I lived at the Morningstar Ranch during a time frame I am uncertain of (normal for that time period), probably somewhere between 1967-1968.
While at Morningstar, I decided to go to visit my stepmother and half-brother who lived in Santa Paula, California. I do not remember ever telling anybody that I was leaving. The trip was going to take a couple of days, so I put on my grey, wool blanket cape with a patch (which was also my sleeping bag, the patch was from scrape during the quilting bee at Morningstar), my Red Ball boots, corduroy pants, and belt made by Sylvia. I then walked or got a ride out to the highway. Hitching was very easy to do at that time.
When I finally got to the freeway (say what you will), I walked up the ramp, stopped, turned, and immediately caught a ride to San Francisco. Rides were never a problem in those days.
I spent that night under a viaduct somewhere near Santa Something. I made my bed. I was over halfway to my stepmother’s home, and it was good sleeping. The next morning, I arose and dusted myself and blanket off. I checked my Red Balls for insects. Done with my morning chores, I headed down the dusty bank to the freeway below. As I stepped onto the concrete, I noticed a police cruiser coming down the on ramp. I had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, so I turned my back to him and started walking.
I heard a swirl of sound, and then silence. I turned and stopped. The cop came over to me and stated that it was against the law to hitchhike on the freeway. I told him that I was walking to my mother’s house. He said that if I was going to walk to my mother’s house, then I should use the state highways. I told him that this was the straightest way to go and also the fastest since it was straight. I said that they should build sidewalks on the freeway. He said, “Get into the back seat. We’re going to see the judge.” On the way to the courthouse, he made light conversation about not hitchhiking on the freeway (yeah, free). I said that if they wanted me off the freeway then they should build sidewalks, they build roads don’t they? He smiled and said, “Yeah.” When we got to police station/courthouse, he put me into a room and said, “I’ll be back shortly.”
The game begins. I am blank, lost in the beauty of the moment. Nothing to worry about. Time passes, the walls are nice. (Now’s the time to go do what you wanted to do earlier.) He came back a couple hours later and said, “Come with me.” We walked into an empty courtroom. The cop told me where to stand, and he sat at the table. We waited a while until the judge entered the courtroom (here comes the judge, here comes the judge). It was still morning. I guess my case was the first thing on that day’s agenda. The judge looked at me. He looked at the police officer. He looked back at me. He then asked the police officer what the problem was. The officer said that I was hitchhiking on the freeway. The judge looked at me again and asked if this was true. The judge wanted only the truth, nothing but the truth. I said that I was walking to my mother’s house. The judge said that if I wanted to walk to my mother’s house, then I should use the state highways. I told him that the freeways were the quickest and straightest way to go, and that if they did not want me to walk on the freeway, then they should build sidewalks along the edge of the freeways. The judge stopped and stared at me as if I belonged in an insane asylum. I remained standing. He motioned for the officer to come into his chambers. The officer immediately complied. I am blank, lost in the beauty of the moment. In my mind I see bicycle paths and sidewalks across America’s Garden of Eden. Green, lush landscapes with bicycle paths and sidewalks. Friends meeting, men bowing to ladies. People laughing, looking over our cliffs of beauty to the sea. Wandering the lush paths of Kentucky and Hawaii. Watching the sun rising on the shores of Lake Michigan. Walking the path next to the amber waves of grain. Riding your bike from sea to shining sea. Land, roads, sidewalks, and paths as they should be.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, they both came back into the room. The officer motioned for me to follow him. I did. We walked through the police station/courthouse rooms. We walked outside. He then motioned for me to get into the back seat of his cruiser, and I complied. We then drove off. On the road, we make small talk and drove. After about 10 minutes, he stopped the cruiser and said, “This is as far I can go.” Were we at the county line? He let me out, and I thank him for the ride. We wave goodbye. Pity the next longhair who tries to catch a ride in Santa Something.
The rest of the trip was uneventful until I got to my stepmother’s house. When I arrived at the block that I thought they live on, I looked for clues (I had only been here once before). I walked up the street, dug out a piece of paper with the house number, and walked to it. I went up the concrete walkway, up onto the stoop. I rang the doorbell, and I waited. Nothing happened, I turned and walked to the side of the house, all the while thinking that maybe they are out back. Nothing. As I walked back to the stoop, I noticed a window curtain falling back into place. I stood at the door and knocked on the knocker, lightly. Nothing.
I heard, “God damn!!” “God damn, Dennis, is that you?” coming from the side of the house.
It was Tony Stuppy, my stepmother’s latest husband. He muttered “Jesus Christ ” as he walked around me. Grey wool blanket cape (with red patch), church-colored corduroys, Red Ball boots, and belt made by Sylvia.
I smiled, glad to see him. He was our landlord when I was growing up. He motioned for me to come around to the back of the house. Out back, he said, “Wait a minute.” He walked into the house and I heard him say, “Margie, it’s Dennis.” Margie was forever neat and tidy, with doilies everywhere, a child of the Forties. I heard several “Dios mios” (my Gods), and then she showed herself. Tony said that Gilbert (my half-brother) should be home soon from grammar school. Margie said that I was not coming into the house like that (like what?). Tony said, “Margie!” They looked at each other (I see family in their eyes). She reluctantly waved me into the house. Tony promptly ushered me into the bathroom, and pointed to the shower. Somehow I got clean clothes, a home haircut, but I didn’t part with the cape or the Red Balls. Gilbert arrived home from school and we acted like the kids that we were. Margie started cooking while Tony smoked his pipe in his chair. We had a wonderful reunion and supper.
After dinner, Margie washed the dishes, and then baked them in the oven. I swear that this is a true story.
I never realized that I had scared the crap out of Margie, so what did she do? She sent her husband Tony out to investigate the creature at her door.
I never realized that people would have terrifying dreams about their children being in a commune like Morningstar. After thirty years I am sure that people still have terrifying dreams that their children will turn up at one of these communes like Morningstar.
Morningstar had no voice in what we thought or did, our minds were free to roam the universe. There was no person or idea being pounded into our minds. The youth there, they were free to be. I can see some concern. Morniningstar was more like your parents saying, ” I’ll be gone for a month, you and your friends do what you like.” type of commune. Whatever was done was done because someone wanted to do it.
Nothing could control the minds of the people of Morningstar.
Their minds and bodies were not confined by the boundaries of the ranch.
I guess by baking the dishes she cleansed her home from disease. I never realized at the time what she was doing. I knew that she was clean, very clean, so this came as no surprise