Warmed by Ann’s delightful hot breakfast and basking in Ann and Jerry’s enthusiastic hospitality I gladly took to raking the winter’s deposits of leaves and branches that littered the grounds between their three or four small cabins. Everything was heavy with April’s rains but the fresh smell of the work made it a treat. The warmth of Ann’s pancakes was joined by the heat of physical activity. Jerry joined me, filled with instructions and what help he could manage. It was a delight.
That evening Jerry asked if I played chess and soon the board was between us. Jerry did love to play chess and both Jerry and Ann loved to chat. After a week on the road their home was so warm and their company so welcome, I reveled in it. And I got better at chess!
It turned out Jerry had spent some time in Idaho back in his youth, cowboying around Pocatello. He and Ann were from the era of the Great Depression and I was a young buck hitch hiking around the country in 1969, no doubt a hippie with a haircut.
“Well, yea,” Jerry said. “We knew all about marijuana when I was working in Idaho. It was a weed along the streams. All we knew was to keep the cows out of it or they’d fall down. Didn’t occur to us to try smoking it—and it’s probably a good thing we didn’t!” Ann joined us in a good laugh.
The Viet Nam war came up, of course. And the question of how I could be out living on the road, being of draft age and all. I told them I’d been deemed too immoral to fight in that war and told the story of checking the “homosexual tendencies” box during my pre-induction physical. Like pot, being homosexual was just another perfectly natural subject to these seasoned citizens of the Pennsylvania mountains.
That night I enjoyed the comforts of one of Ann and Jerry’s cabins. The bed, so warm and soft after a week sleeping beside the road, was heaven.
Having a desk and stationary from Ann and Jerry’s mountain retreat , I wrote a letter home. Next time I’ll share it with you.