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The Hundred Dollar Car

How often does it happen that you write what you want on a piece of paper, tack it up on a notice board outside a grocery store, and get a telephone call a day or two later offering exactly what you're looking for? It was 1977, I was back in Indiana to visit my family, and looking for a Plymouth Valiant or Dodge Dart station wagon, the Whale Gulch special.

After a short drive into the country the old man opened his barn door and there she was, a pale blue '63 three-speed with rust around the edges.

“A hundred bucks,” he said. I took it for a test drive on the barely-trafficked snowy country roads and it drove great. It was such a deal I probably should have bought it just on principle but the day before someone else had answered my ad and I was already in proud possession of a dark blue '65 Dodge Dart station wagon, hallowed slant six engine included. But I still had to go out there and look at that hundred dollar car.

I drove out to an auction on a cold wintry day where a house and farm on ten acres bordering a river down the hill went for twenty grand and I successfully bid twenty five dollars for a very nice Singer treadle sewing machine which I planned to resell in California for a hundred. I took it apart and put the two pieces in the back of the Dart for the trip down to Mexico.

Heading south out of town I stopped at The Farm in Tennessee, following founder and leader Stephen Gaskin's big touring bus the last few miles in, where I met a sort of obnoxious woman with a sly grin, around my age of twenty-two, and I was lonely and my standards weren't very high. (I caught up with her later in California, moved her and her little boy into my small ocean-view squatters cabin, and am surprised we even made two months or maybe it was three weeks. She ended up getting together with a neighbor down the hill and having a kid. Jeez, where are all those people today?)

I left The Farm in tears, bawling in my Dodge Dart parked just past the gate and can't remember why I was so upset. I could be an out-of-control and frenzied youth in those days, the transition to alleged adulthood was shaky, and it was probably because there were people and structure at The Farm while I was returning to my cabin in the middle of nowhere in the hills of Mendocino.

Then it was on to Mexico to which I had already hitchhiked two or three times since that first trip down with my grandfather back in '71 when I was seventeen. 

After staying at my friend's place in Matehuala for a few days the urge to find some peyote hit and we drove deep into the desert on washed out and rutted dirt roads guided by an Italian guy using a white house in the distance off to the left as a focus to find that good patch of buttons. I lost a piece of trim from the side of the Dart I noticed when we finally stopped. (Italian guys are still guiding peyote tourists from Real de Catorce down to the desert.)

At the end of the road we hiked even deeper into the endless cactus glancing constantly beneath little shrubs on each side as the peyote liked to grow in shade. When we found it growing abundantly we cut off the little green buttons on top and all got a good supply. Back in town I sliced up some oranges and ate about fourteen buttons walking around the doctor's large field behind Humberto's house which is now filled with hundreds of little low cost houses and streets with names of European countries like Belgia.

My stomach felt queasy and I barfed up the load, returned to the towering music of Mozart on the patio, smoked a joint, and achieved the clarity of mind to realize I had lice, scabies, and probably crabs and needed to do something about it. 

I found Humberto and said, “I'm infested!” 

He wrote me out a sarcastic little note (I probably still have it somewhere) to take to the farmacia which referred to “poco animales.” When I returned I remembered a woman back in Whitethorn called Kerosene Kathy who had lice a lot and I went looking for a bottle of petrolio which I was soon covered with and once again my experience with psychedelics was a freakout. 

It was New Years Eve and I had planned to go out with Jimi Hendrix's tall fancy sisters but I was so messed up and distraught, one errant match away from immolation, that I didn't get the girl once again though lived to tell the tale forty-five years later.

I wonder what happened to that hundred dollar car?


  1. L David Hardin June 10, 2022

    Good Hippy memories…thank you for sharing your experiences.

    • Paul Modic June 12, 2022

      Thanks. I woke up recently one morning, thought about that $100 car, and wondered if I could make a story out of it. 800 words later, voila…

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