I never had the opportunity to meet Ken. Having been born in 1964, and living primarily on the east coast, as I grew up, Ken, the Pranksters and the Bus were the things of every blossoming Deadheads dream, Eugene was Mecca. By 1980 I was thinking of journeys west, like minded people of no set thoughts, as if drawn by some comic synchronization. I had heard how the bus was out in the swamp, sitting. The idea, now recognizably rude, was to just take a bit of lacquer thinner, rub a bit of the paint back into a paste, anoint that which I drove at the time ( my 57 Harley) with the magic elixir, and roll off into the sunset with my little poorly conceived ‘connection’. This, as I said in light of now knowing the amount of hangers-on wanting that very same self indulgent piece of Kesey, is an embarrassing thought of mine to admit., Seeing the pull on Zane and Stephanie and the rest of the family each and every day by those of us impacted by, shaped by, the societal shift that started with but a simple road trip the year I was born. It took me another eleven years before I would see the wonders of Oregon, and 2008 before I reached out of the blue and contacted Zane. The reason behind my contact was simply that draw to the mystique of the Pranksters and wanting, as had been the desire for decades, to be in the scene at some level.
In 2010, Zane put out the call to have a work party at Ken and Faye’s place. Further was being repainted, and worker bees were needed. I jumped at the chance to do what I had hoped for years, just to see the bus, be near it, be a part.
As I rolled up to the farm, Furthur sat in the yard, a hive of activity buzzing about it. buffed down and bits removed on all sides, it still shone like the diamond I had always imagined. I was on the farm! there was the Bus! As every new wannabe painter showed up, Zane would start them on the simplest of areas, recoloring those elements not to be changed, but refreshed. One had to prove themselves before spreading their wings with brush, and understandable so. Desire to play by no means meant ability, and the job of marshaling the scene was Zane’s, and not one I envied. Imagine MOMA opening up the doors for simple art enthusiast to touch up a Rothko or DeKooning. I must have shown the right respect or reverence, as I was soon changing bits. I was allowed to change the back of the bus to be Furthur, where the front still says Further. Now when asked is it an “E” or a “U”, Zane can simply say “Yes”. I will always know where and what I painted on the Bus, and I will always hold that as a cherished memory and badge of honor.
The other little bit of fun…the ‘slightly okay’ bit, was that in the barn was Further. Extricated from the back woods of the farm, there sat the bus that launched a million technicolor dreams from coast to coast, for those in all climes and walks of life. I was there in the prescence of living, rolling ( sort of) history. I was giddy. This rusting relic, this utilitarian mode of conveyance made special by the vision of a man I would never meet, but felt I understood right in front of me. I was one of a few that had proven to be willing to work, of level head enough to illicit trust, and I was able to stay the nights between the work party days. Sitting in the Barn at 3 A.M., looking at the two buses side by side, feeling the resonating energy of the Pranksters was wonderful. Yes, I got on the Bus. I touched the wheel, I read the words left standing, took in the colors vibrant and faded. I had found, for me, a cool place.
I have had the joy of being invited back a number of times, for fun and for work, both opportunities I have, and continue to welcome. I was asked at one visit to the farm by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal what significance the Bus had made on my life. I replied that bus was similar to color tv. The world was a more colorful place after the advent of both.
As we look at the half century mark of the effect this simply pile of aging metal has made on our nation and those to have chosen to allow ourselves to think; to be individuals with a similar outlook on the world, how can it not be restored. How can we look at the freedoms for the mind that this colorful rolling prank have fostered, without wanting to see it roll once more. I will do all I can to assist in this course, and I hope any who read this will be moved to do the same.
On the Bus
Oregon— Derek Stevens