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71-year-old tries to write some damn shit.

December 30, 2020


Two months ago I hired a life coach to guide me to write a piece about the hippie era of my misspent youth.  Three of the most important hipsters died this year, so I’m sad.  It’s hard to lose Jerry Printz, Frank Sonnenberg, and Michael Fiedler.  These join the ones we lost years before: Dana Graham, John Herman, Grant Lamport, Sally Mullen, Tom Struckman, Bill Reynolds, Mary Reynolds, and Gordon Simard.  The list goes on.

John Hayden Herman (left) and his friend play guitar in Seattle on the porch of the place Larry Felton and Bill Yenne rented.

Although I paid my coach $50 for each weekly session, I “laid about” for a fortnight without writing.  Except a a couple thousand words of how depressed I was, at first, during the time I enlisted in the Marines.  I keep getting more and more depressed the more and more I write.  

You missed out if you are younger than 40.  

The Vietnam war years (1964-73) had two important aspects as I recall:  unspeakable stupidity, pain and cruelty in Southeast Asia amid guns, helicopters, rice paddies, red gritty dirt, and jungles, on the one hand; and stateside the glorious psychedelic drugs, striped bell bottom pants and bearded, long-haired drug- and sex-crazed hippies on the other.  I forgot to mention the arts.  Rock groups.  Big amplifiers, electric guitars, bands in every town.  Also underground comics, newspapers, vinyl records, and head shops.  Did I mention civil rights?  Black Panthers, women’s liberation.  Heroes, martyrs.

Michael Lynn Fiedler, when he visited me in Billings a few years ago.

I couldn’t make myself write.  My depression made me want to crawl under the wool blanket I keep on a chair in our room.  

Looking back on the late 1960s in Montana, I see more clearly how four beautiful hip women each, in turn, kissed me before kicking me out of their beds and lives forever.  At the time I thought I was ugly, an artist.  Those thoughts made me crazy.  The thought of war made me crazy.

Depression is a deadly disease and I was never the hippie I thought I was.  The one I wanted to be.  It was fun to strive, though!  In good weather we played outdoors.  In winter we made music indoors.  

Anyway, writing for at least thirty minutes daily is good.  Might help me redeem value for my $50.  

Today, I’ve come to believe walking 4-5 miles outdoors with wife and dog will give me energy for writing.  

Fortunately, my wife was not among the four women who gave me the boot.  She had the wisdom to see past my vanity, my pretense.

Instead, she took a chance on me, married me, and relocated to live with me in Orange County, California.  I was in the Marines there, learning to thrive in a strange environment with other, equally inexperienced, men and women.

We newly married California people were optimistic, strong, young, and we spawned three children before returning to Missoula.  

Next month we will have been married 50 years.  

Today, still shy of our anniversary, we walked nearly five miles, giving me the energy to write this, thus.


Gunther the smiling dog

Not mistaken for a farmer’s hog

Or the pig that the farmer haaaas

The piggy wig of the farmer’s laaaass

Stay back little Gunther, don’t get in my way

When I ask you to stay you must mind right away

Don’t inconvenience me when indoors you must stay

Because outdoors I am going to bring in some wood

The fire is indoors and is heating us good

So stay inside Gunther, as you know that you should

Don’t bark little Gunther it bothers my ears!

You yap at the mail carrier we’ve had all these years

You harp on the same old refrain that you know

And jump on the windowsill from the armchair below.

Truth is, I’m a disabled veteran.  I have hemorrhoids, hearing loss and high blood pressure.  This is 30% disability.  Piles, “huh?” and “psh psh psh.”

All that, because I enlisted in 1969 in Missoula.  A hippie who no longer had a railroad job on a steel gang.  An ex-gandy-dancer.  


Early March, 1970.  Old dirty snow.  I’m in my Marine dress green uniform, a Private, driving to Butte, Montana.   I was returning to duty after 30 days of leave.

Now I’m driving my mother and me about 60 miles from Dillon, Montana, to the Butte airport for me to go to Memphis for Avionics training. I feel hopeless and it takes an effort for me to not s

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One Comment
  1. Blaine Ackley permalink

    Dan, This entry upset me. I hope you are feeling better now! Give men a call and I will jabber at ya. Did you watch the Paul McCartney concert? Love ya, Blaine


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