Two overgrown tracks of a forgotten road lead my way north, over a ridge in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains, and into the next watershed. My pant legs and shoes were wet with dew from the grass growing in the tracks and the brush crowding out the road. The forest floor was spongy with April thaw. But the air—Ah! The air!—was clear as coastal rain and filled with the scent of awakening forest, a clean mustiness from wood and leaves beginning to decay in the warming air.
It must have taken me several hours to walk those abandoned ruts through the woods but all I remember is the coolness and quiet, the light through the woods, and the delicious air.
Just as Ann had promised, I came upon a paved road. I turned right. Before long a substantial bridge was in sight. Several hundred yards before I reached the bridge a guy on a bicycle came up behind me.
Ann had said there were some hippies l might want to run into over here and, it seemed, one had run into me. A lanky quiet guy with the long hair and patchy clothes of the tribe, he stopped his bike and we chatted a bit. He said, yea, his bunch of hippies were staying at a place just back up the road and he was headed to town for some food. He figured it would be OK for me to crash the night, but everyone else was out of town and wouldn’t be back until late. So I sat on the handlebars of his bike and he peddled us across the Delaware River to Narrowsburg, New York.
On the way a car passed and stopped so the lady in the passenger seat could bark at us about riding on the wrong side of the road. I barked back that it was safer facing traffic and she rebarked about the law. That was the end of it. When we were on our way again the guy peddling the bike moved to the other side of the road and quietly said he found it best to not bark when barked at. Just listen and go along. He was right, of course. Those darned hippies and their logically peaceful ways.
That evening we chatted and I painted some little esoteric image on their wall. I was looking forward to meeting everyone but got tired and rolled my sleeping bag out on the floor of one of the bedrooms. It was hard but dry.
I was nudged awake with the sound of anxious voices coming through the door and soon knew the anxiety was over me. “But I don’t think he’s like that,” the guy from the bike was saying. He was being challenged with how careful they have to be. How many people are out to get them. How easy it is to screw up.
I heard the door to my room open and someone walk in. Not being one for confrontation I maintained my most angelic appearance of slumbering innocence. The door closed.
By the next morning there were only myself and the guy from the bike in the house.
And that was my night with the Merry Pranksters.