Southern Oregon
Summer 1971

Dan‘s parents had bought nearly 40 acres in southern Oregon 1 1/2 miles from the California border on the Redwood Highway. We caught an early morning empty boxcar and were in Portland in no time. All we could transfer to was a full piggy back, carrying semis west. We got sidelined and had to wait for another train to pass.

A hot day, we took the opportunity to skinny dip in the Willamette River. No sooner were we in the water that the train jerked a chain reaction that signaled it to start up. Naked, we scrambled up the rocky bank and threw our gear on board. The train was going slow enough we were able to put on a few clothes. I looked back and saw that a had dropped a pair of cutoffs. I ran back and got them. By then the train had gained speed and I struggled to run fast enough to jump on. My foot slipped as I grabbed the ladder but I was able to recover and get safely aboard.

Dan was ahead eight cars and could see I was on. The train stopped some miles ahead and we were able to reunite. We followed a river most of the time stopping just long enough to refill our water. Arriving in Bend, Oregon nearing sundown we stopped for what appeared to be a longer while. Dan decided to get some smokes. I waited. After 10-15 minutes he hadn’t returned, the train started to creep forward. I jumped off and called Dan’s name, ran down one block and over one. No one in sight, I ran back prepared to grab our gear and wait for another train. Dan was already on board. I caught up with him and we sailed into the night. We were able to transfer to a boxcar and traveled in relative comfort.

To the East a looming cloud erupted with lightning in an eerie display. We pulled into Klamath Falls about 2:00 am. and found an area where we could stretch out and catch some sleep. Some hours later we got on the road west and made our way through Grants Pass and Cave Junction.

We located Dan’s place and were surprised that someone was living there. We parked our gear at the nearby riverside. Dan decided to hitch into Cave Junction to investigate with the realtor. The day grew hotter and I decided to bathe in the river.

Fortunately, I went in with my shorts on first. A passing driver saw me undressed and phoned the police. By the time they arrived I was in my clothes. I showed them my wet shorts and nearly convinced them to leave me in peace. Whoever had reported me didn’t leave their name so no charges were to be issued.

They then checked my ID and discovered I was under 18 and had their grounds. Dan returned just as the cops were ready to load me into the black and white. Under age in Josephine County is illegal without a guardian. The fat cop pulls out the shot gun when we arrive at the jail You’re not thinking of running are you? he says.

I call my parents and they wire a ticket down. They threaten to throw me in the holding tank with others but give me a private room (cell). I take a shower, pile the mattresses on each other and try to light a cigarette butt on the lightbulb. An officer opens the door and tosses in a few comic books to read until lights out.

In the morning they put me on the bus for a long, mostly dreary ride home. Dan goes on to San Francisco and a great trip. I return three times over the next two years, climbing mountains, riding horses and having many parties in Tukilma, the local commune.

The next story is about my longest and last freight train ride to Chicago and hitchhike on to Ann Arbor, MI to attend a Blues & Jazz Festival.