It was May 1966 when I arrived and walked up the mountain to the small cabin that was to become my home. It was a time of rebirth for the earth and for me. I could hear the rustle of the deer, bear, and spirits in the woods. The air, fresh and clean, helped to clear my mind of the pollution and fog created by the times in which I lived and the city that had not by choice been my home, having moved there as a young boy with my parents. It was springtime in the mountains of West Virginia and springtime in the heart of a young man out to save himself and the world. Possibilities were as limitless as the views from the tops of mountains, and the feeling of safety was as sure as the isolation of the cabin itself.
In mid-October 1967, it was time to leave the mountain and the cabin, and time to leave Emily. I left in the early dawn, when all things are new and alive. At night in fall, the temperature could drop to 39 degrees and easily spring back to 70. With the heat of the sun kissing the dew, a fog would form in the valley, creating a mystical feel and helping to conceal the mysteries of the woods. At night, we would have a fire and in the days wade and swim in the stream that ran near the cabin. I have never known a morning that could compare with the feel of the air and the beauty of my surroundings as those mountaintop mornings.
The months of May and October can be similar in the West Virginia Mountains. The difference is one is the beginning and the other an ending, a putting to rest of what had been and would never be again. In the spring, the shades of yellow, green, gold, and red splash the mountainside, promising life to all. In the fall, the same colors are present in equal splendor as if to say I will go out with the same beauty and grace with which I came in. In my young days in those mountains, it was good to feel that the cycle of the mountains and my own life would continue to replenish and repeat. Still today, those ancient hills and mountains have resisted the slaughter of man and time and continue to cycle through life.
The year 1967 was coming to a close as I walked down that trail for the last time, memories of the past year clouding my eyes with mist like the fog that surrounded the mountains. By October 1967, the continued presence of American troops increased further, and 475,000 were serving in Vietnam. The peace rallies were multiplying as the number of protesters against the war increased. Tens of thousands of Vietnam War protesters marched in Washington, D.C., and 40,000 Vietnam War protesters filled Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, and I was ready to continue the struggle with my brothers and sisters of the peace movement.
There were other noteworthy events in 1967. The Monterey International Pop Music Festival in California, which featured 1960’s icons Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, The Steve Miller Band, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Grateful Dead, was held in June, and Faith Hill was born in September, not that anyone would have noticed at the time. Our faith was of a very different kind. We had faith that we would make a difference for the better, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and stop war forever, and oh, what faith we had!
(To be continued)
There’s more in the podcast, including the ever-popular rock-and-roll timeline. Join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.