My personal cannabis life experience produced a much sought after epiphany. I recall my first encounter with weed like it was yesterday because it made such an impact on my life in SO many positive ways.
The most dangerous thing about marijuana was getting caught with it!
On August 12th, 1969, my life changed forever.
School was out for the summer, I had just turned 13 in June and finished up my two month stint running our local Chamber of Commerce office. As the only Patchouli oil wearing young person in my small redneck Kansas town (population of 1700) with long hair (very well groomed I must say), hip hugger bell bottomed jeans, jean jacket with “Lets Get High” & “Acapulco Gold” embroidered on it, and platform shoes; I was deemed “troubled” and a “hippy” by my community and contemporaries.
Just because of my forward personality, unabashed confidence, independence, and self directed interests, I obviously scared the prairie folks. Growing up in a small town is paralyzingly stifling because if townspeople don’t know your business, they’ll make it up. Everyone is related to each other. I learned later on how to take advantage of that dynamic.
In an effort to help me “straighten out”, I was asked by the city council to run the Chamber of Commerce office located at the local court house for two months during the summer.
It was a win/win situation. Our town sheriff could keep an eye on me (he was also our next door neighbor and fully aware of the drunken/dysfunctional environment next door), the city would pay me more than any other short term job around and they were getting a very smart, reliable, outgoing young person to do their mundane office work.
My alcoholic father had moved us to this small prairie town six months earlier, which was 90 miles from the town I had lived in before for two years. He had been fired from his job and found a new one in this even smaller town. As the second oldest of seven, I was not painfully shy like all of my siblings. I already knew practically everyone in town, everyone in my school, and many other people I’d met from nearby towns. It was just my nature to be the inquisitive kid, I made friends and acquaintances wherever I went.
I recognized early on how fucked up most of the adults around me were. I was never afraid of telling the truth or questioning adults about anything. I was never intimidated by the right-wing judgemental mainstream propaganda espoused by the adult establishment; of our government or our network television stations. We had only 3 television stations, NBC, CBS, and ABC that went dark at midnight, every night. Naively, I wasn’t daunted by much at all. I was however, always respectful. But still, at age 13 I viewed the world and particularly my town and family as toxic and acutely fucked up.
Nixon was our new President, Apollo 11 had landed on the moon, the Vietnam War was in full swing, Charles Manson and his band of killers had just committed butchery, and I was hearing about a huge concert planned in New York State. I wanted to go to the much publicized Woodstock festival in New York. We had only one rock’n’roll radio station that reached us out in the middle of nowhere, it was the infamous KOMA AM radio station out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
I listened to KOMA AM on a small transistor radio that was battery operated. Most nights, I fell asleep with the radio next to my ear after listening to Chuck Berry, the Supremes, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Beatles and others. It was weekend disk jockey, Wolfman Jack that first announced the upcoming Woodstock festival to be held in NYC. He was from New York, so he seemed to care a lot about the area and the music. I’d never been to New York, hell, I’d never been anywhere.
My two best girl friends, Vonnie and Zona, who were from the town I’d just moved away from six months earlier showed up at my Chamber office and surprised me with an invitation to travel with them to Charleston, South Carolina. My friends were sisters. The older one, Vonnie, had just turned 18, graduated from high school and wanted to drive to visit her fiance that was stationed at a military base in Charleston. It was so exciting to see them again. The thought of an adventure with my best friends whom I missed terribly since moving away was thrilling. I told them about the concert and suggested that we drive to New York first, do the Woodstock festival and then drive to South Carolina from there. Both my girlfriends agreed, we’d go to Woodstock first. Cool!
Vonnie had a mint green 1962 AMC Rambler with push buttons on the dash for shifting. It was such an odd car, but easily big enough to camp in. So between us, we thought we had enough money for gas (35 cents a gallon), cigarettes (31 cents a pack), and food (hamburger, fries, and shake for $1.25) for the trip. I was game, I was ready to split my little pop stand and get the fuck out of toxic town. We didn’t even consider how and when we would get back to the prairie. Frankly, I didn’t care if I ever came back home so it wasn’t a consequence for me to even consider at the time. We were kids.
The girls drove me to my house so I could gather a bag of clothes and toiletries. I told my mother that the girls and I were taking a trip and she of course forbid it, but I told her we’d be back soon and left. The girls said they had left a note for their parents. We went to the bank to cash my last paycheck and then we were off to the Woodstock festival via Interstate 70. We figured it would take us 2 days to drive there, the speed limit at the time was 80 miles per hour. No seat belts required in 1969.
Ninety miles down the interstate, Vonnie’s car threw a rod. I knew the sound immediately, the car sounded like a bomb went off and then just died. I instructed Vonnie to let it coast down into the ditch so it would be totally off of the highway. The fucking car hadn’t even gotten us a hundred miles and now we are fucked. Not one to panic about car problems (my drunken dad was an auto-body man and mechanic), I thought I could fix the problem and we’d be on our way. But no. The girls had neglected to check the oil. There wasn’t a drop of oil in the engine and consequently completely blew the it.
I suggested we just abandon the car and put our thumbs out, hitchhike our way to New York and then onto South Carolina after and the girls agreed. We were so determined to get to our destinations without any regard of possible consequences. I was 13, Zona was 15, and Vonnie was 18, and here we go…one skinny hippy kid and two beautiful young girls hitchhiking for the first time.
We had our thumbs out for just a few passing cars before, thankfully, a newish VW bus pulled over to ask if we wanted a ride. The VW was really cool looking and the two long haired brothers driving it were going to WOODSTOCK too! Fucking A!! Lucky us, we felt like the Gods were watching over and helping us out. We jumped in and we were off to New York!
As usual, I immediately got the full scoop on our new friends. They were the nicest guys. They looked like me, only older. Rodney was the oldest, age 22, and his brother Robert was age 20. They were coming from Los Angeles where they had been attending college and were orginally from New York state. So, they totally knew the travel route to take and the area of New York that the festival was to be held.
After our pleasant introductions and forthcoming sharing of personal information, Robert asked us if we’d like to smoke some weed. They had several sandwich baggies full of Acapulco Gold and about a dozen Thai Sticks. The girls and I told them we’d never smoked pot before but hell yes, we wanted to try it!
The memories are embedded in my brain. “Love Child” by the Supremes was playing on the radio as we puffed on the first joint. I’ll never forget the sensation that came over my body and my mind as we got high for the very first time. Everything was syncing up for the first time, my mind was at last syncing up with my body, I felt complete somehow. I’ve always had a hyperactive mind and I was slowly feeling an almost religious experience of happiness and completeness.
The girls were getting all giggly and laughing hysterically while saying that they didn’t feel anything yet. Yeah, right…they were getting stoned and just didn’t realize what to expect. I didn’t know what to expect either. It was all so enlightening and comforting. I could focus better than ever, my mind was relaxed just enough that I felt my creativity sync up with distinct clarity. I realized right then that I’d discovered the medicine I needed, that pot was the answer to managing my OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder wasn’t even a diagnosis back in 1969, so I was so relieved to find something that instantly made me feel how I needed to feel!
Woodstock was crazy…more people in one place than I’d ever seen before!
Once we arrived at the farm location, the line of vehicles and people stretched as far as my eye could see. It was an endless parade of friendly, fun people of all ages and cultures gathering in patient unison to witness a weekend of music, sex, and drugs. The hair, the clothes, the smells; it was all very welcoming. It was more fun than humans should be allowed! The distinct smell of marijuana permeated the thickly humid hot air. Thousands of people playing musical instruments, singing, and smoking weed was a sight to behold and remember!
At one point when the line had halted to a standstill, we all got out of our vehicles and began talking with other cool hipsters. I was offered some hashish by a really pretty girl and we smoked a bowl together while talking about our trip to get there.
Woodstock was my first introduction to a variety of other drugs too, acid and mescaline to name just two. It was an outstanding experience that I will never forget…it shaped my entire life to come. I learned that acceptance and like minds were out there. I wanted it to last forever.
The music was amazing, the people were fun and friendly, the dope was great, but the weather fucking sucked! It started to rain cats and dogs on the second morning. There was no place to take cover, so many of us just stripped off our clothes and danced and frolicked in the downpour while enjoying the music. The entire farm pasture quickly became a fucking muddy mass of thousands.
Luckily, there was a pond on the farm not far from our campsite. I joined everyone else and jumped in to rinse off all the mud. We did more than just skinny dip in the pond, it was a relief to be able to get somewhat clean.
None of us got much sleep during those three glorious day. Every time I’d start feeling tired, someone would pass another joint and another band would take the stage. I did sleep through some of it; an hour nap or so would suffice to get me back to the living party.
The line to leave the farm was somehow longer and slower than when we arrived. It took fucking forever to get back on the highway. Rodney and Robert said they could take us as far as southern New Jersey because that’s where they were headed to visit their parents before going back to California. We figured we could just hitchhike south from there to get to South Carolina. Without a serious plan or a map, we just totally winged it.
Again, we lucked out when an elderly couple stopped to pick us up on a major New Jersey turnpike. They were headed to Atlanta, Georgia and would take us that far. I knew that Atlanta was too far south, but I wasn’t willing to give up this golden ticket of kind graciousness. This husband and wife were so incredibly nice and generous. They bought our meals when we stopped to eat and allowed us to smoke in their car. When I think about those two angels and describe them as elderly, I’m almost crying. They were younger than I am now…and at age 13 I thought they were “elderly”. WTF! I’m not elderly!!
We were let off on the I-70 off-ramp in Atlanta at Cherry Hill Lane. I’ll always remember that location because it was the most frightening experience of my life. The very first vehicle that stopped for us was a scruffy looking older guy in a new Ford pickup. He asked us where we were headed and we told him we were going to Charleston. He said to jump in and he would take us as far as he could.
His pickup was a single bench seat with a stick shift. I started to jump in first but the guy said no, he wanted Vonnie to sit beside him. So Vonnie slid in, then Zona, and I jumped in last. As soon as I shut that truck door I instantly knew we were in peril. I could smell the alcohol on his breath and could immediately tell that he was drunk; clearly a functioning drunk like my dad. I know murderous crazy and this guy was the epitome!
Oh fuck, I wanted out like right now! I whispered to Zona that we needed to get out immediately. The drunk driver heard me and announced that everything was okay, that he needed to stop by his house first before we could head back out on the Interstate. Every time he would shift gears, he’d slide his hand up between Vonnie’s thighs. He kept looking at me to see if I was noticing what he was doing. I could tell by the way he looked at me and the things he said that he was going to hurt us. As he was driving, supposedly towards his house, he would ask us if we were lost yet. Well, yes; fuck yes we were lost! And I was scared to death! He was driving in circles and I knew it – I kept seeing the same neighborhoods. As we finally approached his house, I realized we had been driving in circles and that he was continually driving right by his house. I think he must have been waiting for his wife to leave before he would stop at his place.
He pulled into his driveway and turned off the truck. He wanted Vonnie to come with him into his house. He said he’d be right back and then we’d be on our way. I told Vonnie and him that we would just wait in the truck. He hesitated with some clear frustration and then took the keys and ran up to his house. I told the girls that we was going to rape them and murder me and we needed to jump out and start running. Vonnie and Zona were frightened beyond movement and said they were too scared to just get out and run – we didn’t know where we were.
So I jumped over the girls into the driver’s seat. Scary drunken murder had taken his keys. I knew I could start the truck if I could find a screwdriver. I grew up on the farm and my dad taught me how to hot-wire when I was eight years old. Every pickup owner has a screwdriver in the glove box and voila, sure enough I found one in his. So I quickly hot-wired the pickup and fucking floored it to back out of the driveway.
The girls were crying and trying to talk about what we going to do. I knew exactly what we were going to do. We had no more money, no more weed, no more cigarettes, and I’d just stolen a vehicle. We had to go to the cops. I drove down the neighborhood street until we encountered a major street that I recognized and turned north, the direction we came from. About ten blocks of driving got us to a well-lit shopping area. And there it was…a police car parked at a convenience store. I pulled up right next to it and ran into the market to find the policeman.
I was not calm. I was shaking like a leaf and proceeded to tell the officer that we had been picked up hitchhiking by this drunken murderer guy and that I stole his pickup to get away. I didn’t even have a driver’s license. I was 13. The cop was incredibly understanding and motioned for his partner to come over. The three of us went out to get the girls out of the pickup and we all sat in the patrol car. The officers made a couple of calls over their police radio and then told us that they would take us to jail. I have no idea what they did about that guy’s truck I stole.
Little did we know that these two officers were going to treat us with such respect and kindness. They took us to a rural jail somewhere about 40 miles north of Atlanta. There was no one in the building and they would lock us in. We were to stay there overnight and then they would return in the morning to call our parents and arrange our way back home. We were so surprised when the officers returned a couple hours later to bring us toothpaste, soap, shampoo, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pepsi’s, and cigarettes. I couldn’t fucking believe they would bring us smokes – we had lucked out again. When I expressed my surprise and gratefulness, both officers continued to educate us about “southern hospitality”, and that’s just how they do things in the south…with dignity and respect.
There were three jail cells with cots, so we each slept in an unlocked jail cell after showering. That has been the only time I’ve ever been in jail and I vowed it would be the last, even though it was comfortable there. We talked and talked and finally fell asleep knowing that the morning would bring the end of our trip.
Sure enough, right at 8AM, the officers arrived at the jail. They brought us plates of waffles w/syrup and orange juice for breakfast. We all sat around their conference table with the telephone. They questioned us about why we ran away and why we didn’t realize the danger of hitchhiking. They called Vonnie and Zona’s parents first. The girls’ parents answered and were so relieved to know where they were and said they would immediately wire money for bus tickets. The officers were pleased and proud at that moment; they had achieved great commendation from the girls’ folks.
As one of the officers dialed my parent’s phone number, I told him that my dad was always drunk and he would not likely respond very well. I was right. My dad answered and told the officer that if I got to Atlanta hitchhiking that I could get home the same fucking way. He hung up on the officer. The looks are their faces told me exactly what I already knew. My dad didn’t care where I was or if I was ever coming home again.
I wanted them to just let me go and hitchhike back to the prairie. They wouldn’t hear of it and suggested that I call someone else to get bus ticket money wired in. So I called my Aunt and Uncle that lived in Kansas City. After telling them the story and having them speak to one of the officers, they told him they would wire the money. I told my Aunt Betty that I would repay them as soon as I got back home – I had money in savings to repay them with.
Unfortunately, the girls and I didn’t get the same bus to ride because their money wired in before mine. I had to ride that miserable bus all the way back to the prairie by myself. I was bummed knowing what I would encounter when I arrived back home.
Sheriff Oscar met me at the bus stop and walked me to his office. I explained why I ran off. He already knew what my home life was like and offered his help. He required me to walk next door every morning at 7AM for six months and chat with him about what was going on in my life. It was tortuous trying to talk to that old bastard about anything real.
I was the talk of the town. My dad continued his normal drunken behavior and my mother asked me to never do that again. She was so worried about me.
My life experience has been enhanced by cannabis. I’ve used it almost daily since 1969. It has always benefited my desire to succeed, to be kind to others, and to reserve judgement. I graduated from high school early and paid my own way through college. Three times. Three college degrees, three happily productive children, three delightfully loving grandchildren and an one incredible spouse. I’ve led a productive, successful and happy life with the help of my medicine.
I never thought I would see the day of cannabis legalization in my lifetime. Remarkably, we finally achieved that and now the federal government wants to start fucking with it again. Marijuana is NOT a gateway drug!
Fuck Off Jeff Sessions!!!!!
See, I’m healthy, fit, happy, high and grey-haired! I don’t know anyone who has ever overdosed on cannabis. I’m so thankful for such a miraculous plant and it’s medicinal properties.
Let’s keep the government out of our desire to legally purchase cannabis! Everyone who cares needs to get active in politics – it’s our only guarantee of being heard and respected as Americans! VOTE!!
Definition of life experience
Definition of cannabis
First Known Use: 1783