The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by.

Maybe the reason I lured myself into allowing my hopes to include that 1977 C60 school bus was just a time warp slipped in briefly.  Fond memories have a way of coming back to haunt folks as they approach the jumping off place, I reckons.

A million years ago, Back Just Before Hippies Were Invented, summer, 1964, when KoolAid was just KoolAid and acid was still just something to excite a strip of litmus paper, I had my first experience driving a school bus.

As described in the post linked above, I’d gotten out of jail in Rochester, NY, walked halfway down Ohio, been picked up by a taxicab going deadhead back to Terre Haute, Indiana, after taking a drunken businessman to Columbus, OH, to see his estranged wife and kids.  He left me on a street corner in Terre Haute, where I dodged beer bottles thrown by kids the rest of the night.

Mid-morning a yellow school bus pulled across the intersection where I was standing, a car pulling a trailer pulling in behind it.  Loma Linda Academy painted on the side.  The door popped open and the driver yelled, “Do you know how to drive this thing?”

I had a middling amount of experience driving dump trucks and such when I was younger, and I was hungry enough for a ride to lie through my teeth.  “Sure thing.  Nothing to it!”  He vacated the driver seat, I took it, and we said goodbye to Terre Haute.

Turned out he was a Baptist minister moving his family to Las Vegas, New Mexico.  He’d contracted with the manufacturer to take the bus to Loma Linda, California, figuring he’d stack the seats in back, load up his belongings in the empty space, and get the hauling expenses paid for by delivering the bus.

Rick Riehardt was his name.  Young, 30ish man with a nice family.  One of several Baptist ministers I’ve met in my life I came to respect and was able to enjoy their company.  But a menace behind the steering wheel of a school bus.

The rear of the bus was loaded with his belongings, forward of that, loose seats stacked, with about half the seats still bolted to the floor, up front.  Rick had a five-gallon jug of KoolAid and a cooler loaded with Bologna sandwiches behind the driver seat.  He was “a loaf of bread and a pound of red” sort of man when it came to eating on the road.

We struck up a salubrious acquaintance as we motored along in that bus, picking up other hitch-hikers as we came to them.  Enough, at times, to fill the intact seats in the bus.  College kids, soldiers on leave or in transit, bums, beatniks, people who didn’t care to admit where they’d been, where they were going. 

One kid who’d just been down south working with SNCC and marching with emerging civil rights movement, marching, getting beat-hell-out-of by redneck sheriffs, getting treated like a stinking step-child by a lot of the blacks he was supporting.

The hitchers rotated on and off the bus as we drove southwest, Rick and my ownself being the only constants, me being the only driver.  We hadn’t gone far before Rick began cajoling me to drive the bus on to California after he’d unloaded it in Las Vegas, re-installed the seats, and he’d leave the family behind.  But I was headed for Portales, New Mexico.  Figured on getting off and heading south at Santa Rosa, well east of Las Vegas.

Eventually I agreed to it because I didn’t think there was a chance in hell he’d get the bus to California in one piece driving it himself.  That, and I was probably hallucinating on KoolAid and bologna sandwiches by that time.

We parted as friends, him offering to buy me a bus ticket back to Portales, me insisting I’d ride my thumb.  Caught a ride in Needles, CA, with four drunken US Marines in a new Mercury Station Wagon on 72 hour pass.  Headed for Colorado Springs.  All they wanted from me was for me to stay sober and awake watching for Arizona Highway Patrol airplanes.  Every time I dozed they’d catch me at it and threaten to put me back afoot.

We made it from Needles, CA, to Albuquerque alive, about 1100 miles in 12 hours.  I was ready for a rest.  Crawled into a culvert and slept until I had my head back on straight enough to stick out my thumb again.

Rick and I used to exchange post cards for a decade or so, but I lost track of him somewhere back there.  Never lost track of the KoolAid and bologna, though.  I still keep it around in my head in case I ever need it.

Old Jules

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13 responses to “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test

  1. No reason to watch for air patrol planes traveling at that speed. They wouldn’t have been able to catch up to you (grin). Way back around 1962 a buddy and I were hitchhiking back home from college for Christmas brake when we got picked up by a drunken egg truck driver. It was an big old open van type truck and we were sitting in front of the stacks of egg cartons watching the driver reach for another bottle. All we could think about was being drowned in eggs if he hit something. Of course at his first stop we bailed out.

  2. Always a pleasant day when I read your posts. Some days it is the high point of the day, especially today – I can just imagine a busload of hippies traveling with a Baptist preacher. Reminds me of a book, Illusions; The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. Only they had an airplane.

  3. Oh My God, Terre Haute is where a bunch of my relatives live, though I’ve never met them. Our paths keep intersecting in the strangest ways! What a fun story – thanks for sharing!

  4. You didn’t say if you made it to Portales. If you did, how did I miss you? I was there that year. In fact, I grew up there from ’50’s through ’64 and rode a school bus for 12 years. That year I was attending ENMU. Nice town back then. Sure disappointed last time I visited there. Drove a school bus there around ’74 for a while with 60+/- kids on it. Good memories. Especially the singing of “Found a Peanut” and “Ninety-nine bottles of Beer on the Wall” on the bus everyday in my early grades.

    • Hi Mary: I made it and worked a while out at the Borden Peanut place until I left for the Peace Corps. Out by the County Fair Grounds. But I was working so many hours a day throwing 50 pound bags of peanuts in the air I didn’t socialize much. I started school in Portales in 1949, East Ward Grade School. Left my junior year of HS. 1959, I reckons. You’d likely be a few years younger. But we probably know a lot of the same names of mostly now dead people. Small world. Gracias, J

      • We probably did know some of the same folks. Bobby Borden was a class mate of mine. His father owned the Peanut place. My Dad probaly sold him peanuts from our farm on the Arch highway. My family moved there in the spring of 1950. I graduated in 1963. If you were a football buff you may have heard of my youngest brother, Joe Everette. He was a tackle. He graduated in ’54. He was good enough to get a four year schoolarship to ENMU. He went to Texas Tech instead. Served him well as he ended up working for Bell Labs and then on the NASA project until he retired. He was a math major. Me, I got my MRS. degree and raised a family. When I was 38 I returned to school and became a nurse. Truely, even with 7 billion people on the planet it is a small world. Blessings, Mary

        • Mary: Bobby’s older sister, Jan, was a classmate of mine. Guess there’s only a couple of years difference in our ages. The Borden Peanut operation across the tracks from Schumpert’s and adjacent to the County Fair Grounds sat atop what had been our farm earlier, during the early ’50s. I might have worked for your dad one time or another. I shocked a lot of peanuts out toward Arch during harvest seasons. Gracias, J

          • It would not surprise me if you had shocked peanuts for Dad. I remember a lot of people in the fields at one time. Our place was one half mile east of the second curve on the Arch highway on the north side of the highway. The school section was to the south of us and the electric substation was 1/2 mile east of us. One of my class mate’s older brother made a peanut digger-shocker about ’60 or ’61. His last name was McGuire. That was the end of the peanut fields full of workers at harvest. It was the beginning of the peanut thrashers picking the shocks up on the run instead of sitting in the middle of the field getting wagons unloaded into it. Lots of changes about that time in history. Yes, I think we probably are just 2-4 years difference in age. I will be 67 this fall.

          • Morning Mary. Gotta wonder what the folks living over across the tracks did for a living when harvest season went mechanized. Cotton, broomcorn, maize, peanuts were their lifeblood, a lot of them. But the water was running out, anyway. If the machines didn’t get them the water would have, I reckons. Incidently, one of the readers here, Keith Kelt, married a girl in your class, I think. Marietta Boone. If our farm ended up fairgrounds I’m not aware of it, but maybe it did. The fairgrounds were back of us and we were bounded by the RR tracks on one side, and Herbert Lemay’s place on the other… Herby the Spanish teacher at the HS. Borden bought the place and put the peanuts on top of it, but maybe the county bought it up later for more fairgrounds, I reckons. I can’t place the name, McGuire. J

          • Sorry, I miss read your comment. Your families farm was near the fairgrounds if I understand correctly. Yes, I knew the Marietta. Her Dad was an attorney. I had Mr. Lemay for geometry. He liked short skirts and the girls to sit on the front row. Not my cup of tea. Would have preferred wearing pants. Not acceptable though. The McGuire’s had a farm on the Arch Hwy about 5 miles out. They were quiet folks that didn’t make a big splash. I think the food bank with commodities and other forms of welfare came into being about this time which would have helped the farm labors. I doubt it would have compensated for the lost work which happened in increments during that time because of the bole puller, herbicides and such. Sad situation for them. And sad for the farmers because of the pollution to the soil. Blessings, M

  5. When we swore off balogna, son asked, “How can ya have a sandwich
    without balogna?”

  6. I remember where your families farm was. To bad it ended up being the fairgrounds. Not much water in the valley now. Irrigation is iffy and the area looked rather desolate about 5 years ago when I went back for a reunion.

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