wire cutters began snipping through the wire of the fence!
Sam was rudely jarred from Fence Meditation by the sound of the links parting. A hunchbacked shape stepped through the hole, rose to its full height and proclaimed in a sharp, rasping voice, "You're free! No more must you eat garbage in this tiny prison! You are freeeeee!"
Sam jumped off his box and bounded through the hole in the fence, bleating "Baaaaa-a." (Which, in Goat, means "I'm free!")
Never in his life had he known such elation. He was free! Free at last! And no longer doomed to a life of endless Fence Meditation.
He bounded up the hill, past the empty hives, a white shape in the moonlight, and vanished over the lip of the hill. His happy bleats slowly faded away.
Two owls hooted to one another in the swamp. A meteor flashed across the heavens. A sudden breeze spun the windmill noisily in the garden. Then all was calm.
In the forest, the trees trembled.
The old Corvair belched, farted and died in an ugly cloud of blue smoke. Rik climbed out with a sack of bones for Che the dog. Che bounded out of the darkness, wriggling like a serpent on methedrine, and ran in happy circles as Rik walked to the back door of the Big House.
Rik picked up Che's dog food dish. This made Che twice as happy and, almost berserk with glee, he knocked his head against a tree trunk and staggered. Rick mixed the bones in with the dry food as Che watched, prancing and licking his chops every fifteen seconds.
"Do a trick," said Rik. Che sat, pawed, then lay down on his side. "Good Che!" Rik gave him his food and went back inside while Che munched heartily.
Everyone had gathered in the living room: Chris, Marion, Karen, Bill, Judy, Carrie and Larry. Jeffery and Tramp were there, too. Jeffery had tied himself in a yoga pretzel and appeared quite content. Tramp was smoking a joint with style and seemed happy. But everyone else had solemn and even unhappy looks on their faces, especially Karen and Judy.
"Cheer up," said Rik. "The sky's not really falling. It was all a hoax."
He received incredulous looks from everyone. No one smiled. Tramp handed him the roach. He took a big hit.
"So what's wrong now?" he asked the room in general.
"Are you ready for this?" Karen asked. "Somebody cut through Sam's fence and now he's gone!"
"Oh my god," said Rik. "First the bees and now this!" He shook his head in disgust. "Imagine that - Goatnappers! How could anyone sink so low?"
"At least we know how they did it, this time," Larry said, holding up his magnifying glass and a piece of wire. "Wire cutters!"
"What can we do?" asked Judy, dejectedly wiping a tear from little Carrie's eye. "What if they're not vegetarians? What if they make poor Sam into fucking goatchops?"
"Well, since he was a goat, he was obviously kidnapped," Tramp remarked. "This looks like a case for the FBI!"
Judy gave him an acidic look.
Marion looked at her hands. "Maybe he'll be hitched to a cart and a carrot dangled in front of his nose," she said. "Or maybe they'll skin him and make him into a coat! On second thought," she added, "who'd wear a goat coat?"
"I don't think we should be so distraught," said Jeffery, his knees locked around his neck. "Sam was a pretty mellow goat. He'll probably be happy where ever he is."
"Yeah," added Rik. "I mean, we never really wanted him anyway. He was nice, but he smelled. That's why Black Mountain gave him to us."
"Oh, I don't think that's true at all!" countered Karen. "We liked Sam."
"Well, heck. Sure, I liked Sam, too," Rik said. "But we were trying to give him away for a long time with no takers. Let's face it, a male goat's not much good to anybody but a female goat."
"Fuck, Rik," Judy interjected. "What difference does it make if he was good for anything? We're talking about Sam - our friend! Our little goat friend!"
"He was my friend, too!" exclaimed little Carrie.
Rik shrugged and smiled at Carrie, slightly embarrassed.
"I think Rik's got a point," said Larry. "After all, all Sam did was eat, eat, eat. He was just a drain on our resources. What if he'd gotten loose in the garden again? Remember, nobody liked him much after he did that last fall!"
"Nobody minded feeding him," said Karen.
"And he didn't eat that much anyway," said Judy. "Mostly garbage."
"Yeah, garbage that would have made good compost," Rick commented.
"Well, the way I see it," Larry continued, "is that someone has taken the problem of Sam off our hands for us, so we should stop worrying about it since there's nothing we can do about it, anyway."
Tramp nodded. John walked in, smiled at everyone, sat down and started to read.
The night was sharp and cold. A brisk wind from out of the west drove the clouds low over the mountains in thick groups that cut out the moon and stars for minutes at a time. Rik strode through the tall, thick grass bordering the garden. Che loped ahead, striking off this way and that in search of new smells and discoveries. The stand of walnut trees swayed frantically in the wind as if they were wrestling an invisible assailant.
The Rattlesnake Pit was cold inside but, at least, the wind blew harmlessly against its concrete sides. Rik closed the roof door after Che leaped in, and lit the kerosene lamp.
"You've got to watch out for them beggers out there, Che!" Rik said. He pointed out the window. Che perked up his long ears and looked outside for beggers.
"There's bad beggers out there, Che," Rick went on. "Beggers that took the bees. Bzzzzz!"
Che looked around for the bees.
"Beggers that took Sam. Baaaaa!"
Che tilted his head in question. He knew Rik wasn't a goat. Why did he sound like a goat?
"You have to make sure that the beggers don't take you, Che! So if you see them bad beggers, Grrrrrr the beggers!" Rik instructed.
Outside, Che knew, were beggers. 'Grrrr the beggers!' he thought.
An armada of clouds engulfed the moonless night sky. The wind could have been black, for there was no light. Drops fell sporadically. The trees danced in a mad frenzy. Patches, the horse, tried to sleep as the cold wind played in her drafty stall.
Outside, across the pasture, a shapeless form groped blindly towards the stall. Slowly creeping, stumbling over horse dung and fence posts, the figure found the horse.
"Do not be afraid," it began. "For I am the man from Animal Liberation - here to set you free!"
With these words, he flung open the gate.
"No longer must you be their slave!" he cried. "No longer must you lug them around on your back. You are free! Free! Freeeee!"
Patches, overcome with joy, reared up on her hind legs and let loose with a tremendous whinny - "Wheeeee!"
"The Animal Liberation Army is forming in the west!" yelled the man. "Your brothers and sisters wait for you there!" The man raised his arms, one shorter than the other, in a gesture of freedom. "Go! You are free! Freeeee!"
Patches ran out the gate and into the darkness and was gone.
The car was black with white front doors. The doors had golden stars with the words POLICE DEPT. Inside each star was a woman in a long dress, blindfolded, with a scale in one hand and a sword in the other. In the scales were round things; Ping-pong balls or, maybe, lemons.
The man in the car wore a dark blue suit and a gold motorcycle helmet. He, too, wore a star - curved so the bullets would bounce off. And also, he wore a gun in a holster. On the other side of his belt he wore handcuffs and a long stick. These all made him very wide. Perhaps that is why he didn't get out of the car.
"Could you describe the horse?" he said in a monotone.
"Yes," said Tramp. "It was chestnut brown with a spotted white rump."
"You sure it was stolen?"
"Yeah. The gate was open. She couldn't have opened it herself."
"Well, we'll notify you if anything comes up," the man in the blue suit with the star and the gun and the handcuffs and the big stick and the helmet said.
"Thank you," said Tramp. The car turned around and moved rapidly down the driveway. It had a RESIST THE DRAFT sticker on its bumper.
"Its as if there were a plot of some kind to steal all our animals," suggested Jeffery.
"Here we are, once again face to face with the private property concept," said Rik.
"Well, it's not as if they asked to share the animals," Tramp defended.
"Perhaps we can devise a plan to discover who they are," said Larry.
"What do you have in mind?" asked Tramp.
"Well, the only animal we have left is Che," Larry began. "Maybe we could lock Che up in Sam's pen some night and stay to see what happens!"
"It's worth a try," said Jeffery. Rik nodded.
"Let's do it tonight," said Tramp.
Everyone looked at Che, asleep on the porch. Che sensed their attention, opened one eye, saw everyone staring at him, then raised his head and stared back.
'What in the name of the Great Begger do they want with me?' he thought.
After dinner, Larry, Rik, Tramp and Jeffery took Che out to Sam's pen and, after more than a little persuasion, locked him inside. Che didn't like this at all and started whining and growling and barking and pawing at the fence. Dobermans were not into Fence Meditation.
"Its all right, Che," Rick called. "It's just for tonight. Until the bad beggers come!"
"Shhh!" came a 'shhh' from the second walnut tree.
"Shhh!" came a 'shhh' from the third walnut tree.
"Shhh!" came a 'shhh' from the fourth walnut tree.
'Beggers?' thought Che. He perked his ears and scanned the forest.
The moon was less than half full, casting adequate light upon the land. The stars sparkled merrily. A light breeze played among the branches of the walnut trees.
An hour passed. Two hours. Three hours.
Rick fell asleep.
Tramp fell asleep.
Che watched for beggers.
Jeffery and Larry watched and waited.
The moon had almost completed its arc through the sky. Morning was not far off. The swamp below the forest was alive with the sounds of life. An owl dived for a mouse in the pasture and carried it off, squeaking, in the bird's cruel claws. Che heard it for a long time - until it faded away.
Then in the forest, leaves rustled. Branches scraped against something moving.
Che searched the currents of air for a clue and found one: the odor of an unwashed man.
At first, he thought, he would growl. But then, at the last moment with the growl building in his long throat, he changed his mind. He would wait until the man approached and then bark - that would scare him even more!
A branch cracked. Dry grass crunched. A dark, hunchbacked figure stepped from the forest, slinking around the garden fence toward Sam's pen. Suddenly wire cutters gleamed in the moonlight.
But Che did not bark. He stood frozen, facing the curious figure. Soothing vibrations flowed through him, calming him. He sensed this strange man was his friend.
Snip! Snip! Snip!
The fence parted. Che jumped through the hole and danced in the moonlight.
"You're free!" the man cried, rising to his full height. "Free! No longer must you do humiliating tricks for your supper! No longer must you be locked up in goat pens on a human's whim! No longer must you be a slave to some supposed master! You are free!"
Che wriggled with glee. He was free, at last. Free! He bounded sideways in his excitement. Up. Down. Around. In circles. He did a loop. Happiness overwhelmed him.
"The Animal Liberation Army is forming in the West!" the man screamed. "They need you. You're free! Freeeee!"
The walnut trees dropped men from their branches. The earth crunched, grass was pushed into soil, flowers were crushed to pulp. Small insects were squashed. One man said, "What the fuck are you doing to my dog, man?"
The hunchback stepped back, utterly surprised.
"Why," he said in a horse voice, "I've just liberated him!"
"He doesn't need to be liberated," said Rik acidly. "He's my dog. He loves me. I'm his master. We have a standard dog to master and master to dog relationship. He's happy that way."
"Oh, but I do beg your pardon, sir," the man said. "You are mistaken. He is not happy that way. Now! Now he is happy. Oh, so happy! Now he is free! Freeeee!" the man wailed. "Look for yourself!"
The man pointed with his longer arm in the direction of the hives. Che was running up the mountain. He cleared the fence separating the pasture from the garden in a single bound and was now leaping and bouncing up the hillside, howling in euphoric glee. Rik's jaw dropped.
"Che! Che, come back!" cried Rik. "Che! Che, come!"
But Che disappeared over the rim of the hill. They could still hear his howls of joy.
A wisp of mist floated by above their heads. The five stood regarding each other, not knowing quite what to say. The crickets and frogs resumed their orchestra in the swamp. Rik felt a tear run down his cheek. Then another.
"But why?" he asked, his voice cracking.
"Why?" the hunchbacked man asked. "For the revolution, of course!"
"Wait a minute," Jeffery said. "Your 'revolution' has got to be a whole lot different than ours."
"My dear boy," replied the hunchback, "it is not 'my revolution' to which I refer." He motioned in the direction Che had gone. "It is their revolution of which I speak. I am merely their agent. Shunned all my life by the human world, I have chosen to give them my services for the short time I will be needed. You see, their time has finally come again. Soon we will find ourselves on the other side of the coin."
He looked at the setting moon and the glow of the approaching dawn.
"I must go, now," he said. "I hope you have made many friends in their world. It will all come back to you, you know..."
And with that, he was gone.
The four looked at each other in silence.
Rik gazed forlornly at the deserted hillside. Che had howled with happiness. He had never done that before!
In the forest, the trees trembled.
The next day was crisp and clear from the rain late the previous night, and Rik admired a sparkling view of the Bay Cities as he walked down the winding, tree-bridled stretch of Page Mill toward Struggle Mountian, the haven of the California draft resistance movement of the late 1960's. Joan Baez had lived there only months before, but now Struggle Mountain was changing; not only changing hands but struggling once again to survive skyrocketing taxes and rent as the city-organism climbed amoebae-like into the still quiet and wild peninnsula mountain range.
As he opened the swinging redwood gate that gave entry into the complex of buildings that comprised Struggle Mountain, he wondered why he had come. Perhaps it was to meet Michael, who he had heard so much about. Maybe to visit his friends here, particularly Bill - he was usually here in the mornings. But he suspected that his motive was to see the girl again. The beautiful and mysterious woman who he had met the previous night. What was her name?
He sat in the sunlight by the fabric swimming pool and studied the day. A gray Volkswagen van stood in the gravel parking area next to the big main house. It had big wide oval tires with custom wheel wells and mud guards on the rear wheels. He had never seen it before.
Katheline, the pretty blond with the charming English accent, was out with her daughter, Kristen. He smiled and they talked for a while about nothing important. Nothing was really important, was it? And Larry passed by with a friendly greeting, admiring the fine sound produced. by Rik's 12-string guitar.
Then he was alone again. He thought about entering the house, his privilege, but instead filled the time and the air with a song - one of his own.
Soon the side door on the Volkswagen van slid open with a metallic roll and the man he thought to be Michael stepped out into the sunlight, stretching and pushing his hair back out of his eyes. He glanced around, saw Rik ten yards away by the pool and nodded.
Rik smiled back and continued playing.
Bill Garaway strode out of the house, grinning.
"Good morning," he said to Michael. "Were you cold last night?
"No," replied the blond man. "A bit damp."
The girl climbed out of the van, now, dressed as she had been the night before.
"Hi, Bill," she smiled. Bill took her hand and smiled back. He asked if they were going to spend the day up on the mountain, but Michael replied that he had some urgent business to take care of in San Francisco and then they had to jet back to Santa Monica the following day.
Bill's gaze turned to Rik.
"Hi, Rik. Have you met Michael and Beth?
"No," Rik answered. He placed the guitar gently into its fur-lined case and walked over to meet them. He shook hands with Michael and was struck immediately by his incredibly vivid blue eyes, almost Christ-like in their intensity.
"Rik lived with Karen and me at the Land last winter," said Bill.
He smiled and nodded to Beth, but she held out her hand to him and he took it gently, amazed at her electrifying, casual tenderness. There seemed to be magic afoot here. Rik had always regarded Bill as a kind of Wizard.
"Rik's pretty good at fixing stuff," Bill informed Michael. "Maybe he can fix your tape deck.
"Sure," said Rik. "I could try."
"We'd really appreciate it if you could," said Michael. "We just had this thing put in in Los Angeles and now all it does is buzz."
He opened the door and showed Rik the deck, an expensive Sony model which Rik knew nothing about.
"Unless the final output transistor is shot," Rik bluffed, "its probably a bad connection somewhere. Do you have any tools?"
He didn't, but there were some in the house. Before Michael and Beth had finished breakfast in the big house, he had the deck out of the van and in pieces on a block of wood. He could find nothing amiss. He reassembled it and screwed back in place beneath the dash checking all the wiring. Nothing. Michael came out and found him lying on the floor wedged between the gearshift and the bench seat, looking up at the maze of wires hanging down in a confusing jumble.
"Any luck?" he asked the supine figure.
Rik found a fuse on the common ground to the door speakers, found it to be bad, and said, "Yeah. I found the problem.
He removed the fuse and searched the floor for a piece of foil, which he found (a chewing gum wrapper) - and shaped it like a fuse. Then he slid it into the plastic fuse case and twisted it shut.
Beth walked up and stood behind Michael, peering over his shoulder. Bill poked his head through the other window.
"Its fixed." Rik said, his fingers crossed.
"Let's see!" exclaimed Beth.
Rick stuck in a tape. The machine clicked and its operating light turned green. But nothing happened.
"Oh," said Rik, and turned up the volume. A blast of sound filled the van.
"Far out!" said Michael. "Thanks a lot, Rik."
"Its nothing," said Rik. He showed Michael where a fuse needed to go. Beth and Michael thanked him again as they climbed in, and they disappeared in a cloud of dust and noise down the driveway on their way to San Francisco.
Rik looked at Bill and grinned. Bill grinned back.
Rik spent the next day in seclusion, jamming on his guitar and meditating. That evening he walked past the garden and into the Longhouse. Through the long rows of square windows in the main hall, he spied the gray van parked in the Institute parking lot.
|Bill Garroway by Rik|
He met Bill in the kitchen, sorting out order blanks for the organic food cooperative they had formed. He asked him about the van.
"Michael left it for us to use until they come back," Bill said. "It isn't running right now, though."
Rik asked him what was wrong.
|Leonard Garroway by Rik|
"It won't start," Bill said, throwing his hands up into the air. "My brother Leonard and I pushed it all the way from Struggle and couldn't get it to fire. Maybe you can find out what's wrong..."
Rik climbed in behind the wheel and turned the key that stuck out of the ignition switch. No response. He checked the wiring behind the key, tried the lights to see if there was any juice. Nothing. He walked around to the engine compartment and grounded the hot lead to the regulator with a screwdriver. ZAP - a blinding arc of electricity.
"Hmmm," this was most strange. He tried the key again. Nothing. Something was not as it should be. The thought that something had been different inside tugged at his brain. When he was fixing the tape deck... That was it! The key in the ignition yesterday had had a beaded strip of leather attached to it. This key had none. He searched the dark compartment under the dash for the other key. There it was! He removed the key from the ignition, stuck the new one in the slot and turned it. The van started immediately.
Bill came running down the steps from the kitchen.
"What did you do?"
"You had the wrong key in the ignition," he told Bill. "See, this one fits the door."
"Oh," said Bill.
Busy weeks followed one another like links on a chain. Produce runs once a week to Farmers Market in South San Francisco for the Shanga Food Cooperative. He spent many hours helping Sally put a gable on the roof of the Big House in the Institute complex. He designed and installed a banister on the stairwell to the attic and they stained it together. He dug Sally and they spent a lot of time together.
Most of his time was spent, however, in solitude, playing and trying to master Binky's fine 6-string Martin. Gradually, he played less guitar and began spending more time with others.
One night, Rik found himself walking toward the Big House where he had lived the year before. Judy and Sally lived there now, but they were gone. They had left a few days earlier to attend an important meeting and an even more important party at the People's Union Farm in Fresno. He encountered Rose, an attractive 17-year old waif from Stockton who had migrated to the Backland Community from Earth Ranch on Skyline when the lease had expired, on her way into the forest.
"Would you like to go to a party?" he asked her. "Maybe we can make one."
Heavy things had been coming down at The Land in Palo Alto.
The most powerful people in the Institute, the "ologarchy" - as Bill Garroway put it - could no longer tolerate our living there since in many ways our existence supposedly was in conflict with the Sessions. They proposed that the community be disbanded.
Lee suggested letting the garden "die" by no longer watering it, since it was a distracting "form" and a hindrance to the total concentration required by Will and Lee's sessions which used a total of nine summer days. Larry's mushrooming Auto Cooperative was likewise declared a "form" and it was heavily suggested that the four car garage be shut down for good.
Of course, Bill's rapidly growing food cooperative (seven weeks = 300 people) was also very much a "form."
The inhabitant of the Rattlesnake Pit was never consulted, since he did not and never had existed. I felt left out since I was not also a "form." But I reconciled myself with the lesson I learned: That it is not whether you are right or wrong, or a "form" or formless, but rather how tactful you are at confrontation politics.
So on my twenty-first birthday, after the incredible party (they wanted to take me bar-hopping! I declined.), I dropped some Orange Sunshine and retired. Around 3:00 A.M,. Che 'n me walked up to the highest hill on The Land and I began "Ommmmmming" up the sun. It was the most incredible sunrise I'd ever seen. A layer of fog, maybe 500 feet thick, floated on top of the warm city air over the bay. I could see underneath it because the layer didn't quite reach me. I could also see on top of it. The mountains across the bay were black against the morning sky of rainbow colors. It was one of the most beautiful trips I've ever had.
|Rik 21st BDAY|
ISLAND IN THE SKY (MY MAGIC MOUNTAIN)
Up on the mountain where the cold wind blows.
High above the valley of the dark shadows,
Riding on the blackness of a dying sea.
My magic island waits for me.
Island in the sky, why are you there?
Island in the sky, what might you be?
Island in the sky, what might we do
To reunite you with the sea?
Blue is the color of my true love's hair.
White is the color of the clothes she wears.
Green is the aura of her smile for me
Over the blackness of the sea.
Island in the sky, why are you there?
Island in the sky, what might you be?
Island in the sky, what might we do
To reunite you with the sea?
Dawn comes to greet her with a red dress on.
Noon rides to find her waist is nearly drowned.
Dusk falls before the sea conceals her eyes
Night finds an island in the sky.
Island in the sky, why are you there?
Island in the sky, what might you be?
Island in the sky, what might we do
To reunite you with the sea?
Come see my island in the sky!
Come see her now because she's nearly gone.
Come see the sea of fifth roll by
And drown my island in the sky!
THE FIRST DAY OF AUTUMN - 1971 A.D. end of the DARK AGE CYCLE
middle american coast
peninsula ridge east
Today I once again find myself somewhere rather than anywhere. Here I rest in my pit. Hmmm, you ask, why does he rest in his pit, happy? Here I rest in my pit, happy because Linda, I think, saw the red-white and blue schoolbus. It was parked across from the silver barns as we drove by in Marian's Pontiac.
I was in a fair to middlin' rotten mood, wondering 'Where the hell can I get a couple of vice-grips?'
|Che guards the Great Turtle Express|
The bus was really something. Red, white and blue stripes along one side, bright rectangles and squares on the other. In big letters were the words GREAT TURTLE EXPRESS. In front it said - IT'S OUR COUNTRY TOO! In back, WE PICK UP HITCH-HIKERS - MAYBE YOU SHOULD TOO! I stopped on a cosmic hunch, and asked the freak with the beard and blond hair if he had maybe a vice-grip or two that I could borrow, even though he'd never seen me before.
He had two. (Imagine that!) And he lent me both.
They didn't work, however, and the fucking bearing race wouldn't move. And the axle was moving kinda funny, anyway. The book that had told me that vice-grips would pull the bearing race also said that transfer boxes were superbummers without tools. So I give up and said "I can't do it." simply because I couldn't, and they hauled it to a garage across the street.
Linda had to split back home to explain how the "funeral" had developed complications, so I borrowed ten dollars from good old Judy and and spent my last dollar, but for a five, to get her on the bus. She was wondering how she'd eat so I gave her the five. They fixed her bus for all she had and then some. She said she'd been victimized and cried, when she returned.
"Money doesn't affect me that way," I told her. She split with her dog. I wished her luck . She'll need it.
"We're going to leave pretty soon on the Hot Springs Tour," said Bill.
"I think my truck will make it," I said, sawing a notch in a roof beam.
"We may not need to take your truck," he interjected. "You know Gary, the guy with the multicolored school bus? He might go."
"With his bus?"
"Yeah. He wants to see the hot springs."
The two young brother-sister cats sat in immobile transfixion on the edge of the Star-Of-David platform, staring in absolute AWESOME CURIOSITY at the gigantic black monster crashing around in the dry leaves below the tree. Hardly ever did a monster this fearsome approach their skytop roost, and, knowing that they were quite safe so high above it, they sat and stared back in wonder and the novelty that is fear. I picked one up. Flure. I turned her side to side, but her eyes remained fixed on the dog below. She did not even know that I was there.
Flure. A calico just like Mama Kitty. I'd almost taken her over Moonpuffer. But Karen had really loved Flure. The kittens had been like children for Karen, the way she'd fussed over them. Many a warm winter's night had been spent in the living room at The Land. The kitten's love vibrations had seemed to go along with Bill and Karen. It seemed so wrong that she wasn't here, too.
The GREAT TURTLE moved slowly away from David and Judy, who were all smiles and waves. It was like a TV image fading away, as I waved back from behind the window in the rear door.
Is this all a dream?
August 21, 1971
Bill, Karen, John and Marian, all made an exodus to Struggle Mountain. Bill and Karen, of course, still live in the tree house but share meals at Struggle and work on the garden there. No one at The Land - David, Judy, Mike - seemed to care when the cattle broke through the fence around the area behind the long house. They got into The Land's garden from there and ruined it.
I walked through the garden with Linda. It was really a bummer. Once the most beautiful garden I'd ever seen, it had all the leaves eaten off the plants and although the stalks were still alive, they were dying. The cows' hooves had ground half the plants into the ground. Everything was dry due to lack of water. The greenhouses were filled to overflowing with potted plants, shriveled brown and dead. Completely dead. It put me into a depression for the rest of the time that I was there with Linda.
I kept hearing, over and over in my mind, Lee's words the night of the fateful meeting at The Land, when he said to Bill about the garden, "Let it die. Don't water it."
And Bill's jaw falling open like a shot…
MIDDLE DECEMBER Palo Alto The Land
At first, he thought there was no one there, so he entered silently, climbing the familiar attic steps quickly with soft footfalls. The gable was gone, now, but the windows replacing it shed more than adequate light, and the attic glowed in a subtle redwood hue. The round table, the one that held so many memories of good-time dinners and winter nights, rested resignedly underneath the wide, misted-over windows. Drops of water condensing from the fog outside, dripped with lonely echoes onto it's stained boards.
It was then he heard her sobbing.
He found her huddled in the bed against the far wall, shivering, her cheeks rosy and tear-streaked. She held a small, black journal in her trembling hand. He bent-and kissed her gently, tasting a salty tear.
"Rik!" Her voice was a hoarse whisper. "I knew you were coming. I had a dream about you last night."
"Far out" he said. "I was here last night."
Her eyes were wet and sparkling, and her smile of happiness was real.
"What's wrong?" he asked, wiping away a tear.
"God," she said. "It's so incredible! I just relived Carrie's birth. The whole thing. I'm tripping on mescaline and... Oh, God, it was so beautiful. I realized that I'm Carrie's gateway to the world, and that all those times I didn't want her and the times I put myself before her, were all so much bullshit. I'll never be selfish like that again."
She was crying, now. He gave her a Kleenex, then took off his black leather motorcycle jacket and placed it across her shoulders.
She grinned. "It's good to see you."
"Its good to see you again, too. Did you hear? I was disqualified from the Draft."
"There's a postcard around here somewhere from you. It was really far out. I think its on the bulletin board in the hall."
"Yeah. I wrote it in verse. Hey, I've got something that will cheer you up. A new song. Hang on, I'll get my guitar."
He bounded down the stairs and out the back door. The parking lot was a disastrous mess, thanks to the storm the night before. Dead and splintered tree limbs from the giant, dying pine next to the house and torn boughs from the redwood next to the long-house, lay strewn everywhere. In places, the thin gravel surface had turned to mud interlaced with deep car tracks. He ran to the beat-up panel truck by the garage, parked at an odd angle next to Robert's abandoned, wrecked Austin-Healy, and pulled the nylon string guitar hastily from its gaping rear door. He was excited at the prospect of playing his new song, the one that he had worked so hard on, to Judy. She was one of his Special People.
In the attic again, he said, "I wrote this on the road!"
He pulled up a stool by the bed, tuned the guitar to the best of his ability, and began to play. He knew it would sound good because she was on mescaline and almost all music sounds GOOD TO PEOPLE WHO ARE TRIPPING.
"Well, I woke up early last Monday morning
With the mountains all covered with snow
But my draft board had wrote me a short little note,
It said, boy, its your time to go.
So I figured that I'd better go.
I was standin' all alone by the side of the road
As a thousand cars passed me by
Full of tight-lipped women and men who were scowlin'
And I couldn't even ask them why,
So I just waved as they passed on by.
Soon a cop car pulled up and stopped there beside me
As I was standin' there by the road.
He said, "Boy, just what do you think you're a-doin?"
I said, "The army wants my soul,
So I just figured that I'd better go."
Well, he smiled and lit my last cigarette.
Why, I'd made him a happy man!
I said, "Some folks like cops, others can't stand the lot,
But me, I just don't give a damn."
And he never asked me who I am.
Now, the sun was high when an ex-GI
Stopped in his Volkswagen van.
He said, "I'm heading back East with a busload of keys
But I'll take you as far as I can."
And I was back on the road again.
Well, I went to a doctor last Tuesday morning
With a 4-F in my eyes.
I had a runny nose, an ache in my toes,
And my head felt twice its size.
Yeah, my head felt twice it's size.
Now, his magazine stand showed he's a good Christian man
So I was hopin' he'd help me out.
But his concern for my call and who was paying it all
Soon filled mv head with doubt.
I said it filled my head with doubt.
Well, I woke up early last Wednesday morning
A disastrous thing to do
'Cause waiting for me at the Greyhound station
Were those people from Red, White and Blue.
The ones who tell you what to do.
I got to the station 'bout a quarter to six.
There were a hundred fellows there,
Some with their families and some with their chicks
And some had long, long hair.
I tell you, some had long, long hair.
Well, I sat in the bus as we were waitin' to go
And the girls stood. at the rail.
Some had. tears in their eyes as they were wavin' goodbye
And others were kind of pale.
Yeah, others were kind of pale.
As the bus left the station and their women were waving,
Some started to realize.
And I was watching their faces in the dim light of morning
As horror filled their eyes.
I saw horror fill their eyes.
"What do you think?" he asked her.
"Its you," she said. "It's all Rik."
She left later that day on a journey to the flatlands and her daughter. She was having dinner with her brother that night, so she wouldn't be back until late, if at all. So he stayed in the attic and thought. About the year he had spent here. About his present. About the future that awaited him, a mysterious question mark on the misty road ahead. His plans were to leave; he didn't know why. New teachers, Gary's kids, the appeal of those distant hills, the relentless restlessness he felt; all bits of reasons, but none reasons in themselves.
Towards evening, he opened her journal and wrote a poem to her and her daughter, much his own little girl over the past year. He hoped that she would not mind the resolute intrusion into the record of her own private thoughts.
"IF OUR LIVES WERE BUT TINY SPECKS ADRIFT
IN THE ABYSSAL VASTNESS OF INFINITY,
RATHER THAN THE CROSSHAIR CENTERS
OF OUR OWN PRIVATE UNIVERSES,
WOULD YOU REMEMBER ME AS YOU DID
OF THE SHADOW THAT FOLLOWED YOU UNFAILINGLY
THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER DAZE
ONLY TO MELT SILENTLY AWAY
INTO THE ENCOMPASSING GRAY
OF EVERY NIGHT?
OR WOULD I REMAIN TO YOU
AS THE LIGHT-FOOTED MESSENGER
WHO HERALDED THE WINTER RAINS
IN THE GUSTY TURBULENCE BEHIND EACH FOOTFALL?
YOUR LIVES WERE PRECIOUS GEMS
AWASH IN AN ENDLESS SEA OF JEWELS.
AND MINE? BUT A PEBBLE, ALONE
ON AN EMPTY DESERT OF SAND.
DID YOU NOTICE ME AS YOU ROLLED OVER ME,
AS TIME CHANGED THE LAND,
OR DID YOU DRIFT ON BY, LEAVING ME UNIQUE
ON THE ENDLESS DESERT OF TIME?
A Song for Judy
The central theme, Rain Poem 1981, was published in the Ventura Jr. College paper on the first Earth Day, 1970.
March 14, 1972 Great Turtle Express The Land
Well, here we are again.
I was walking along the dirt road from the Backland Settlement, feeling rather empty inside, wanting Rose, or more correctly: any chick I could talk to ‑ so I stopped and looked at the lights of Stoney Ridge Ranch across the Stevens Creek Valley. I heard footsteps then turned.
"Who's that?" a voice asked.
It was Gay, walking to her tent, left and down from the blackberry bush.
I asked her why she was walking so fast.
"No reason, I guess," and she slowed down. We stopped and talked for a short while. I think I would have gone down with her but for Bill.
Wearing a white cowboy hat, he walked up out of the darkness on his way to Winter (Karen) and his baby in the tree house. We talked together about the meeting in the Backlands and about other things - about our lives - then Gay picked up a box of clothes she had left by the fork in the path, bid us goodnight, and walked down the path past the marijuana patch to her tent.
Bill wanted to talk to Sally and Judy about the place in which they are at.
The Institute has severed. all ties with the land and perhaps will not lease it for $1 again this year from Eldridge, so Judy and Sally want to board horses and make some kind of money trip go on there. This is a drag because the land should be used as a community center for the Santa Cruz Mountain Community. And the only way we feel Eldridge will lease the land to anyone else is only if it's something that will be useful. Maybe, finally, that place will be utilized to its full potential. But Judy and Sally weren't home so we walked down Page Mill to the Great Turtle.
I asked Bill to come in for a glass of tea. He said okay if it was right away because he was anxious to get back to Winter.
I told him that if he was in a hurry, he shouldn't come in because you never know what's going to happen when you board the Great Turtle Express. Even if its parked. So he came in and drank a cup of Peggy's sassafras tea while the Desert Sun played on the Sony. He was about to leave when a pick-up drove up in front of the small barn outside.
Gary said it might be a couple of girls who'd picked up Gay and him hitch‑hiking earlier today.
"And cute, too," he added. But then some scraggly-haired old dude with long black hair, a beard and a mustache was knocking on the bus door. I asked him in.
"Lou!" Gary exclaimed, rising from his bench seat and taking the man's hand. He was an old friend of Gary's from the Hog Farm, which has currently rented a place at Pacific High School for about six buses.
Lou is one of the original Hog Farmers from way back before Woodstock; he went to Nepal on one of the two Hog Farm buses on the money they got from doing a movie. We got to talking about The Free Earth People's Parks.
"They're ready to boogey," he said. Then we told him about The Land.
"Do you know what's happening right out here?" Gary asked.
"No," he said.
"There's fifty people living out here in teepees and houses. They have about 800 acres."
"Add another four hundred acres if you count my land," said Bill.
"And it's all illegal!" said Gary.
"All illegal!?" cried, Lou.
"Yes," said Gary, "no one knows about it."
His mind was clearly blown.
|Mary Jo by Rik|
He said he'd come down with a videotape machine for Malcolm's marriage to Mary Jo Morra. He seemed more interested in the peyote, judging from his manner. But then, I don't see how he could get too enthused about the marriage since he knows neither Malcom nor Mary Jo.
I spent the day talking to Mark, an old time friend of Bill's from the Resistance days in Venice, reading Freak Brothers Comix, riding Joy, a horse, with Dawn. And helping Rose work on her house.
Rose's house is beautiful. A magnificent creation for a seventeen-year-old kid from Texas. She has the roof on, and the outside walls and windows, a gas stove, a sewing machine, a tape recorder (still in the Rattlesnake Pit) and a sleeping loft. We put the rug she had just cut onto the loft, then made a table next to the wall out of a piece of that plywood form boarding that Sally and I found by Stanford Shopping Center late last year.
After dinner in the Backland Community teepee, he asked her to walk back to the Great Turtle Express and listen to the tape. She consented, seemingly hesitant.
"It's just that it's such a long walk back," she said. Later, after two steaming huge bowls of hot buttered popcorn, she changed her mind, saying that she was too tired.
"I'd really like to talk to you tonight. It's only rarely that I find myself in a place where I can talk. How about if we climb up a mountain and look at the city?" he asked.
"Okay," she said. She left the teepee with some dishes and entered the small community kitchen.
He walked outside and sat in the wicker chair, studying the stars. He could hear her voice as she talked with someone for what seemed like interminable hours. The futility of the situation reached him then. She didn't really want to go. He was no longer an important part of her trip. He rose and collected the dishes used for the fruit salad he had prepared from the bench outside the teepee. Then turning, seeing her face lit by a kerosene lamp in the kitchen, he faded away into the darkness toward the bus, a half mile away.
When he reached the dirt road after the climb from the prairie dog valley below, he turned and looked back in the hope of someone following, regretting his decision but not enough to turn back. The night was beginning to chill and the lights from the other side of the valley were sharp and cold to his loneliness. The croaking and clicking of the swamp creatures settled his mood, though, and by the time he crossed the garden depression behind the barn, he felt better. At the bus he decided that he would transpose some more of the interview tapes and lose himself in work. He walked behind the small barn and started the generator to power the tape deck and the electric typewriter.
Rose was leaning on the sky blue Falcon by the door with a look of consternation on her face.
"Why did you leave?" she asked.
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe to see where things were at. I'm glad you came."
He embraced her for a long time there, feeling the feeling that he needed so much, then he gathered up his bedding and they hiked up the Ratlesnake Pit mountain.
|Rik by MLM|
BEER CAN KARMA
He had decided that two of the oak trees he had found would serve his purpose well if he ever decided to move back; both having strong, sturdy limbs over sixty feet from the Stevens Creek Valley floor. He hiked west, looking for a fence that he could cut for a gate off Page Mill Road, and finding a suitable entry point for a four wheel drive vehicle, he walked down the road toward The Land.
Beer cans were everywhere, so he started playing a game that involved picking up every beer can, pop can and bottle between himself and The Land. When his arms were full and he was anxiously looking for an absence of beer cans ahead, he noticed that he was thirsty - but all he had was an arm load of empty beer cans!
How ironic, he thought.
'I wish I had an ice cold beer.
In five steps he found a dollar by the side of the road.
"Wow! Almost enough for a six pack!"
Three more steps and he had found another. He dropped the beer cans in Carrie's wagon next to the bus and stuck out his thumb to hitchhike to Skylonda, about fifteen miles. The first car going to Skyline gave him a ride. A motorcyclist heading to San Mateo passed, then turned around and gave him a ride to Skylonda. He bought a six pack of Rainer Ale, that stuff that had gotten him so wasted in Wolf Creek the summer before, and a yellow can of TOP tobacco because when you put it next to a mirror it reads "POT".
The third car going south took him to Page Mill Road, and the next car going down the hill took him to The Land.
March 17, 1972 The Land
In the teepee, Beverly turned in her sleeping bag toward the light of the kerosene lamp and said to him, "We have a moth."
He focused his gaze on the madly fluttering creature as it vainly battered against the glass chimney of the lamp.
"It has one purpose." he said.
"What is that?" she asked.
"To reach the flame."
"But he'll be destroyed!"
He blew over the top of the lamp and the inside of the teepee was plunged into the thickest darkness.
"Some of us have purposes like that, too," he said softly, and disappeared into the night.
|Rik and Lynn in 1973 Photo ML Rocha used by permission|
Rik left The Land in the Spring of 1972 with Mary Jo's sister Lynn. He never returned.
--copyright 2009 Rik Masters--