The Hog Farm was a commune formed from scattered fragments of the Merry Pranksters. They were legendary bus crazies led by Ken Kesey, their story chronicled in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The Hog Farm name came from their living on a farm located in the hills of Sunland Tujunga at the edge of Los Angeles where they took care of the pigs to pay the rent. As they lived and partied there a like-minded group slowly gathered around them and a new commune sprang to life, one that lived on multiple busses, and moved from place to place, The Hog Farm. Led more or less by Wavy Gravy they had entered the public consciousness acting as the free kitchen and trips tents at Woodstock. Wavy’s voice is the one you hear in the movie saying “What we have in mind here is breakfast in bed for four hundred thousand.”
The zeitgeist of the farm came from theater games, consciousness raising, Dionysian abandon, and a sixties make your own life up if you want to spirit of adventure. They were all painted faces and tie-dyed clothes and freak haired and gonzo. I loved them the minute I met them.
The Hog Farm was in Chicago to do a benefit for the Chicago Eight, political casualties of the 1968 Democratic Convention. That benefit was a mad night with music and drugs and leftover Thanksgiving turkeys fluttering in strobe lights and afterwards, we all went back to an apartment for a drug lit after party. About five in the morning I was sitting with Wavy and words came out of my mouth, “I’m getting on yer bus man.” Wavy appraises me for a minute, checking me with his deep freak consciousness and says “Cool man” and then we talk about other things.
The farm leaves town a few days later and I am not on the bus. Instead, a guy has called me to shoot some footage of the Indians who are occupying Alcatraz. I jump on a plane, fly to San Francisco and find that the feds have locked down every approach to the island. I spend a week looking for an angle, some way to get out there but nothing happens. Then bored and casting about for something to do I call Wavy…only how? There are no cell phones, no portable numbers. Every phone number in the world rings at only one physical place and a moving bus isn’t a place a phone can ring. So how do I know where he is? Do I have a contact number to call or run into someone, something…I no longer have any idea, only know that somehow I manage to call Wavy who tells me he is staying at a farm down in Santa Cruz. He gives me directions to a tiny house on a two-lane country road so I stash my stuff and set out hitchhiking to get there.
I am not a country boy. When my last ride drops me off around eleven at night it’s dark and I’m scared. I’m in the middle of nowhere, its pitch fucking dark and I have no idea where I’m going. I start walking up the road and dogs start barking. They sound like big dogs, mean country dogs that love a chase. I peer into the blackness looking for a stick or a rock but I can’t see shit. Cursing and afraid I walk down the road for an endless half hour and eventually faint outlines of things began to appear until finally up ahead I see the dim shape of a house. There are no lights on and I have no way of knowing if this is the right place, but I’m lost, it’s the middle of the night and I have to do something. I walk up and knock on the door…no answer, so after a minute I screw up my courage, really bang on it and this time I hear someone stirring. “Who’s there”, “My names Andy, I’m looking for a guy named Wavy and he’s staying at a farm on this road. Any idea where that is?” Slowly, miraculously the door opens, and a guy looks me over. He grunts “Everybody’s asleep” then shows me to a couch and disappears. Curled up, laying there in the dark I stared into the night and dreamed until I slept.
When I woke it was daylight. There were people I didn’t know sitting and talking at a kitchen table in the next room. It was bright and sunny. When I sat up and looked around I saw big windows looking out onto fields of brilliant flowers, Technicolor flowers everywhere, stretching as far as the eye could see. Feeling very unreal I said good morning and asked for Wavy. They pointed me out towards a path that led to a bluff so I walked through the flower fields in the morning sunshine like Dorothy among the poppies until at last, I came to Wavy, sitting in a lotus position and meditating on the bright Pacific waves.
That day is like a little movie in my mind now, each cut propelling the story forward, every angle carefully chosen and with a perfect emotional score. It leaves me feeling good every time I watch it.
We talked and at some point, I said again I wanted to get on the bus. Wavy told me he was dreaming of a new bus, one that wouldn’t be painted on the outside but instead would be camouflaged by its original factory anonymity so it could slip through the world without notice. It would be a bus that carried a hand-picked crew, one that could get to anywhere in America in just a few days for whatever the next important mission was.
Amazing! An important mission and a new identity, just what Andy needed. I headed back to Chicago to gather up my tools and cameras, then set out for LA to meet my new family.
I’ll write more about my time with the Hog Farm one of these days, but if you want to hear what’s became of us since this tale here’s a story about the Hog Farm 50th reunion. It’s got a few more stories of what the Hog Farm was and has become 50th Reunion