The following is just a small part of a story I started over two years ago called Mountaintop Days. Most of the story is still here on my website but the whole story has never been told. This part popped up on the great wide web and it’s a fond memory, so I am republishing it alone. I hope you like it.
Just south of Kane, Pennsylvania, and a little west of Johnsonburg, there was a farm that had existed in some form or other long before the Civil War and had served to hide runaway slaves and those seeking to escape the tyranny of southern plantation owners. It was protected from the east by cliffs and mountains that literally bordered the large creek that ran across the back of the farmland. The front of the farm was cleared so that a small dirt road flanked by large expanses of land led the way to the farmhouse, making it easy to see anyone approaching from the front. To the left of the house stood a barn, open on both ends, and from the back of this barn ran a secret trail that led into 512,998 acres, or 801.6 square miles, of wilderness that was the Allegheny National Forest. It is easy to imagine that anyone could escape forever into that vastness, even a modern-day fugitive, and it would also be easy to imagine that many a runaway slave became a great dinner for a bear or mountain lion, not knowing where they were going or what to be aware of how to survive. I did not intend to become dinner for anyone and especially did not want to test my survival skills. After all, I had only come here to leave West Virginia, my original destination being a warm Virginia Beach, accompanied by a bottle of tequila, a ripe lime, some salt, and a Southern belle whose closest association to a cow was the local hamburger stand. I didn’t drink much, and the Southern belle did not materialize. After all, Emily was still living in my heart. However, after bathing in a running stream or in some hot water heated over a large fireplace, I must say the thought of ocean water and the warmth of my original plan sounded good.
But here I was on a farm probably 300 years old by 1968 that had been a refuge for so many seeking survival, seeking freedom, and seeking peace. It was now welcoming me into the fold of their attempted sanity away from a world rapidly losing its mind.
The farm was now home to an artists’ commune composed of writers, musicians, painters, and all manner of less-than-mainstream-conformist pacifists, a few inhabitants having been there since its inception in the early 1950’s. Legend has it that Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac had actually stayed there, Kerouac just before On the Road was published in 1951. Imagine what a heady experience it was for a young man like me to be there, on the road and out to change the world, with hopes of becoming not the next Jack Kerouac, but more, oh so much more. Jack had shown the way, and I was going to find new roads and bring the world to a new place. Yes, I was!
My days on this farm would be short but colored beautifully and forever by the changing leaves and the mountains ablaze with the kaleidoscope of fall and by a woman named Alice. Alice was an intensely gifted artist who made the mountains come alive on canvas and who had a talking parrot that loved to repeat only the words her ex-husband had taught it just before he left her: “Fuck you, Alice.”