Ira White

Ira White
Pendleton, Oregon, USA
September 15
I was born in California in the '50's. I have worked in a number of jobs from field worker to teacher. I currently am retired. During the sixties, I was considered to be a radical. I wrote for my college newspaper and helped organize and lead the antiwar movement on campus. Over the years I have written off and on both fiction and nonfiction. My most recent book is "Enchanted Shores," a book of short stories and poetry based on the ocean with a folk tale sort of delivery. I also have published, "Tennessee Tears," a book I worked on with a close friend that tells about his search for his family and how he was one of the last babies at the Tennessee Childres's Home Society which was selling children. I'd rather be fishing, but my conscience won't let me.


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JANUARY 10, 2011 9:19PM

Toad Hall Part 4: The Characters

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I had quite a choice of characters to choose from in writing this part. Just a few were chosen as some have already been written about and some will be. With this being the first time my experiences have seen paper and the actual incidents occurring almost 40 years ago, it is amazing to me that I remembered as much as I have.


Here goes: the first Park character is Little Jim, the life of every party he attended.


Little Jim was actually a pretty mellow, nice person as long as he wasn’t drunk. He lived in a little shack that had been used by a couple named Shump and Cricket. The shack was nothing more than some old doors, boards and pieces of tin placed over a hole that was about 4 feet deep. It was small, easily heated during the winter and served Little Jim well since it also was off the beaten path and he could go there when he had wounds to lick, which was often.


 Little Jim would show up at almost every party, and there were a lot of parties to be sure! He would drink and drink some more. When his level of intoxication got to a certain level of high, he would go up to someone, preferably someone much larger than himself, and begin to yell and cuss at them. Most of the time he would be pushed off, would fall down and lay there for a few moments. Then he would slowly rise, find some alcohol, take a big pull off it then attack the person who had pushed him down instead of cracking open his skull.


This would go on for several rounds until he would finally pull himself up and quite noisily stagger toward his hole in the ground. We could hear him yelling obscenities and if he ever stopped before he made it home, someone would go find out what part of the trail he had fallen off of, get him up and guide him into his house.


The next character is Naked Jay. Naked Jay was a summertime phenomena only. He went south for the winter where clothing was not needed as much as it was in the 40 below temperatures that visited the Park each year. Jay wore his black hair in two long braids and had a peace symbol necklace around his neck. He always had a “chick” on either hand and among the men of the place was greatly resented. Naked Jay lived in a school bus, like several others on the land.


He used to amaze me with his ladies and his utter and unapologetic nakedness around so many people who were clothed. Jay would sit beside his bus on the edge of the road with his ladies around and one of them opposite him over a Go! board. One day he asked me if I would like to learn Go!. I took him up on the offer and for a couple of weeks he and I played the game together. Go! is an ancient Chinese game popular in many Asian countries. It is a game of strategy where one person tries to capture as much space on the board as possible.


While playing with Jay, I learned that he was Buddhist. He certainly had the mellow fellow part down pat. I soon saw through his act, however. He might have been Buddhist. He certainly knew a lot about the religion and he was a very good Go! player. However, the whole thing was an act he used to get more sex than anyone else in the Park. I couldn’t help but notice that the first stop for every single lady who showed up was his bed. Perhaps this was why he did not need the approval of any of the other males in the Park and indeed, did not associate with very many of them at all.


James and Paula were some rare members of the community. When I arrived, they had been living there for more than a year in a sub compact A frame with three kids. Neither of them drank or smoked pot much, if at all. The children were home schooled by their mother, a smart and petite woman with a winning smile who, unlike some other community members, was not afraid of work. She kept her home clean and the family fed with wonderful meals all cooked on her wood stove.


James was a very large man, strong and a hard a worker as his wife. He was pretty easy going unless you made yourself a threat to his family- that was a definite no-no. He worked their garden, the largest in the Park, and cut wood for the house. Every week, he managed to eke out a little time to work on the octagonal log cabin he wanted to finish so his family would not be so cramped. James and Paula were pillars of the community. Almost everyone respected them. Those who did not at least left them alone.


Gandalf and Holly were the owners of Toad Hall before Joanne and I took it over. Holly was mom to Sarah Sunshine and cooked many of the meals, cleaned the family laundry, cleaned Toad Hall and was a straight up good worker. Gandalf was a hard worker as well. He usually wore his long dark hair in braids to keep it out of the way while he worked. At one point he worked with me on the rail road and at another he was a cook in a restaurant in St. Johnsbury. He had a degree in cooking from the chef’s school down in Florida and taught me how to make real whole wheat bread starting with the wheat berries and finishing with an oven in a wood stove. He once told me he quit school at seventh grade or maybe it was eighth. In any case, he never stopped learning and read all the time he wasn’t working. He was the first person to tell me about The Farm, a commune that outlasted many others and I hear is still going to this day.


Then there was Joanne. She was one of the few women in the Park who was unattached. She liked me, anyway I had heard that, but at least one of the reasons she wanted me around was the need for a woman to have some association or attachment while living in the Park. This was all unstated, of course, but any sociologist studying the place would have come up with the same conclusion, I am sure. Joanne had not gone far in school and was not a beauty queen, but she was attractive especially when she smiled and she had a big heart that reached out to those in need. In some ways she was a bit naïve in that she spent a lot of time helping those who just wanted a free ride. She had run away from home and wound up in Boston where she told me she walked the streets in order to obtain money to pay for the apartment she rented to keep several people out of the cold.


There are a couple of others I will be telling you about that are not listed here: Raunchy Ron and Burney, BJ and most notably, Big Jim and the STP family. A lot of other people drifted in and out, and there were at least one or two full time Park residents that are not listed here simply because I never got to know them. In all, these are the main characters one would have come into contact with had they been at the Park the same time as I was.

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I continue to read these and love 'e Ira.
Me thinks a short book could come from these.
You got my interest. :}
Still reading here also. Enjoyed!
This place called the Park was actually named "Earth People's Park" by the Merry Pranksters who were Ken Kesey's followers. They toured the country in the school bus called "The Blue Goose," and found a piece of property in Norton, Vermont which they put a downpayment on and made the deed out to "The People of the Earth."
A few episodes down the line, the story will intersect with Patty Hearst, the newpaper magnate's daughter who was kidnapped by the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) and held captive until they used her in a bank job. Anyway, there was a lot of history that intersected with my little trip to Vermont.