Blogging in E minor
Usually just a bunch of silly crap.

A Box Full of Pennies and a Dream, Part II: Lee Murr’s Magical Meanderings

by special guest blogger Lee Murr

Follow this link to previous installment.

            I’ve always enjoyed walking,  so setting out on foot felt natural. I welcomed it.  I didn’t put too much effort into hitching because the walking felt good and I’ve never been a fan of the hard sell hitchhikers — you know, the guys who make direct eye contact and then make some motion at you when you drive by without stopping for them. The soft sell was my approach, and after a day and a half of walking, a guy in a pickup truck pulled over to give me a ride. 

            Damn, I was beat down from walking and smelled like a gym shoe!  Rather than stink up his cab I was trying to hop in the back, but he said “It’s cool,” and let me ride in the front. 

            That ride got me about 100 miles and a few cigarettes.  Then more walking. . . . 

            I eventually got picked up by a trucker in an 18-wheeler, which got me into Kansas, where my walking days came to an abrupt end.  In Kansas, they didn’t allow ANY pedestrian traffic on the highway, a law that was strictly enforced by Highway Patrol and local Police.  The truck driver had dropped me off at Wilson, and that’s where I would stay until I could get a ride.  

            I spent the rest of that day and the entire next day trying to get a ride doing my best hard sell at the entrance ramp to the highway. I distinctly remember the looks old ladies had on their faces as they sped away from me to safety, tapping their husbands on the shoulder and pointing in a “get us out of here!” sort of way.  Between my six days with no bath and my grubby, Jim Morrison t-shirt, I’m sure I looked like a chubby Charles Manson just waiting to slaughter them.
 
            Where the highway passes over a road there is an inclined slab of concrete that comes up from the lower roadway all the way up to the underside of the highway. At the top there is a ledge about 24″ wide with a gap around 18″ tall that makes a great place to sleep.  I had never noticed these gaps before, that is until I needed a covered, concealed place to sleep, and it fit the bill. Pigeons knew about the ledge, but I evicted them from my area.

            After my second night on the ledge, I was awakened by what appeared to be Jesus, running up the incline yelling, “Hey man! You going to Missouri?”.  This was an unsettling way to wake as I couldn’t figure out how this guy knew where I was going.  He was yelling and beckoning, “Come on!” so I grabbed my stuff and stumbled down the incline. 

            He and some other hippies were traveling in a step-van, it was sort of like a small UPS truck, and headed to Missouri to the annual Rainbow Gathering.  They were two men, a woman, and a baby traveling from California to Missouri in a beat up van with minimal resources, but lots of experience.  They were happy to add another member to their group. 

            The van had a radiator leak that gave us an excuse to stop at every town along the way and look for handouts or work.  The two male hippies, Syd and Marty,  were pipe makers from San Francisco. They specialized in pipes made of antlers. There was also  Holly and her infant baby. 

            I never figured out the relationship that may or may not have existed between them, but the baby’s value quickly became evident.  As Takkic noted earlier,  small towns really don’t want drifters hanging around, so they usher them along with gas, cash, or both.  The baby helped to ratchet up the sympathy level a bit, so our group didn’t have much trouble getting “help”.  In addition to the radiator leak, the van was now having starter trouble.  A new starter cost far more than we could muster from begging, so I figured we were stuck. 

            The next morning we were awakened by a police officer, who asked what we were doing there.  He pulled me out and we went to his cruiser where he explained that someone had broken in to the auto parts store where the Syd and Marty had just visited yesterday.  He wasn’t sure what had been stolen, but wanted to know if I knew anything.  I told him that I had slept like a log and hadn’t noticed anything. He asked to see the soles of my shoes, as the thieves left some footprints behind.  A quick exam of the bottom of my shoe satisfied him and I went back to the van. 

            He questioned Syd, Marty, and Holly, but his attitude was different.  A cursory look at their unshod feet, a glimpse into the van, and he was done with his investigation. It was as if he just didn’t want to “go there”.  He told us to get moving and Syd was happy to comply.  The van “miraculously” started, and we left that town with our starter troubles behind us.

            These hippies had a mastery of “working the system” that Takkic and I could’ve never dreamed of.  It wasn’t all handouts; they knew what kind of places would hire people for odd jobs.  Marty and I each made $20 clearing brush and debris out from the back of a restaurant and soon we were back on the road with gas, food, and smokes. 

            We got off Highway 70 well before the Missouri border, as they wanted to take advantage of the hospitality the smaller towns offered, and the slower speeds were safer in the van.  Syd and Marty saw a guy hitchhiking that they thought might be headed to the Rainbow Gathering and picked him up. The hitcher spent the next 10 minutes staring at Holly and her baby. Wordlessly.  At minute 11 we pulled over and kicked him out.  Spooked, we all agreed to go the rest of the way with just the five of us. 

 .

            The  1985 Rainbow Gathering in Mark Twain National Forest was everything you would expect from thousands of hippies running around in the woods: Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll.

            Every imaginable model of hippie was represented, and my pipe maker friends fit right in.  There were plenty of the 60’s-type hippies present, a little older but still living the life.  There were Cowboy hippies, Natureboy hippies,  hippies with tipis and hippies with kites. There were, of course, guitar playing hippies all over the place, every third or fourth one actually playing in tune, and naked people of all ages, shapes and sizes running amok. They came by foot, by horseback or by beautiful buses painted wildly with flowers and other images associated with the culture One had a rickshaw pulled by a goat! There were people who, to my untrained eye, suffered from both drug addiction and mental illness.  It was exactly what I’ve always imagined Woodstock would’ve been like.  I probably stood out like a sore thumb.
              Syd and Marty were ecstatic, but I wasn’t feeling it.  I had given up drugs years before and I had an issue with people who purported to be going “back to nature” but relied on the technological advances of the world around them when things went awry.  It seems disingenuous to say you’re a hippie and Mother Nature will provide and that whole spiel but then call the EMT when you step on a nail or something. 
            After just one day at the  Rainbow Gathering  —  an event that so many people had come from all over the world to attend — I’d had enough. Darkness seemed a beautiful time to start the final leg of my journey home as the stars were shining so brightly out away from the city lights.  I left without saying goodbye because I didn’t want them persuading me from leaving.  They were nice people, but I wasn’t one of them. The road was so beautiful that night — stars, crickets, frogs, all my companions — as I slept in the cool grass behind a school. 
            The next day two kind souls got me the rest of the way home. The second was a kid I knew from school who couldn’t believe I was out on the highway hitchhiking.  Neither could I.
 
to be continued

           

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One Response to “A Box Full of Pennies and a Dream, Part II: Lee Murr’s Magical Meanderings”

  1. I would have stayed with the Rainbow Tribe. Those are my folks…although slightly a bit nuttier than your average Pagan, they are still good people. Flaky…but good. 🙂


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