Hog Farm's Wayward Bus

Pilgrims & Profiteers on A Cross-Country Crusade

When I joined the caravan in Kearney, Nebraska, there was tension between Forcade's car and the other buses. He had failed to break through the serene imperturbability of the Wavy Gravy sensibility. Many caravan people were getting tired of traveling, tired of cameras, and looking forward only to passing through the rest of America as quickly as possible and claiming their all-expense-paid trip to England. (There were rumors that someone—was it Warner Brothers? was it Tom Donahue—was preparing an "England list," which was to provide tickets for only three-quarters of the caravan members; some people expressed reluctance to get out of line and find themselves missing from the list.) Traveling through America in an insulated tube—studio advance men would go into a town and cool everything with the police and citizens, "difficult" confrontations were carefully avoided, no politics on the outside of the bus—very little of America was getting through to the caravan.

At this point Forcade decided he had no choice but to unleash his ultimate weapon: David Peel. On the way to a fateful rendezvous with Peel at the Omaha airport, we happened to wander into a small Nebraska town, little more than a clearing in a vast cornfield that seemed as tall as the town's highest roof. A huge whirlwind of a leaf blight—the local AM agriculture report called it the worst leaf blight in the history of corn—was sweeping toward all that August corn. Department of Agriculture experts predicted that 90 per cent of this year's crop might be destroyed. Stopping in town to eat, you could feel the town and the surrounding corn crouch and shrink before the approach of the incredible cancerous energy of the 1000-mile wide leaf blight.

About the time we finished eating in the one-street town's only café, someone rushed in and yelled something about a chase—escape, something like that—and the five or six farmers and townsmen sitting in the café leaped up, rushed out, jumped into their pickup trucks, and roared away. As we walked outside back to the limousine, three police cars roared up and stopped 100 feet away. They jumped out, talked to the man who has rushed into the café, screeched off past us after the others.

We decided to follow them since Andy had been filming our trip since Kearney as we played some little Magic Christian games along the way, and a chase was always good footage. (Andy and Mike Foreman, who was also traveling in the limousine, had been talking about doing a real Magic Christian movie with a genuine M.C. games of their own. The one they were playing most those two days was a pie-throwing game. With cameras and megaphone and scene clapper they would approach a waitress at a Stuckey's and tell her they were making a movie of pies being thrown in people's faces. Would she allow them to film a pie being thrown in her face by an actor if they paid her for it? "Oh, I'd do it for free just so I could be in a movie," she told us. After it had been done they paid her $3 anyway. It's nice to find people who will be corrupt for free, but if you don't pay them to do it, the thrill is gone from the corrupting. The cashier at the same Stuckey's didn't like the whole thing. He refused to pick up three $50 bills laid on his cash register by Mike Foreman, not because he didn't want a pie in his face, but because he didn't like the whole movie intruding on his world. All of us liked him in a certain way.)

We followed the police out of town to a dirt road through the cornfields and came to a point where some state troopers were parked across the road. We decided to cool it with the megaphone and scene clapper until we asked one of the pick-up truck men what was going on. He told us that a "mental case" had escaped from a state mental hospital, had been spotted in town and had been seen running down this road, and had leaped into the head-high cornfield when he saw his pursuers behind him. Some of the men had gone out chasing through the corn, but most stood around, occasionally staring off into the field, but looking as if they expected nothing would happen.

One of the state troopers quietly asked us to leave to clear the road, and we made a roaring lumbering turn and passed by the local police and the men in the pick-up trucks, all of whom looked at us with no more than moderate interest. It was clear that with the insane leaf blight already loose in the corn just one county south, and with this madman loose in the corn right here, we were just not crazy enough. Mere freaks, heads, and yippies are not very crazy any more, not much of a threat to Big Nurse. We needed David Peel.

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