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First Marvel sweatshirt ever.

February 26, 2015

1968-015Here, in Missoula, in 1968 photographer Bill Yenne had Duck, Steve, and Becky pose down by the Clark Fork.  Duck is wearing what possibly is the first Marvel sweatshirt ever made featuring the “Thing,” of Fantastic Four fame.

Anne, told me she was through with me, so I left Dillon the next chance I got.  I was 18.  I quit my summer irrigation job and took the car to see my brother Tom in Eugene, Oregon.  The car? A 1960 Studebaker Lark VI wagon, that four of us bought for $60.  Les must have made the actual purchase after we chipped in $15 apiece, because the title was in his name.  I remember Duck paid his share with coins he kept in a milk bottle.  Like that.

The four of us had planned to drive to California that summer of love, 1967, as soon as we graduated from high school in Dillon, Montana.  Only I didn’t go with them because I had a summer job tending irrigation pipes in huge barley fields.  When Les, Duck, and Tad returned from San Francisco they said they were glad I stayed behind as I would have spit tobacco juice in the car.  Actually, chewing tobacco nauseated me, but the others chewed all the time.  Turns out they drove to SF, tagged up, and turned around, drove back. Then Anne gave me the boot.  I went to Oregon.

The June air was warm and smelled sweet, mixed with the smells of extra gasoline and tires that I carried in the back of the Lark VI as I cruised down the Columbia toward Portland.  A beautiful evening when I heard the organ strains of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” for the first time.  I hyperventilated when I thought about the trouble I’d get into for splitting.  (I had read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn 5 times.)

In Eugene my brother Tom said some cops had visited him earlier that day.  (Because of the car?) Tom said not to worry, everything was okay.  Tom seemed to like me better when I misbehaved.  I still don’t understand why.

Tom admired the car.  In Eugene he rode a 10-speed.  He said approvingly that the Studebaker was “adequate.”  We went across town to visit his Montana friends Jerry and Judy.  I asked them about getting some beer, but they had pot, so I tried the smoke from a briar pipe they passed around.  I couldn’t tell any difference in the way I felt.  I asked if getting high was equivalent to drinking about 6 beers.  They just laughed.  I sort of withdrew and asked Tom were they laughing at me?  He said, “you’re high.”  He said part of being high was being paranoid — feeling like others were talking about you.

We smoked the next day at the ocean beach.  I wanted to write Anne’s name in the sand.  My brother saw me do it, so I changed it to “I am…”  Months later he quoted those last 2 sentences in a letter to me.  Then he wrote, “I eat my lunch.”

I didn’t stay in Oregon long, just a couple days.  Back home Les wouldn’t speak to me because I had taken the car without permission from my friends.  Another friend, Ray, told me that Les didn’t want to associate with me anymore.

Ostracized, I drove my mother’s car on the dirt roads of Beaverhead County.  Mosquitos.  Cattle.  Oppressive heat, even at the relatively high altitude there.  Pleasant smell of sagebrush.  I sampled a variety of weeds growing out in the country to see if any of them would get me high when I smoked them the way marijuana had.  I helped some friends paint a fence that summer and made up with my friend Tad.  September came around.

After a week or so in Missoula as a freshman at the university, I got myself a used army field jacket and colored my sparse beard with “mustache wax,” really just a soft brown crayon.  A kid named Larry, wearing a brown leather jacket (that he later said he bought for a quarter) came up to me outside the Lodge near Craig Hall and said in a low tone, “Hey, know where I can buy some pot?”  I replied.  “No, but I wish I did.”  I wanted the others to think I was hip.

I think a bearded guy in a sport coat named Gary sold me some within the next couple of days.  Gary hailed from New York and had brought the weed with him.  In those days you could get a lid of grass for about $7-8.  John, from Boston, showed me how you opened up the baggie, made a face, and said it was skinny, whether it was full of stems or not, like that.  Then you tried to bargain down the price.

Larry, Gary, John, and a whole bunch of other freshmen college men and women with longish hair or beards seemed to routinely gather at a particular table at the center of the food service cafeteria, so this was our circle of friends for several years.  We became damned close.  Alcohol had little attraction for us that year, but several of us started smoking cigarets and most of us, but not all, smoked pot when we could get some.  Pills like LSD?  None of us freshmen had pills, but rarely we trustingly bought them from older tougher hipper looking men and women.  People from the West Coast.  Mostly we could not get even pot.  We spent evenings at a coffee house in the basement of a nearby Congregational Church, smoking cigs, drinking coffee, listening to a long haired soprano with a guitar sing a folk song, Joan Baez style.

Later that Fall, because I had gotten a $150 journalism scholarship from the Montana Newspaper Guild I was invited to attend a supper downtown in Missoula at the Florence Hotel.  I went scraggly beard, field jacket, unshorn hair and all.  I wondered if I would be welcome among all of the old straight people.  I don’t think I had a girlfriend so I went alone.  By then the pain of being dumped by my high school girlfriend had subsided.

About 15 men dressed in suits, or sport jackets and ties met me and shook my hand.  I was one of 4 scholarship winners, including 2 women and another man, all my age.  We sat together at a long table.

Oddly, one of the older men there told me that he liked my beard, that I reminded him of my late father, who had died in 1953 of cancer.  My father usually wore a suit!  Did he think my father would have posed as a hippie in 1967?

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