SAVE THE CREAMERY!! A FIELD TRIP account to Veneta Oregon 1972. PART 2. –Victor Zboralski
How did you become a Deadhead?:
- Before getting going on this short, short story, this GDAO is a very interesting and overdue kind of experiment. Historians, I’m told, often complain that not enough writing survives from the common folk in any era –the mundane accounts that can adequately fill in the gaps to tell the story of how life really was, even if it was just a glimpse of a nearly formed bubble that no one was looking at directly. At least not enough survives to satiate the deep itch of serious academics. It’s no mystery, the poor fools were largely too ignorant, too busy toiling, or too tired and lazy to carve what small game and cortinarius we had for dinner into Oregon white crystal marble. Well here you go historians -a GDAO account from the peasantry, a ‘nothing in particular’ life with no profound beginning, middle, or end. Maybe some takeaway. Perfect.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, UNANSWERED QUESTIONS.
THANK YOU Mike Fitch, ancient Ashland buddy, for parachuting me in on this adventure some 40 years ago -and for careful and conscientious A-LERT driving that delivered us safely D-HYDRATED to and from our objective. I had not dirt in my pocket to help with expenses, and Mike, if you are reading this,,, that was a first rate act of friendship, and I will never forget it. At the time, I had no idea that this concert was a “pot luck” benefit to help save (at 3 bucks a deadhead) a creamery that belonged to a Kesey family member, and I hope that all financial woes or considerations were E-RASED by this historical concert event. I also was nearly completely ignorant of the body of music by the Dead, so, THIS IS how I became a deadhead –hippy wannabe late to the dance thrown into the wood chipper. *List of other unknowns: There apparently was a lot of recording going on as I found out 4 decades after the fact… Please tell me there will be an official movie release before I die? …Sunshine Daydream? Did we SAVE the family creamery? Did Oregon hippies hold it together under heat and pressure? Was it Kesey or Babbs that read “Green Eggs and Ham” over the gigantic tie dye PA at concert’s end? Did the separated kids find their dancing moms? Did the Virgin Records Executive looking hippy on the ship’s mast directly behind Jerry twirl his dervish head until it unthreaded? Did the Rainbow Family dude post bail? Should I buy Donnie a f_ing compass? Did the cows ever calm down? Did the naked Hell’s Angels (or were they Pranksters?) find their clothes and take a nap? Did the cow-poop-goo runoff creek cause my DNA to change? We hope the answer is, yes!
Late August 1972 was 2 weeks before my 17th birthday, and we were heading into our Senior year at Ashland Senior High School. Mike was a little closer to 18 but speaking for myself, Viet Nam and the draft had not seriously crept into my consciousness yet. I’m sure I had a giant, invisible double ‘thumbs up’ with a side-long ear-to-ear Nixon grin hovering over my dumb head, but it was beyond my comprehension to worry about it. I’m an honor student, not a jungle humper for crying out loud. “Cong?” Like Eddie Haskell’s dad says “If you don’t do business with ‘em, they’re not worth knowing.” By now we were numb to the evening news of assassinations, rock star deaths, Walter Cronkite, body bags, black bag jobs, Cold War, Nixon, Kissinger, Peace in the Middle East, don’t hold your breath, whatever. It simply would NOT be REAL until it happened to us teeny boppers… As it turned out, our numbers never came up, TRACEN doors slammed shut in our face, the whole thing died an embarrassing death, and the only jungle humping I did for Uncle Sam was years later to a clear road in Samoa with a machete to drag marine batteries to a government installation. My war wounds were fungal, and the Samoans and Tongans were, well, friendly to say the least. Friendly fires on the beach as the “Cold War” settled in for the long haul, hanging out at Tepatasi’s with bearded off duty space junk tracking engineers.
Mike and I had a common circle of friends, which is kind of unavoidable in such a medium to small (but fast growing!!) sized college town. Mike’s dad, Chet I believe was his name, sorry, had a logging outfit and that was probably the common thread between me and Mike besides other interests. My dad had followed in my G’Pa Victor’s footsteps and was a timber faller extraordinaire at one time in his life, before switching over to the Forest Service, which was your basic financial step down in life, but I digress. Both pops have since passed, and they were great dads –Mike’s and mine. I wasn’t there for Chet’s funeral, or nearly anyone else’s for that matter, but Mike has a picture tribute to his dad on Facebook, as I do for mine. My dad Edward was buried at the Dunn Hill old timers boot hill out on Emigrant Lake back in 91. Boy Scouts mysteriously appear nearly yearly to put Veteran’s Day Poppies or Memorial Day flags on his and other Veteran’s graves. I doubt if any of us can get a reservation to place our ashes at the old timers since the site was really meant for the kindly and generous old rancher settlers that donated it, Indian War fighters, and skillful pauper Euro settlers that did the work for them. I bet Kevin Litwiller would have the straight skinny on that. On a total side note, what is the source of all that mercury in Emigrant Lake? Repeated reservoir fillings that concentrated heavy metals?
THE LOOK of THE DAY.
We were all hippy wannabes in those summer days. Hey you won’t get me to say anything negative about my old classmates and friends –a courtesy I would hope they would extend to me but I’m not counting on it -but the general comical imagery –looking side long with finger and thumb on either side o’ the chin- was ultra skinny, undernourished and happy for no good reason –longish back and a buck forty soaking wet, sun tanned, blinding transparent pearly white Maxillary incisors, all star spitting gap, sun freckles, yoked western shirt & mother of pearl snap buttons or loggers Hickory shirt two sizes too big, falling down skinny dude Levis bunched on dusty Redwing kidney bean colored boots, or few clothes at all –long, long THICK shiny wavy black hair that flashes red in strong sunlight reportedly the envy of all girls in existence. Kind of a slightly- better- looking Pigboy Crabshaw than the real Pigboy Crabshaw. No great talent at anything, really. Not one picture from those days, really? Really?? Piercings? No. No one had tattoos in those days unless you were a Carnie, Hooker, Sailor, Ground-Pounder, Drug Addict, or any interesting combination of the above. I was into Johnny Winter, B.B. King, Frank Zappa and the Mothers, Captain Beefheart, Neil Young and the overwhelming wave of talented British performers that emulated, elaborated and celebrated American Black music to the “nth” iteration. I had no car, no license, laughable jobs, and was in my 4th or 5th year of 4-H Sheep Club with Matt Ettinger and the Doc Reynolds girls larnin about caring for tham dang daminals. Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you spent New Year’s morning pulling lambs, pushing the uterus back into a dying ewe, and burying one of the triplets that didn’t make it. Dad let that property go for a song, btw. Miss those acres a bunch, some slick douche bag since put a housing development in it.
THE EVENT DRIVE and DESTINATION.
I can’t remember if we drove up on the Saturday before and pitched camp before the concert or what, but the NRPS and Dead played for so long, we must have.
Mike had a cool orange VW Beetle with a tape player, and he quick studied me on the essential Grateful Dead tunes. The Skull and Roses double album was contemporary and probably the best ever. I remember trying to listen to it over the road noise, and quickly noticed that they were not blazing guitarists, but had a clean, sharing live sound that was fun and danceable. They were in and out of folk, country, and rock with their own style--Mike obviously loved the drums, and we would soon be seeing Billy K on this event. They obviously didn’t sound like precision musicians to me, which was cool, live album performances have issues… heat, flat strings, equalization issues, harmonization and communication while playing, the sometimes popping crackling or elfish voice of Jerry, in and out guitar lines that seem a little unsure or afraid to speak up, Whatever. I liked it. They definitely had a story to tell. Mike was using his accelerator and shifter as a drum kit. I don’t know how long we were on I-5, must have been 3 and a half to 4 hours. Out comes the map… Renaissance Country-Faire Grounds. A moment or two of confusion near a gate, and yeah, we found the right place. A cow pasture in the middle of F_ing Nowhere, Oregon, ZIP: MORECOWBELL. I always referred to it as the Kesey Springfield Creamery, but actually I guess it was the Veneta, Oregon, Renaissance Country-Faire Grounds on the home-made flyer that was circulated. It had a cow’s head on a jug of milk with lots of “thank you” funnies balloons.
All from memory, no pictures damn it …It was warm early in the day, a little dusty but plenty of pasture to keep dust bowls from forming. You may not believe this, but as far as I know, no drugs were taken at this concert. By someone, I’m sure. We were early and staked out a good spot that was … ‘house left’, that was the side with Jerry, and Ken Kesey (Babbs?) who inhabited a large overstuffed recliner, right on stage. A lot of bikers showed up and pole positioned up front near the stage. Later, when the music started they were almost immediately naked, the first to get things rolling, why wait. THE STAGE was organic looking. It appeared to be made of large deadhead snags plucked fresh from the sandy Oregon beaches nearby. They were neatly stacked or crossed driftwood logs that looked like bleached femur bones. Perfection. Not sure if that was the intent, but that is what it looked like. A tall tower of exquisite tie dye speakers adorned either side of the stage. The artwork on these speaker cabinets was astoundingly beautiful and intricate. Behind the stage was a ship’s mast looking structure –like something out of Water World, possibly the worst movie Costner ever made, -and there were a number of them- where a dude was on lookout duty, twirling and boogying. He looked like a hippy version of Richard Branson doing a twirling dervish thing comically above the stage. Kind of like a hippy Go-Go Pixie hovering over Jerry, and he had THE BEST seat in the house. Man was I envious –omg that was funny sh_t, Lebowski now shut the f___ up Donnie. There were a few hovels or stations set up here and there that I did not visit, and port o potties. Did I tell you there was no shade? -except for out-back of the stage, where poplar(?) trees grew along a stream that separated the cows and barn from the people. The stream saved us all that day… let me tell you, for sure, that OPPRESSIVE heat can make you overcome agonizing modesty OR a real concern about health threatening pesticides, herbicides, bacteria, e-coli, giardia, and a host of other critters. Better living through microbiology I always say. I believe, according to one report, the temperature hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit that day, and one had to keep calm and core temperature down. The audience had the sun to their backs for most of it. For those running around naked, the Sun -Did Shine -On Thy Back Doooor That Day. Bob and Jerry got really dark or burned as the day went on. Did I hear “Sunstroke Serenaders” from Bob while tossing his pony tail around? There were all kinds of announcements all through the concert. I always thought it was just Ken Kesey talking, but apparently the main MC was Ken Babbs. They may have shared that duty, but he/they, were funny as hell. We were A-LERT, Ken!
This concert opened with, and made me a modest fan of, the NRPS. The New Riders of the Purple Sage were definitely countrified rock, and I really enjoyed “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, though by the time they played it, some of us really did need one. They played for a really long time, and when they finished it felt like we were marooned in the Mojave standing around our little picnic blanket like a sacred little swatch of Central Park in the THICK crowd. Ever see radiant heat waves warp a road’s appearance? It was that hot. No one seemed to mind, there was good energy all day. The sunshine made everyone dance and play all the harder. A girl by the stream shot me a casual eye of eternal wisdom, a stoner’s fixed gaze and smile, shared an eye dance, but no water to be shared. Our group dare-to-dip in the cooling goo (“Dippity-goo Seventy Two”) lingered sticky on our skin all day. That water was black- green, and, dammit they did warn us it was waiting there in ambush to snatch a host victim. Some hippies made friends with the goo I think, so it turned out cool.
After countless intermissions, the Dead finally took the stage out in front of God and everything, as Phil said. –Introductions by Mr. “You’re no Billy Graham” Babbs, cut ups, funny shit, Bob Bobby Weir, Phil Lesh, Jerry Guitar Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann , and the Godchauxs –Keith and Donna. Without much fanfare they ripped into the first set. This opening set was remarkably tight. China Cat Sunflower/ I Know You Rider –first time I heard it- became the most memorable jam rock medley that haunts me still after decades despite the inexplicable mini Jerry meltdown in the middle like an old man looking for a bathroom in a power out. Maybe he was high? Later, somewhere after Dark Star – El Paso (-El Paso, are you kidding me????? best rendition I ever heard) we found some friends Wisdom Star Family. The bikers (pranksters?) were on the prowl…apparently there weren’t enough naked chicks in the crowd... One stood and gazed at our camp blanket. I think he wanted to lie down with his old lady, nowhere to be found, but didn’t ask, and moved on. Casey Jones encore was the slickest version I ever heard, studio or not –definitely muscle memory and confidence on that one. All in all, a sum total of 3 sets of incredible show went on into the night.
THE EXPECTATIONS, THE TAKE-AWAY.
We left accompanied by a giant, calm God like voice reciting Dr. Seuss. The kind of voice you produce when you mouth the microphone and talk like Clint Eastwood, as if your throat vibrations are forming the words without even opening your mouth. That’s how I remember it. The monitors were up, and it was loud, calm and soothing. It was probably for the benefit of the kiddies waiting to be reunited with their mommies.
No expectations before, during, or after. I felt like an insignificant capsule sent there to record everything, and I was on the clock so I couldn’t completely let go and be tangential at all times. It was my job to be an invisible recording device. My ego was truly long checked at the hat rack though, always has been. I did have moments of joy there, and in retrospect it was totally enjoyable separated from the discomfort. Apparently it took me over 40 years to want to articulate this EVENT, to mostly say thank you. Hope it brought back a few memories, because you never know when the memories will end. Finding your way in those days was kind of a lonely and scary place, as it is now, but it had its moments of happiness. There WAS (underlined!) a connection with MANY like minded people, if little direction and mentorship in life existed otherwise. Hope everyone landed on their feet, and hope no kids or cows were traumatized.
THE LIFE AFTER
Reside in mossy burbs of Redmond Washington, coming toward the end of my working career. Vessel Traffic Service is in its fortieth year, and with a little work and luck there won’t be any egregious mishaps on the Salish Sea. The Canadians, and Washington State are good partners in this effort. Hope to travel about again someday and visit old friends and relatives. The only cool thing about losing contact for such a long time is that you remember everyone as a teenager. Hope life is good.
What is your favorite Dead show, and why?:
- Sunshine Daydream, Veneta, Oregon Field Trip 1972
What is your favorite Dead song, and why?:
- Not Fade Away / Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, China Cat Sunflower / I Know You Rider
-both are the best rock jams ever.
Jack Straw -great lyrics and harmonization, haunting story and strong imagery.
What is your favorite aspect of the Dead scene?:
What, if anything, do you think is important about the Dead, and about the Dead phenomenon?:
“SAVE THE CREAMERY!! A FIELD TRIP account to Veneta Oregon 1972. PART 2. –Victor Zboralski,” Grateful Dead Archive Online, accessed April 19, 2015, http://www.gdao.org/items/show/1694370.
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