But That’s Another Story!

Tom Hunnel

The Stories change, go away, come back. A series of stories unrelated by time or reason, dates or places or people. A bunch of stories that seemed like more or less the truth, as I remembered them. Some have been told so many time they have been embellished by no fault of my own but because the need to renew the experience and taste the chase of life and laughter and love causes the mind to seek a sparkle, a glow, a twist and turn that might have happened. And did, indeed, as I remembered it.

1.         My First Four Days in ‘Nam

2.         My First Kudos in Vietnam.

3.         Green Coffee



6.         How much is the Booze Worth?

7.         Saint Mary’s. Knee Deep in Dust, Volcano Dust











                               OR WHERE DID THAT NEW GUY GO?



                     JON THOMAS, THE FISHERMAN, OUT COLD!


16.       Six Bucks

17.       The Magic Fiddle

18.       The Crows

19.       The Yellow Jackets

20.       The Mouse in the Speaker Box.

21.       Harmony Lessons

22        Square Dance for a Thousand

23.       The 22 Miles House

24.       Leon or Santa?

25.       Sound at the WOW Hall

26.       There’s a Snow Storm Ahead!

27.       The Bar at the Top of the World

28.       Bucky

29.       North Fork Saloon

30.       Dicks Taproom

31.       Uriah the Coyote Dog.

32.       Rocking Horse Inn

33.       Comes in Three’s

34.       Whitie’s Pet Shop

35.       Pigs on Fire

36.       Our First Date

37.       Gary the Striper

38.       The Castlegar Hotel

39.       Dakota Roads

40.       Feeding the Dead

41.       The Great Divide


42.        Our Wedding Day


43.       Sue and Money


44.       We Gotta Get Out of This Place.


45.       The Road to Hell


46.     Busted

47.       Ma and Pa the hippies.

48.       Psychiatric Transfer

49.       Dance of the Grizzly








My First Four Days in ‘Nam


My Introduction to the Ninth Infantry.

          Really, they began as my friend Gary dropped me off at                                          the front gate of the Oakland Army Base. I had already said good-by to my Ma and Pa. I          had kissed my slut of a girlfriend good bye (That’s another chapter) and I was ready to fly off to some strange land and get my young ass shot at or worse! I check in at the gate or desk or somewhere, who knows? I found a bunk, one of many I had already slept in with many more to come and then I did what any good soldier would do. I got drunk. I must have had a good one ‘cause I don’t remember much

 until we landed in Cam Rham Bay, South Vietnam.

When we landed in Cam Rham Bay at noon on Wednesday. That was really strange. We had taken off from Oakland on Wednesday at noon. A day lost? A day gained? I never did figure that out but it just seemed to start the whole damn adventure off on the wrong foot. We were shuffled off to dusty big brown tents. Everyone was wearing brown clothes. The trucks were brown.  Everything and I mean everything was covered in brown dust. We shed our fancy uniforms with our meaningless dingle bobs attached here and there, put on our stateside fatigues and headed for the bar, of course. After sucking down a few warm beers things didn’t seem so bad.

Just about then artillery rounds started exploding on the horizon and seemed to be moving closer.

Were they ours or theirs? The greenhorns (us) were looking around and waiting for some cue or sign to indicate running for cover or.......kiss our ass good by. The old timers, the really brown guys just kept drinking their beers so we kept drinking ours. And so a pattern was set. Watch the dirty brown guys and do what they do. They got really drunk so we did too! I guess that was OK ‘cause the next day rolled slowly around and found us climbing aboard some really weird old big plane that looked like a pregnant guppy. It was a C forty something or other. What a tub. It was one of those planes that can hold a couple of tanks. Instead they took a whole bunch of us and had us throw our duffel bags in and then climb on top them. Translove Airways it was not.

            After taxing around for what seemed forever we finally got airborne and settled into a routine flight or so we thought? When we landed the back door opened and I saw the pilot walking around with his flashlight, it was almost midnight, and I followed him. He was counting bullet holes in the wings. It seemed we had come under fire as we were landing. We didn’t feel a thing.

            I suppose we were lucky it happened so close to the landing zone. Suddenly the end of the runway lights up with explosions and flashes that were moving towards us! We grabbed our gear and ran to a big sandbagged wall and flung ourselves against it. It was pitch black. All the lights had been cut off. The air filled with the sounds of choppers firing up and machine gun fire coming from everywhere!

“WOW!” I yelled at the guy next to me. “ I wonder if it’s always like this!”              

“Nah” he replied in a knowing smirk, “We’re all assigned to the First Log out of Long Bien.

All we’re going to is push paper around and ship supplies to the grunts. We got it made!”

Little did we know we were already in Long Bien and our orders were already being changed. We spend the rest of the night on the runway and in the morning we were moved to a holding area and handed our new orders.

Where the hell is the 9th Infantry and why am I going to it? Me and about twenty other guys were shuffled off to a different staging area and told to sit down and wait. What the heck was going on now? Different size trucks and jeeps rolled by, stopped, picked up some guys here and there. Breakfast went by and more trucks and jeeps drove by, around and over us, picked up other guys with different sets of papers. Lunch went by and more truck picked up more guys and still we sat. This couldn’t be good. About 2pm three large deuce’s lead by a ¾ ton rolled up in a huge cloud of dust. They were going about forty and ground to a halt right in front of us! Damn, this couldn’t be good. Each truck had two guys. Each guy was dressed almost identically. Filthy helmets, flak vest with no shirts underneath. Jungle pants and jungle boots. Each rig had a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the top of the cab. The ¾ ton had some big damn gun thing that I’d never seen before. Every human and every piece of equipment was the same color. Dirt Brown.

The men in the truck seem to be in their thirties or so but as the trucks rumbles to a stop I saw that they were the same age as me, 18, 19, 20 tops. Their eyes were old. Later I learned that this was slack time for these short timers. Bopping into town to get the new cannon fodder. Smoking rope and drinking warm beer ‘till you puke. Stuffing your face with speed or smack, whatever you can get and as much as you can do. What the hell, what they going to do if they catch you? Send you to Nam? One of the trucks screech to a halt right in front of me and my heart sunk into my boots when I saw the front bumper. Thru the mud covered surface I could barley see the words.

                                                          9th Infantry.

I would be seeing that a lot in the next 365 days. Three days had gone by. I was going to the base camp of the 9th. Shit! With my MOS (job description) I could be send to any unit. I was a Chemical Warfare Specialist. Gas, Flame Throwers all that stuff. Every Infantry, Armor and Engineering outfit used us. A 54B20 with and 11B20 ( infantry) back up MOS.  I was screwed!

Our heads were pretty heavy on that ride out of Long Bien. There were thousands of guys there with aircraft and armor everywhere. As we drove out of safe harbor my mind became a blank slate. Imprinting on to my now blank slate was green. Green trees, jungle, water, it was all green.

There was just rice paddies and jungle all around us. We drove and drove past water buffalo and little people in cone head hats. No one looked at us. No one waved to us. Maybe this is why we were all given flak vest and helmets. The sides of the truck were lined with sandbags and these guys MOVED these rigs down there road with the throttle wide open. Well, what the heck. At least were on a paved road. It can’t be too bad where we’re going. With that thought in my head the trucks rolled off the pavement and on to a dirt road with out even a down shift. I looked at our pitiful little group and realized we to had turned brown, dirt brown. Our color for the next 362 days.

We rumbled to a stop in front of a collection of large tents. Everywhere were tents. Tents, Artillery pieces, trucks and choppers. Lots and lots of choppers. Hundreds of choppers. APC’s rolled by in every direction stirring up dust like giant vacuum cleaners with the bags off. By now it was about 5pm. We were herded into a holding area and ordered over to supply tent. There we got our jungle gear and our weapons. This was getting a little to real. Then, once again, thrown into a truck and carted to the far side of the base camp. We were issued ammo and got a quick lesson in how to use the AR-15. What a piece of junk. Probably the worst rifle ever made.

Most of us had never fired an automatic rifle on full auto. The rifle climbs fast and up to the right. Weird, and hard to control. Everyone was shooting up into the sky. Everyone but me that is. Mine rifle continually jammed. A forbearing of things to come. By the time everyone else had fired off fifty or so rounds I was still trying to unjam the first round. Play time was over. This piece of junk was mine for the next year. The damn thing never did work right.

Later, in the mess tent, we were eating something that I think was stew. A tiny oriental officer marched into the tent and announced we were going on patrol that night. Wait. I’m in country for three days and I’m going on patrol. PATROL! Yep. That’s exactly what we did. We finish dinner, divided into squads, got our gear, marched to the parameter wall and climbed right over. We walked straight out into the jungle. I had been in ‘Nam for three days and I had just eaten something that I knew would give me the shits and I was marching in a column of geeks out into the JUNGLE>JUNGLE>. It was thicker than any Northwest or Pacific coast forest I had ever seen or been in. It was amazing! We walked past the cleared area around the base camp and were swallowed into the lush green jungle like a tiger swallows a mouse.

I was near the back of the column and had sort of attached myself to an older Sergeant with a lot of weird looking patches, strips  and stuff all over him. He had arrived wearing jungles clothes and I found out he had been here before, several times. He was recently divorced and happy to be back. Not a smart move on my part.

“Hey this cakewalk buddy, we’re just going out about a mile, dig in and be back in time for breakfasts.” He told me with a grin.

“Really?” I replied like an idiot.

“No problem, just stick by me”

Well, advice from an older Sergeant, maybe twenty five is always welcome.

“Hey Sergeant! You and that private next to you take the point!” Orders the Captain.

Forward. To the Point. Take the Lead. You go First. Right Behind You Buddy.........................

            You see, the point is not the most desirable place to be. You go our twenty of thirty yards in front of everyone else and hope you don’t step on or in anything or anybody. I was stunned. The jungle was crisscrossed with hundreds of little trails going helter skelter in all directions. A road appeared out of nowhere and disappeared into nowhere. We came to a small clearing where some hills about as high as our heads offered a shady place to rest. About a dozen or so hills. Ant hills. BIG ANT HILLS! Covered with ants, ants all over, ants all over the tree I’m leaning against. Ants all over my arms that was touching the tree. Ants all over me.

My arm was black with ants and they were heading up to my face. I screamed and fell backwards as I swatted and brushes and knocked these ANTS off my arm. I slapped myself silly slapping them off my face.

Everyone got a good laugh out of it and the Captain was gracious enough to use the incident as a reminder to look before we leap, sit or otherwise.

We only went a few hundred yards more when the Captain ordered us down for the night. We dug in. Dug in? We’re sleeping here? Me and the old Sarge moved out about thirty yards in front and settled in beside a well worn path. Great Idea Sarge. There was already a hole of sorts there so we just kind of wiggled in, arranged our gear hear and there and watch sun fall out of sky like a big lead ball and then it was dark. Real dark. I could not see my hand in front of my face. The Sarge and I took turns staring off into the void, the blackness, the abyss. Sometime around midnight there was a rustling in the bushes right in front of me. I flipped off my safety and assumed a position ready to fire! A shape appeared about ten feet in front of me. Wait......that’s no man...........it’s..........it’s..........it’s a goddamn tiger! HE IS COMING TO EAT ME! He is going to eat everyone............I HAVE TO STOP HIM!!!!!!!!!!!! Just as I was about to open fire. A hand pulled me back and whispered low in a voice, “Freeze, Don’t move! Shhhhh.” The tiger walked right passed me. I could have touched him. He could have turned his head and bit mine off. Turns out he was just slumming. He was after a bite of food left from the c rations we had strewn about. A base camp vagabond. A tiger gone bad. Whispers trickled down the line as people realized what was going on. The tiger worked his way thru the pitiful foe, no annoyance to his regal self.

“If you would have shot him with that little BB gun of yours you would have just pissed him off and then He would have eaten you. It takes a .50 Caliber to take ones of those guys down.”

“Thanks Sarge, are there lots of these things out here.”

“Nope, been here twice and that’s the first one.”

Great, been here three days and I’ve been shot at, been in an airport attack and now I almost gotten eaten by a tiger. Wow. Hell of a three days so far.

“HEY, knock off the chatter. This ain’t no boy scout camp!”

At last as sleep finally overtook me bright lights and dirt seemed a curious mix to dream about. Bright lights flashing all around and dirt flying everywhere. Wait, this ain’t no dream. We were under attack! What the hell! What the hell do you do when mortar fire is exploding all around you. You duck. You cling to the earth like its a big sponge that can suck you in a save your young ass!  Someone was yelling into the radio CEASE FIRE CEASE FIRE! What a crazy war. You can call up the bad guys and ask them to cease fire? NOT. We were calling our own guys and asking them not to blow us up. It seems our experience with the tiger had been heard by another patrol and they had sent out call for fire! Great job guys. Turns out later these guys are out of whack by a couple of miles. On the patrol back in the next day we meet them at the first turn and open fired on each other. Thank God we were all rookies and couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn yet. We formed into one big column and slowly walked back to base camp. It was about 10 am when we got back. This was March at the top end of the Mekong Delta. It was hot.

                                     The monsoons hadn’t arrived yet.

I had been in country for four days and had been shot at, attacked, mortared, almost eaten by a tiger and shot at by my own guys. I was hot, dirty and stinky and there were no showers and drinking water only. I wondered over by an empty field and watch some crazy dozer pilot move dirt around with the biggest damn bull dozer I had ever seen. This guy was like dirt track racer. He could move that machine with such precision and skill it was a joy to behold. Some skinny redheaded kid with a southern accent sat down beside me and offered me a smoke. I took one out of the offered pack, lit it and drew in deep. I was the best damn pot I had ever tasted, rolled inside a Camel filter. By the time I had got to the end of that thing I was sitting there thinking, ”Hey, this ain’t so bad.” and so ended my first four days in ‘Nam. Little did I know what influence that little puff of smoke would have on my life, but that’s another story.








2. My First Kudos in Vietnam.

I was assigned to a maintenance outfit. They actually had a chemical squad. We repaired chemical equipment. All I really did while I was with them was work on a huge ugly Quonset hut that was destined to become the repair shop. Seems the 9th Infantry hadn’t been here to long and they were building the place up like crazy. Shops and roads, Towers and bunkers....It was a frenzy of activity day and night. Somebody decided I was too smart or too dumb to repair equipment so they sent me off to the Headquarters tent. It was full of brass, officer brass, THE BRASS. The office handles all the supplies and the repairs of the entire 9th Infantry. It was a busy place from 5 am in the morning to 10 pm or later, seven nights a week.

I was made the company librarian. Wow, it was cool. My library consisted of all the maintenance manuals for every piece of equipment the US Army owned. Well the job may have been cool but I wasn’t. It was to become my way and curse me thru most of my adult life I got everything organized in a couple of weeks and worked myself right out of a job! Damn, that made me eligible for KP, patrols and guard duty. Along with all that I got to keep tract of every piece of broken equipment owned by the 9th, every night, in triplicate. When will I ever learn...........

It was strange being in this office. Everyone was an officer, warrant officer or some kind of top enlisted man. That left me and the other private as the gophers.....go for this....go for that......go ...................yourself.

“Hunnel, get off your butt and get over to the motor pool and get your drivers license! Now! Move it.” the Sergeant Major politely requested of me. Cool, I was getting wheels. I ran all the way to the motor pool.

There was a greasy Sergeant there who looked me up and down with disgust in his eyes. He hated us Headquarters wimps.

“Bring that Deuce over here.”

I walked over to the biggest damn truck I had ever tried to drive. It looked about 40 feet tall. I scaled up the side of it like a mountain climber and settled in behind the biggest damn steering wheel I had ever wrapped my wimpy little fingers around. Starting seemed to be no problem. No key. Just an on and off switch and a floor starter like an old Model A. There seemed to be about fifty or sixty gears with about twelve levers sticking up out of the floor. Well, Here goes....

I fired the beast up. Hey, first time she fired right up. Great. Now if I could just figure out where first gear or any gear was. About ten minutes into my ordeal I looked up and saw that a crowd had gathered to watch my progress. Entertainment is cheap in ‘Nam I guess. They were laughing and slapping each other on the backs. I suppose that I was making more noise grinding gears and ramming the truck behind me than was considered appropriate. When I got the beast moving forward I got it figured out and after several trips around the motor pool I slid to a halt in front of the Motor Pool tent, shut her down, leaped out of the rig and walked over to the Sarge with a big grin on my face.

“Here’s your license. Now get back to headquarters. The Major is waiting for you.”

Now what did I do? My great mood dissolved off me like a hot April rain washing the mud off my face. I scurried back to headquarters to face the music. The Sergeant Major was waiting for me. He informed me I was taking the Major to Long Bien. His regular driver was sick and he needed to get there that day. I grabbed my helmet, flak vest, rifle, ammo, snack, cokes, and smokes and headed back to Headquarters. There, waiting for me was ¼ ton with a trailer attached. I was going off the base camp. I was going...........oh who cares......I didn’t really know and I didn’t care. I was going. Inside were the Major and a Captain. Later that Captain and some other Captains and I would share many a bottle of whiskey. Seems like these guys were just regular working guys like me. Interesting, but that’s another story.

“Let’s go!” barked the Major.

“Yes Sir!” I barked back.

I was not going to blow this job. Being a driver is a highly prized job. Even in a zone where they shoot at you. Well, nothing exciting happened on the way. We got there and drove around looking at this and that. Mostly I sat in the jeep while the Captain and the Major went into different building and tents around Long Bien. We finally put some stuff in the trailer and decided it was time to head back to Base Camp. Bear Cat. Home of the 9th. We were just leaving Long Bien as the sun was setting. All the roads were considered red or dangerous after dark. Our roads were yellow or red almost all the time. The Major look at me and asked, “How fast can you get us home, Hunnel?”

“Beats me Sir. How far is it?”

“About twenty miles to the turn off and three down the dirt.”

“How does twenty minutes sound, Sir”

The Captain and the Major both looked at me like I was crazy. They didn’t even reply. It was either drive home or spend the night sleeping in some flea ridden transit tent. I put my foot to the floor and turned on the bright lights. Your suppose to drive about twenty-five MPH with those stupid little red lights on. I figured if I could see where I was going I could go faster and be a harder target to hit. The road was narrow, winding and bumpy.

I kept the petal to the metal and send us flying around curves and up short grades. Back then and for many years after I could keep a picture in my head of all the curves and bumps of all the roads I drove. I was just running the movie backwards and pretty much knew where we were. Once a shot rang out and some tracers flew over our heads. I didn’t stop of even slow down. I never took my eyes off the road. I had no idea what the gauges were saying nor did I care. The Major and the Captain were bounced around like a couple of rag doll GI Joes. I turned on to the dirt road that led to our camp and I knew we were almost home. I also knew this road was really dangerous so I slowed down and turned on the red security lights. Instantly the world went black. We could see squat.

            “Hang On!” I yelled and hit the brights and floored that little jeep as fast as it could go. I snuck a look over at the Major. He was leaning way back in his seat with one hand on the windshield and the other on the dashboard. The Captain was sitting in the middle of the back seat with his rifle in one hand and this really strange look on his face like he was going to get car sick. I begin to giggle. Then I laughed out loud. Then the Captain laughed. Then the Major laughed. We were all having one hell of a jeep ride and we all knew it. I never did slow down. Not when I passed thru the front gate of the base camp with two MP’s trying to flag me over. Not when I skidded around several turns headed towards our camp. Certainly not when I turned toward the officer’s tent and brought the jeep into a six wheel drift and stopped the rig with the Major’s jeep door right next to the pallet sidewalk that led to the front door of his quarters.

“Where you from, Hunnel?”

“California, Sir.”

“That explains it. You’re one hell of a driver, Hunnel.”

From that moment on I was not only the Major’s personal driver but I was the driver for every officer in that office. It was a great job that lasted about four or five months. I think I clocked over 50,000 miles and had a ball. Well, except for time my jeep floated away in the river but that another story!


3.         Green Coffee

 Green coffee is Army coffee. Right? Wrong! In our little office coffee was the drink of the day and night and always. We all took turns making coffee. I didn’t drink coffee. I hated coffee. The smell of it made my stomach queasy. Finally it was my turn to make coffee. Now, what’s the big deal about making a little coffee? You get to get up at 4 am so the coffee will be ready by 5 am. The coffee was made in a big boiler thing that looked like a small rocket ship. It made several gallons of coffee. Bad smelly coffee. A little evil light when off in my tiny brain and I said to myself, “Self, let’s make sure this is the last time you make coffee!” Now this machine was a giant percolator type. It held at least two gallons of the ugly brown brew. I used the same grounds as the day before. I added just enough fresh grounds to cover the top of the coffee holder. Then I added two packs of green lime Kool Aide! Yum Yum!! I parked myself behind my little desk area and waited for the fun to begin. As the brass entered one by one they poured coffee in the dirty cups that never got washed and settled in for the day. There was a lot of grumbling, several comments about the smelly brew. The Sergeant Major walks in pours a cup of java. Spits it out all over the paper work in front of him and bellows, “Who the Hell made this poison?” HUNNEL DID! Came the group reply. “Hunnel!  If you ever touch that coffee pot again I will send you to ‘Nam! Get it?!” Oh Yeah. Sweet. I never made coffee again. Well once I did, but that’s another story......................................







Is it really a vacation if you steal a big truck and throw all your buddies in it and take off for the day? You Bet! ‘specially if your corporal is the one doing the stealing. I don’t know why we did it. After breakfast our corporal called about ten of us over to him and said, “Meet me by the motor pool in ten minutes. Bring your gear.” So we rounded up flak vests, helmets, rifles and ammo and headed toward the motor pool.

Off we went. In a big cloud of dust we headed down the dirt road to the Highway and then on to a small village just outside of Saigon. Water skiing on the Mekong River is not all it is cracked up to be. After consuming enormous amounts of beer and smoking like there was no tomorrow some of the braver or the more stupid went water skiing. Once it dawned on them they were moving targets for local target practice we put a stop to that. All in all the day was fun. Later that little village would completely disappear under the guns of the TET. But that’s another story.















      It was our second year on the road as the Whiskey Creek                                         String Band. It was summer and the living was easy. We were living in our house trucks and vans. Enjoying the life of the gypsy. We traveled from town to town, grange hall to grange hall, pub to pub. Somebody suggested we check out a new pizza place called the Copper Still. They were looking for bands that could perform without sound equipment. Whoa! Right up our alley. We made contact with the place. We played a few songs right then. The manager was tickled pink and hired us to come back every Thursday night for the next month. Cool. A regular gig was always a welcome addition to our somewhat spotty gig schedule. We showed up and about ten folks hung around and gave us a listen. Big Fiddlin Sue played her fiddle, Coyote Bill sang his lonesome country songs and me, Uncle T, played the guitar, banjo and mandolin like picking was illegal and I was going to be busted any minute! Next week there were twice as many people. The week after that there were more! By the following week there was standing room only! Wow! We were so proud. Our usual deal was show up early for dinner. Play from 7 to 9. Collect a little dough and be on our way. So we show up for an early dinner. This place was really a show place. The ceilings were copper and all the paneling, doors and tables were real oak. The front doors were about three inches thick. The floors were oak and everything was polished and was just too dang pretty for words. While we were eating the boss came up and said, “I got to let you go!”

“What? What are you talking about? We build this from nothing to a packed house!”

That was the problem. The place was built as a corporate write off and needed to lose money for awhile!

So the boss says, “I’ll buy your dinners today. But we are done.”

“Whoa dude”, I replied, “We got tonight and next week on a contract with you. So if you’re looking for a loss, pay us our money and were out of here.”

“I will not pay you. Take me to court if you want but you ain’t getting a dime”

I was pissed. “I got nothing to do tonight and next Thursday so I will be back in about ten minutes with a thousand flyers and I’m going to stand outside your front doors and pass out posters to your customers telling them what an ass you are!”

With that I threw my linen napkin down in my plate marched to the front door. (Inside my tiny head I thought I’ll just kick these damn doors open! That will make me look tough, like a cowboy gone mad!!! I marched up to the door and launched myself in the air feet first and smacked into the door with all my weight!

            The doors flexed their mighty oak muscles and withstood my assault like the cliffs against the sea. They bounced ever so slightly and threw me backwards about ten feet right on my back with my feet pointed up like a dead carcass drying in the sun! I was stunned. I looked at the doors. I looked at my feet. I looked at my band. Then I looked at the boss. I started to laugh, he laughed, the band laughed, the cooks and waiters laughed!!! I got up dusted myself off and pushed the door open and walked out to my house truck just shaking my head. Oh Well! Can’t win ‘em all. As we gathered our wits and were trying to decide where to go I saw the manager come out of the place and he was headed right for us. Now what? He handed me a check through the window. It was for the full amount owed!

“Why?” I asked.

“That was worth every cent!” he replied with a grin.

That wouldn’t be the last time we were in that part of Salem, Oregon. But that’s another story.......






6. How Much is the Booze Worth? 

            Once upon a time in McCall, Idaho we were playing in a little bar called the Miners Exchange. I should have known things would get funky by the sign over the front door. It read:


            It was a cute little place with a subterranean sort of feel to it. There was a nice crew of bartenders and waitress. They had a great happy hour that we often attended. We had played there several times over the last year and attendance to our shows had less people each time. We found out it wasn’t us but it was a local boycott due to whatever………. Anyway, the last time we played the bar was about $500.00 short of our pay. We took all the dollars, the quarters, the dimes and left the nickels and pennies. We were still about $200.00 short so we looked around the bar and said, “How much is the booze worth?”

“Take whatever.” said the barkeep.

We did. We went back to the condo and drank all the booze with the barkeep and the waitress. We had a good time. They had a good time. We left town the next day with hangovers and the barkeep and his girlfriend who ended up traveling with us for about a month. They actually got us a gig in Saint Mary’s Idaho but that’s another story. 











7. Saint Mary’s. Knee Deep in Dust, Volcano Dust

  Saint Mary’s is a little town nestled in the mountain near                                       CorDeLane, Idaho. We had a couple of mishaps there. The firsttime we played there we opened up the equipment trunk and we had no microphones. We had left them on the stage in Bend, Oregon. Some local guy had some mics we could borrow and our good mics were shipped to us in a couple of days so it was no big deal. However, it did start what was to become known as the idiot check. From that point on, when we closed the bus doors and the van doors we always went back in to the club and looked all over the stage and the sound area to see if we left anything. Playing at Saint Mary’s was a hoot. We had great crowds and they loved our style of music.

When Mt. Saint Helens blew we were in Brookings Oregon. Our destination was Saint Mary’s. On the morning the volcano blew we headed north out of Brookings over to Interstate 5, then up and over the McKenzie to central Oregon. That’s when we begin to see the effects. The air was getting dark and dusty. Gray dust. Everywhere.  By the time we headed North and East out of Bend the air was gray. We had to stop and buy dust masks. We put masks over the gas caps, the opening of the air cleaner on the engine and we keep them hanging off our necks. Every time a truck went by we had to wear the mask for about ten minutes. We had them on most of the next two days. As we got farther east we got into the real drift pattern of the explosion. The land turned gray. The buildings were gray. We were gray. Falling gray stuff filled the air and drifted up against the buildings like snow. We drove through small towns that looked like something out of science fiction movie. We tried to drive slow through the little towns. Our passing created wind storms that fouled the air. We were gritty, dirty and our skin felt like it had a coating of metal powder on it. The only thing that helped was beer. Lots of beer. We kept masks over our beer. It was hopeless, useless and pitiful.

            We arrived in Saint Mary’s three days after the first blow. The volcano blew many times. The later blows were small but each time thousands of tons of dust blew out and drifted all over the surrounding area and especially to the east. We were right in it. We set up at the bar. We had built our stay from a two day weekend to four days a week. No one came. Everyone was dirty, dusty and depressed.

            On the forth day the owner came over and said, “I can’t pay you what I owe you. I called your agent and she said not to worry about the agent fee. So here is my offer. We took in $800.00 this week. I will split it right down the middle with you.” That seemed fair. There was five of us and five on staff. I said, “Ok, but one condition. We grab some beer and booze, shut this club down and go to the lake and PARTY!” Everyone agreed and we did just that. Big Sue drank a fifth of amoretto. She can not drink that to this day. The next day we headed north into Washington and then up into Canada. We spend the next three months driving around in that dust and dirt. Volcanoes suck. We never did go back to Saint Mary’s but that’s another story.




“Diamond Studs” ORT 1982. Ran for six weeks six nights a week!





The very last of the Whiskey Creek String Band  1983.

Ma and Pa Hunnel, Fresno CA 1974.












    In our travels as “The Whiskey Creek String Band” we often ran into friends or people that knew us because of our music everywhere we went. We were on our way to Revelstoke, B.C. We had driven up the Slocan Valley, where draft dodgers for the last hundred years have hid out in, to the ferry point that crossed a huge lake. Revelstoke was on the other side of the lake. The lake took at least a whole day to drive around. As we approached the docked ferry the seaman waved on one car then the next, etc. He waved on Coyote’s ugly lime green van and then held his hand up to stop us. Whoa!!!!!!!!!! The seaman saw the look on our faces. He came up to our truck and said not to worry ‘cause they’ll be back in a couple of hours, eh. Cool. We got the day off and we’re sitting on a beautiful lake surrounded by dense evergreens and the air smelled like heaven. We got out to go sit on the hill. After a few hours we had quite a line of campers, cars and RV’s lined up for the next ferry ride.

            Some cowboy looking senior and his wife approached us and said, “Hey, aren’t you Fiddlin’ Sue?”. Here we are in British Columbia, about 2,000 miles north of Fresno California and here is some guy from there that used to come see us. Well, one thing lead to another and out came the fiddle and the guitar and we had a little picnic concert kind of thing going on. It was fun, for awhile. After about five hours we grew a little concerned about the time. Where was the ferry? We figured that we may not be able to get to the gig if we don’t get across soon. We asked some locals about driving around the lake and they laughed and told us it would take all day and we would still be late. We got word somehow that the ferry had broke down and the way to us and a new ferry was coming from somewhere to make the pickup but it may not be until morning. Great! We were a union band in those days and missing the first night could void the contract and then we would be out of work for a week. It got dark and we started having thoughts about settling in for the night when in the distance we could hear the sound of big powerful motors churning their way through the water coming in our direction. Oh boy, oh boy! We couldn’t make the gig in time but at least we would arrive that evening and maybe make amends with the hotel owner. We were staying and playing in the premier hotel of Revelstoke. When we arrived the Italian owner of the hotel greeted us, took us into the dining room and served us a great meal. He told us not to worry about the ferry or being late, that was part of life around here. We offered to prorate the week and he said that lets just see how things look at the end of the week. Cool. We must be in Heaven!

            We had a great week. We meet lots of great folks and returned to Revelstoke many times in the coming months. The very next time we played in Revelstoke the weekly newspaper headlines read, “THE BEST DAMN FIDDLE MUSIC YOU’VE EVER HEARD!” It was a plug for our upcoming week. We learned to drink Prairie Fire and we learned the Rodeo Song in Revelstoke. But that’s another story!




















     In 1978 the Whiskey Creek String Band headed to Fresno California to make our first LP. Vinyl. Plastic. Wow, we were ready. We had been playing four to seven nights a week in bars, pubs, grange halls and the street. We recorded our LP on a little tape recorder over and over until we knew we could do each song in one take or less. We had made arrangements to record on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We set up a gig at the Olympic Tavern (now that’s really another story) for the weekends. Sue lost her voice and could only whisper for one month. We worked around that and did her vocals toward the end of the month. We had set aside a month for the record and everything went pretty much according to plan. We made a rule we would not record longer than three hours, that’s an old union rule, and would only go for three takes per song. If we could not get it in three takes we saved what we liked and came back later to finish. It’s not as simple as it sounds ‘cause one take meant that each musician played their part by themselves. We often made two or three tracks of the same thing. We were real straight and professional for about one session and then we start drinking and getting high and it all seemed ok. Arrive at 7pm leave at 10pm. How wasted could you get? Besides we were young, stupid and strong. A little beer was not going to ruin the session. About two weeks into the adventure things were going well. I noticed that our producer, Bill Hunter of the Music Farmers, was always so wasted by the about half way thru the sessions that I started to watch him. He was drinking Gator Aide. Yet he was howling like the hillbilly he really was and getting all excited about everything. I sat down next to him to listen to Sue play her fiddle in the studio. The mixing room and the music room are two separate rooms and you can see the musicians through a big window. Bill says, “Hey Tom, want to get a buzz on real fast?” “Sure”, says I. Bill gets a bottle of vodka out of his brief case and mixes it with a little Gator Aide. I slug it down. I am stone cold drunk in about a minute. I actually get a rush of the booze. I had no idea! Well, Bill and I got drunk. I have no idea what happened the rest of the night. I think that might have been the night we went out to Bill’s house and composed that back cover to our first LP. Whiskey Creek, On The Rocks! But, that’s another story.







      As we traveled back and forth across the Canadian border we were always careful to have our ducks in a row. Work visa, papers for the dogs and birds (yes, we traveled with cockatiels) equipment roster, ID cards, guns, ammo and we made sure that we did not have any pot with us ‘cause that was bad news. We use to round up all the pot and put in a jar and bury it on this side of the border so we could have some for the ride home. Of course, we would forget where we buried it and would go crazy looking under rocks and trees and …..you get the idea. So between 1979 and 1983 we made many trips back and forth. We were search a number of times. The Canadians were always real nice and the Americans were always rude and mean. I have lots of Canadian stories but this one is about a fat little green bud that I had stashed inside a set of guitar strings, inside a plastic wrap, inside an old mic case that I kept my strings in. I found it many years after our trips were over. I could not believe that I had smuggled that little bud back and forth across the border for so many years. I knew I had it for a long time because it was in an Earthwood wrapper. I had used Earthwood strings from 1975 to about 1985 when I switched to another brand. Somebody was watching out for me. Thanks, whoever you are!










           The Army uses a device that is called an emersion heater to heat water in the field. It’s a little gas burner that had a long chimney attached to it. You set it down inside a water barrel after you get it going and it heats water pretty fast and pretty hot. Our mess Sarge was a clever individual and got great joy out of trading and bartering. Somehow he managed to get a big steel water tank that held about 300 gallons. In fact, he got two of them. We build a tower. Stole a crane from the engineers next door and set the tanks on top of the towers. After about a week of cold showers, welcome but not all that much, somebody said, “Hey, let’s put a heater in it!” Wow, what an idea. We did. It worked. We refined the idea by putting a heater in one and using it as the hot water and leaving the other as a cold tank. We came up with that ideas ‘cause we burned our butts when we left the heaters in both tanks all day!!! Ouch. A little plumbing and a little ingenuity and we had HOT SHOWERS!! Dang, it was like we died and went to heaven. One day our new captain was getting to know us. He decided to crack down on us and whip us in to shape. Hey, we’re in ‘Nam. Get real. Well, the hot showers vanished. We did only what was required. Word got back to the new captain and he decided that it was OK if some of us did whatever the heck we wanted to as long as the real work got done. The price. Hot Showers. That left us time for important stuff like swimming in the back of our water trucks and drinking Cold Duck, but that’s another story.










 In January of 1989 I got my first job as a tax preparer. He was a retired fellow. Kindly. Put up with my mumblings and bumblings. After much help from my boss I got his tax return done. He had sold a rental property that he had owned for many years and he thought that he really had not made much on the sale. He forgot about the depreciation. You have to claim back the depreciation when you sell a business property. He left with about a $12,000.00 tax bill. I continued with my appointments. About an hour later a young fellow and his wife stopped by and inquired about their dad. Seems he had an appointment earlier that day. We figured out who it was and I told them that he had left several hours earlier. They found him in his truck, slumped over the steering wheel of this truck. DEAD! I always will wonder if the news I gave him killed him. Maybe his time had come and our paths were just intertwined in the great scheme of things. Hummmmm












      We use to swim in our water truck in ‘Nam. Nothing like it. A big old water tank mounted on the back of a truck filled with 500 gallons of cool water. Never mind that the water may end up as drinking or cooking water. Every so often we had to open the hatch to the water tank, slid in every so carefully and sit at the bottom of the tank for as long as we could hold our breath. Only a few privileged individuals were able to partake in this ritual. One night we were getting drunk and playing ping pong in our little night club we had built. It was about 9 or 10pm. A new guy showed up at the door and asked if he was at the right place. We said, “You bet. Come on in a have a cold beer. Play some ping pong. Have a smoke! Somewhere around midnight we decided we were all hot and sticky so we would go swimming in the truck. One by one we slid into the cool darkenss of the water. There was just enough water to allow us to surface inside the tank. Beer arrived. We got drunker. Time to climb out. The new guy slipped on the wet truck deck and smacked down to the deck with a bang and a thud. He split his head open pretty good so we bagged him up and drove him to the medic tent, dropped him off and totally forgot about him. Not only did we not remember him, he had no idea where he was or what happened. He had no orders, clothes or anything with him accept his clothes on his back. When asked what unit he was assigned to he had no idea. We never saw him again. I guess he got reassigned. The mail clerk came around about a week later with some mail for the guy but we had no idea who he was, where he was or where he went! About a month later he came back to our little night club and after chatting a bit we put the bits and pieces together and had a good laugh over that and we all went swimming again. But we did play ping pong. Lots of ping pong. Epic ping pong battles between me and Schwartz, but that’s another story!









            One of my first year tax clients was a young fellow that sat down and handed me a court order saying he had to claim $30,000.00 worth of income for the Pot he had been busted with. Seems he got caught with a grow room. This was back in 1988 so things like that were bad news. Oh yeah! So, anyway, I says to him, “You ought to write of the cost of the rent and utilities to offset the income!” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Oh, I think I will just leave the income the way it is. I don’t want to piss them off anymore than they are!”. Funny thing is that it would have been legal, sort of, to use the costs of the operation to reduce the income!!!

















    The title is longer than the story but now that I got yer attention here’s the tail of serious drinking combined with or without burritos WITH MUSHROOMS served by David, the gypsy burrito cook. The incident took place at the Barge Inn, in Newport, Oregon. It was about 1976. At was a dark and stormy fall night. Street hustling had moved pretty much indoors. We were scoring some grange hall and community center gigs. Clubs were beginning to let us bring in our PA system. The Inn was pretty small and we just stood in the middle of the room and pretty much filled it with our singing and picking. Folks danced and drank, yelled and screamed, laughed and laughed. It was a good feeling. David, the gypsy cook, had prepared plenty of burritos. Some with an some without mushrooms. Magic Mushrooms. Free mushrooms. They were everywhere in those days. All of us and all of the locals knew what that meant. We had already done this thing a couple of times and it was really fun. This was about the third time. Word was out. The place was packed to the rafters. Everyone smoked in those days and the smoke hung heavy in the bar. The bar room lights looked like the warning lights at the end of the break water on a foggy day. You could just feel reality begin to slip away about midnight. Everyday folks walking by had dropped in and order a beer and some of them burritos. David the Gypsy Cook was too far gone to remember what had what and everyone got everything, if you know what I mean.  A drunk stood up on a chair and yelled at Fiddlin Sue and said he would break her fiddle over her head if she didn’t stop playing. The crowd hushed. They looked at Sue. They looked at the guy. In one loud voice they yelled Noooooooooo! And moved toward him. I felt like I was somewhere between a Fellini movie and a bad B grade tale of pirates, gladiators and hippies in bar fights and by golly I thought one was just about to break out! UP Steps this little gal about 5 foot tall. She grabs him by his ear and gives it a might twist. Yanking him forward and out to the front sidewalk and down the alley where she beat the dickens out of him. Turns out that was his wife. She really liked our band and she was a martial arts expert. They came back in a little later, he had a black eye. He apologized to Sue and promised never to be an ass again. Poor guy. Felt sorry for him.

            But while he was out in the alley getting his butt kicked Jon Thomas decided that if that son of a bitch came back in the bar he would kick his butt. He took a big swing to show how he would take the guy out. Jon Thomas, “The Fisherman”, could drink a lot and he was setting a record that night. He swung so hard he spun himself around and fell into the Popcorn Machine. He jumped back and screamed at the Popcorn Machine and with a mighty swing crashed the machine to the wall. The Popcorn Machine bounced off the wall with a mighty thump and careened into Jon Thomas head with an ugly thud. Jon reeled backwards about ten feet,  rolled his eyes up to the light and down he went. With a mighty crash he fell to the floor. Just then is when the first guy and his wife came back in the bar. Jon Thomas was a forgotten soul. His drunken body lay on the floor and people just stepped over him. By now it was apparent even to us that having 150 people in a tavern meant for thirty was not a smart idea. We packed up and left.

            The next time we were suppose to play there the owner had the door locked. We knocked on the door, it opened with a creak, a pale hand held out a plain white envelope and whispered, “Just take the money and go away!” We took the money and went down to the Bay Haven Tavern and spend it on drinks for the gang. We played there instead. Made a little dough. Newpot was always good to us. Now there are lots of stories about Newport. But that’s another story.







16. Six Bucks

          We used to hang out in a tavern called the Olympic Tavern. We all called it The Oly. Sue and I ran an open mic there that in short time became so popular that we expanded the show for one more day. We encourage people to get together in different combinations and work up 20 minutes of time. We changed the acts every half hour. Many times, we ran it right up until 2am when we had to close. Sue and I got Six Bucks each for running the show. Of course, we got all the beer we could drink. When John the Bartender had to “take a break”. I would take over. I knew I had the taps for at least twenty minutes. Everyone would storm the bar like a drunken thirsty mob and I would refill all the glasses and pitchers as fast as I could. I think John knew but he never said a word. As one young musician was playing something, folkie he stopped and asked for a beer. The bartender asked him did he want anything else? “Yeah,” the kid says, “How about some money.” John yells across the bar and says get it from Tom. The bar laughed and I yelled out, “Hey, all I get is Six Bucks!”

With that, a light went off in my head and I wrote the following words.

Unionize Socialize Rehab possibility wise

Ah shit, I’m just trying to make a buck.

The man behind the bar says,

“What do you want more money for? Everyone else who works gets a decent wage.”

And I say “how much?”

He says, “Six Bucks”

Six Bucks in cash each night

Six bucks take it home it’s all right

Six bucks for you and your wife and

Your dog and your cat and your strings and you lawyer and your agent hot dogs, gasoline, taxes, chicken necks shoes socks etc etc etc. etc etc ……………………………….............Sometimes a song or a thought comes to you so quick and easy it takes your breath away. Other times I can go years without a thought in my head. Or so it seems at times. Sometimes I don’t think at all but that’s another story!
















17. The Magic Fiddle

        We used to take our fiddles to Schubachs in Portland to get fixed up. They worked on classical instruments only. The liked Sue’s story about her fiddles.  For whatever reason they took us in like we were royalty. After a few visits they gave us the grand tour and showed us all the priceless instruments they were repairing and making. When they moved from downtown to across the river they ended up on a very busy corner. We were on our way north to Canada for a few months so we left one of Sues fiddles at the shop to get a new finger board put on. When we got from back from Canada we went to the shop to get the fiddle. As the fiddle was handed to Sue the luthier said to Sue is that there was no charge for the repair. We asked why and were told that a truck had crashed through the outer wall and came right into the repair shop destroying and damaging thousands of dollars worth of valuable classical instruments. But, right in the middle of the opposite wall they found Sue’s fiddle. Not a scratch on it and perfectly in tune. Funny thing is that is not where the repair guy had left it. It was on the other wall sitting on the work bench. That means it flew across the room from the truck impact into the wall it was sitting on to the bench on the opposite wall! Now, that’s some magic. Sue’s Fidel and Farris were made by her grandpa but that’s another story.

18. The Crows

        The first year on the road, 1975, Sue and I saw the same crows over and over. It was a pair of really big crows. Not as big as a raven but a big fat healthy crow. We knew it was the same pair because one of them had a peculiar wing pattern on it left wing. It was kind a jagged with a distinct shape. We saw these crows in Newport. We would drive all the way to Mt Hood and we would see them there. We would drive down through the back roads from Mt Hood all the way to Eugene. Sure enough, they would show up where ever we stopped. I think it was some powerful spirits sent to protect us. Sue figured it was her Dad and maybe her Grandpa. I figured she was plumb crazy but I would learn in the years to come Sue was always right in her predictions but, Hey! That’s another story.

19. The Yellow Jackets

  That same year we had a great summer. We worked mostly buskin. We had a tight little act and we did have a small PA system that we could use in clubs. We traveled with a bonified nut named Billy Walsh. Billy used Kare as his last name. So we were Billy Kare and the Whiskey Creek String Band. We had a Sign made with that and when Billy left the band we cut that off the sign and handed his part to him. This story is about a warm summer day. It had rained for several days and we awoke to a wonderful sunny morning. We were up in the mountains near ZigZag, Oregon at a campground named Horseshoe Camp. It was free and the living was easy. We got all the sleeping bags, blankets and pillows and hung them up in the sunshine to cook all the day in the solar waves. Billy was making breakfast and Sue and I decided we would head to the creek and let the dogs take a dip. On the way to the creek Sue and the little wiener dog, Buckwheat, stepped on a Yellow Jacket nest. The critters stormed out of the hole in the ground like a tornado gone wild. They swirled around Sue and Bucky. I could wipe them off the back of Bucky and they didn’t bite me. They also ignored Uriah, my big dog. Sue ran to the creek and jumped in but it was only six inches deep. I yelled run run run. We all ran like crazy! You can outrun a swarm. You have to run full speed for about one and a half miles. As the bugs dropped off us, we continued to run and swat as fast as we could. By now, Sue was ripping off her clothing and screaming like crazy. I was running behind her yelling at the top of my lungs RUN RUN RUN!!!! I wish I had a picture of the look on Billy’s face when we ran into camp. The other campers were also staring at us. I yelled, “Bees on the way. Get in the Camper now!” As we close the door of the camper, we could hear the bees pounding against the door and the windows. We all stared at each other and then burst out laughing. Talk about a rush. I was buzzed for hours after that. As the day wore on and the clouds rolled in we sat through a three day ran storm was like the beginning of The Flood. To this day I swear we taught Bucky how to say raison. Rrrrrrrrrrraaaaaasssssssnnnnnn. She would look up at us and say that and we would fall over laughing. Bucky was a very special dog that I had inadvertently had owned her great grandma, her grandma and her ma. Through selective breeding, guided by herbs and magic potions Bucky was molded into the one and only dog for Sue. She was a magic dog but, as you know by now, that’s another story!

20. The Mouse in the Speaker Box.

We traveled through the Eastern Oregon and Southern Washington Area for about two years. During that time we moved our big JBL speaker cabinets in and out of many a night club and dances. Now either we had a lot of mice everywhere we went or we had a mouse living in our speaker box. For months, the mouse would come out about midnight and scamper around then go back in the box. We never said anything to the nightclub owners. I think he or she finally jumped ship in John Day, Oregon. They had some pretty good chow there! But that a yeah yeah yeah, another story.

















21.       Harmony Lessons

Our first year on the road we thought we were singing harmony with Billy Kare. I don’t know if we were but were getting close. When we came back to Fresno, Ca in the winter of 1975-76 we joined back up with Coyote Bill who was one of the original members that couldn’t go on the road that first year. Well, Bill was ready to sing and play. We got a gig at a place called the Water Tree Inn. After the first set the bar manager said he wanted us five days a week. Wednesday through Saturday were gigs and Sunday was the jam as was the custom in those days. Now this managers name was Floyd and he had been somewhat of a rock star in the late fifties. He wrote a couple of hits and got tied up with some interesting people and they were all running this hotel in Fresno. Floyd says, “Here’s the deal. You work for free. You get two rooms, free run of the hotel including the bar and the kitchen. If you need something you come and I will get it for you. If I ever tell you its time to leave, you get all your gear and belongings and get off the property ASAP!”

            A strange request but we figured what the heck. Free food, free drinks and free music lessons. The proposition sounded pretty good to two hippies living in a house truck in Fresno! So we got our rooms, ate our food. Played our music. Soon it became apparent that we we’re playing with some rough characters. They were always nice to us but-they carried guns. Now most of my friends in those days had guns but they didn’t pack them around hidden in their suit coats. I have always been an insomniac. When I was younger I would run at night or combination run and walk for miles. I would get off work at 2am. Sue and I would go to our room and then I would go for a jog. There was a lot of strange stuff going on in that Hotel and Restaurant. The crowds grew in numbers and we became a hang out for the pickin’ and grinning’ crowd of Fresno. One day Floyd was passing us by in the parking lot and he casually said, “Its time to go.” We did and we never went back.  Well, sort of..But that’s another story.







22. Square Dance for a Thousand

 We were in Portland at the Lewis and Clark College. Out behind the buildings was a large common area that had acres of terraced lawns. We set up on the upper area and pointed are speakers out over the area that was about half the size of a football field and was about 8 feet lower than us. It was some kind of holiday or special day….I don’t know which. Lots of people were milling around watching us set up and then listening when we first started. We began to draw a crowd. Soon we had folks dancing and laughing. More people came. More people to have fun with! Someone asked us if we could call any squares or reels. So we set them up for a simple form of the Virginia Reel. Columns of two opposite your partner. Thing is we had about thirty columns that were about 100 deep. That’s a lot of people. We began to play and play and play. Song after song. Bow to your partner, Right had swing, left hand swing, dosey doe. On and on we went. Everyone in every column got to be the head couple. Even Sue Reger never had such a big crowd but, hey, that’s another story.









23. The 22 Miles House

     22 miles outside of Fresno, headed north towards Yosemite, is a small road side pub called The 22 Miles House. On any given Saturday or Sunday at least 50 to 100 Hogs were parked around the place. Headed out of Fresno towards the mountains. Sue and I drive by and pull into the 22 Mile House. It’s on a windswept hill at the start of the foot hills leading out of Fresno towards Yosemite. In the late ‘70’s there was nothing else around for 10 miles in any direction. Why would we walk into a crowd of about 100+ Bikers? For Fun! We had our guitar and our fiddle. We settled into a tall cold Beer Tini, the house drink, met the locals, played music, smoked dope and had a damn good time. Anytime after that we could stop into the 22 Mile House and never pay for a thing. I wonder whatever happened to that place?



24. Leon or Santa?

      In the early 1990’s we opened for Leon Russell at the PAC in Newport Oregon. Our Daughter was about three and his daughter was about 2 ½. The girls took a liking to one another. They showed each other the RV’s and the Buses. The girls ran around backstage like a couple of banshees infecting our laugh quota with a maximum overload. We had got there a bit early and Leon was already there. It turned out to be a good time. Leon’s group of people were all happy and so were we. I guess that was because it was early December and Christmas was just weeks away. When we played we made jokes about Leon and He yelled back at us from the sidelines. When we play “Rollin’ in My Sweet Babies Arms” he came out and sang a verse and did a little clog dancing. You know, all during the day my daughter kept asking me if Leon was Santa! I told her, “Yeah, Honey. Santa is really a musician and just does the Christmas thing to pay the bills!” But of course, that’s another story!


25. Sound at the WOW Hall.

    Sound at the WOW in the late 70’s and the early 80’s was a nightmare. If you didn’t have your own sound you had to find some band that was in off the road and not working so you could have sound there. The Hall itself had a list of such bands. There wasn’t much in the way of “Soundmen” yet. I had a bunch of speakers, a twelve channel mixer (big for those days!), cables, mics, monitors and all that stuff. We even had a funky light system built by Cap’n Kirk of Juggling Fame. He was our sound guy for a while but , hey, that’s another story. So…….I would combine my system with Dick Gunn’s system. He had about the same set up and somehow we would mate the systems together into a quagmire of wires and plugs and connectors and god knows what else! We ended up with a pretty good main stack and 4 to 6 monitors on the stage. Two mixers mated together to a bunch of cabling that ran from the stage straight back overhead to the mixer platform. The mixer platform was really just a space cleared out at the back of the bleachers. After we would get everything plugged in we would race to see who could consume the most beer and pot before the bands would start.

             Once the crowd got there Dick would go downstairs and bring us beer back to the mixer area. We would drink and laugh and make fun of the awful music on stage. Dick and I were into Western Swing, Bluegrass and fiddles. The rock bands with awful equipment can only be louder. You can’t make them sound better. Sometimes the bands were so bad Dick and I would stick cigarettes in our ears to work like ear plugs. We wouldn’t break the tips off. We would just let them stick out like little white antennas. People would ask if we could hear the music and we would yell back at them and yell, I CAN’T HEAR YOU. THE MUSIC IS TO LOUD!”. Then we would laugh like banshees and fall back in our chairs laughing.

             I ran a background tape called “Everyone’s fucking but me” in the background music and no one ever noticed. We had some fun nights too. One night a Dead clone band played and the Lesans brought their real lighting equipment like you would get at the Fillmore or Winterland. Ancient spinning wheels of light and plates of colors baking under lights and projected over every changing images of Monty Python, like on steroids. The music peaked, the sound was great, the lights were from the great beyond and the crowd was stoned….. WOW. That’s why they call it the WOW Hall. Now they got great sound and lights and great people running the place. Hang in there……We love the Wow!

26. There’s a Snow Storm Ahead!

There were many signs of the snow storms coming our way but we weren’t smart ‘nough to see them. Scary Winter ice and snow storms. We left Eugene Oregon in January of 1978 and headed out to Bend and then to John Day, Idaho City, McCall, St Mary’s, then across the Canadian Border to some wind blown god forsaken hotel some where by the Alberta Border. Guess what happened next! As we came across the border we were stopped by stern looking men wearing white shirts, black military ties fastened down, black commando style pants with knee high gloss black boots. Top that off with bandoliers of ammo and Thompson style machine guns. The dragged us out of our trucks and took us out back and shot us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO! WAIT!! That’s a dream I had over and over. We got through that after about and hour of them screwing around with our heads. We figured out later that was the day the Iranian students grabbed the English and American and Australian? Don’t quote me here but you get the picture.

            Back into the Northern tip of Idaho. God, what a sight to see. One time we were leaving out of West Yellowstone bound south and for Casper, Wyoming. It was the year that there was a total eclipse of the Sun in the late morning. We were bound south through the forest area at the south of Yellowstone and watched the shadow race up and over us. The change in the light on the snow was just a sight. A black and white Fellini carnival. Shadows of fox and wolf dancing in Venetian masks just out of sight and then gone like smoke in the wind. I guess that was one of the signs. Mind you now. We still have not driven on pavement. Its March by now and we headed down to Pocatello, We played at the Idaho Bar in east Pocatello. We had a great time and met a group of farmer biker types. The sun broke out and melted the snow. By Sunday we were done with the gig and went over to the farm. Bar-B-Que, sunshine, volley ball. We partied until sundown and headed straight north over the divide into the worst damn store I’d seen in a long time. Our windows froze up. Each wiper had a little chip of ice scrapping a little clear spot on the windshield. We were following the lights in front of us. If Bill would have gone off the road we would have been right behind him. Some where up ahead we spotted a soft florescent glow. We were only going about 15 mph by then so we stuck our heads out the window and saw that the glow was a gas station. It was closed but it was shelter! We parked the house truck into the wind in the first lane and Bill pulled in tight behind us. We all climbed in the back of the house truck and got stoned and laughed like loons. While we were having fun the storm actually blew out and we drove on to our destination. We were back in the snow until May. Whiskey Creek played on the road for nine years. California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, British Columbia and Alberta. You like snow! Try that route out. Leave Dec 15th and get back by March 15th. We actually had our band bus towed by a SnowKat to a Canadian lodge. They parked us by the back door. We lived in the bus and played in the lounge and it was cold and fun! One of the rooms that Johnny stayed in actually had snow piled up by the door. ON THE INSIDE!

            Some of the winters all run together. I kind of guess at the time based on the vehicle we were living in. If we were in the House Truck, Gus, then it would have been 1975 to 1981. The Bus would have been 1981 to 1988. We quit doing road things by 1985 but used the bus for local or country parties and gigs. It carried lots of stuff and ten or fifteen people could party in it. A convenient opium den for the pot heads. Kids were appearing in our lives and things were getting freaky! But that’s another story.

















27.       The Bar at the Top of the World

Whiskey Creek use to play at a ski lodge just outside of Penticton, BC. It was a heck of a road up which tight switchback turns. The snow was usually pretty deep. We would go up about half way and unhook the car from the bus and chain up the bus and the car for the drive to the top. On this trip the bus wouldn’t go past the halfway point so we waited, for a sign from above, and behold such a sign came in the form of a giant Snow Kat. The hook up the bus and towed the 40 footer right to the back door of the bar where we would be living and playing for the next four nights. Oh yeah! Nothing like getting a bunch of crazies up in the mountains, freeze their butts off all day and then get ‘um drunk at night. Good Plan. Worked lots of time before. So we settled in. Brought in the equipment and left it in the bar then unpacked our personal stuff. Our rooms had snow drifts at the door. ON THE INSIDE! It was cool ‘cause we were having a ball. We opened our set with a bunch of rowdy music. This was a tiny room so our big speakers were just wailing away. Sue’s fiddle would split your mind right in two. Laughing and popping one liners and just playing as fast as we could got us all wired up! A break time I yelled out to the crowd, “We’re gonna get a pitcher of Whiskey and get back at ya!” Well, the bartender brings us  a pitcher of whiskey. Really it was a pitcher full of a High Ball. We laughed so hard I thought I was going to pee my pants. We passed the pitcher around to the band and the crowd. Some crazy dude steps up on top of the pool table and starts dancing around and then he pulls his pants down to shoot a BA at the crowd and when he stood up he hit the overhead beam and knocked himself out. So there is some drunk now lying on the pool table with his pants down so we did what all good string bands would do. We started our next set……it was a good one too! We played like the devil was chasing us that night. Drank way too much and stumbled off to bed in a haze. That was about the end of the fun for this trip.

The next morning we woke up and the ski lodge manager told us we needed to get down to the border right away. Damn, we didn’t know what to think. Death in the family? House burned down? Screw up on the green cards. This was about an hour and half to get to the border. Once we got off the mountain it went pretty quick. When we got to the border the Canadians told us we had performed illegally and needed to leave the country immediately and can’t come back for one year. We had performed at an open mic on a Sunday and had been given a roast beef sandwich and some beer so we were “compensated” for our “work”? I thought we were playing not working. They wanted us to leave right then. I said, “We have three more people up on the mountain and all our equipment and I am the only one that can drive the bus in the snow.” They got a fussy and said we were supposed to bring all that with us, nobody told us that. Blah blah blah. You know the drill. So…………..They let us go back up the mountain and get the boys and give them the bad news. In those days we were booked 6 months to one year in advance. This Canadian tour was seven months and we are in the second week! Gees, we were screwed. There was no way on God’s green earth that we could replace those gigs. We weren’t having such a good time now!

We bought the gang at the ski lodge a round of booze and headed down the mountain. We got to the valley floor about 6pm and we had until midnight to get to the border. We had played in most of the towns in the area. There was about four or five little towns on the way to the border. We stopped in every town and bought who ever was at the bar a round. We were getting pretty pie eyed, at the last town and we had ten minutes to get out of the country. We arrived at the border with seven sheets to the wind at 11:59. The Canadians didn’t even come out of their booth. The Americans waved us on through. Something that rarely happened. Kicked out of a whole damn country, lost one year of our bookings and that, my friends, is why Whiskey Creek really bit the dust. Within three months all the money was gone, the gigs were gone and I was gone. We did one more local show and recorded all four nights in to one tape. The Creek Bands Last Stand but that is another story.



















28.        The Worlds Best Daschund!

Buckwheat, Buckie, Buckster, Hot Dog, Water Dog……Buckie had many names. She came to us through a long line of critters I had owned or my parents had owned. Buckwheat was Fiddlin’ Big Sues dog. Buckwheat lived and died at Sue’s feet. Buckie was her playmate, her friend, but most of all her protector. My parents had a little Chihuahua Daschund mix named Penny. When I came home from ‘Nam my folks let me adopt her. I had had several unsuccessful attempts at pet ownership but it was not to be. I was moving out to the country and took Penny with me to a big vineyard where she could run around outside all day long. She had other dogs to play with, cats to chase and people to bark at. She was also a coinsurer of fine bud. I got so crazy with her I wouldn’t buy anything unless Penny approved. My friends thought I was nuts but she was dead on the mark when it came to quality. While at the vineyard a mountain cabin up at Tollhouse opened up and I seized the opportunity. As I was driving out of the driveway all packed up and ready to go a puppy I named Uriah was handed to me through my window and off we went. Uriah is a whole story all by himself.

Penny produced a pup named Wheta. She had mated with a full blood daschound and the pups looked like purebreds. Wheta was a pure blond smart fast and fearless dog. I gave her to a good friend. Wheta mated with a pure Beagle and the results were amazing. All this happened by accident. Hippies riding on chance. No plans. The draw of the cards. When Wheta had her pups I had just moved in with Sue. By then Penny had passed on and Uriah was about three and just one mean, insane coyote, collie, Shepard mix. I picked Buckie out of the litter. She was the fastest, meanest and smallest one of the bunch. She had the classic markings of the purebred. Black and tan. The beagle mix adds back and leg strength to the weiner dog. She was slightly taller and weight in just a bit heaver then the purebred. I brought home to Sue in the fall of 1974. It was love at first site. Sue loved her. Uriah had a small dog to play with again and I loved all of them. Buckie learned fast and was the center of attention. She was tricky, smart and had boundless energy. Her and Uriah went everywhere with us. When we moved into the House Truck the dogs loved it. Home was where ever we went and the dogs were at home every where we went. What a ride. A big 1.5 ton rig with a house on the flatbed. Uriah hung out the back window and barked 100% of the time. Buckie was the co-pilot and was either in Sues arm hanging out the window or hunkered down behind my shoulders on top of the bench seat in the cab of the truck. She loved water. Rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds. She would start a barking demand to stop and play. She would jump out of the house truck and run to the water and leap in! There was a few time that I went in right after her because of fast water. Buckie didn’t care. Fast, slow whatever. She was in and swimming like an otter. We could show her a rock and throw it into the pond up to about two foot deep and she would dive to the bottom and come up with that same rock. We stopped a lot. We took the back roads and the side roads. I can drive from Portland Oregon to Eugene Oregon and take three days to do it. That’s how we lived those first years on the road. Our Buckie was with us where ever we went. She was fearless and protected her home and her mistress as if her life depended on it. No human was too big and no dog to fierce to reel back in horror at the fierceness of Buckies protection. Buckie could snap at your ankles and get around behind you and bite you on the butt before you could react to the frontal attack. If she though Sue was in trouble NOTHING could stop her from protecting her mistress. She would run off big dogs, little dogs any dog with a show of force that scared me!

Buckie loved our music. She would howl like a little coyote when we played. Lots of times Sue and I would find ourselves on some little back road with a creek and an open area to park. We would set up camp, eat, have a beer or two and play our fiddle and guitar. Buckie would throw her little head back and sing very soprano. Uriah would pick up the low end with long low coyote howls. Both of these critters traveled with us for ten years. They were with us from the start to the finish of the Whiskey Creek String Band. They protected us and our home from thieves, drunks and the stupid. Our house truck was never broken into nor was anything ever taken. Buckie and Uriah had cracked both side windows by throwing themselves against the windows in a show of force to wanabe thieves. Buckie survived break downs, wind, rain, snow, blizzards. She went to Canada and seven states. She rode beside Fiddlin Big Sue for over 500,000 miles. In her hey day she would join us and Uriah on stage and sing “Willow Garden”. When ever there would be a conflict of disagreement with the promoters or bar managers, Buckie would poop on the stage. Nothing like a dog getting the final word! Buckie was with us when we bought the house and even made it threw the first two years of our daughter’s life. She is buried out back with Patches, Haley, Brownie, Sally, Blackie, Peanuts, Nicky and every hamster, lizard and other oddity that ended up in our care. The whole east side of the yard is a giant pet cemetery. We miss you Buckie. You were a special dog. I bet you are looking out for all the other pets out there. Keep up the good work. Love, Dad.











29.       North Fork


            When Sue and I first got together she was playing with the Farmers Daughters. I was with the Burrough Valley Bushwackers. We would book ourselves in little night clubs around the hills by Fresno. One  place was the Night club in North Fork. It was owned by a friend and he loved our music and would book us often. I think his Ma mad him book us!

My band would open for Sue’s all girl band. Then we would all play one last set together. A strange mix of Old Time, Bluegrass and Rock and Roll was on the menu. One night a fight broke out and spilled out into the parking lot. We ran out after them and tried to put a stop to it. Things got worse. It looked  like a scene from an old cowboy movie. I don’t think anyone knew who they were fighting with. I sure didn’t. I just wanted it to stop.

            Some nut had got his rifle out of his truck and was headed right at me. I was fresh out of “Nam and a little pea shooter was not much of a threat. Numbnuts pointed the rifle at me and I grabbed it out of his hands—emptied the ammo----threw it back at him in a military manner. He looked at me and with Big Eyes said, “Wow, where did you learn that move!” We both started laughing. Right at that moment Big Dave stepped out with a Long Barrel 357 Magnum, popped of three rounds and brought everything to a halt. Nothing like the sound of a small cannon. Dave, the owner, told everyone to simmer down and then 


The Burrogh Valley Bushwackes

Fresno Ca 1975

























30.       Dicks Taproom

       In Fresno, in the 70’s, when a band got a night club gig we stayed until we were throw out. Most gigs lasted 6 to 12 months, We had just lost the Rocking Horse in gig and somehow ended up at Dicks Taproom in downtown Fresno. It was a small bar that was a fav of the bikers. We had combined two PAs together to cover the room. No one had heard of monitor speakers yet. We could not hear the vocal over the crowd noise. I put down my guitar, laid down two of the speaker columns and pointed them back at us!!!! Wow!!!!! We had invented Monitors! The bar was always packed and the Biker were wild. They would ride the bikes thru the front door and out the back! The crowd grew and once again we were popular. Things went pretty good for a few months then one night the whole thing went to pieces.

            A crazy biker was pissed off at something. He had a ten foot chain he was swing and crashing down on the tables. He was headed straight for us. Sam, the drummer, was at the back of the stage and he jumped up and ran out the door. The rest of the band was right behind him. I was last. I had a curly guitar cord. When I saw that everyone else was clear I ran out the back door too! I forgot to unplug. My cord stretched out to the max then yanked me back into the club! Bang, Pow, I was on my ass. Thankfully the biker was headed in the other direction by then.

            We got back in position and started to play. Sam banged his drums really loud, threw his sticks down a said, “I quit”. He started packing his drum kit. The rest of us quit. I told the crowd we were headed back to the El Capitan Motel where the band lived. We had a great party and that, my friends, was the end of “LICKITY SPLIT” Fresno’s most notorious club band. We never played together again. The exploits of the band are, for sure, another story. See….The Rocking Horse Inn.













31.       Uriah the Coyote Dog



     I was moving to the mountains. Burrough Valley. As I was driving out the long driveway at Tony’s house when he handed me a puppy. The little pup was a Coyote Collie Sheppard mix. I was recovering from last nights party where I heard Uriah Heap for the first time. That’s how Uriah got his name. The critter was insane. For three years he ran wild in the hills. There were only three house in the valley in the early ‘70’s. The valley was about 40 miles away from Fresno. When I would leave Uriah would run behind the truck for a mile or more. He had tons of food and fresh water so I didn’t worry if I couldn’t get back for a day or two. When I did get home Uriah

could hear my truck from about a half mile away. He would lead me back to the cabin and bark and howl and run around like crazy. Uriah would hunt with Penny and bring back their kills. I had little dead critters all over the place. Uriah would “cache: them under rocks or grassy diggings. I got together with Sue around this time. Uriah would have gave his life for Sue. He was afraid of nothing. He was Coyote smart and tough from the mountain life. One day a Pit Bull attacked him. He dove under the truck and wedged himself against the front tires. Presenting a wall of sharp teeth Uriah bit the Pit everytime he got near. Uriah got a death grip on him and after a few the Pit rolled over and Uriah let got. The Pit ran off and was never seen again. Uriah became a hero on the block that he now protected. All living critters and people became his family. We lived on the block for about a year and came back many times to see our friends that lived there.

            I could forget to “load up” Uriah sometimes. He would find his way to the “Olympic Tavern” from anywhere in Fresno. He would come to the back door and ask to be let in. He had his own bar stool and would wait for me. The Barkeep would pour a beer for him but Uriah never drank. Well, that’s not true. He mated with Dark Star and when the pups were gone we poured a six pack in the water bowl and Dark Star and Uriah got drunk as skunks and never drank again! Some times I would come to the bar and there was Uriah at the end of the bar with a hat and a tie on!!! He loved dress up.

            We never got ripped off for anything in our house truck days. Uriah was the worlds best guard dog. By the time Sue came along we had each other and Bucky and Uriah. Uriah knew the difference between an intruder and a drunk. Intruders got bit. Drunks got gently urged to leave. Uriah could sing “Willow Garden”. His three or four note range was perfect. We would get request to bring Uriah and Bucky into the bar and up on the stage to sing “Willow Garden”. Uriah was the woofer and Bucky was the tweeter!

            We had a special out of the way camp site near Mehamia. It was about a mile down a dirt road and right on the river. When we would turn down that road Uriah would jump out the window and race us to the camp site. Sometimes he wouldn’t show up for several hours. Out hunting I suppose.  We were coming from Bend back to Eugene and we pulled over right where the highway splits to Eugene or Salem. We had a little lunch. Let the dogs run a bit then Load UP and off we go. About 5 miles down the road Uriah starts going crazy then he barfs up an entire rabbit skin and body. He had swallowed an entire rabbit. It was the worst thing I ever smelled. I locked up the breaks, pulled in to a turn off and leaped out of the truck. Then I had to climb back in the truck and get rid of the rabbit!  I gag just thinking about it!

            I had Uriah for 18 years. There is no way to get all that into one short story. Watch for more stories about Uriah because “That’s Another Story”.






























32.        The Rocking Horse Inn


In west Fresno, the other side of the tracks, the seedy side of town was a big bar called the Rocking Horse Inn. In the year that we played there lots of stuff happened. I am going to break it down into individual stories. I tried writing the whole thing as a story but it’s a book! So……..Long ago, across the tracks and down the road was the “Rocking Horse Inn.” It was hugh. Six pool tables on an elevated area. About 100 tables. A dance floor big enough to hold a hundred or more and a real stage. Back rooms, green rooms, Private bath and shower for the bands. It was really cool. Bud was the owner. He was a big fellow and a Sherriff. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Sam Zetner, Marty and me had a little trio about 1971-72. We played parties. We used a broom handle for a mic stand and a gallon wine jug for the base of the mic stand. Sam got a gig at the Rocking Horse. Marty and I had a little party we played then we headed for the Rocking Horse. Wow, it blew us away. It was huge and had a real stage. We listened to the band. Pretty good music. Sam made an announcement that there was a guest band in the house and we would play a set for the crowd of twenty or so.  We looked around trying to figure out who was the guest band when Sam came over and said, “Hey, go get your stuff. You’re the guest band!

            Sam’s drums were already in so just Marty and I hauled in guitars and amps. We asked the guitar player from the other band if he wanted to sit in. He was a great lead player and blew us away. For our first song we played “Black Magic  Women”. Bud, the owner came up to the stage and fired the other band and gave us the stage. We were a bit taken back but, fueled by whiskey, beer and drugs we arose to the challenge. We played until about 3am. Marty and I only knew 12 songs so we played them over and over and nobody seem to care or even notice us. Bud gave us the weekends. In those days you got a club gig you stayed until you got fired, shot or run out of the place by the Fire Inspector. We did all three! As word spread the hippies heard about it and the crowd begin to grow. One month later we were a 5 piece rock band with a full house. It was insane. Remember, this was 1972. Bud encouraged the pot smoking and snorting coke off the pool tables. The Bikers discovered us and we became their favorite Fresno band. We called ourselves “Lickity Split”. Two months down the road we had so many people it was getting VERY crowded. The underground was right there. Hippies, Dopers, Bikers, Dealers and more. You could buy a beer. A leather coat with fringe, a snort of coke, a gun, love, sex, and rock and roll.


                                                 THE MIX

The mix was my idea. We had one musician on coke. Another one speed, another one on LSD and everyone on booze. Our sets, fueled by this mix were often two or three hours. Before a show one night I called everyone to the band drug parlor and said, “Guys, we got too much going on in too many directions. Let’s throw all the drugs on the table and chop it into five lines and then go play’.

Bud stuck his head in the room and said,

            “What the hell are you up to now? Hey time to go…….lets go”.

 From that point on we always mixed our dose for the night. We went. We played. We got high. Real High. We played until 3am without taking a break. The crowd was at max capacity. Bikers were riding their hogs around the pool tables. The dance floor was a sea of people dancing to twenty minute solos and music so loud our pants legs blew around like a wind storm. Yep, your speakers can make your pants blow around! We got bigger amps and more speakers. We bought new special guitars and gear. We were rocking! Four months into we were offered four nights a week and a jam on Sunday afternoon. We quit our day jobs, We were musicians. The kind you don’t let your daughter go out with. Six months into it we had hugh crowds, lots of dope and people from all over the county coming. White kids, Black kids, Latinos, Oriental and more. We danced and played and smoked and snorted and kissed the girls and spent our money and we were just fucking great. Like a rockers heaven.


                                                The Fall of the Empire


It was a dark and stormy night. I’ve always wanted to write that. It was a perfect night. The crowd was rowdy and lots of them. We partied and about 11pm the scene begin to unravel at the seams. The dance floor was full. The pool table area was full. All the little side rooms and green room was full.

SHOTS! WHERE? AT THE BAR. A fellow who didn’t want to pay the cover charge ran past the doorman and shot the bartender, twice. As he turned around using the gun as a pointer he was scanning for his next shots. People hit the floor. The band jumped off the stage. The gun came around and he pointed right at me. I leaped behind my amp. I stuck my head up just in time to see the doorman grab the guy from behind. The guy shot the doorman twice. The door man was a BIG guy. He didn’t even flinch. His wounds just made him mad and he put the guy in a headlock, grabbed the pistol and threw the guy to the floor and jumped on him. The place emptied out in just minutes. There we were. Bud was looking at the bartender lying on the floor. It was his brother. The doorman was sitting on the shooter. Someone called for the Sheriff. In ten minutes only the staff and the shooter were there. Bud told us to go home and we did. About a mile down the road was a Sherriff’s car with two officers standing outside. We rolled up to them and told them about the shooting. They asked if it was over?  I said yes. They said they would check it out.

We never went back. The end of “The Rocking Horse Inn”. The party was over. Quit school and a job to make this gig work and one year later we were back to square one. Sam and I went gig hunting and ended up a Dick’s Taproom. But that’s another story. In fact, it is story number 31.



33.       Comes in Threes.



 They say things come in threes. Maybe they do. They did for me. I was fresh off the boat from ‘Nam. I was back at City College in Fresno with a bunch of stoners. They were all crazy. We were all crazy. The whole population of Fresno was high or at least the crowd I ran with. Got to know some new folks to play music with and chase little hippie girls around the quad. Life was good. Had some wheels I could live in. Friends had hi powered bikes. My band, Lickity Split, was killing it at the Rocking Horse Inn. I was working as a G-11 Mechanic for the Feds. Here is how it happened.

The band was doing great so I quit my part time job on Monday. I served notice on my high paying job on Friday. I played Saturday at the RHI. There was a shoot out that night. The club closed. I lost my band gig, my paying job and quit school all in the same week. I ended up going on a trip to the Oregon border with some acid headed blond and we both hated each other by the end of the trip. Guess it comes in fours! Does it count if I can’t remember her name? I think her initials were TW, But that is really another story!

















34.       Whitey’s Pet Shop


 Sue and I had been married about ten years and we still had stories to tell each other. Sue told me she had raised white mice when she was about 10 years old. She had a bunch of cages that her Pa built. She would wait for the babies to get big enough to take them to the pet shop. She would clean them and brush their fur with a little brush. She was quite pleased with herself and proud of her little business. She had her own money and a brisk resupply orders for more mice.

So I asked her, “Hey Sue, wasn’t Whitey’s Pet Shop a snake and reptile type shop?”

            “Yeah why?”

I asked, “Did they have the baby mice on display?”

            “No, why?”

The look on her face changed from happy to horrified as the truth sunk in. “OH MY GOD! They were using the baby mice as food for the snakes! Duh! We laughed long and hard about that one!























35.       The Pigs on Fire!


 Virgil and Nancy got married up in the pines by Alsea Falls. The road from Alpine to Alsea was still gravel. Just past the falls was a little campground that was just about perfect for a party of a ‘hundred or more. Virgil and his band of Merry Bikers headed up to the campground on Friday to ready the campground and getting ready cook a HUGH pig. Whiskey Creek arrived about noonish on Saturday. We fired up the generator and commandeered the stage they built for us. By 2pm we ready to fire up the old amps and wrestle with the mixer board with the never ending quest looking for the perfect mix. Lots of beer and coke helps with that!

            Next to the stage was the biggest Hog I had ever seen. It was 6 feet long and about 800 pounds. It had been cooking all night and was close to done. It was on a giant skewer suspended over an open wood fire pit. After a short set we applied the right mix of cheer and moonshine and off we go for the “Show Set”. In the early eighties we whipped the crowd to frenzy by hoedowns then slam them with a country classic, sneak in some original and then back to the top. We had been working our butts off for about ninety minutes and Sue called for a break.

            “All aboard” shouted Coyote Bill, “Time for a train ride on the Orange Blossom Special”. Slowly Sue  poured on the coal. Bill started to sing and when Sue took it back up went the tempo and once more. In a frenzy Sue often yelled out leads, introduce the band and the usual stage stuff. It took a few times to understand what she was saying but she got more and more panicked At the same time the band looked at each other and looked at the horror unfolding before our eyes.

            “The Pigs on Fire!” What?

            “The Pigs on Fire!” Sue shouts again.

The crowd took up the chant,

            “The Pigs on Fire!!”

Sue looked at them like they were out of their minds.

            “The Pigs On Fire!!” Sue shouted one more time and pointed at the pig! We were still playing and were not prepared for what happened next. The crowd rushed forward and poured beer after beer after beer until the fire went out! There was a collected sigh of relief and then we all burst out laughing. Somebody had turned the pig on the spit and all the grease that had been simmering on the hide poured down into the fire. It looked like a flame thrower was turned on and the flames shooting off the pig were about ten feet high.  THE PIGS ON FIRE!!!!!!             Later  we were telling the story to Dale, Sue’s Brother and when we got to the “Pigs on Fire” part of the story we were passing a police man and he thought we were calling him a pig! He whipped a u-turn and hit his lights and pulled us over. We were still laughing and we just had to tell that story to the cop. He laughed and let us go! Now we have a great story and Sue wrote a song about, “the Pigs on Fire”. But That’s Another Story!
















36.       Our First Date


 Washboard Jane had been nagging me for a couple of weeks to go to town and get together with Fiddlin Sue. She and her Boyfriend, Bruce, were moving into my old cabin up in Burrough Valley. I was a beat up version of my former self. I had no job, no ideas, sick of my guitar and sick of myself. I thought Katie and Bruce might want to be alone for a while so I headed down the road to the forty mile trip to Fresno. On the trip to Fresno I took a vow that I would only play my guitar. No more “retail sales” or other shenanigans. I had my PA and two guitars and 100 pounds of high grade Mexican pot. I drove to Fresno and had two flats. The second flat was near my old girl friend’s house so I limped over there. Sues place and the Olympic Tavern were all in the same neighbor hood. The Tower District!!! It was only a few blocks from my ex’s so I wandered over to Sue’s place. There some folks hanging out there and everyone was excited about the Open Mic Nite at the Oly. We marched down in a group carrying guitars, banjos, and fiddles. It was a pretty loose jam. No real signup sheets. Just sort of a free for all. No sound system either. So we grabbed some beers and said “Howdy” to the people at the tavern. I settled into a booth with a couple of friends and Sue got into a pool game with Crazy Randy. As she bent over to make her shot and Crazy Randy goosed her with a pool que. She stood up turn around slammed CR up against the wall and lifted him about six inches off the floor. I couldn’t hear what she was saying but CR’ face turned white. I look around the booth I was in and said

“That’s the girl I am going to marry”!

We all burst out laughing. Me married? Turned out we did get married. Not that night of course.

            When it was time to go we caught a ride up to Burrough Valley with Bruce and Washboard Jane (I guess they didn’t want to be alone). Bruce had a little pickup truck so we climbed in the back and wrapped up in a blanket and froze our butts off on the ride to the cabin. We pulled into the parking area at the cabin and went inside. Bruce and Jane headed off to bed and Sue headed to the refrigerator where there was a turkey. After about an hour I went to bed. Sue ate the whole turkey and then came to bed. From that date on Sue and I were together forever and still are to this day. You can read about our lives in our story book. “But That’s Another Story”.









37.       Gary the Stripper


My friend, Gary, got a job as a stripper.

They paid him to put his clothes back on!


















38.       The Castlegar Hotel.


 It was in the late 1970s and life was good. The Whiskey Creek Band was getting more and more road gigs and agents were knocking on our door.

We got a gig in Prince George that was just horrible. But, I’ll tell you that one later! We got fired from the Hotel in Prince George and our agent got us a gig in Castlegar at the hotel. The gig was many miles away and the roads were not very good. Narrow and beat up. It ended up taking 2 days to get there. We arrived late the second day. The bar manger, Dave told us to get drunk and unwind and we will start our gig on Friday. Well, the crowd went nuts on us. The manger was a musician so he understood what we were doing. Half way through the night he gave us the up coming week and a return visit in about a month. We did that for two years. I am going to condense it into one long weekend!


            The Castlegar Hotel. It was an old building. Full basement bar. First floor Nightclub and Restaurant. The second and third floor was about 30 rooms. So it was a cozy little hotel with and essence of days gone by. A little frade around the edges and full of rowdy beer drinking Canadians that went  out six nights a week for fun. The morning started about 8am. Female strippers in the main bar starting at 10am. They quit at 4pm. The bar was always full. At 9pm the big club in the basement opened. Dave ran a tight bar but was loose as a goose with his liquor. The crowd was a dancing  drinking bunch of crazy people. Monday through Saturday. It was the same every night. We had rooms on the second floor and there was a parking lot that was well shaded. Life was good!

            The Strippers. Canadians love strippers. It is considered a worthwhile Endeavour. Most of the girls were saving up money to finish college or trade schools. They got paid well. They made hundreds in tips and got room and board too. Our room was on the second floor just above the down stairs Strippers Stage. We could not shower between 9am to 4pm because the shower water would soak the downstairs strippers!

            The downstairs bar had male strippers on Wednesday Night. The show started at eight and went to about ten then the band took over. One night an arrogant Dick Head refuse to go on unless he got more money. The crowd booed him off the dance floor and tried to talk the band into stripping! We politely declined. Dave ordered drinks for everyone and off went.

            Saturday nights Dave would wait until the crowd left then the strippers, bartenders, staff and band would hang out until sunrise. I have no idea how we could get that drunk and still found our way to our rooms. Dave is who I got my Carvin double neck guitar/mandolin from. I still have it!  I didn’t know this until many years later that the strippers use to sneak down the outside ledge of the second story to the boys room and……..play canasta. NOT. I don’t know why they did that when they could have just walk down the hall way?  Must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe I’ll go check it out someday. That would make another story.







































39.       Dakota Roads.


 Summer stock. Summer Theater. Summer nightmares….AAAAAAKKK. Don’t ever do the above. Whiskey Creek bit the dust and out of the rubble arose “Dakota Roads”. A play with music. The play took you through three generations of life in the Dakota’s. It was early May when Johnny, Sue and I took off to Wall, South Dakota. Yep. Wall.  Really?  Yep. We were a cast of 22 actors, 7 musicians and 1 Foley Operator. The whole show was backed by three rich wheat farmers in the Wall area. We arrived on May 4th and started working May 5th. Johnny and I moved right into finish set work. They were really cool. Both sides of the set were mounted on wheels and we could turn them around and present a whole new stage look. We had a dressing room right behind the stage and a little private area where Johnny and I could contemplate the mysteries of the universe. Sue moved right into sewing and costume design. We were busy little beavers with not too much slack time. We opened in early June and ran 79 days in a row with no breaks. So many things happened I could not fit them all into this little story so let’s start at the start and hit the highlights.

                        OPENING NIGHT.

             We opened to a full house. Every seat in the Amphitheater was sold. About 400 people. The actors took the tickets. Guided people to their seats. Sold popcorn and soda pops on the breaks and closed up at the end. The musicians smoke dope and laughed at the Actors! Up to this point we had never actually run the play from start to finish. We were told that was a musical. It was NOT. It was a play with music. Six songs. The play was three and a half hours long and so boring we fought off sleepiness just to maintain some decorum. The next morning we had a company meeting and notes about the play. Notes, notes, notes. Even on the closing the director wanted to do notes. I told him I got a note for you dipshit. WANK WANK.

            I listen to the notes for about thirty minutes. Finally my turn to speak. It went like this. I am exercising my option to quit. I spoke for all the musicians. I have called my agent and we will be leaving as soon as we get a gig. I told them it was the worst play I had ever been in and six songs does not make a musical! The Actors freaked. You can’t quit. What can we do? We left the meeting. Later that day we had a meeting with the
Director, the Author and the Investors. We added more songs. Trimmed thirty minutes off the play and were given Friday Night as free for all. Songs and skits were performed with glee. Friday became the reason to exist. Within in a week it had turned into Hee Haw. Even the locals would come down and see the show. Sue and Johnny and I played songs. The gang came up with skit after skit. It was really fun so we stuck it out.






Rattlesnake Duty


            Before the show each night Johnny and I would go down to the theater. We opened the ticket office and cleared a path to the stage. We carried a handful of rocks to throw at the rattlesnakes. Every night we would run off  five or ten snakes. Dakota Rattlers were short, fat and fast. We went down each isle and all around the stage and the Green Room. It was either that or ride around in a flatbed truck playing songs from the show. Oh yeah! I almost forgot. Johnny and I also monitored the tornado watch. Yes, the tornado watch. The are way more tornadoes out there then gets reported. Rain and Hail storms pop up in the blink of an eye. The Oregon gang, the Musicians, could smell the rain coming across the Bad Lands and right at us. I would tell the cast the rain was ten minutes away and coming fast. The first couple of times they didn’t believe me. I could smell the wet dust coming at us. From the time of the first drop it took about two minutes to the deluge that was coming. We got really good at clearing the stage. Musicians did the instruments and the piano. The Actors cleared the props and the Foley Man would throw a tarp over his set. The sudden storms quit as fast as they came up. Five minutes to reset and off we would go. Even though I hated the play I loved all the cast. They were real troopers and got the job done no matter what it was.

The Radio Show


A radio station in Rapid City invited Sue, Johnny and me to Rapid City to plug the show and join the jam session. Rapid City is about one hour from Wall, where the play was. The jam was always on Sunday. The band was amped up pretty loud but they always had an extra amplifier for us. We would join in with them or lead them on a song. The MC would plug the Dakota Roads play. We would get really drunk then head back to Wall at about 80mph and get there just as the play was ready to open. I would usually fall asleep by the second act!

The Bugs

            The amphitheater had to be sprayed by a crop duster ever afternoon. We worked in that poison all summer long. If the crop duster didn’t show we would be ate alive by mosquitoes. The Director/Actor had a solo bit where he stepped forward and sang a sad song and I played a soft waltz beat. Just him and me on stage. Him and me and 50,000 mosquitoes! They swarmed us. I was safe because I had ten gallons of bug killer on me. He stood like a rock and did his lines and never once waved a hand or an arm. He was covered. It looked like a bug coat. Hair, eyes, ears and everywhere was covered.  I got the giggles and some dirty looks from him. He announced at notes that night THE PLAY STOPS FOR NOTHING! I thought to myself this guy is really nuts.

            The Director only drank Heineken beer. When we closed the show down I got up at 6am and went to every store within five miles and bought all the Heineken they had. When Scott (the Director) woke up he could not find his favorite beer anywhere in town! Hee Hee. A bunch of us decided to meet at the park in Rapid City. Have one last beer together and say goodbye and good luck. We were all drinking Heineken. When Scott pulled into the parking lot he spotted the beer right away. I was planning on sharing the beer with him but he was just so arrogant I drank a beer in front of him, told him to kiss my ass and off we went on the long trail back to Oregon. But that’s another story. In fact, that’s the next one!





























40.       Feeding the Dead


  When we left Wall we headed west to Oregon. It was the last day of August and it was hot. About 110 degrees. We stopped at Custer’s Last Stand. We spotted some trees and pulled the bus in under them. There was a maintenance guy with a big water hose. We asked him to spray the bus down and he was more then happy to do it. There is a little museum with some diaries from the soldiers who died there. The was a small grave yard. There were depressions in the ground every few feet. The maintenance guy was shoving the hose down the depression and running some water into it. We asked him what’s up. He told us that the graves collapse and the water helps fill the space up so the depression go away!

            He Said, “I am feeding the dead”! One more hose down and off we went. But that’s another story.


























41.       The Great Divide


There is a rest stop very near the top of The Great Divide. We left Custer’s Last Stand and drove on to the rest stop. As we started climbing up the mountains it got cooler. Soon we were leaving the plains behind and climbing higher and higher. We reached the rest stop in the early evening. We stopped for the night. Let the dogs out and let the birds out. Had some food and a few of the Heinekens. We woke up about midnight when the big dog jumped up on the bed. The birds flew over to us and snuggled up under the covers. Everybody got warmed up and drifted off once more. About 6am I woke up and it was mighty damn cold. I jumped out of bed and checked the dogs water bowl and it was frozen solid. I fired up the bus and turned all six heaters on. I was pulling all the curtains shut when Sue woke up got dressed and got the birds back in the flight cage. I let the bus run until the first bit of warm air started coming out. We slowly taxied out of the parking lot and unto the highway. After a few miles everything was warmed up. We had gone from 110 degrees to 20 degrees in just a few hours. We made it all the way to Eastern Washington and mighty happy to be warm again. We worked our way back to Eugene and ran into an old friend that invited us to her home. We ending up living there for almost a year But That’s Another Story.

















41. Our Wedding Day


Sue and I got married in a fever. Hotter then a pepper sprout…….(Johnny Cash). Well, kinda did happen that way. We decided to get married in the fall of 1974. We were looking for a spring wedding up at my cabin in Burrough Valley. Turns out my Pop could not handle the elevation so other options were looked at. Sue’s Ma and my Ma bumped heads right away over EVERYTHING. It was mid February 1975. Sue and I sat the two Ma’s down and told them we were sick of the bullshit and told them we were going to Vegas to tie the knot. Oh My God. The feathers flew and tears nearly drowned us! OK OK OK. We give. We will do the wedding here is one week. So we picked February 22 as the date. We and the Mom’s had seven days to plan the wedding. No time for cards, what kind of servings, what we were serving! We had about enough time to buy me a suit and make a dress for Sue. Sue and I drove  around the neighbor hood yelling out the window,

            “Hey, we’re getting married Saturday at 4pm at Mama Lou’s (my Ma) house.”

While the crowd gathered one bedroom was given to Sue and one was given to me. The sewing room table in the third bedroom was given up for the food. I kept running from my room to Sue’s room. The ladies would chase me out. I would go back to my room and drink more brandy and try again.

            Finally it was time to march down the aisle. Well, leave the back bedrooms and go to the living room. I WAS SHOCKED. There was over one hundred people standing in the living room. The dining room table had been moved out back and became the bar allowing for the extra friends. The rest is pretty fuzzy ‘cause the brandy was so good. I found my way to the makeshift altar. The room grew silent. The band broke into “Here Comes the Bride. I didn’t know we had a band! But there they were. The Music Farmers. All ten of them. Sue came out of the back bedroom and the collective of eclectic friends and neighbors let out a sign and a gasp at the beauty that was slowing walking across the room toward me. I nearly blacked out. Who was this beauty? Why it is my little hippy wife to be. From cut off shorts and altered t-shirts to a Bride to Be.

            The band stopped. Everyone took a deep breath. The preacher begin to speak, and speak, and speak. Our wedding vows had turned into a speech.

I get giving him the wrap it up sigh but he kept talking. To my right was a little table with two glasses of wine. I reached over a grabbed the wine and handed on to Sue and I took the other and the preacher took the hint and finally said those magic words. The bill is 100 dollars. LOL. No, he didn’t say that. He pronounced us Man and Wife. Sue and I could not figure the crossed arm drinking thing so we just chugged the whole glass of wine, gave the bands the “Heads Up” sign. Within a few minutes the food was gone. The band fired up the “Orange Blossom Special”. The crowd went bonkers and we started to dance. We danced so hard we cracked the main beam under the house. CRACK! The party is over. As the crowd left a friend leaned over to me a said, “Don’t forget to come by the Oly (our gang’s hangout). We got a surprise for you.

            We went by our house and changed into our regular clothes and by now it was getting to be 8 or 9. We headed for the Oly. It was packed to the rafters. Everyone was stoned, drunk and or high. The tables were lit with candles. The mood was PARTY!!!

             The Music Famers played and had guest after guest join them, Around about Midnight the Bartender called me over and said,

            “Hey Tom. We are almost out of booze. All the draft beer was gone. All the wine was gone and there is one case of 24 PBR’s left in the cooler!”

            “I’ll take care of that.” I said.  I went into the cooler and grabbed the beer. Then I climbed up on the pool table and announced to the crowd that this was the last of the beer and we are going to drink the place dry. We did just that. So ended our wedding day. We told everyone we were going to the coast but we really went to a local motel and went to the coast the next day with Jimbo as our guest. But That’s Another Story.




























42.       The Stars and Stripes


 When I left Viet Nam I came home for a 30 day non charged vacation. That means the 30 days were not charged to my leave time. I still had some time left to serve and was off to Germany for 18 months. When I arrived in Germany I was put in a holding barracks and stayed there until my duffle bag caught up with me. It took 3 day. We washed out undies and shirt out in the restroom and hung them on the pipes to dry. We could go out a night so we did and scored some hash in about ten minutes. I buddy up with a little fellow that went by the name Jim. Jim and I got assigned to companies that were very close to each other. Both of us were combat vets so we got Class A Passes as soon as we checked in. That meant we could come and go as we pleased as long as we showed up for work. I was in Mannheim. Just a short way from Frankfurt. We got drunk and stoned one night and missed the last train out that would have gotten us back to work on time. My punishment for the goof up was to mow the 2 acre lawn in front of the Sergeant Majors office with a hand clipper! I took me two months. The Sergeant Major called me into his office and told me he had new orders for me. I was going to Kiaserslaughten to the 185 Maint. Battalion.  So Boy, did that make life easier. Many things happened at both places that there are many stories to tell. This story is just one little part. When I was in K-town (our nick name for Kiaserslaughten) I got involved with a group of underground war vets that had no use for the Army, We wrote articles and published a little 2 or 3 page newspaper about draft dodging. Where to find the underground in Paris and other illegal things. We use to sneak in the Army print shop at night and make up the newsletter. We almost got caught. We outsourced the printing to the Paris underground. What a bunch of flakes. The newsletter died off. Me and some other goofballs organized a protest against the Viet Nam war. This was in August 1968. We were the first GI’s to protest the war and we got a picture of us at the protest that made the cover of “THE STARS AND STRIPS”. This was an international publication. You don’t get any bigger than that. But, that made us a target for the CID cops to begin watching our activities. I was bored of the whole thing by then and back into my guitar and song writing. But That’s Another Story!




43.       Sue and Money


 Sue finds money where ever  we go. $5, $10 and most often $20. It has happened so many times. We walk into a bar and there it is. Lying on the floor. Sometimes in the parking lot. The coolest one was a McDonald’s bag lying on the lawn at a forlorn pull over by Boise, Id. There was a bag and a couple bucks lying on the ground. Sue picked up the bag and looked inside and, lo and behold, there was a bunch of bills and some change. We figured somebody made a purchase then threw the change in the bag. Then the tossed the bag at the overfilled trash can and drove away. Maybe we’ll start finding $50’s and $100s…….Oh Boy! Money for nothing and chicks for free as it say in one of my fav Dire Straights tune!



























44.       We Gotta Get Out of This Place


 It was January 1967. I arrived late Friday afternoon to my home for the next few months. Ft. McClellan, Alabama. Advance Chemical training. The home of the WAC (Women’s Army Corp training center. The advanced WAC’s and the women’s officer training was there too. I found my barracks without too much trouble. The clerk signed me in and gave me a card. It was a Class A pass. I could come and go as I pleased as long as I got to work on time. Well……ALL RIGHT! I threw my stuff on a bunk and headed out the door.

            The clerk jumped up said’ “Hold on there. Are you Hunnel?

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“You get a private room. You’re the Squad Leader”!

“Cool. I’ll take it.”  I moved my stuff from the bunk to the room and out the door I headed in search of BEER! I followed some other young fellows and we found the EM Club. That’s the Enlisted Men’s Club, Beer only. Yehaw! The bar was a pretty big building. Room for about thirty tables that sat eight without too much trouble. There was a good band playing live rock and roll. Wow, This is gonna be OK. The band pumped out the hits. One after another. They worked the crowd into frenzy. People had started stacking the empty cups on top of each Pyramid style. The band roared into “We Got To Get  Out of This Place.” As the band peaked the cups started flying. That was OK. Then the chairs started flying. Not good! Then the tables got tipped over. Everyone went nuts. We were not hurting each other at first but the tables got a little scary. Someone called the MP’s (Military Police). As the police came through the door bodies started jumping out the windows! What the hell kind of place had I landed in? Drunk on my butt, running across the parade field, hiding in the bushes with some other goof ball. He had a joint so that help. We didn’t even know the name of the building because we had both checked in and left without our information in hand. So we stumbled around and meet some cool WACS. (Womens Army Corp of Service) We arranged to meet them next night. We met at the EM Club and that my friends is Really another story


The WAC’s


Picture this. 500 young men running around with a come and go as you please pass. 500+ young women just given leave after six weeks of lock up until graduation. 500+Young women in various stages of training with passes and finally young women in officers training being released after four months. It was like mating season. The women would drag us into the bushes. Have their way with us and then go to the next guys! It was insane. The women showed up every Friday. We would walk to town and get a motel for the weekend and I can’t really tell you what happened but it involved a lot of moaning and groaning! Anniston was the nearby town. We were in a dry county! Can you believe that down South in Alabama there were dry counties! However, there was a “Anniston Recreation club”. You knocked on the door and some beady eyes would scan you from head to toe through a slot in the door  . They let us in. It was like someone had turned Their house into a bar. There were no mixers. There was whiskey, vodka and rum. You purchased the booze by the fifth. We did. We got drunk. I don’t remember getting back to the Army base but I do remember waking up in the second floor stair landing. Guess I didn’t make it to my bed. I was sick as a dog. I am pretty sure the booze was all moonshine. Moonshine bad….real bad.

Why Me?

20 of us got offers to become officers. 19 of us turned down the offer. One week later that same 19 got orders to go to Viet Nam. And that, my friends, is the first story.



















45.       The Road to Hell!

 In 2012 things started getting harder to keep track of. Bookkeeping tasks that used to take an hour started taking two or three hours. I became more and more forgetful. By early 2013, I could not stay awake for more then and hour or two. I went to the Doctor and she said I had a severe heart Mitral valve leakage. This led to a visit to the Big Guys at the Portland Ore VA. They confirmed the problem and started considering surgery. If we were to break this down by percentages here is how it works. A heart that is working at 60% or above is usually a healthy heart. Mine was down to 40% by April 2013. A follow up visit in July showed I was at about 30%. Not too bad. One month later I was down to 20%. My liver was shutting down my body. My white blood cells were almost gone. My body was preparing me for death. Every time I went to see the Cardio Guys they found something else. Finally, after 22 trips to Portland I checked in to the VA Hospital. I still could be postponed!  Once I was sedated I was good to go.

            The operating room was the brightest room I had ever been in. Strange looking screens and equipment. The last thing I remember is the Doc asked me if I was ready and I said, “Let’s git her done”. I counted backwards from 100. I got to 99 and everything was no more. Three and half hours later I was off the table and on my way to ICU. A record of some sorts. Twelve hours later I was up and walking with a walker and moved in to a room I shared with two guys. Within twenty hour hours my blood chemistry was back to normal. I gained back 15 pounds in the seven days I was there. I ate everything they put in front of me.

            I was suppose to walk every hour or so. I walked so much the night nurse told me to get back in bed. About number four night I went for a walk at about 3am in the morning. I got turned around and was wondering around in parts of the hospital. After about thirty minutes I was wondering where the hell I was. I saw a nurse ducking through a door and yelled out to her,    “Where the hell am I?”

            “Where are you supposed to be?”

            “I don’t know?”

            “All right, let me see your wrist band.”

She guided me back to me room and turned me over to my crew. They shot something in my IV and the next thing I knew it was Breakfast time!

            When you have heart surgery they stick tubes down your chest to collected fluids that are moving around in your chest. They call them Chest Tubes. Along about the forth day it was time to pull them out. The Doctor came in and one nurse with a really big dose of something. The Doc said we are going to remove your chest tubes. This may hurt a little bit. Now these tubes, much to my surprise are about two feet long and about one inch in diameter. When the first one came out the room went black. I couldn’t grab a breath of air and I thought I was going to puke!

            “Are you ready for number two” the Doc inquired?


Boom, it was out. The Doc injected me with whatever concoction was in that big syringe. In a flash I was pain free and high as a polecat on smack. The Doc and the nurse left. I got out of bed and was walking around enjoying my buzz! I looked out the window. We were on the 7th floor. I could see all the ventilation systems on the floors below. At the front of one of the units was a brown creature that looked like a small Big Foot. He was ripping out wires. He looked up at me and darted away. Two minutes late he was back at it but on a closer unit. He looked right at me and tore out more wires. I yelled at my roommates to come and see. Both of them yelled at me and told me to get back into bed. I complied and a distant memory came to me of The Twilight Zone had been on late TV. It was the episode that William Shatner played a crazy passenger on a plane ride. Remember that one? Oh the mind does funny things when you’re full of narcotics. That reminds me of another story.














46.       Busted Flat

As long as we’re talking about my medical history here is a real nightmare for you. Nothing funny about this one. On December 12, 1985  I was working for the local performance hall as a roadie for the band performing that night. Loading in and out. Adjusting lighting up in the bucket. Sneaking up to the roof for a shot or two of whiskey. We kept a bottle hidden by the HVAC system. Great show. The Night Rangers rocked the place. Soon it was time for the load out. We started about midnight. Finally the tear down was complete and the loading of three semi-tractor trailers were nestled in the alley behind the Hall. First the big speakers were loaded in and placed on the Dance Floor of the truck. The Dance Floor is the part of the trailer that goes over the back of the truck and sits on the tow point. Next came the Chain Motors. They are big heavy electric motors and one inch chain that raise and lower the lighting trusses. There were two motors and 200 feet of one inch chain in each box. Eight hundred pounds of steel per box. The box was rolled to the Dance Floor then manually picked up by four guys and thrown and flipped upside down to slide on top of the big speakers. I was in the dead man’s corner. Nowhere to run to. The box missed landing on top of the speakers and came down on top of me. The other guys could step out of the way but I had nowhere to run too. I was crushed to the floor and the guys had to lift the box off me. I felt ok and we went back to work. Then we did the exact same thing and I was crushed again. This time I did not go back to work. I went home. Thank God the Head Carpenter had seen the whole thing.

            The next morning I could not get out of bed. Pain racked my body and got worse and worse. It took three days to get the pain under control enough so that I could stand the ride to the doctors. The doc said it looked like I hurt a spinal disc. We did the usual compress, pain pills, whiskey. Things did not improve. They got worse. I went for an MRI and a CAT. I went to Physical Therapy. I went to Sports Medicine. I went crazy. I lived on pain pills and muscle relaxers. I wore a TENS Unit for one year. I lived in a steel lumbar corset. I took tons of pills. It took about a year to get back up and walk. In the beginning I opened my dresser drawers in a staggered manner. The bottom one was out the farthest. I would roll out of bed, work my way upright so that I could stand. I could only stand for a few minutes and then I had to get horizontal. I crawled around the house on my hands and knees because I had to keep the pressure off my back.

            I begin to “transport”, like on Star Trek. I would appear in a café.

            “How long we been here Sue?”

            “About two hours!” came the reply. This went on for a few years. I couldn’t work. I was getting a small monthly income from the insurance company. About two years into it I threw all my pills, pot and booze away. Seven days later I was in blinding pain so I went to the Doc.

            “Just what is wrong with me?”

The Doc sent me to a specialist.

            That Doctor said the following. “Nobody can fix your back. All we can do is treat the symptoms. Surgery could leave you in a wheel chair and you would have so much scar tissue you would be in the same amount of pain you are in now or worse!”

            “All over one compressed disc?” I inquired.

            “Mr. Hunnel, you have two crushed vertebras. Two ruptured discs and five compressed discs.”

Yikes. My Doc had been telling me I had one bad disc. He didn’t want me to get a bad attitude. I use to go to the River Road Park and swim, sit in the hot tub and talk with the old guys who all had scars down their chest and backs.

            “You will get use to it”, They would say. They were right. I took many years. I still am in pain every day and just grin and bear it. One of the PT classes I joined was the pregnant women’s PT swim club. We would wear life jackets and do exercises floating around in the deep end. We called the class The Bobbin Pairs!

            On my first day back at work, three and a years later I got rear ended twice by a big pickup truck that pushed me into the car in front of me twice. That’s four hits in twenty seconds. It shorten the length of the truck by four inches. I got a ride in the meat wagon to the hospital. They send me to a Doctor. That Doc said I could add two discs in my neck and a broken jaw to my list of troubles. Two crushed vertebras. Two ruptured discs. Five compressed discs. Jaw broken in three places. Back surgery. Heart surgery. Hep C cure. Cataract surgery and the topper—Parkinson’s. If you ever see me crawling around on my and knees you will know my backs out. Just drag me over to the bar and fill me up with whiskey. In the early 2000s I had to deal with the pain again. But That’s Another Story.




47.       Ma and Pa the hippies.

       In 1968-69 I was in K-town. That’s a little German town close to the French Border. We were housed in some old WW2 barracks. They were four stories high. Stairs only. Oh what I would give to be able to run up and down those stairs again. We built a little bar in the basement. It was safe and a bunch of us war vets preferred to stay at home rather than go downtown and blow a wad of cash on booze and drugs. Except on Friday Night. 

 That’s when we would head down to the train station and grab the first train leaving the station. We really didn’t care where we went. We had our sleeping bags and our guitars and our hash pipes! That’s really another story! Every few months some new General would want to see his troops so we would have a full field inspection. That’s where you lay out all you gear, clothing and moxnix stuff. Moxnix is slang for miscellanies. We were allowed to build shelf units or big boxes. The boxes would be passed on to the new guys as the old guys rotated back home. I had a nice box with my stereo and all my “stuff” securely locked up.

            I kept a bunch of photos from home underneath a plate of glass on top of the box. Included were a picture of my Ma and Pa dressed like 1968 hippies. I never told anyone that they were in costume! I had a bit of a reputation of being a slightly crazy. My First Sergeant and I made a deal and I will tell you about that in the next story. Anyway, word got out to the General that up on the fourth floor was a crazy Combat Vet. Did his job well. Never got into trouble. Ran a clean Armory. Yes, I was the company armory. The new General passed my armory with a clean bill. I closed up and ran to the 4th floor to my room. When the General came in my room I snapped to attention and played the part of the good little soldier. As the General glanced about the room he noticed the picture of my mom and dad dressed as hippies.

            He looked at me and growled, “Who are these people?”

            “That’s my Ma and Pa, Sir,” I snarled.

            “Well that explains a lot private. Carry on”.

I think the General liked my style and he must have said something to the First Sergeant because nobody messed with me after that. In fact the only guy that messed with me was transferred to another company a few days after that inspection. I was left alone with my 395 rifles and ammo. I actually locked myself in the Armory down in the basement each day from 8am to 5pm. I will tell you about my duties and how I got them in the next story because that’s another story.





























48.       Psychiatric Transfer

   When I arrived in Germany I was sent to Mannheim for about six months. Nothing much happened there. Made a few friends. Some of them played guitar and knew a few songs. We would go for long walks and play our guitars at little Guest Houses and pubs. If you knew “House of the Rising Sun” you got a few ride on food and booze any place in the country. We spend a long warm summer having fun.

            My Army duties were a different story. I was in a company that really had nothing for us to do. We were a maintenance company. We fixed broken Army stuff. We were so bored we created a marching platoon just for fun. I was pretty good at barking orders and commands. After a while we could do all kinds of complicated marching. It was fun! Even though I was having fun I hated the Army and was trying to get a Psychiatric Transfer. One transfer and thirty days in the hospital and I was home free with a General Discharge which is the same as Honorable. After several visits with the shrink he gave me the transfer. All I had to do now was screw up once, get in the hospital and go home!!!! I was transferred to K-Town. One year to go. When I arrived at the 181st Maintenance Battalion I was ushered into the office to meet my new platoon sergeant. Together we walked into the First Sergeants Office. Everyone sat down except me. The First Sergeant looked me over and said,

            “I don’t care for your style, Hunnel. You screw up once and you are out of here!”

            “Suits me fine because that’s what I want!”

My platoon sergeant was horrified.

            “Don’t talk to the First Sergeant that way,” he chimed in.

            “I will talk to anyone anyway I feel.” I offered up.

The First Sergeant ordered the other one out of the office. He asked me what did I really want? What I wanted was a job. I offered up this, “My dad was in the Navy for life and was in WW2, Korea and the rebuilding of Nagasaki. I was in Viet Nam and I earned the right to say what I damn well please. I am RA not a draftee.  Give me a job to do and I promise I will do it right for you. Screw with me and you may as well send me to the shrink ward because I am done”!

            He said to wait outside and send the Platoon Sergeant to come back in. A few minutes later I was called back in. The First Sergeant said,        “Hunnel. You are the new company armor. You answer to me and the Captain only. Nobody gets in to the armory but us three. Not even your Platoon Sergeant. You are to keep both doors locked at all times. You are now in charge of 395 rifles and all the hardware that goes with them. You are also charged with the care and distribution of several mortars and all of their hardware. You also are in charge of several hand weapons. You are in charge of 395 gas masks and the atropine and morphine that go with those masks. Get your stuff squared away and get to work. Any questions”?

            So I spend my remaining ten months with some pretty slack duty. The old Sarge took a liking to me and did me many favors. I did my time and never had to see the shrink. All I wanted was a job and that’s what I got. Near the end of my service with two months to go the First Sarge told me he was going home. My replacement was in the Armory starting today. His instructions were to make morning formation and then be gone for the rest of the day. I would make morning formation then run upstairs and change to jeans. Out the back door and thru the rear gate and I was free. Near the end of my tour I forgot to go back to the base. I was really high on LSD and all of a sudden it was Tuesday. So the new First Sergeant busted me and I had to paint the stair wells all the way to the top of one set and all the way down for the other set. Everyone heckled and teased me as they went by. I was busted to a private and fined fifty bucks. I didn’t care. My friend, Dave, worked at Finance and kept my rank the same, destroyed the fine and gave me thirty days extra leave with pay! All in all K-Town was fun!

            Gomer was a big tall fellow from California that could talk anybody into doing anything. We would smoke tons of hashish in the buildings, in the woods or just about anywhere. We did some crazy things. Gomer and one other fellow and I made it out to the parade field on a cold and snowy day. We knew the big General was going to be flying in soon. As quick as we could we stamped out a hugh peace sign. About 50 feet in diameter and about three feet for the lines. Just as we were back in our building the chopper came in, circled twice, almost touch down and then took off straight up like an angry hornet. The peace sign was rubbed out by a jeep within minutes. We got away with it. Nobody ratted us out! Gomer helped me with the underground reporting and was in the Stars and Stripes Newspaper in the headlines hanging out right next to me. Gomer took care of the Company Mascott. A hugh St. Bernard. He was with that dog 24x7. He didn’t have to make formations, roll call, Kitchen Police and serve guard duty. Morning formation was at 6:00am six days a week. 395 men gather out side the building and are counted. It was early winter and we had some slushy snowy wet thing going on. Gomer and I had been up all night. Acid, Hashish Way too high. Gomer was up on the 4th floor. Hanging his head out and laughing at us. I was down in the formation. I was in outer space. As I tried to keep a somber appearance I knew I was slidding off the slippery slope. All around me feet were tapping in the wintery mix on the ground. Squish Spuish. Squish Spuish. Squish Spuish. Squish Spuish. Squish Spuish. Squish Spuish. Louder and louder. Louder and louder. Louder and louder. Louder and louder. It was driving me nuts. I looked up at Gomer. I thought he was going to fall out the window. Now him and the dog were both barking and laughing. Other troops around begain snickering and laughing. In a few moments all 395 people were giggling and bursting out laughing. The big boss soldier guy just shook his head and turned around and walked away. This magic moment is brought to you by But That’s Another Story!


49.       Dance of the Grizzly


          We were on the east side of the Rockies where three weather systems come together in a visual display that is out of this world. We were on our way to Saint Mary on the east side of the Going to the Sun Road. It had rooms and camp spaces. The spaces did not do well. The Grizzlies dragged people out of their puny tents and ate them. This was our second trip to St Mary and we had the bus so we had to come around to the east side of Yellow Stone Park to get there. I took over at the turn off. The road was wicked. The brakes were hot. The band grabbed on white knuckled to whatever was close. I kept the big 66 Passenger Blue Bird Bus at 18 mph. Between the engine, second gear and the brakes we survived the descent into Awesome St Mary. The brakes were red hot and ready to catch on fire. I just let the big old beast rest right there in the middle of the parking lot.  I got two stories about this place. Number 1 is “Dancing in their Chairs”

            The nite club at St Mary was pretty small. It sat maybe twenty or so. We would cram in about 60 people. We set up our big PA and blew their ear drums out.  People went bonkers. A couple got up to dance and the waitress rushed over and said, “No, no. There is no dancing”. Say What? Well, that got the whole gang worked up and on the next song EVERYONE started dancing in their chairs! The hired help gave up and joined in! By the time the Orange Blossom Special was ready to launch the crowd formed into a chair train and danced around and around the whole inside of the place. Every time we played there it was nuts. I think the high mountain air had us all buzzed out. Something sure did. Here’s story 2.

                        An older fellow named Al took a liking to us. He lived just down the road from the St Mary complex. Al wanted to take us fishing so we grabbed some fishing poles, tackle and a rifle? Why a rifle? Because out in the bush were bears. Lots of bears. Every where bears. Al handed me the rifle with a wink. Our instructions were to have a point man at each end of a column of fishermen. Al had a rifle and I had a rifle. Everyone else had fishing poles! Eight of us climbed into these little six wheeled things. They were all terrain vehicle. They could drive over pretty big rocks right into the creek and up the other size. You felt like you were going 60mph across the rough terrain, Really we were putting along on a sort of a trail in Bear Country going about 20mph. Finally we stopped in the middle of a gravel wash in a creek that was like a small river.

            “Remember. If you see a bear shoot over its head. We want to scare them not piss them off”, says Al with a grin. Well no bears showed up and no fish either. After about an hour we voted for going to the bar. It was just about Happy Hour. Off we went. As we back tracked our trail we came across a small herd of some pretty wild looking cows and calves and one bull. There was a pretty good size Grizzly trying to snag a calf. The mama cows would charge the bear and the bull guarded the babies. The cows formed a u shaped column and encircled the bear. They all charged the bear at the same time. The bear took off running. Running right back to where we had just come from. Yikes. We stomped on the gas pedals and got the heck out of there. I still don’t like fishing. 
















50.       Agent Orange Convoy


         Agent Orange is an insidious, evil, horrific thing. It kills weeds. It ruins hearts, brains, muscles and more. It cause birth defects. It lies dormant for half a century then wakes up with a vengeance. Millions of gallons were used in Viet Nam. Exposure is so wide spread then anyone that was in ‘Nam was exposed. I am one of the guys that sprayed everyone and everything. It came with the instructions that said rubber suits were not needed. Masks were not needed. The mix was 55 gallons of AO and 500 gallons of water. It was suppose to be 5 gallons per 500 gallons of water. That’s a big mistake.

After spraying our 500 gallons of AO we rinsed the trucks three times. The rinse water was used to spray down dust on roads, fill shower tanks and food prep areas. The dishes were washed in it. We drank it. We took showers in it. We were Agent Orange! This chemical has poisoned my liver, damaged my heart valves. Given me Parkinson’s which has opened me up to whole new hosts of problems. Parkinson’s causes Rem Disorders, hallucinations, night terrors, night tremors,  falling, memory problems, blurred vision, depression, rotten teeth.  Over thirty problems that we know of. If you landed in country by any means for longer then one hour you were exposed to Agent Orange. If you are a Viet Nam vet you maybe eligible for at least health care and maybe a disability pension and more. Go to your local VA clinic and start getting some help. 



My truck had no brakes-ever!

The truck had hoses you could hook to the rails and have showers or hook them to the front bumper for spraying roads for dust. We had three trucks and all three of us got free booze and items by have “accounts” with the different company party bunkers. There were some wild bunkers. The one at Transportation just next to us was about 10 feet down. Inside was about 20x40 feet. It had a killer stereo and crazy lites. Lots of booze and drugs. Remember now the average age for these guys was about twenty. We could stay up all night then drive 200 miles the next day. Transportation would “borrow” us for convoy runs. Just before we rolled out a giant fork lift would come barreling in to the staging area at about 30mph and drop an oversized storage pallet that was full of beer. COMBAT LOSS. We would grab a couple cases and scurry back to our truck. These were big trucks and we were putting 180 units together.  This was my last job in ‘Nam. I was a short timer. Seven days to go. 180 trucks full of beer, guns and ammo. Tanks at the front and Tanks at the rear. Armed APC’s about every 10th truck. This was about 6am when the beer arrived. By 7am we were rolling along at a high speed pace. The trucks were hitting about 40mph. We were ALL drunk. I found out my truck mate was from Fresno! We knew some of the same people. Racing down the road at full speed and ramming the truck in front of you seemed to be the entertainment for the day. You ram then you get rammed. All in good sport. As we rolled along I noticed we passed truck pulled over. I asked the driver if we should help. No No. Thats what the APC’s are for. If a trailer gets a flat you pull over, unhook and leave it behind. Flat tires, blown engine, whatever. If it didn’t work anymore you jumped off and got the next APC going by. We were from the upper end of the MeKong Delta. We were headed south. Really we were a big supply convoy. We carried everything the Army makes. Parts, ammo, guns, gas, . As we cruised down the road, one by one, the trucks dropped out of formation. We went almost to the end of the run. We passed by three assaults by choppers and lots of gunfire. Dang, this wasn’t looking so good now. After a small dinner all troops laid down in the bunkers or out in the open. We took turns watching all night long. There was another little out post about one hundred yards away. Continuous gun fire came from that tiny little outpost. I found a big empty crate. I rolled it on its side. That helped keep the water off me.   The sounds of the war never let up until morning. Then every one stopped shooting at each other and we all ate breakfast and prep the trucks for the return trip. As the convoy rolled back by us we tagged the end spot and let her roar. No beer this time. Things were too hot to not have your wits about you. We lost the trailer on the ride home. Just left it by the side of the road.  My new convoy buddy from Fresno and I party together a few times more and then I was done. In four days I would be flying home. That really is another story!!!



51. Say Goodby

         We had a ceremony with in the company. When a soldier would leave everything left behind was given out to what ever he said. Whatever was left was taken out in the little field by our tent, doused in diesel, and lit on fire. I don’t know how it started or when it ended. While I was there I participated in many of these departures. They tended to run long. Whiskey and beer were passed around in large quantities. Of course, there was bad ass weed, too. My ceremony was a blur. I know I had one. I know I was there! I must have had a good time. The next morning we drove to Saigon and climbed aboard a big jet liner. We were all hyper. The big airport was a hot zone and we were all freaking out until we got about a mile away. As we soared out over the ocean and climbed even higher we broke into yells and songs and pushing and shoving and howling like a  hound dog. One stop on the way for fuel and off to San Francisco. I got a ride over to a friend of a friends house that was a block away from the Haight Ashbury. I knocked on the door and it opened and there was a cute little hippy girl that invited me.

            “You must be Tom! Come on in,” she said with a big smile.

            “Bob is coming over and he has some killer pot.”

            “I brought a little from ‘Nam. We could smoke that too!” I chimed in.

The hippy girl made something to eat and we were just finishing up when Bob arrived. My friend was Hush Preston. A wild Sax player. Bob was a friend of Hush, too. So here I am. Eating food, getting high and watching all these San Francisco hippies. I mean the real mccoy. I was one day out of ‘Nam. Stoned out of my mind. Bob had a paper shopping bag full of long sticky branches of pot. These were really something to see. We gathered in a circle and pipes popped up and off we went. I decided to go out on the little porch and have a smoke. The sights and lights and noise was so alien to me I started to really have a paranoid reaction  to the city.  Bob noticed I was starting to go crazy.

            “Hey Tom. I heard you got some pot. Lets try it.” Bob pitched to me.

            “Great idea. I’ll get it”. It’s in my bag”.

This was 1968 and one seed or more was a felony. I took the risk. I bought the largest can of tooth power I could find. It was about 10 inches tall and about five inches across. I took the top off. Removed and saved a bit of the tooth powder. I ground up a bunch of pot into a fine powder. Pot goes in the can. You leave a 1” space. Fit a thin piece of cardboard inside. Fill space with tooth Powder and TA DA!!! You are a smuggler.


            I grabbed the can and we all gathered in our circle. I got the can out and opened the top. The can got crunched in transit. All the pot and the tooth powder was all mixed up. We all burst out laughing.

            “Well, might as well try and see if it will burn.”

That’s what we did. The pot tasted like peppermint! We smoked until we were dizzy then Bob says lets go……hit the streets!!!!! I couldn’t do it. They made up the couch, found some real clothes and tucked me in for the night. The next day I got a tour of the culture. Bob ran into a friend who was heading south and going right through the town my sister lived in. She loaned me her car and off I went to Fresno. Nobody knew I was coming but Hey, that’s another story!