Living on the Oregon Coast
We settled into our new home quickly. The hippie community was very welcoming. The longtime locals were cautious at best. Paul quickly found work at a restaurant, and I started babysitting for a few children. I had worked doing childcare out of my home in Portland, which was quite an experience at times. Now, I just did it part-time, mostly for trades of freshly caught salmon or homegrown pot. We also had a weekly gig running an open mic at The Riverhouse, a café on the Nestucca River in Pacific City. The place was always packed, and we met some wonderful musicians there. It also taught us a lot about running successful shows. The hardest party about doing these shows once a week was leaving my kids behind. We started out with them coming, but Justin was too little to stay out so late and was a rambunctious trouble-maker, so I had to find a sitter. Luckily, we found a wonderful teenaged girl who lived in a neighboring town and had many younger siblings, so I knew she could handle him. Although he often cried when we left, one evening, Justin decided he’d had enough. He broke away from her as we drove off, running down the middle of the highway screaming, “Mama, come back!” I started yelling at Paul to turn around and go back. My heart was breaking at the sight and sound of my baby crying for me. Paul refused to stop and, when I called home upon our arrival at the café, I found out that Justin had stopped crying as soon as we were out of sight. I could hear him laughing in the background and learned a valuable lesson that night.
Paul was always one for “bad” jokes and puns, so he started telling at least one joke a week. It was a very popular segment of the show. Many of them were real groaners. After a year of hearing these jokes week after week, folks started getting tired of it and came asking me to do something about it. It was around the same time that Aron Kay and other yippies were pieing political figures such as William Buckley, Phyliss Schlafly, G. Gordon Liddy and many others. Paul really admired the yippies for doing that, so I decided to give the “bad joke of the week” segment a big ending. I knew that Paul would never willingly give it up, so I had a plan to pie him in the face after his joke. Later on, a friend suggested that shaving cream is a kinder way to do it, but at the time all I knew was whipped cream. As he told his joke, I filled up a pie pan with whipped cream and waited … and waited … and waited, while he told more and more jokes. The crowd was getting antsy, and the whipped cream was melting. When he finally finished, I hit him with this pie pan full of half liquid cream. Sploosh! The crowd loved it. Paul was a good sport, and that was the end of “bad joke of the week”.
One man we met there was a songwriter named Mitt. He was not a hippie. He was a local and had a connection with a local radio station in Tillamook and hired us to record one of his songs in multiple harmonies. There were six of us on that recording. It was my first experience in a recording studio and my first time hearing myself on the radio. I was hooked. One day, he came to the house to jam and met our kids for the first time. Jessie loved to dress her brother up in her old dresses. She even had a name for him in drag, Rubessa. He enjoyed it too, and we saw no harm in it. He was wearing a frouffy, lacy dress that day, toddling around without anything else on because he was potty training. I always found it easier to teach my kids to use a potty when it was easily accessible, so they had a potty where they could see it, not hidden away in the bathroom, and didn’t wear even training pants. This was well before they started making disposable training pants, which in my opinion are too much like diapers to be very effective. The kids were playing around us as we jammed, dancing and listening to the music when Justin fell, and his dress flew up around his face. The look on Mitt’s face, as he realized that we didn’t have two daughters, was priceless.
We also met a woman flutist, Marla, who lived on a farm with her boyfriend Tom. One Easter, we were invited to an egg hunt at the farm. Most of the eggs were in the barn, so off we went with a whole troupe of friends to find them. Jessie decided that she needed to use the bathroom, so we left the group and started walking back to the house when we were suddenly attacked by their geese. They surrounded us and started trying to bite our legs. Justin was still small, so I scooped him up while holding on to Jessie and kicking at the geese. Finally, another adult came out to help us, and we made it to the house. Jessie’s memory is that I picked her brother up and left her to the strong beaks of those geese. She still reminds me of that. In reality, I was trying to protect both children and could only lift one of them, but we all remember things in our own ways. Another incident at that farm happened when we arrived one time for a visit. They had horses, so there was a metal gate that had to be opened to drive through. Jessie loved being a “big girl” and opening the gate for me. This one day however, there was a curious horse that strolled over as she opened the gate. It startled her, and she screamed, scaring the horse and sending it galloping down the road. Tom came running out chasing the horse almost all the way to the highway before finally catching him.
Of course, our friends, Patty and Jim were living there as well. They were the reason we ended up there in the first place. Although they didn’t have a farm, they also raised animals and gardened. They bought a lamb, who they named “Buck Burger” as a way to let the kids know that this would someday be food. They were cautioned not to play with the lamb for that reason. Predictably, they didn’t listen and played, not only with the lamb, but with the baby rabbits, too. We would chase them away, and as soon as our backs were turned, they’d go right back. Nothing could keep them away from these cute little babies. One day there was an unusual heat wave, and all the baby rabbits died. We were invited to a delicious dinner that night. Jessie raved about how good the food was and wanted to know what we were having. When Jim told her that we were eating Buck Burger and rabbit, she cried and never ate meat again. It was a hard lesson but one that farm kids have to learn. She was obviously not destined to live on a farm.
Another man we met was a stand-up bass player named David. He had one of the longest beards I’d seen and braided it in creative ways. He was a gentle giant, and Jessie was fascinated by him. He often joined us in our sets at the café. He was one of the few friends who didn’t have children of his own. There was also a pot farmer and another couple who worked on a dairy farm. We had finally landed in a community where our children had lots of friends, and we were surrounded by like-minded people who were raising their kids in a similar way. I also found out about an alternative school that was there. This was the second time I’d heard about alternative education, the first being in San Francisco in the artist community we were in briefly. As you’ll find out later, the third time was the charm.
Because our house was so large, we started offering the hitchhikers we picked up a place to stay for the night. We had been well taken car of during our travels and wanted to repay those favors. We were on a major intersection, so sometimes we would see people hitching right in front of the house. Before long, people started knocking on our door saying that they’d heard about a place to stay with a hot shower and a pancake breakfast in the morning. We became so popular that these travelers suggested that we should ask for some kind of payment, so we asked for trades. Some folks did yard work, some did house cleaning, some gave us trinkets that they made, some entertained the kids while I did my own chores. Whatever they wanted to trade was always acceptable. Many years later, I found a pancake breakfast sign in the closet of a big rambling old mansion I lived in. I still have it today as a reminder of that time.
We had one man from Israel who was touring the US by thumb tell us that he had heard from someone in Ohio that he could find a place to stay with us. Another man was walking from Vancouver, British Columbia to Nicaragua to protest US involvement there. He carried a large silk banner that he had made. I wish I had taken more photos from that time or kept a journal with all of the details. Jessie was fascinated by this unusual long-haired hippie. He explained his journey to her and told her that his plan was to arrive at his destination around her birthday, at the end of the summer. He also said that, if he arrived safely, he would send her a birthday card. Sadly, we never heard from him again. I couldn’t possibly count the numbers of people who stayed with us during that time, and I heard later that when the landlord moved back and we moved on to another place, he had hitchhikers knocking on his door for a few years more. It was a wonderful education for our kids. They got to know such a variety of people from all different cultures, some of whom didn’t speak much English but figured out how to communicate with us, nonetheless. And, they would sing songs and tell stories in their own languages, entertaining my kids for hours.
Of course, our old friends visited us here, too. One in particular, I will write about next.
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