I don’t remember exactly how long I lived at the Good Karma house in Kansas City. It seemed like forever. Not that it was a bad place to stay and most of that time we were on the road dodging rednecks people who hated hippies. But my heart and soul were really not built for the road. The only saving grace was the people who came to see us. I loved performing for them and to this day am grateful for their support. I guess that is why I always liked signing autographs and such. If they were going to help me make a living, the least I could do was shake their hand and sign something for them. And, even though I never got to know many of them personally, I still consider them my friends.
At some point, we were offered a place to live that was outside of the city in a small adjacent town called Raytown. It was composed of two small vacation shacks on a small lake. By shacks I mean shacks. There was no insulation in my walls. My couch would often freeze to the wall in the winter. The corner where the drywall was supposed to meet didn’t. My ingenuity decided that duck tape was the answer. There was no fireplace so in the cold of winter it was sitting next to a very large “space heater.” As I said, I was on the road most of the time and was capable of living in such a place. It was also handy for storing my clothes and record collection.
The small lake the houses sat on was another matter. My love of sport fishing made the lake a perfect place to live. In the evening I would often walk around the lake and do my best to catch a bass or two. And then there was the sailboat. Jerry Vandiver, a singer/songwriter friend of mine had purchased a small, foam sailboat from Kool cigarettes. In fact, it had KOOL printed on the sail and, when I finally learned how to sail in it I felt COOL. I eventually learned to tack into the wind so I could sail from one end of the lake to the other and back. On each trip, the object was to not get wet. Even on a reasonable winter day, I would take it out with the sole purpose of seeing if I could stay dry during the excursion. And I was always successful. I guessed it was a blessing from the spirit who looks after hippies with a stupid idea.
Eventually, this little place on the lake was dubbed Happy Acres. With all its faults it was a place I could dream about when I was killing time at a Holiday Inn in Green Bay, Wisconsin, or Nanuet, New York. And it had a small stable. That eventually led me to purchase a horse. At the time I knew nothing about horses, much less riding but I had a stable and I was up for something new. To me, anything that smacked of adventure was, if at all possible, something to be investigated. My horse was a thoroughbred. After her racing days were over she had been trained as a hunter/jumper. So I read everything I could on the subject, bought an English saddle, and learned to jump. Actually, the horse jumped while I did my best to stay seated. Eventually, the two of us got pretty good at it. In fact, we got good enough that I found myself setting up a series of “jumps” around the property and we would spend wonderful afternoons doing just that. Running and jumping around the property until we were tired. I could tell when she was finished because, having been on the race track, she had a gear other horses don’t have and would shift into it when we headed to the stable. Holy crap was she fast!!!
I bring up the horses and the stable because of the effect they have had on my life to this day. Some extremely cool and the others not so much. I had gotten into photography and both Mort and Gary had become major influences on that part of my life. They had spent time at the Center Of The Eye in Aspen and were full of information and images on the subject. Mort still ranks as one of my top 5 favorite photographers. Decades later, when I was doing documentary television, Mort did the cover for a documentary I did on the Dillards bluegrass band.
I had headed out with an old 5×7 view camera to take a picture of the stable. I went up on its short roof to confirm a light-reading and getting down I jumped. I saw the rock just as my foot hit it. I had torn a couple of tendons, had to wear a boot, and was on crutches for a month. Those ended up being a hassle as we were about to head to San Francisco to record what was to become our Weeds album. Little did I know I had compressed a vertebra in my spine. A nasty one but no pain.
Years later as we were driving across Iowa with the band I had a shooting pain in my back that ran down my leg. “Get me to a hospital or to an airplane,” I told our roadie. Fortunately, we were coming up on a college town where we had recently played and which had a doctor. And, better yet, the doc had been to that show. To make a long story short, he gave me a shot that made me feel like a jazz musician and a huge bottle of narcotic pain pills to hold me until I got home. I wore my Ray Charles shades for the rest of the tour and remember very little thanks to that doc. But I was able to finish the tour.
When I got home I started looking for doctors who dealt with such things. I found one in Columbia, Missouri, and went up to see him. I had also recently met a young lady who caught my fancy and she had just moved to Columbia to finish her journalism degree at Mizzou. She lived in an A-frame just outside of town and, of course, I had to look her up. My comings and goings to Columbia led to a relationship with that young lady that has lasted since 1976. I married her. So the horrible jump off of the stable at Happy Acres led to my marriage to Jan, who you have probably read about here on this site. She has been in a lot of my stories.
My back is still a mess but my life is near perfect because of that jump. I guess this is proof that just about everything that you go through in life affects, in some way, the life you are living today. Some bad and others really good. So I have ended up happy as a clam with a bad back. What more could an old hippie ask for?