Another story from "My Year with the Hippies"

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Brian Rupnow

Design Engineer
Project of the Month Winner
May 23, 2008
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Barrie, Ontario, Canada
The Rubber Tree
Once, a long time ago, during my “Living with the Hippies” year, I had the biggest rubber tree in the world!!!
When I first went to Kilaloe to live, I tried the old Kilaloe Hotel, but it had seen its good days about 100 years before I ever got to it, and the bedrooms were right above the bar. This made falling asleep an impossibility, which was very tough considering I had to be to work at Hokums Sawmill at 7:00 A.M. each morning.
I then moved in with an older lady, a kind, loving soul, who took it upon herself to provide a half-way house for all of the stoned out hippies who had fallen on hard times and had been evicted from their own lodgings. This was fine, but after waking up a number of mornings to find that I was sharing my bed with someone who looked and smelled rather like a Sasquatch, I decided it was perhaps time to find “A place of my own”.
It so happened that the old Cybulski house was for rent, and had recently been “done over” with new paint and flooring and was quite a handsome small, two story house right in the village of Kilaloe. I spoke to one of the younger surviving Cybulski’s and in short order a deal was struck and I had a nice little house to myself.
All of the hippies had a house warming party for me, and I received various cast off pieces of furniture, a tray of absolutely excellent hash brownies, and a rubber tree in an enormous pot that weighed about 300 pounds. The rubber tree was only about 18” tall, but it was as thick as my wrist, with maybe half a dozen leaves on it.
As fall came on, it became apparent that the “updates” to the old Cybulski house had been only cosmetic, and there was no insulation whatsoever in the walls. It was so damned hard to heat that I closed off the upstairs, and put my bed in what at one time may have been the “Parlour” on the main floor. I then strung a wire across the archway into the parlour and hung a big old war surplus blanket on the wire, thus giving my “bedroom” a modicum of privacy, and making it somewhat easier to heat. The upgrades to the house had included a new gas furnace in the crawl space, and to keep from spending every nickel I earned on heating bills, I closed off all the heating ducts to the rest of the house except for my “parlour turned bedroom” and the bathroom (which was thankfully on the main floor of the house).
I moved the rubber tree into the parlour with my bed so it would have at least some heat. This arrangement worked reasonably well, as I was out enjoying the “single man” life every night, and got up each morning and hustled my frozen arse down to the local diner for coffee and breakfast, so I was never home that much. (I must clarify something here---The “Single man” life in Kilaloe consisted of setting in the bar of the previously mentioned hundred year old hotel and drinking beer with the hippies and burned out lumberjacks.)—The burned out lumberjacks actually drank. The hippies would buy one beer, set it in front of them to scare off the bartender, and then surreptitiously (or so they thought) smoke MaryJane, holding it under the table out of sight for the rest of the evening.
It was after one of these late night events at the bar that I arrived home and stumbled over my poor rubber plant. I damned near broke my neck, but the rubber plant had got my attention, and I went to bed wondering why the damned thing never seemed to grow any—after all, I watered it whenever I thought of it!!!
The next morning happened to be a Saturday, so I took one of the hippie girls with me and drove into Barrys Bay, the nearest town, and went to the “plant store”. The proprietor happened to have just what my rubber tree needed. It was a box of some kind of “Miracle Grow” sticks that were to be inserted, one each month, into the soil in the rubber tree pot. I bought 3 boxes.
This seemed to be far too difficult to remember each month, so, since it had such a gigantic pot, I stuck every one of the grow sticks into the soil in the pot. Jeez—there musta been about 75 of the damned things.
A week went by, and suddenly the rubber tree began to grow. I’d be willing to bet that the damned thing grew 3” taller every day. When I lay in bed at night trying to go to sleep, why Hell, you could HEAR that rubber tree growing!!! All of the hippies were absolutely amazed. I was absolutely amazed!!! It grew right up to the ceiling, and then proceeded to grow ALONG the ceiling horizontally. People came from miles around just to see my amazing rubber tree. I was thinking of calling the Guinness book of records people!!!
And then---IT happened!!! By now we were well down into February, 3 foot of snow and colder than a witches tit. I was concerned about getting a ticket for drinking and driving, and since the old Cybulski house was just up the hill and around the corner of from the bar, I would drive home from work, park my truck, slip and slide down the treacherous sidewalks to the bar and drink my supper. And then drink my desert---and then drink just to avoid going home to my frosty empty house with no one there to greet me but a freakoid rubber plant. Then claw, dig, and slalom my way up to my house and sleep the sleep of the –“would “dead drunk” be too strong a term???
One night, I groped my way home in a blinding snowstorm, fell through the door, pulled back my army blanket, and collapsed on my bed with all my clothes on---and passed out!!—I awoke the next morning, colder than I had ever been in my life, with bright daylight streaming in through the outside door which hadn’t latched behind me when I staggered home and was standing wide open, and seen my army blanket/privacy curtain wadded up in a ball at the end of the bed where it had fallen when I had lurched onto the bed the night before.
But, Aw Jaysus—There was my poor rubber tree—black as your boot, leafless, frozen to death just like the poor unfortunate fellow in “The Cremation of Sam McGhee”
There is no moral to this story. It’s just one more of the events that happened during my “Year with the Hippies”. I lived to survive it, but I’ve never had a rubber tree since!!!---
Brian Rupnow---Sept.-2013
Is it a criminal offence to murder a rubber tree in Kilaloe?
A great read with my morning coffee. You had quite a "colorful" adventure. Good to do things like you describe when you are young. I often wish I was eighteen years old again, but when I think about some of the stupid things I did back in my salad wishing vanishes quickly.

Strangely enough, the story didn't take place in the sixties. This is almost like one of Diana Gabledons "time warp" stories, as it happened in the mid nineteen eighties. Its a long story---Back at the turn of the century, when the Canadian government was trying to encourage settlement in mid to northern Ontario, they were giving 50 acre land grants to anyone who would come from Europe, sail up the St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario, to Belleville, Ontario, and then up the "Settlement road" that is now highway 62 north into the Ottawa valley. All you had to do was clear 5 acres per year and build a permanent dwelling. Many people came from Poland, as the old still existing villages of Wilno and Kazuby will attest to. The Polish built beautiful stone houses, cleared the land, got their deeds from the government, and then found out gradually that its just too damned cold and with too short a growing season to farm there successfully. As the young polish descendants moved away to the cities to find work, and the original settlers died out, all of these beautiful old farms were abandoned. Then comes the Vietnam war, and a whole flock of draft dodgers coming to Canada to avoid the American draft in the seventies. The first thing they discovered was that you could "squat" in these abandoned buildings, and by paying some ridiculously low fee (something like 3 years back taxes) you could take over ownership of the land and buildings. The second thing they found out was that a marijuana plant has exactly the same infra red heat signature as a blackberry bush. All of that area had been logged extensively, and been burned over by the forest fires that always follow after heavy logging. The first thing to grow up along all the old stone fences were blackberry bushes.--So---they sewed their crops along all of the old fence lines, and a new industry was born, and as far as I know, still flourishes today. The hippies coexist peacefully with the other inhabitants of the area, and have kept the 1960's version of Peace, Love, and good dope alive. I was there during the mid 1980's (between wives) and had a very memorable year. Once they figured out that I wasn't some kind of narcotics agent, and wasn't going to question their lifestyle, they made me welcome in their homes and welcomed me into their "society". It was probably one of the most interesting years of my life. I met a lot of good people and the footstones for a hundred good stories were laid in that year.

I could only imagine what you can't tell us about. : )

The mid-eighties. So you would have been about .... Yes, a great time to take a gap year. Time to look around and smell the roses (or whatever grows).

Nobody can take the memories from you.

The Rubber Tree
Once, a long time ago, during my “Living with the Hippies” year, I had the biggest rubber tree in the world!!!
Brian Rupnow---Sept.-2013

Great read, I enjoyed it.

Puts the personal touch back into such a technological world and brings us back to the reality that we are all the same at heart.

Thanks Brian. Thm:


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