Authors: Katherine Holubitsky
Text copyright Â© 2004 Katherine Holubitsky
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Holubitsky, Katherine, 1955-
The hippie house / Katherine Holubitsky.
PS8565.O645H66 2004Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â jC813'.54Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â C2004-901024-
Library of Congress Control Number
: Summer 1970. When a local girl is found murdered, the freedom and innocence of “youth” are forgotten and, for fourteen-year-old Emma, things will never be the same.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Design and typesetting: Lynn O'Rourke
Cover Artwork: Karel Doruyter
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Dedicated to Mike with affection.
And to the memory of my grandparents,
Frank and Mary James.
Y THE SPRING
of 1970, the dusty old shed that sat in the woods down by Fiddlehead Creek was known as the Hippie House. My father built it when we first moved to Ruddy Duck Farm seven years before. At that time he claimed it was to “duck out of the sun” when he was working in the fields. But as I grew older and began to notice that the only time he didn't use it was when he was working in the fields, I came to suspect that this had not been the truth at all.
For one thing, the shed was not even close to the fields where he worked. It stood at the southwest corner of the farm, closer to Uncle Pat's property line, and although it was in the woods, it was most easily reached from the main road. No, my brother Eric and I decided, it had nothing to do with getting out of the sun. Our father had built it to get away from Mom and her “blessed cigarettes.”
This was not an unreasonable assumption because our mother spent the better part of each day parked in a brocade chair, inhaling murder mysteries as greedily as Pall Malls. Eric and I were convinced that one day we would step from the school bus
to seeânot our familiar old farmhouse at the end of the long lane, but a giant pile of ash, as if God had been smoking an enormous cigarette and carelessly, in passing, dropped the butt over our tiny piece of the world.
The truth was, Mom did not like large animals or mucky open spaces. In fact, she had never liked the out-of-doors at all. It was all too messy with variables beyond her control. Mom liked order; she liked polished silverware, precisely set tables and neat, well-behaved children. I knew she loved Eric and me. But I often wondered if she would have loved us even better if we could have been starched, folded and tucked into a drawer.
So it was with some persuasion that she had agreed to sell our comfortable home in Toronto and move to the country when Dad retired at forty-six. The sale of his busy hardware stores, along with a large inheritance left to him by my grandfather, had allowed him to do this. But Mom knew how my father loved the country. As they toured Ruddy Duck Farm, she'd watched his face shed ten years as he imagined the possibilities: the pond he would stock with rainbow trout, the large workshop, and the perfect field for a hangar and airstripâfor Dad was an expert pilot. And so she had agreed to the move.
For his part, if Mom was generous enough to let him spend his days with his ducks and geese and woodworking projects and farm machinery, he could certainly handle a bit of smoke.
My mother and father had an accommodating relationship and although they bargained a lot, they rarely argued.
The shed became the Hippie House the spring Eric turned seventeen and converted it into a studio for his rock band. My father had more or less abandoned it at that point and was only too happy to turn it over to The Rectifiers, to get Eric and his guitar out of the house and into the farthest corner of the farm where even a rutting moose could not be heard. Not that he wanted to discourage Eric from playing. Dad didn't discourage
any activity if he detected a budding passion. But that particular one, he confided in me, needed a lot of growing room.
So at the end of April, every day after school for a week, and with our dog Halley bounding alongside, Eric and I hopped on the tractor and drove up the gravel lane that wound around the barn past the airplane hangar. We continued down the soft slope past the duck house and through the gate into the cool woods where patches of snow still clung stubbornly to the hollows in the ground.
Gravel turned to dirt, and after turning a bend at the end of the lane, we splashed across the creek by way of a concrete sluiceway to reach the Hippie House on the other side. After parking the tractor, we unloaded brooms and paint from the trailer and pushed open the sagging door.
Dad had not used the shed for some time, but it still smelled like him; an earthy blend of sawdust, machine oil and old metal tools. We began the task of cleaning up by packing the tools in boxes and stacking them beneath the workbench. We swept down cobwebs, and while I fed stacks of tattered yellowed newspapers into the stove, Eric began painting the walls purple with red trim. I pretended to be annoyed at having to help him. This was, after all, The Rectifiers project, not mine. But at almost fourteen, I was secretly delighted to have any connection with a rock band. Even if it was only my brother and his friends.
As we began our work, Eric told me about the amazing guitar player he had seen at an outdoor rock festival the year before.
“He was so cool, Emma, he blew everyone away. He talks with his guitar. It's like his voice. All you have to hear is one note and you know it's Buddy Guy.”
“Is that what you want to do?” The fire snapped as I fed it another stack of papers. “Talk with your guitar?”
My brother thought about this. “I want people to listen to what I have to say.”
Once the room was painted and we had cleared the floor to accommodate a drum set, I sewed curtains for the two windows. A large one next to the door provided a view of Fiddle-head Creek. A smaller one, thick with road dust, faced the main road. Eric stapled posters of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Santana to the walls. He harnessed electricity from Uncle Pat's barn. Although blocked by the woods, it was still the closest structure to the shed.
Eric had me snap a publicity shot: the tangle-haired Rectifiers, brothers Miles and Malcolm Fritz, Jimmy Bolton and Eric, wearing T-shirts and grinning widely, posing with the instruments they could barely play in the doorway of the twelve-by-sixteen-foot shed. I gave myself a photo credit. I signed “From the studio of Emma Jenkins” in the lower right corner. Eric then had the photograph blown up and tacked it to the center post along with photocopies of their upcoming gigs. Actually, it was several copies of one gigâmy grade eight graduation dance.
So that is why Uncle Pat jokingly began calling the shed the Hippie House. It was also Uncle Pat who'd given Eric hair clips and curlers for his birthday. They had been tucked in with his real gift, the first calculator we had ever seen. My mother's brother, Pat McEachran, had been responsible for encouraging my father to buy the farm adjacent to his property when he'd retired. But unlike Dad, Uncle Pat actually farmed for a living, along with my hardworking Aunt Alice. My cousins, Megan and Carl, had been born and raised on the farm.
Megan was fifteen, a year and a half older than me, and was very aware of boys, especially the lead singer of The Rectifiers, Malcolm Fritz. How very convenient that he was spending so much time at Ruddy Duck, practicing with the band. I had strict instructions to phone her whenever The Rectifiers organized a practice, and when they did, she invented all kinds of reasons why we should just happen to be down by Fiddlehead Creek.
Specifically in the vicinity of the Hippie House, where Malcolm might catch a glimpse of her. Despite all her efforts, Malcolm never did seem to notice her, although Eric did. I heard about it after dinner one night. I was embarrassing him in front of his friends. Quit hanging around!
The debut of The Rectifiers at my graduation dance was sensational. This was despite the fact that the band was really terrible. Malcolm, the singer and harmonica player, had the voice of a hinge, and Miles, the drummer, trashed “Proud Mary,” having absolutely no sense of timing at all.
Their audience didn't care. We had ironed our hair, frosted our lips and dabbed lemon-scented perfume behind our ears. There was a revolution going on and until then we had been too busy growing up to enlist. But now high school waited at the end of the summer, and with The Rectifiers and their screaming guitars among us, we were involved.
JULY OF THAT YEAR
was a seamless stretch of sticky afternoons spent sprawled at the opposite end of a canoe from Megan. Slathered in baby oil, we floated between the three islands on the farm's pond, working on our tans. From the direction of Fiddle-head Creek drifted the sounds of my brother's band, which practiced daily, while over our heads droned the engine of my father's Maul Rocket as he dusted the neighboring crops.
In the cooler evenings, when the trout began to rise and the shadows of the American elm trees lay long and dark on the laneway, Megan and I would often catch a ride with whoever was making the ten-mile trip into town. We'd sit cross-legged on old sofa cushions in the back of my father's van between the large oil drums. Or we'd squat in the back of Uncle Pat's pickup truck with our bottoms hovering a few inches in the air to prevent our backbones from being jarred as we traveled over the gravel road. If Eric agreed to take us, we would cram between
the instruments bound for the drop-in center where The Rectifiers often played.
The drop-in center was a long, open room above the ice arena. With the exception of a few broken hockey nets, it had sat empty for many years. Earlier in the spring, Mr. Gillespie, who owned the local Dairy Bar restaurant, had suggested to town council that it might make the ideal space for a teen drop-in center. It was a suggestion that raised eyebrows, primarily because Mr. Gillespie was known as a very conservative man. But when he had council imagine an indoor theater of sorts to entertain the large number of idle teenagers the warm weather had drawn to the streets of Pike Creek, it was an image they could appreciate and the proposal was quickly passed.
Notices were posted at the high school and strapped to telephone poles lining the main boulevards.