On He Rode — Chapter Seven
1000 words. This is NOT a contest entry.
“So what’re you guys up to?” I ask the two tee-shirt-and-jeans
teen-agers who wander into my camp and stop twenty yards in front of
me with my hood up. The taller one carries a .22 caliber rifle,
pointed sanely at the ground.
It’s early in the morning. My car won’t start. Cranking it any more
will kill the battery, and I’m facing uphill, not good for
kick-starting. I’m in a bit of a jam. Fucked, you might say.
“Not huntin’ season yet, is it?” I add.
“Not huntin’. Jus’ lookin’,” the shorter one says.
“Like me,” I say “Say,” I say, “I wonder if you guys might be able to
. . ..” My head’s exposure to the elements, the cool morning air,
makes me feel, well, exposed, a fact that I try to ignore.
Turns out they’re more than willing to help turn my car around and get
me headed downhill fast enough to get the engine firing more or less
properly. I honk thanks and don’t stop to shake hands. Mutual
appreciation: they’re glad to have me out of their woods, and I’m glad
to be out. It feels good to be back on Hwy. 101 and feels still better
to think how it happened. People helping people. Things are looking
Which reminds me of the gifted, tragic Hawaiian performer, Kui Lee:
“Ain’t no beeg teeng, bruddah, when teengs ain’t lookin’ up, ain’t no
beeg teeng when der ain’t no coffee to fill da cup.” Can you guess the
title? Yeah, you got it. Kui Lee. No forget.
One of the many consequences of Carrie’s reading to me so young is
that it opened me up early to the narrative possibilities of song
lyrics. I had no problem seeing verbal images — smoke on the water —
especially driven by the emotion of steel guitars, a Hawaiian
invention, and fiddles.
Enter B. Buck, “B for Butterball,” Ritchey on radio station KVI in
Tacoma and his afternoon hour of the best country and western music
anywhere. I tell you it inspired me. An early diet of Howard R. Garis,
L. Frank Baum, Bob Wills, and Roy Acuff absolutely grew that me then
into this me now. The day FDR died, Buck Ritchey was co-opted by
funeral music. Dirges displaced all regular programs on KVI,
including, inexplicably, my buddy Buck’s program. I was so pissed-off
that it permanently connected my memory to that historic event.
A similar event on November 22, 1963, carried its own set of images,
beginning with a classroom announcement on the Renton High School
classroom PA box that the President had been shot, followed soon after
by word that school was cancelled and we should all go home. I spent
the rest of that crisp autumn day polishing this very Chevrolet beside
my tar-paper house in Seattle, its radio keeping me abreast of the
terrible news from Dallas. I was married then. Things weren’t good at
home either. Nobody was happy anywhere, me included.
Do I blame Carrie for that too? Or books? Or music? For nurturing my
impractical predilection toward an enhanced artistic reality instead
of settling into a more practical blue-collar lifestyle that would not
encourage my use of such meaninglessly highfalutin’ verbiage as
“predilections” and “verbiage”? Who do I think I am, anyway? And how
will I find out?
Allow me to interrupt, Dear Reader (if, in fact, anybody out there is
actually reading and trying to make sense of this exploration of
personal events from the landmark summer of 1968), to formally
acknowledge the rough-draft nature of this effort. It is, after all, a
rough draft. You might then ask why I don’t keep my rough draft to
myself until I’ve had a chance to give it a more socially acceptable
coat of polish? The answer is that I’ve tried that, with mostly
unsatisfactory results — consequences, almost. It’s complicated.
So complicated that I will over-simplify by saying that it is almost
solely through the generosity of that most generous of hombres, the
Bamboo Buckaroo himself, that I am able to keep producing this
semblance of narrative flow. By allowing me to post a thousand
unprescribed and unjudged words a month, he offers a challenge and an
opportunity that even the laziest, most undisciplined bones in my
body, the ones that hold this pen, can’t resist. Thus, this homely
To my multitude of readers, I will just say that the next draft will
be better, especially if you offer suggestions, which I will
immediately assume are mean-spirited, ill-intended criticisms because,
like most people, I hate suggestions. But go ahead and piss me off and
get my writing juices flowing, my lazy bones moving.
Czarnecki, an ex-boxer, said I was by nature a counter-puncher. Not
true. I’ve never in my life punched a counter, but I did punch a wall
one time and the results were distinctly unpretty. I’ll try to do
better than that here, out of gratitude to the Buckaroo and out of
consideration for you my readers, who must by now be legion.
So, shoot the juice to me Bruce, I’m back on Highway 101 wondering
what my second day out might have in store and whether that might
include the acquisition of marijuana and the making of some new
friends to share it with. Or do the friends come first and the sharing
later? We won’t know until it happens, will we? Isn’t that what’s
called an adventure?
An adventure is what happens when your plans fall through. Like life
itself. For example, I plan to drive somewhere, but I’m not sure about
my exact route. Driving is my plan. Choosing my route on the fly is my
proposed adventure. But suppose my car dies and leaves me the
unproposed adventure of being stuck in some unfamiliar,
unaccommodating, perhaps dangerous, place? Am I up for that much
adventure, that much life? Could I be? Stay tuned.