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Hippies try for Richfield

October 5, 2016


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Duck had more than fourteen inches, and this wasn’t counting the comic book-size plywood the stack rested on, beside his pallet in the basement apartment that was so far from Mount Sentinel that the whole mountain was less than one finger length long, if you held the finger at arms length.

Less than two years later he would abandon the stack of Marvels in the farming community of Richfield, Idaho, where he and the members of a hippie blues band lived in an abandoned hotel.  They left because they smoked away all of their weed and boredom was consuming their lives.  I thought Duck and his brother were in heaven, a place too steep in the sky to visit, although Tim Rogers and I tried on foot.

Tim and I spent the night in a city park in Boise, roughly across the street from the Rescue Mission.  We arrived too late to check in for a bed, so we unrolled our bags under some bushes.  The next day we panhandled for breakfast, faking a British accent.  Hell anything would have brought results better than my plain Montana way of speaking.  Tim said buckwheat pancakes filled you up better, but you had to have at least a couple dollars for breakfast.  Didn’t take long when we were desperate.

The rain had stopped and I still had one tab of acid, so as we hitched out of town I dropped it.  Didn’t occur to me that we were not likely to find a ride to the remote village of about 400, but a car dropped Tim and me close enough to see the water tower and grain elevator in the distance, across the smooth-looking grassy lava bed.  The roadmap called it the “great Idaho lava bed.”  It didn’t seem so great once we tried walking across, cutting the distance to less than twenty miles.  The buildings looked close enough to almost touch them.

Turns out we just needed to walk down into a ravine and up the other side in order to once again see the water tower and grain elevator of Richfield.  I marveled at how like the ocean during  a storm the land seemed, undulating where you couldn’t see anything but the side of the next swell until you crested the top.  We struggled thus for several hours before I began to fatigue, the distant water tower and grain elevator not seeming to get any closer.

We stopped for a smoke.  We had used up all of the good Balkan Sobranie and now smoked the Prince Albert, chunks of coarse sawdust, poking holes in the Zigzag papers.  I suggested that we were on a fools errand.  Twenty miles wasn’t an abstraction anymore.  More like an impossibility.  I was wearing some spaced-out hippie riding boots that were blistering a hole in my ankle where the leather buckled with each step on the rocky lava surface.

Years later, in human physiology, I would see the resemblance between the lining of the small bowel, with it’s several degrees of folding of vili and microvilli, to the surface of the great Idaho lava bed with its undulations.  Not more than a hands-breadth underfoot, but developing to degrees of undulations as large as houses.  This freaked me out.

Scared, I ran the five or six hundred meters to a road that ran parallel to our trek toward Richfield, a name that now inspired horror.  I was especially horrified by the extreme visage of two women in cars that flashed past headed toward Boise.  I clearly saw they were zombies with open faces and mouths contorted into the grins of death.  The next car that came along I flapped my arms like a great bird.

The car stopped the way one does when one flags it down.  I was too terrified to speak, out of my mind on acid, but Tim calmly told the woman that I had made a mistake.  She was going away from Richfield, our destination.

Richfield turned into the destination in a comic, drawn with a radiograph pen, months later, just prior to my joining the Marines to go to Vietnam.

Only I did not go to Vietnam, only Memphis, Tennessee.

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