Stoned Stories - Chapter 1
BALI It was a goldtop mushroom day at the Farm in tropical far north Queensland when I first found out that I was going to Bali. Prior to this I had never had any desire to go there, nor anywhere else in Asia. We were all tripping and having a good time when my bladder demanded attention. Being on an organic farm I began wandering around looking for the proper tree upon which to relieve myself. I was walking by this palm tree when I heard it say "Hey, if you're looking for a place to unload, why not here?". Somewhat startled by the clarity of the communication, but willing to oblige, I unzipped and proceeded to commune with the tree.
It told me that I would be going to Bali soon. I disagreed. A murmur of breeze ruffled its fronds like laughter, and it said "Oh yes you are! and we've got a little gift for you to take with you on your trip. It will see you safely through some of the perils you'll face to the extent of your journey. See that stand of bamboo? Just walk on over there." Zipping up, I did. When I got to the stand this one young stem just leant forward away from the clump and touched me on the tummy. I took out my knife and cut it off at a bottom node, and then cut the tip off down to the node that put the top of the stick onto the heel of my hand when the bottom node was on the ground. Perfect height for a light cane. I walked back to the palm tree and asked what I was supposed to do with it. "Everything," said the tree, "just keep it with you".
From that day on I carried the Stick everywhere, even sleeping with it. Eventually I'd exhausted baton twirling, and progressed to balancing it on my nose, being able to immediately touch anything with its tip as well as I could with the index finger of each hand, and generally was able to consider it an extension of my body.
It was around this time that a gem surfaced in the wash of humanity by the name of Arkansas Bob. He had just come from Bali, and was wearing a gold repousse (the metal is beaten from both sides)and granulation (tiny balls) ring on his hand, the likes of which I'd never seen done since the ancient Etruscans. He said a man named Lend Ju had made it for him in thanks for Bob having saved the life of his son. This was my first spark of impetus for a trip to Bali.
Arkansas Bob & I started talking about stones and jewelry, and ran into Donny Fife who was on his way to the sapphire fields to meet up with Mauri George. We all piled into a VW beetle dunebuggy: swags, 2 blue cattle dogs, a pound of excellent North Queensland buds, three guys, and the Stick. We were driving south from Cairns, north Queensland, and had only got as far as Cardwell when we were pulled over by a large aging policeman who showed by the look on his face what he thought about hippys and dunebuggys. The bag of bud which was under my seat had that sweet just-cured aroma about it, and was my first concern when the officer ordered us all out of the vehicle. I exited and stretched tall on my toes, the Stick gripped on either end high above my head. "Ahhh" I sighed, uncramping,"now there's a sight I haven't seen lately!" "What's that?" asked the cop."There. . . that", I said, pointing the Stick at the only little white cloud in a sky of azure blue. "We haven't had rain for weeks up north," I replied,"have you been getting any down here?" And the cop and I were off on a yarn about gardening, crops, rain, and how the barramundi bit, and before you know it the three of us were back on the road again.
We arrived in Sapphire, and set up camp. I had no money, but I did have half of the pound of bud Arkansas Bob and I had brought. Most of this was traded off for sapphires, which added to the weight of the little bag I had collected myself from the shallow washes and specking (searching on the surface). Bob was anxious to move on down towards Sydney, and so left camp with his half pound and started hitchhiking. He got picked up by the police on the outskirts of Emerald. They searched his pockets and found a joint, busted him, and threw him and his swag (in which was the half pound) into a cell for two days until they could find him guilty and extract his last $200 .
Upon leaving the jail he ran into Donny who, by chance, was in Emerald for supplies. They both returned to the camp, and Bob said "I don't think it's my karma to deal drugs. Here's a gift; you can have this bud with my blessings." That was the last I saw of Arkansas Bob for years.
I'd run into a miner named Valle Poser in Sapphire, who also had a claim out past Opalton in the opal fields. The wet season was approaching, and so he needed to break camp out there before the rains came. He wanted some help making the move, mainly because he had to shift an old prime mover and a D6 bulldozer, and needed someone to drive. If they weren't moved before the rains came, they'd disappear into the mud, swallowed whole.
We drove out there in an old 10 ton dumptruck and stayed at a camp of troglodyte Yugoslavs, one of whom could speak some English: Uncle Paul. There were quite a few like these scattered about the gemfields: illegal immigrants, mostly some sort of Slavs and Croats, illiterate, ignorant, and dangerous. They'd never go into towns for fear of extradition. The first night in their camp we banqueted on steaks and cold beer Valle had brought from Winton, each person drinking more than a carton before the night was through. There were five of us, four jabbering in Slavic, Volle occasionally translating or asking me a question.
One of the questions was"What did I know about marijuana" ? Well, I knew that I had about an ounce of top shelf primo on me, having sold the rest for cash to go to the opal fields with. So I asked them what they knew about it and received the standard send you mad make you impotent and turn you into a heroin addict translated from the Slavic reply. Eventually I rolled a joint. This was watched with interest in order to see if it was any different than rolling your own tobacco. I had already learned a lesson in"be here now". . . or,"where the fuck do you think you're at?" when upon Volle's and my arrival at their camp I had flicked away the butt end, or bumper, of my hand rolled Drum cigarette. As it arced through the air its trajectory was followed by every eye and its landing spot well noted. A minute later it was gone into the"first generation" bumper jar. When these were smoked they went into the "second generation" bumper jar.
As I inhaled and held , they stared mouths agape awaiting the onset of demonic madness. I exhaled and sighed "Well hello there" and smiled. After a few minutes Uncle Paul says "Well I ain't afraid a nothin. I'll try it." So I rolled him his own joint and let him go for it. What followed was an amazing breakdown of his previous axe-murderer personality into a weeping laughing grizzly bear singing Slavic folk songs for a couple hours, his mates in mostly stunned silence, gulping their beer.
Uncle Paul then wants to know if I play cards."Yes", I replied.
And if I play pontoon." Yes, it's sort of like blackjack." I said.
"So then let's play," he says," we'll play for opal."
"I don't have any opal," says I," but I have some money."
"Fine - we'll play opal for money," says he, pulling a hefty sock filled with rough opal out from under his seat.
I had to slow things down after the first few minutes or it would have been over much too fast; so I dragged it out and 40 minutes later I had all the money and all the stones. He took it well, laughing and saying there was nothing to worry about since the earth was full of stones just waiting for him to dig them up. We'd drank all the beer, so we went to sleep . . . me with the sock of opal next to my head.
In the morning I arose last, and noticed the opal was gone. I got up and went outside and ran into Uncle Paul who was staggering around , one hand clasped to the back of his head, moaning. I asked how he was feeling, and he said "Fucking marijuana".
I said "Fucking one and a half cartons of beer." Then I asked him where the opal was that I had won last night.
He said "We play for fun".
I said "Bullshit where's my opal?"
He turned around and went back into the camp and came out with his rifle and put a shell up the spout. "We play for fun."
Yep. You're right. But for the next three days as we cleared camp he always wore a hard-hat and wouldn't turn his back on me.
It was hot and dry and no water, which means no bathing other than a cupful twice a day. The third day I was out specking around and came across this old bulldozer cut that had filled up with water during the wet season, and now had probably a 5 foot depth of what looked like chocolate pudding. I tossed a rock in which caused a blup of a thick splash. That was good enough for me and I was into it up to my neck. Best bath ever.
We'd finally loaded all of Volle's camp into the red dumptruck, including dynamite, gelignite, blasting caps, kerosene, metho, and the kitchen sink. We then took three days to walk the bulldozer back to Winton to put it on the train, making various cuts along the way and finding a little bit of opal matrix in a couple of spots. Jacky Delarue (see links) was with us. He suggested we make a cut at the back of a large jump-up. We hit some good color, but Valle was certain it wouldn't show any better, so we moved on. (Years later that very spot hit for over a million dollars).
In Winton I bought some boulder opal from Jacky, who is an excellent cutter, and then Volle got into the dumptruck and I got into the old prime mover. We headed off back for Sapphire at a top speed of 15mph, Volle in the lead. This was because the prime mover had only two low gears and barely a whisper of brakes, and we had to stay together in case something happened to us on a road that the Guiness Book quoted as being the worst in the world.
After about the first hour Volle gradually coasted to a stop. He got out of the cab and came back to tell me that this was all going too slow, and that he was going to tie the prime mover to the dumptruck with this bit of rope and tow us along at a faster clip. And so it was when we came to the first dip in the road and Volle slowed from about 40mph to 15 that I found out just how bad the brakes were. As I rushed towards the back end of that red dumptruck carrying enough explosives to make a new contribution to the road's potholes, madly pumping the brakes, I realized that this was not a good idea and that at these speeds the rope was too short by a mile. Just before impact Volle accelerated out of the dip and we were off again at 40 mph.
This scenario was repeated again and again over the next 15 minutes until Volle happened to look in his mirror and see me frantically waving at him to pull over, pounding a horn that sounded like a baby's squeeze toy. We coasted to a stop and Volle got out to see what was the matter. I explained the inherent danger of the situation, to which he replied "Pussy lazy cunt bastard etc." whereupon I suggested that as an example of his bravery he ride in the prime mover while I drive the truck.
By the time I hit 40mph he was waving out the window, but by the time I hit 50 he was frantic. I had to slow for a ditch, and then snapped the rope accelerating away from the onrushing Valle. It was a great drive back to Sapphire, smoking that bud at a leisurely 15mph.
They'd had some rain while we'd been gone, and one of the lads from the Desperates' Camp, Jonda, had found some goldtop mushrooms. Jonda was one of the best speckers (fossicker, rock hound) on the field, but that day he came back with enough cutable stones to fill both cupped hands. He couldn't remember where he'd found them, but he was sure that he had traveled many miles, picking them up as he came across them. The next day we followed his tracks to see where he had gone, and indeed he had walked for many miles, but round and round in a circle no bigger than an acre . . . finding every sapphire there was to find, apparently, because the five of us couldn't find another.
It was good on the fields in those days. The price of sapphire was up, and the gem bearing wash lay in mostly shallow ground of less than 10 feet . . . no worse than digging a dunny (bush toilet). Much of it lay at 3 feet, sometimes reaching the surface in little gullies. We'd put the wash into a circular sieve with a diameter smaller than the half of a 44 gallon drum we used to agitate the gravel in. After a good shaking the sieve was flipped over onto the ground. Since the sapphire was heavier than the rest of the gravel it had subsided to the bottom of the sieve, and now that the sieve was inverted the sapphires lay on the top of the pile.
I was staying now at the Desperates' Camp as well as Jo Baldwin's, and was comfortable making my way about the fields and claims. Martin Schaffer was staying there too with his dog "Fug". I could ask Martin where something was on the fields, and he'd turn to the dog and say something like "Fug, take Gonzo to German George's camp." The dog would set off in some direction with me following him all the way to Martin's spoken destination.
There was no accommodation in Sapphire other than a set of cabins built and run by a wonderful pair of lesbian ladies, as handy as any man in the bush. There were six cabins, and there was a hot shower block that was like my oasis . In the first cabin was Jerry, an old Hungarian Jew who was the main buyer. There were always at least a half dozen 20 gallon buckets full of rough sapphire in the cabin, and Jerry would sit and sort while awaiting the next miner with a parcel. There was a large mirror on the table and Jerry would take a scoop of wet rough from the bucket and dump it on the mirror. Then with tweezers he would proceed to rapidly sort the material, using the light as it passed through the stone, into the mirror, and back again to aid in his judgment, all the while carrying on a lively conversation.
One day I was sitting in Jerry's cabin when an attractive young lady walked in (a rarity on the fields). Jerry introduced us and said she and her little boy were staying in the last cabin and had just arrived two days ago. The three of us were having a pleasant conversation when this car roared down the dirt drive that separated the cabins from the rest of the camp . The girl excused herself and left, and Jerry and I continued the chatting. A moment later this overwhelming wave of fear engulfed me. I looked at Jerry who was happily nattering on . . . it wasn't coming from him. I certainly had no reason for fear. I picked up the Stick and walked down the dirt drive towards the last cabin. As I rounded its corner I saw the girl frozen and quaking, barring the door, as out of the car were climbing six drunken Slavs, one of whom seemed to be the Master of Ceremonies.
I stopped in front of the girl, resting my weight on the Stick in my right hand, and said "Dobra! (hello) Can I help you gents?" This sort of stunned them and they all stopped and looked at me. Then the M.C. laughed and muttered some sort of curse and started for me. Unbeknownst to me the Stick had come to rest directly on top of a small stone. When I straightened up, thereby releasing my weight from the bend of the Stick, the stone shot straight up into the air. As it reached apogee I swung the Stick in a widdershins arc around my head, striking the stone with the tip of the Stick, and sending it whistling past the ear of the M.C. That stopped him. I then did a few drum majorette twirls and ended up back again with my weight leaning on the Stick. They grumbled their way back into the car and broadied out the drive, cursing and throwing beer bottles.
It was while accepting the grateful ministrations of the rescued maiden that I found out that when she had stopped in Rubyvale at the pub on her way into Sapphire (running away from a brutal husband on the coast) she had allowed herself to be plied with rum and snoggled in the backseat of the Master of Ceremony's Holden. This was the M.C. finding out where she was and bringing his mates around for a go. Women were a hard commodity to come by on the fields, or anywhere in the outback for that matter. It was this fact that later inspired me to write this little song:
She was just a virgin
On her first excursion,
She hadn't even had her first date.
So it wasn't really fair
But we'll blame it on the tropical air,
Cause that girl sure did learn to roogulate.
Cause when that tropical air gets into your pants
Makes you wanna wiggle makes you wanna dance
Makes you wanna shimmy like your sister Kate
Get out on that floor and roogulate, roogulate, roogulate . . .
Well she walked into a bar
And it wasn't very far
From a sign that said "kangaroos crossing"
The bar was full of roo's
Dressed like bikies with tattoos
Lean and mean and not afeared of nothin.
Now Slim was a handsome roo
He stood about six foot two,
And in these parts virgins were mighty rare.
So he took hold of her hand
Big Red struck up the band
And they roogulated in the tropical air.
Cause when that tropical air gets into your pants
Makes you wanna wiggle makes you wanna dance
Makes you wanna shimmy like you sister Kate
Get out on that floor and roogulate, roogulate, roogulate . . .
It was getting time to leave the fields, so I saved a few rough sapphires and traded the rest for cut ones and headed hitchhiking home to Kuranda, far north Queensland. When I got as far as Cairns I took the Kuranda train up the mountain range, got off at the Barron Falls and walked up through the bush to Ronnie Bruce's house. I set a bag of stones on the octagonal table for Cactus, Magil, and him to look at. It started to rain, so I stepped out under the gutter spout for a great rainwater wash. Ahhh. Life in the tropical rainforest!
After my conversations with Arkansas Bob I'd pretty much decided to go to Bali, so I went into a travel agency in Cairns and talked the agent into giving me this travel poster of a Balinese girl in full regalia dancing in front of a carved stone temple. I tacked this poster on the ceiling above my sleeping spot at Cactus Clarke's so that every day upon waking or sleeping I would be directed towards my goal.
The wet season closed in, and almost daily a group of us would congregate at Ronnie's fireplace to dry out and have a cup of tea. His was about the only "house" in the neighborhood , most of us living under blue tarps and scraps of stolen tin roofing connected to off-cuts from the timber mill. There was no electricity or running water for anyone. These were great days of conversation, with a very fine group of minds able to approach any subject and mostly solve any problem. Ron himself had been a race mechanic for Ferrari, and had built his little wooden house himself (with no electricity); it was the nicest one in the neighborhood, if not the only one that could be called a "house".
Since Ronnie's was on the trodden pilgrims' path to the mushroom fields, our topics were often of a cosmic nature. As the weeks wore on times got tough for the unemployed. One morning five of us pooled all our money atop Ronnie's octagonal table. It came to $1.76 total. Pushed now to our material limits, we decided to "dabble in the occult". I devised a ritual ( based upon my experiences with B.O.T.A. 5105 N. Figueroa L.A. Cal. USA ) that was performed over the octagonal table, the purpose of which was to cause money to flow like a river over that table. We figured if that happened, surely some would spill our way. The ritual was repeated daily for a week and then stopped.
Two days later the money started to flow and kept on running for about 3 weeks. Aside from the poker game than ran for ten days, Dougy Jensen turned up, deals were done, stones were sold, and some guy I'd never met before gave me $1000 to make him a belt, but he didn't want me to start on it until he saw me again. To this day I've never seen nor heard from him. We reckon that well over $50,000 went across that table in three weeks. That's a lot of money in 1975, when 73 cents would buy an American dollar.
Now that I was cashed up I was ready for Bali. I placed all my worldly possessions in a pile and started eliminating everything that wasn't necessary for survival. That accomplished, Cactus and I designed and made a leather bag to carry it all. Don't carry more than you can run with. Bag packed, I put on my reversible belt with 8 one ounce pure gold conchos, stained to look like brass, and got on a plane with a scrap of paper on which was written: Jeff State, cement boat, Darwin; and Lend Ju, Kuta Beach, Bali. I told the cabby at Darwin airport that this was the only address I had, and he took me directly to Jeff's boat.
While waiting the two days for a flight to Bali, I ran into a number of people who were also headed there . . . all of whom were interested in "the magic". When we finally took off there was a keen anticipation amongst all on board. None of us had ever been there before.
As the plane door opened, that first impact of warm tropical air laden with coconut oil, cloves, and frangipani was enough to drop my head firmly into the exotic. I caught an old clunker taxi and told the driver "Kuta Beach". A little while later we bumped down a potholed dirt road called Jalan Pande Kuta and came to a stop in front of the 'banjar' (town meeting spot). I stepped out of the taxi and asked the first guy I saw if he knew anyone named Lend Ju.
"I am Lend Ju." he replied.
I said Arkansas Bob had sent me, and he said "Bob! You friend Bob!? You come with me".
And so I followed him into the little losman that was to be my home in Bali forever: Pension Lend Ju on Jalan Pande Kuta across the street from the banjar. The magic had already started.