Thornton Massie Tice II, Kentucky/Virginia. Early 1960's

Medicine Man: Introduction

The Story of an American Son


In December of the year I was sixteen, Cabell and I rode with Poppa in a U-Haul from Astoria to Portland and back in a single 14-hour day to pick up the crates we had shipped from Hawaii for the move. During that ride, Poppa told us his whole life story. He started in the morning, telling us about being seventeen years old and leaving Virginia to join the Army. He told us about his adventures as a hippy in San Francisco in the 60’s, the Summer of Love, the Novato Commune, and his Jesus-freak band, Morningstar.

In the early evening that day we got lost. We had taken a wrong turn sometime after crossing the Columbia into Washington. While we found our way back, Poppa recounted his life in the 70’s, his time as an art major at UC Santa Cruz where he studied journalism and wine making. He told us about the divorce war, and how afterward he made his way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he started his sailboat rental business and embarked on a long list of adventures: extraordinary run-ins with mercenaries, protesting nuclear energy plants, his farm and his art studio, the Porsche 911 turbo that he painted tangerine and used to ship Kentucky Bluegrass.

By the time we made it back to Astoria he had told us about his three-year stint in a Texas jail before making his way to Houston where he would meet mom and return to Hawaii with her in the spring of 1987.

You weren’t old enough to remember these stories that Poppa would tell, and by the time you were, he was too old and his mind was too feeble to recollect them. It’s as though you arrived just in time to get the worst of Poppa, and that without having any background to explain why.

There is a scene in a very popular movie that was released a few years ago, I’m sure you’ve seen it. It starred Leonardo Dicaprio and Ellen Page. The scene is both of them sitting at a table on a sidewalk outside a cafe in Paris. Leo’s character asks Ellen’s if she knows how she got there. She thinks about it and realizes that she doesn’t remember. She can’t remember anything before that moment at the cafe. Leading from this realization Leo proceeds to tell her that she is dreaming, and that they are actually in this dream together.

Life is similar. If you don’t know your own history then your world will be like Ellen’s at the cafe. A life with amnesia. You will know where you are now but you won’t know how you got here. To sort this out, you have to look around, to ask questions.

I begin to write Poppa’s story with the hope that it will help you make sense of the dream. That his story will put into context your own. That you might be able to come to your own conclusions about who he was.

You’ll notice, also, that this is all public. You see, we have twelve siblings, but right now, we only know where eleven of them are. One of our older sisters was adopted sometime in the 1980’s. I think that, maybe, if what is written here is good and useful, that it can spread, and that we just might be able to find her. We’ll see. ☗

Menashe David Israel is the first son of Thornton Massie Tice II. He lives in Houston, TX where he is writing his late father’s biography in dedication to his youngest brother. He is searching for his long lost sister, Roxanne.

Listen to the Medicine Man playlist here.*

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