Gail had stopped by in the evening, as he sometimes did. We sat in my back yard, drinking a beer and sharing a joint. Gail and I were both Vietnam veterans. Gail was a medic in a combat unit. We never talked about Vietnam. The whole thing was his idea. He was telling me about a three day rock festival that was to take place in Sedalia, Missouri at the state fairgrounds there. They were billing it as the Ozark Music Festival. There were supposed to be a lot of good bands there, including the Eagles, Bachman Turner Overdrive, America, Blue Oyster Cult, Ted Nugent, Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, Aerosmith, and many more.
We agreed that we should check it out. Each of us talked to a few other people who wanted to go. Gail rented a Winnebego. We set out for Sedalia on Friday, planning to come home Sunday afternoon. On board the Winnebago were Gail, my wife and I, my friend Dave and his wife, my brother Randy and his wife, his friend Mike and his wife, and Kim and Terri, single girls a little younger than the rest of us.
We had tickets, but when we got to Sedalia, we had to wait in a very long line of vehicles, before we could get into the fairgrounds. When we got in, we drove through “neighborhoods” of campers until we chose a spot among many types of camping and recreational vehicles.
After we parked, some of us climbed up onto the top of the Winnebego to smoke some pot and drink some beer. From the top of the Winnebego, we looked out on a sea of people, tents, and camping vehicles of all kinds for as far as we could see. Some guy with a bullhorn was hollering, “I need about 15 dozen whores over here and I need them right now.” We were cracking up, because there were girls heading toward him from all directions. Looking out across the distance, you could see green sticks everywhere in the night. These were glow sticks. I had never seen them before and I called them green phosphorescent dildos.
Then we watched as a small car approached, weaving through the neighborhood. People were cursing at the driver loudly. When he drove by our Winnebego, we heard a kind of crunching, or snapping sound. We lost it because Mike and his wife Dawn had laid down to sleep for the night under the Winnebego.
Thank God, the asshole, who drove by and then disappeared into the crowded campground, had run over Mike’s leg, not his head. The security carts had not all been taken over by the crowd yet that evening. We flagged one of them down and they arranged to get Mike to the hospital, where they set his broken leg.
The rest of us made our way to the area where the stage was to listen to Wolfman Jack trying to talk a guy who had climbed one of the towers into coming down. He finally did. Then the Eagles took the stage to play Take it Easy. There were a lot of fireworks.
The next day, my longtime friend Dave and I decided to go and find out what the place was all about. Dave was also a Vietnam veteran. We walked down to the grandstands. On the way we saw various vendors selling many different kinds of drugs. Some were on foot. Others were set up like concession stands, selling their wares out of camping vehicles. Many of these had lines of people waiting to purchase their drug of choice. We bought some LSD from a vendor on foot. There were many vendors like this, male and female, moving among the crowd, hawking their wares.
It was very hot. Each day we were there, the temperature was above 100 degrees. We sat in the grandstand bleachers, people watching for a while. Guys were standing on their motorcycles and riding them on the track the length of the bleachers. Finally, a guy crashed his bike. We never knew how bad he was hurt. An ambulance took him away.
We didn’t think we were getting off on the acid, so we bought a couple more tabs and did them. Both of us started laughing . A few minutes after we swallowed the second tabs, we started getting off on the first ones. We went down to the area near the stage. There was a lot of good music. Everywhere there were nice looking girls, some topless, some in bikinis, some in their underwear, most of them high. We never saw any fighting or violence that day, or during the whole festival.
On our way back to the Winnebego, we were walking along and I stopped at a lemonade stand and ordered a lemonade. I was pretty high. A shirtless guy at the stand said to his buddy, “Another stupid fucker.” Then he sprayed me in the face with a garden hose. All the food and drink stands had been taken over by the crowd the first day…
When we got back to the Winnebago, there was drama. It seems like Don, a pioneer of psychedelic drug use in our town, along with a couple of girls, had visited our group. Then he stopped back by later and said, “I’m getting vibes that someone here is tripping.” And my wife was… Gail told me he thought Don had “tabbed” her. He never did come back again. She was not having a good experience. She didn’t much care for smoking pot. She wasn’t liking acid at all… I comforted her and reassured her much as I could until she finally came down.
The next day, I started to use bathroom in the Winnebego, but it was occupied. I walked over to a restroom nearby to sit on the throne. I didn’t have any reading material, but there was a movie. While I sat there taking a dump, I watched girls showering. It was supposed to be the men’s room. On the way back to our group, I saw naked people wallowing on the ground near a fire hydrant they had opened. Water was gushing everywhere. I also talked with a guy who told me that on the edge of the “city,” people were having a hog roast with some pigs they had stolen from a farmer.
When we were ready to go home, there was no sign of Kim or Terri. They hadn’t been around since the day we got there. We spent a lot of time looking all over the fairgrounds for them. Most people had left by that time, but a lot of people were still milling around. As I was walking along on the track, a naked man, wearing only sandals and stoned out of his mind, walked past me mumbling, “Old Testament, man,” over and over, as National Guard helicopters flew low overhead.
Several days after we got home from the festival, we learned that Kim and Terri had been stabbed and cut many times and left for dead up near Chicago, Illinois. No one was ever prosecuted for that vicious attack.
Sometimes these days, when I think about the Ozark Music Festival, I have many wild and crazy memories. One thing I learned there is that anarchy is not a good choice for a way to live. By some estimates there were 160,000 people there. By others, 350,000. I didn’t count them. I’m glad I experienced it, but like a few other things on this journey, I wouldn’t want to do it again.