I Was A Buddhist for a Week
I hate goats. I had convinced my Idaho childhood buddy, Tommy, to come over with me and live the life of a back- to- earth hippie on Mosquito Lake Road near the Welcome, Washington Grange Hall. Yes, we lived in Welcome, Washington. Pretty cool, huh?
Nearby Mt. Shuskan
We, seven spaced out Seattle acid heads and myself, purchased 180 acres of mostly forest land with what was left of my summer baseball coaching bonus and several college student loans that the Seattle Space Heads had diverted from Western Washington University in nearby Bellingham. The property was bordered on the north side by over 5,000 acres of national forest land that went all the way to Mt. Baker, an active volcanic peak covered with year- around, white glaciers. A good sized river, the Nooksack, made up the southern boundary and crystal clean Marble Creek ran through the property almost dead center. We were living in the clouds, in more than one way. The front of the property had a nice 25-acre or so clearing with an old fruit orchard and that is where most of us built shelters to live wild and free off the land.
Jim and Karen put up a grand for real Indian tee-pee and lived there with their four-year old daughter, Sierra. Bus Bob, a handyman of sorts, pulled his converted school bus up there for his home. I built a 12' by 20' cabin by myself with the help of my best hippie girlfriend, Sandy, who was going to school and had her own place in town. So, when I got sick of the back-to- earth life I could go in and enjoy some regular comforts, like electricity, running water and hot showers. George lived in a Ford van and was known for dumpster diving. Whenever you walked by him he had some treasures like some pieces of pizza he had cut the edges off of and bruised and near rotting pieces of fruit and vegetables. He was always excited about his free food scores but the stuff always made me gag.
The center house was a large octagon shaped structure we had all built together with lumber Tommy, Spaced-Out John and Crazy Michael and I had recycled from a huge barn we had torn down from up the Mt. Baker Highway. This place housed four couples and two kids, one boy- little John-John age six and one little girl, Terry, age 10 who was totally out of control. We shared communal meals there.
Tommy and I were pissed off. We had hand dug a 2.5 acre garden with pick axes and shovels with taped together handles. We put in hot boxes to start the vegetables early. We had gotten the idea from Mother Earth News magazine and it had actually worked. We had a helluva a garden going by mid-spring. But the spaced out Seattleites didn't want to fence in the goats that were supposed to provide us with fresh milk and goat cheese. They wouldn't kill the males either and so we had a goat herd of about twenty. Of this number, we had only eight good milkers and a dozen worthless males who ran all over the property and got across the road. Both the males and females were a constant hassle and I was the only one who could milk them.
I keep telling the space cadets that we needed to build them a fenced- in pen but I was vetoed. Everything was to run wild and be free up here in Welcome. They wouldn't even agree to clip the wings on the chickens so you'd be walking along and some Rhode Island Red hen would drop a egg from her perch up in a Douglas fir tree and it would splat all over your leg. Ridiculous, this place was but peaceful, beautiful and the air was so pure. I had one hell of a good plot of pot growing up there and it was some good shit! It kept all the pipes going up there nearly all day every day.
Tommy and I came back from fishing for Salmon and had caught nearly a dozen. The Nooksack was filled with them and there were dozens of bald eagles in the trees above watching us fish that morning. We were pretty happy with our fishing score. Tommy had landed one that was nearly twenty pounds and we had others all over twelve. But we got out of his old blue Datsun sedan and there they were—the entire fucking pure Nubian goat herd devouring our garden!
We ran them off but the damage was severe. The mob had eaten most every plant down to the roots. We dropped off the fish at the center house along with some nasty words for Spaced Out John and friends. We drove down Mosquito Lake Road the back way to visit with the people from another commune nearby. This group had their shit together. They grew Christmas trees, had a hay crop, some machinery, some Jersey milk cows and we had heard-a new stash of blonde Lebanese hash. Leon was the leader and owned a country store in the little town a couple of miles away of Wickenberg. The store was a meeting place for the hundreds of hippies living up in this area. He took us out to the barn and loaded up his hand-made soap stone pipe with a big old hunk of hash. We got super high and went back to the old farmhouse where some damn pretty hippie women were making up a huge pot of soup and gave us some along with some slices of homemade whole wheat bread, still hot.
“You guys want to go to a meeting today?” asked one of the gals as she sat down next to me at the table and started on her soup. I could smell the herbal scented shampoo from her still wet hair and tried my hardest not to look too long at her free swinging breasts hiding underneath her long-sleeved cowboy shirt.
“Sure, what kind?” I answered with my mouth semi-full of the delicious bread. I didn't care what kind of meeting. Jesus, it could have been a gathering of the American Nazi party and I would have gone with this lovely woman.
“It is our Buddhist group. You should come.” Tommy was nodding before I even looked at him. We were there an hour later.
We were fresh meat at this meeting and they gave us the rap.
To shun all evil.
To do good.
To purify one's heart.
This is the teaching of the Buddhas.
Yeah, right on! I had just finished my third Carlos Castaneda book so this seemed all good. They told us about building a little altar kind of thing and gave us some meditation exercises to try. They ended with giving us some beads to rub together and taught us a chant. It went something like this:
Nom-May-Ring-Kay-I-Oh.... and if you said it , you got whatever you were meditating about. It came true. Well, that was my simplistic translation of it all. I was just a beginning Buddhist now, so give me a break.
Hey, I was rubbing those beads like a mad man and saying the chant aloud over and over minutes after getting into the Datsun. I was chanting for the chance of just seeing one of those breasts under that cowboy shirt today. Then, we ran out of gas....
The back of Mosquito Lake Road is in the boonweeds. Fuck! We knew we would be stuck out here for most of the day and I didn't feel like walking all the way back to our commune. Plus, we were most likely not gonna make it back to the functional commune where we had been invited to dinner. We got out and started rubbing the beads and chanting together. We were wishing for a ride and I'll be damned if it didn't come true! Within minutes, an older couple stopped their big old green Plymouth and invited us in. They even offered to take us back to Wickenberg to get some gas.
“You boys, just hop in now. Sorry about the little mess back there,” said the little silver-haired woman who introduced herself as Mabel. She was carrying a little black purse in her lap, had on white gloves and a little 50's style dress hat that sat up on her head like a saucer dish.
We jumped in without hesitation and I pointed at the beads. Tommy nodded vigorously. He was definitely a believer. The back seat floor was entirely covered with old Pall Mall cigarette packages all crumpled up in the exact same way. We drove in silence for a few miles until the driver , Ernie, a handsome elderly man dressed in a pair of clean, pressed bib overalls and a flannel plaid shirt spoke:
“You two live up on the old McPherson place don't you?” He made eye contact with us through the rear view mirror and adjusted his straw hat.
“Yeah, we do,” I answered him.
“Is it true some of you are living in caves up there?”
“No, not caves. Mostly cabins and one tee-pee, sir, “ I answered back stifling a laugh.
“We heard you have some pretty wild sex up there and just about anything goes,” Ernie said with hope in his voice. This old guy wanted some details.
“That's news to us, sir. Wish it was true, ” came the words from Tommy.
“Are you two queers?” Ernie asked. Mabel turned her head suddenly toward us and had to grab her hat to prevent it from falling.
“Oh, Ernie, now really! Leave these boys alone.” but she looked at us and wanted an answer.
“Well, he is,” I answered and pointed at Tommy. "But me, I like girls.”
We got the gas after spending our last few bucks on a gas can at Leon's store. The cheap bastard wouldn't just loan us one. Ernie and Mabel were both puffing on new Pall Malls as they dropped us off at the Datsun. We had her going in no time.
“Let's go on a road trip,” said Tommy. “Those goats really pissed me off and I need to clear my head.”
“Great, but I have no cash.”
“I have a hundred hidden in the trunk and we'll chant for anything else we need.”
“Let's go pick up Sandy first.” We were on the Mt. Baker Highway smoking a fat one in no time flat. We picked up Sandy and one of her roommates, Marilyn who had just broken up with her boyfriend and wanted to go. They were loading up and I saw Tommy rubbing the beads and heard the chant. We converted both girls to Buddhism before we made it across the Cascade Mountains. We chanted together before we fished and Bam! We caught some beautiful trout. We chanted for a good camp site and Bam! We found a perfect one right on the Wenatchee River! Tommy's chant came true with Marilyn that very night. We stayed on the road for an entire week. Every time we needed or wanted something we chanted and it came true! Wow! Why hadn't we learned about this Buddhist stuff before? Then Sandy had to ruin it all.
She had decided to take some acid on her own and when we started chanting and rubbing the beads she started laughing at us. “You look like little greedy children begging for something. This chanting is bullshit! I dare you to not chant for one day and see what happens. “
She convinced us somehow and then pointed out how we got everything we wanted that day without the chants. Three of us threw our beads out the window as we headed back home on Stevens Pass that cut through the Cascade Mountains. Tommy kept his beads in his front shirt pocket and put his arm around Marilyn. Guess he didn't want to take any chances.
Yes, I was a Buddhist for one full week.