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Jugheads on the Jarbridge


I met these two girls at the rainbow gathering. I was living in a hole for the week, my abstract gesture towards shelter pulled over my meager camp outfit in the dirt. I mean, I had a sleeping bag and a tarp. I'd traded something, two hits of acid?, for a sleeping pad, but I slipped crossing the river carrying it back to my hole and it took three days to dry.

That Jarbridge River is Wet!

I had a hat, a sky-blue fedora a girlfriend stole from our friend's used-clothes boutique knowing full well my friends would see me wearing it. That girl was a real Klepto. She stole a wedding dress from St. Vincent de Paul! She carried it out with her purse, after we, um, did a "Fantasy" turn in the dressing room. She returned the lingerie she'd been trying on....

I ran with that hat all the way to Mexico and back, sewing tokens and designs into it as I went, stitching all my travel dreams and treasures into my stolen piece of style, making that ill-gotten gain my own, as I'd once done with a stolen Cowboy Hat which along with my '65 Econoline Van got me laid. Three Times!

I lost that hat in the Jarbridge, chased it down the river for a mile, but the river wouldn't give it back, and I wasn't jumping in to save it.

That Jarbridge River is Cold!

There's a bridge just up the way crossing the Snake River between I-80 East to West and Twin Falls, Idaho. Evel Knievel tried to cross the Snake River there, but didn't make it. My ancestors tried to cross with wagons in 1843, but found the treacherous Snake the most formidable obstacle they'd faced thus far on the brand-new Oregon Trail. Funny, my food stamp card is called the Oregon Trail card. We're still blazing a trail from poverty to the promised land, which in my case appears like a mirage once a month when the card fills up.

My ancestors crawled and hacked their way through the sagebrush desert following the South bank of the Snake River, clawing their way through the most God-Forsaken trackless waste they'd seen thus far on the brand-new Oregon Trail back in 1843, a rolling grey-brown sandy deathtrap waist-deep in prickly sagebrush, thick with dust, treeless and broiling in the late July heat, a landscape rolling on for days, weeks in Wagon-Train times, a waterless desert with the cold pure Snake tempting, torturing the thirsty pioneers from deep within its unbreachable canyon.

That Snake River is the Devil's Brother!

A group of the ancestors of the same Native Americans who claimed the land the Rainbow camped on partied my ancestors out on August 1st, Jerry Garcia's Birthday!, in 1843. The locals brought Salmon, my ancestors provided Whiskey, and there was music and dancing well into the dawn's early light. An emigrant girl's journal records that it was "The most festive time we've had thus far!"

"...Thus far. Their journals always reflected the journey yet to be completed....

The locals didn't want us Rainbows there, except for one old Shaman who'd extended the invitation and fluttered about the Gathering in person, legend, and rumor while we white folks tried to organize an anarchic community of 20,000 or so mostly mindless souls.

I remember two warlocks fighting over the location of the dinner circle, with one prostrating himself before the other shouting, "It is I who am Humble! You are filled with the sin of Vanity! See how you strut! It will bring you down!" Meanwhile, a thousand people waited for dinner, which couldn't be served until "Council" was done, and now "Council" had degenerated into these two warlocks, the upright (physically, anyway) of whom won the battle with a withering salvo of insultive wit, "Now I see you crawling on your belly like the Snake you are!"

Long as it ended the "Council" and we got fed....

The California Trail followed the Jarbridge before heading off on waterless marches of several days duration to reach the Humboldt River, which the trail followed until the Humboldt just plain dried up. We Rainbows were so thirsty that several of us climbed right up the steep canyonside rather than hike the two-mile winding trail to the parking lot just because we were promised a cold beer at the top.

There was a cold beer up there, all right, for the six of us! And we had to carry a bunch of stuff back into camp for the guy who'd given us the beer! You know, I keep trying to make my experiences metaphorically meaningful, but sometimes they're just a boy's recollections of adventures with his friends. Oh, well.

I saw Venus bounce off the rim of that steep canyon, and I wasn't Even tripping on Acid. I saw it set and then appear again! In the morning's light, when I Was on Acid, I saw that Venus had fallen upon the crenallated castle wall of the canyon, had passed behind a Standing Stone, appearing just once more, a curtain call before setting to mark the end of June.

The Ancients made such markers to count the days. To truly see the canyon walls of the Jarbridge is to see a map of the country all around, a guide to routes and springs, tales of the people one might meet, and what dangers one should avoid. The pioneers on the California Trail couldn't read a word of it.

That Jarbridge River's a Killer!

Just this spring an elderly couple from British Columbia slid off the road beside the Jarbridge and a moth later the woman was rescued by hunters who found her starving and dehydrated after surviving 40 days on trail mix and Hershey bars. Her husband hiked off to find help and was never seen again.

I rode off the Gathering site in a van whose owners had burned it down inside so that the charred smell would throw off the drug-sniffing dogs. I dined and dashed at the first burger joint I found, a desert way-stop slash Honky-Tonk where they were making so much money from Rainbows who hadn't smelled Meaat! in weeks that they couldn't be bothered to take my money.

"Pay for the Hamburger!" the Rainbows in the burnt-out van shouted as they pulled away, leaving me to hitch a ride home with a traveling salesman. Oh! I almost forgot. Those two girls I met?

Oh, that Jarbridge River!