Hitch Hiking, Hypnosis and Cave Junction … Part 2

Buddies forever ... top center Ray, top left Joe

Buddies forever … top center Ray, top left Joe

Ray and I started our academic lives together attending Curry Grammar School in the second grade. We pretty much had the same classes and teachers from Curry right through Franklin Junior High and Vallejo Senior High … until we bumped into scholastic reality as roommates in Berkeley.

School had always been a cinch for us. We were bright, inquisitive, athletic, inventive, insufferable, troublesome, immature, over-confident, self-centered … in other words we were never-never-land boys having much too much fun to ever grow-up.

Berkeley changed all that on our first day of classes. No seat assignments. No getting-to know-you time with the teachers. No nonsense. No niceties. Just work, and more than enough of it.

We, along with every other freshmen in our boarding house, came back from that inaugural day absolutely shell-shocked, literally. We all wore long, sullen masks that evening as we tried to figure out how we’d get through five classes a week shouldering homework burdens such as “read chapters 1 through 11 of The Language of Fiction and write a 250 word descriptive essay about a person of your choice, by Wednesday; and read the first 10 chapters of The Education of Henry Adams by Friday.” OMG!

Never had a carefree childhood come to a more abrupt end. It felt like running full bore into a stone wall … then having a medic give you a quiz!

But that lay a few months ahead down the road. Now it was time for what turned out to be our last neverland-time together … Cave Junction, Oregon!

Ray and I had a long history of insatiable curiosity together. By the end of our first year at Franklin Junior High we’d perfected a secret language in which only we could communicate, either vocally or by signs. Doubters would place us dozens of yards apart challenging us to relay messages only they knew. We’d do so instantly, much to their amazement, astonishment and chagrin! (The trick was not what you’d call elegant or sophisticated. We’d simply spell words applying a suffix like “bub” or “yub” or “sus” to each consonant – e.g. “Ray is cool” was “rub-a-yub-i-sus-cuk-o-o-lul” and saying it as fast as you can; we’d use a hand signal to the same effect, fingers splayed in configurations of letters – e.g. three fingers pointing up, spread on the palm of a hand signified “W” – or pointing to one’s eye for “I.” After a bit of practice you can get startling quick at this “spell-talking” and it takes on the sound of a completely foreign tongue.)

We’d also raced each other for years to see who could read through the entire school library first. So, to say we took an interest in hypnosis would be something like saying Redwood trees are tall.

This called for serious science

This called for serious science

We were into hypnotism in a big way! Hooked! Completely obsessed!

By the time we hit Highway 101 headed north from Garberville to Cave Junction, I could point at Ray, say “A-B-C” in an “authoritative tone” and stop him dead in his tracks – literally without any exaggeration. I’d then suggest that he do something simple, like get water, telling him he’d not remember my instructions until I clapped my hands.

The results were phenomenal, mind-blowing! I’d bring him out of his “trance” (according to the pamphlet this was simply a stage of sleep, out of which a subject would eventually awaken, like any other sleep, if “too deeply” into it … naturally Ray and I believed this implicitly), I’d clap my hands after a time of up to an hour or so, and Ray would jump up declaring, “Hey, think I’ll go get some water.”

This was crazy! Both of us were bound and determined to explore this new continent of the mind, this unmapped cerebral subway populated by unknown beings navigating through mazes of routes, kept hidden from view, defying description, defying detection.

And the mayor of this subterranean maze, my pamphleteering mentor of the hypnotic arts and sciences, presented it to me and Ray to use at our complete discretion.

Use it we did! Thank God for that.

Serendipity occurs at the meeting of two or more travelers following individual paths, with happy result. Hypnotism and Cave Junction’s unique “greeting ritual” provided such a felicitous occasion for me and Ray.

We’d just arrived in the burg, mid-afternoon. John dropped us off “downtown” if you dared call it that. It really wasn’t much more than an intersection with some commercial buildings radiating out from it.

Cave Junction's downtown attractions

Cave Junction downtown attractions

John deposited us off at a cafe while he took his stuff to his mom’s place. While sipping on coffee, waiting for John’s return, Ray and I immersed ourselves in the “dark arts.” I numbed his entire left arm hypnotically. From shoulder to fingertips, he could feel nothing. He even sliced clean through his skin in several locations to test … he felt absolutely nothing.

At which point, as fate (or irony) would have it, the champion of “Cave Junction Chicken” walked through the cafe’s art deco door with his pal to challenge us. This was it! We were to be labeled “punks” or “beatniks” right then and there, whether we liked it or not … and if we weren’t “beatniks” it was for sure we wouldn’t like it!

This Cave Junction kook walked right up to our table and rudely laid his arm down parallel to and up against Ray’s left forearm which was laid-out like a hunk of dead meat upon which some weirdo had been exercising a strange ritual involving slicing.

This “chicken king” looked Ray straight in the eyes and said, “Here’s how we play chicken in Cave Junction!” He took a long, determined drag on a cigarette until it produces a long ember alive with waves of red heat … and flicked it between his arm and Ray’s.

Ray and I looked at each other quizzically. We then looked at the jury of our peers. We then looked back at each other, silently rejoicing that we were able to take our experiment to such an extreme, and that besides benefiting science, we were well on the way to deposing Cave Junction’s King of Chicken … and becoming certified “Cave Junction Beats!”

Ray, reigning King of Cave Junction Chicken!

Ray the “Numb”, reigning King of Cave Junction Chicken!

Wow! Talk about serendipity!

By the time the smell of burning flesh filled the booth, the former Cave Junction champ threw in the towel and Ray was crowned new King! A triumph of hypnotism, and dumb luck … and the beginning of a five day stay that would give us time to conduct a deeper exploration of the world of hypnosis, as well as look inside the culture of a small logging community.

Wow. Hypnotism, cultural anthropology and camping all mixed into one! How much more could you ask for?

p.s. Ray still has a hole in his forearm from that championship showdown to this very day, over half a century later.


Coming next! Hitch-hiking, Hypnosis and Cave Junction … Part 3. Don’t miss the next exciting adventurelet!


Disclaimer … this happened some time back. I returned to Cave Junction just a few years ago and found it thriving. Located at the important junction of the Redwood Highway and the Caves Highway, it leads to the underground wonders of the “Oregon Caves National Monument” a stunning geologic marvel. It’s population is pushing 1,900 and it’s still fond of the unconventional. On my last visit I stayed in a treehouse at the Cave Junction Treesort … a manmade wonder!



About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you can spend with them ... Joe
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