I Count Myself Lucky

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

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| This is the 136th story of Our Life Logs |

The human spirit is very resilient. We can pick back up when we fail, and fail, and fail. We can find hope when we are still battling monsters. And we can learn all these lessons in a lifetime.

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I was born in the middle of a mess. After I was born in the early 1950s, my mother’s new boyfriend decided he didn’t want anything to do with me. So, my biological mother gave me to her second cousin who lived down the street. I wasn’t even adopted through the US government. From then on, I was in the hands of a woman named Dorothy Ann.

Me as a toddler.
Me as a toddler.

Dorothy Ann was a very evil woman. Living in her house, I endured extreme physical, sexual, and mental abuse. This was a very crummy start to life. The one good thing is that Dorothy Ann didn’t like to read and so she had no concept of what I was reading or of the power of those words. In the fourth grade I was so sick that the school nurse and county said I needed to stay home. This ended up being providential because I began reading adult-level philosophy and history. The Greek myths, Arthurian legends really stood out to me. I read and reread these books. The Greek gods seemed to care, whereas I had been raised a Jehovah’s Witness and taught that God kills the unrighteous and burns out their eyeballs.

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I ran away when I was 21 years old because I just couldn’t handle the abuse anymore. When I left I had $5 in my pocket and a gold Waltham watch. Shortly after leaving I remember having one of the most defining moments of my life. I stood on Hwy 1 by Coos Bay in Oregon, watching the tide coming in and out as the sun set over the ocean. It was the most incredible thing I’d ever seen in my life. Sitting there, I got a sense of peace and that Somebody—a God—cared for me.

Until this moment I had never done drugs in my life, but that was about to change. I kept hitchhiking and eventually a four-door 1957 Chevrolet pulled over. Inside were three hippies and I became number four. We drove across Washington state heading to Minnesota.

Halfway across the state, a police officer put his lights on. The driver and the other two guys absolutely panicked because they had drugs. They pushed the bag toward me and said, “Oh my God we can’t be caught with this. You need to eat this!” I didn’t know what to do so I took them.

It was about 30 hits of acid. I remember having visionary experiences from it—some of them were scary and some were just silly. Thankfully, the police let us off the hook and just told us to get out of his state.

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When we arrived in Minnesota, I chose to stay. By then I was friends with the three hippies. I didn’t have a college education, but I was a good cook. I was adventurous with food and had a great work ethic. I went to work at an American restaurant chain. Little did I know, the waitress who handed me the application would become my future wife.

I took to this job like a duck to water. I had a good sense of timing, organizing the tickets, and getting food out in a timely manner. Pretty soon, I was so good at it that I worked the graveyard shift by myself. My future wife was the graveyard waitress. I liked this late-night shift because I could spend time with her, but also because I could do drugs while working. Back then as long as you showed up and did the job, nobody cared.

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She and I became a couple. Together we endorsed and lived according to the natural hippie order of life back then; first and foremost, we were hippies, then, we were Jesus freaks, then, we were passionate about getting “back to the land” and going green. The money we saved went toward these goals.

My girlfriend gave me something to cling to. Before her, I had honestly thought I’d be dead by the time I was 35. She really helped me. Gradually I stopped using drugs and drinking as much as I had been. I started to believe and see that there might possibly be something more to life—to everything.

Our adventures took us to cult meetings started by preacher Victor Paul Wierwille. The group tried to “save” me and convert me to their religion. On one occasion, I pretended to speak in tongues. I was only doing all of this because I loved my girlfriend. She was into the cult much more than I was. At one point, she even convinced herself to move out to Knoxville where the cult was based. I was less sold on it and managed to convince her to go instead to Hendersonville, South Carolina to where the Mother of Earth News magazine came out. Rather than converting the world, we wanted to learn how to live simply. But a simple life seemed to elude us.

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South Carolina didn’t work out and I took a friend’s advice to move us to Florida and get a job harvesting oranges on the parking lot of what would later become Walt Disney World. We lived in a trailer park called Gopher Ridge, the filthiest place I’d ever lived in my life. There was a hole in the floor for a toilet and bugs covered the walls.

Running out of money and dissatisfied with work conditions, we quickly decided to leave Florida. After some adventures in California, we ended up choosing to live in Colorado because John Denver said it was great. We lived in the shadow of the State Capital building, and I ate organic food for the first time. Although I was still doing drugs, I started to think about a future and believe I was worthy of a better life.

In the middle of our search for a simple life, my girlfriend got pregnant. It really scared me. Suddenly, I felt a huge sense of responsibility. We weren’t married, and I didn’t know how this would all play out. I still believed deep down that Dorothy Ann was coming after me. Almost 30 days before we had the baby, we got married at a Justice of the Peace in 1976. We both wore the best clothes we had. Mostly, I remember this being a very scary day for me. Although I wanted to be a family, between the paperwork and the forms, I felt I was opening myself up to be found by Dorothy Ann. Maybe, I thought, signing a form would make me more traceable.

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Married and with a baby, we moved back to Minnesota shortly after our wedding. My wife experienced back to back pregnancies and our second son was born before I had a good job. We could not afford our mortgage payments and eventually needed to sell our house.

At this point, I was desperate. Walking into town, I saw the army recruiter’s office and joined immediately because of the $4,000 bonus. I told my wife I had a job and drove her back to her parents’ place with the two kids. At the time, I couldn’t se