The Catt Box
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It was an exceptionally warm day......the windows were open and a refreshing breeze blew through the house. Once in a while I could feel tiny pockets of cool air in the breeze. I closed my eyes and let my mind take me back to days of my youth.....days that were just like this one.
It's funny how a smell, a sound, a season, and even a song can bring back memories of days that make you smile.
I had been alone in the house all day. I wanted to listen to old songs and turn up the volume.
The dusty record case was like a Pandora's Box of good times and good tunes. I wanted to be transported back to a simpler time.
The first record I played was a favorite from 1970.......He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother, by The Hollies.
I sat back in my chair and the breeze continued to rush through the window. The curtains floated aimlessly in the lazy wind and then settled back down..... I closed my eyes again and smiled. I could almost smell the incense ......I could almost taste the Coke that came in those small green glass bottles for 15¢ each.
The lonely harmonica of the song embraced me.
I could smell the heat from the hot summer day as it lingered in the air, just like I did back in 1970.......those delicious smells and sounds of summer days when a day lasted a full 24 hours long, and the impending night always promised an adventure, a visitor, or a place to go.
The words of the song now permeated the air......
The road is long, with many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where, who knows where
But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy - he's my brother
So on we go, his welfare is my concern
No burden is he to bare, we'll get there
For I know he would not encumber me
He ain't heavy - he's my brother
It was at that moment that I began to remember the most gentle soul I had ever encountered in my life. His name was Peacemaker.
That was the only name I ever knew to call him. Everyone knew Peacemaker. He could be seen hitch-hiking from place to place, always a smile, always a wave, and always a friend.
Peacemaker had been making his rounds in the area when I lived there. I was living in the small town of Colora, Maryland.......it was close to Rising Sun, Maryland, which was about 40 miles north of Baltimore.
I spent several years hearing about him, seeing him, and getting to know him in passing.
No, he was never a boyfriend or a date of mine.....just good friends.
I can remember being at the home of friends who welcomed Peacemaker as their guest. I can remember being at parties and seeing him surrounded by people who were hanging on his every word.
I was honored to have him as a guest in my own home on several occasions.
And if you were driving along and saw Peacemaker hitch-hiking, you weren't afraid to give him a ride.
Everyone loved Peacemaker.
I continued listening to my favorite songs, going back in time through the years.
The next record to play was Get Together, by the Youngbloods .
Time sure were different back in 1969......the movie Easy Rider was making it's big splash, the Vietnam war raged on, Nixon was sworn into office, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon that summer, Woodstock happened, and we're STILL talking about it, Tiny Tim married Miss Vickie on the Johnny Carson show, the Manson murders shocked the world, and Land Of The Giants was one of my favorite TV shows.
The song Get Together filled the air........
Love is but a song to sing,
Fear's the way we die.
You can make the mountains ring,
Or make the angels cry.
Though the bird is on the wing,
And you may not know why.
Come on people now,
Smile on your brother,
Everybody get together,
Try to love one another
A slow smile slide across my face as the memories swept me further back to my own youth.
We would listen to these old records when Peacemaker visited us. He loved the old songs and he was a Hippie from the old days. And now, all the old songs I loved not only reminded me of my own youth, but they reminded me of Peacemaker and his summer visits with us.
Peacemaker was a man of average build, about 27 inches tall. (I know you're laughing right now)
He wore bell-bottom blue jeans with the wonderful tapestry trim down the outer seam. He also wore a Paisley print shirt, with the sleeves tied with twine.
He also wore a suede leather belt with tiny seed beads sewn around as decoration.
Peacemaker also had a Harley Davidson patch that he had stitched onto his jeans. Just one of his many memories of the times he had, the people he knew, and the places he had been.
And no "Hippie" clothing would be complete without the wonderful fringed leather vest. Peacemaker's vest was made of real green leather with long fringes.
Peacemaker's vest was home to the two things that symbolized what he was all about........a Peace sign and a Smiley face button. You were sure to experience both smiles and peace, if you were to cross paths with Peacemaker.
You know.......some folks even called him Jesus. Not in a religious sense, of course, but because of his ultra calm nature and kindness. So, lots of folks just referred to him as Jesus.
Peacemaker didn't care what anyone called him. He had no enemies.
Peacemaker also carried his guitar with him, everywhere he went. His guitar strap was of an American Indian print.
He loved to have little sing-alongs with people, singing folk songs from the 60's....and you couldn't help but to get caught up in the moment with him.
I mean, you'd be listening to Led Zeppelin one minute, and the next thing you knew, you were singing along with Peacemaker.......songs from Peter, Paul, and Mary.
But don't get me wrong, like the rest of us, Zeppelin was loved by him as well.....he was familiar with all kinds of music......but he liked playing the 'happy' songs on his guitar. He really knew how to bring people together and get them doing something that made them all smile.
And when he'd spend the night, he'd sleep on the couch or the floor or wherever it was convenient. He didn't like to 'put anyone out'.
He'd help with the chores and help wash the dishes or cut fire wood, take out the garbage, or read and tell stories with the children.
Sometimes he'd even sit and mend his own clothes while keeping us all spell-bound with his adventures.
Getting a visit from Peacemaker was like having time stand still. The world busied itself with it's normal routine, but time in your home would stop.....and you'd soak up every minute you could with this kind, gentle man.
He seemed to refresh the soul, put things back into perspective. He'd make you want to take the time to stop and smell the roses.
He was like a deep, cleansing breath.......a good stretch and yawn in the morning.......a rainy afternoon on a wrap-around porch with a tall glass of ice tea .....he was a warm blanket and a crackling fire.......he was the smell of fresh cut grass and honeysuckle on the vine........he was the inviting smell of home-made biscuits and bacon on a Sunday morning, just before a good rainy-Sunday movie, he was like being snuggled up with a great book, feather pillows, a blanket, and a purring cat.
Peacemaker had a way of helping you to take the time to relax and enjoy each other.
I used to wonder why he never married or seemed to want to settle down. Later on I came to understood that he was there for us all. I don't think he could have ever been in just one place for too long.......and I'm glad of that. He shared himself with everyone, and to me, that was his greatest gift.
To spend all of who he was with just one person would have been.......well........a sin.
I never knew a man to be jealous of him, and I never heard a woman express anything but friendship for him. I think it was just 'understood' that he'd always be on the go.
He was loved by us all.
And who knows the memories that Peacemaker's love beads held......or his Ankh necklace? Who gave him all those wonderful little treasures?
And how about his key chain? It was made of leather laces and odd wooden beads. Where did he pick it up, in all his travels? What special memory did it give him?
And when looking upon Peacemaker, you couldn't help but to wonder where he got the patches on his jeans....who stitched them for him? You could tell that they were from very old authentic fabric from the 1950's and 60's.
And speaking of very old things, his 'peace pipe', which hangs on his loose weave cotton bag, was from a real Cracker Jacks box from the 1930's. He was real proud of that. He also carried his purple Maraca with him. He liked for people to be able to join in when he played his guitar and sang.
And inside his multi-colored loose weave cotton bag was his black and white male cat Refer. He loved his cat and they traveled everywhere together.
And Peacemaker always looked 'cool' with his shades on. He got them in San Francisco during one of his many visits.
Just then, another record began to play .......Scott McKenzie's song San Francisco ....I had to smile at the coincidence.....
If you're goin' to San Francisco,
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you're goin' to San Francisco,
You're gonna meet some gentle people there.
For those who come to San Francisco,
Summertime will be a love-in there.
In the streets of San Francisco,
Gentle people with flowers in their hair
I decided to burn some Nag Champa incense and think about what it must have been like to have been in San Francisco during the 1960's.......the excitement, the sounds, the people.....and Peacemaker right there, mingling with the other Hippies, and being in the center of it all.
The incense, the song, and Peacemaker's stories were taking me to a place I'd never been before. It made me smile as though they were my own treasured memories.
And knowing Peacemaker, he'd have been more than glad to have shared his catnip with any other cool cat who asked. He also liked to roll his own cigarettes, so he was always prepared.
If I close my eyes and think about it hard enough, I can almost envision Peacemaker standing right there at Haight-Ashbury, with the song White Rabbit sounding out from a speaker somewhere....with Grace Slick's powerful vibrato piercing the air......or perhaps Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade Of Pale......he'd be feeling the warm sun on his back and the hot side walk beneath his feet, and smiling at a few girls sitting on the ground, swaying to an internal beat, trying to sing and play a guitar like Joan Baez.
The next record to play on my record player was by the Mama's and Papa's........California Dreamin'......
All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray
I've been for a walk on a winter's day
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreamin' on such a winter's day
Stopped in to a church I passed along the way
Well I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray
You know the preacher liked the cold
He knows I'm gonna stay
California dreamin' on such a winter's day
My thoughts turned quickly to Peacemaker's stories about being in New York during his travels. And in my mind's eye I saw him living out the song California Dreamin'.......walking the streets in the cold and the snow, looking for a friendly face and a place to get warm.
Peacemaker liked spending his winters in the east.....he liked the changing seasons.
Peacemaker's face showed evidence of many harsh winters and endless summer suns. But it was a kind face.......his nose was long and sculpted with pinch-stitching and his eyelids were always in a half-closed state. You can only guess as to why.
His eyes were matching vintage buttons and his mouth was made of a piece of Cinnamon stick.
His hair was long and he had waves and curls here and there. It was made of washed wool, as was his beard and mustache and eyebrows. His hair surrounded his face like a protective winter coat, no matter what the season. And he always wore a leather headband with feathers on the tie-ends.
I remember one year he stopped by for one of his visits with us. His long hair was gone, but what he DID have left of his hair was pulled back into a tiny nub of a ponytail. I asked him what had happened because I used to trim his hair for him when he'd visit, but now his long hair was gone.
He explained that on one of his travels in the mid-west, he was having supper with a family and an older woman who lived there said he needed to cut his hair. So, she walked right up behind him and cut off his ponytail.
I asked him if he was mad and he said he wasn't......he laughed it off. He even let the woman keep his ponytail, stating that he'd just grow himself another one.
Yes, he was THAT laid back.
I've never seen him angry and I've never heard him say an unkind thing about a soul.
This is why he was always called Peacemaker.
And just as if it had been planned, the song Time Of The Season by The Zombies began to play.....
It's the time of the season.
When love runs high.
And this time, give it to me easy.
And let me try with pleasured hands.
To take you in the sun to (promised lands).
To show you every one.
It's the time of the season for loving.
What's your name? Who's your daddy?
(He rich) Is he rich like me.
Has he taken, any time.
(To show) To show you what you need to live.
Tell it to me slowly (tell me what).
I really want to know. It's the time of
the season for loving.
That was a bittersweet moment for me......it was the last record I had set-up to play, at the moment.... and now it had started to sprinkle rain...it could have just as easily been my own tears, mourning days and friends that are long gone.
The song also reminded me of my moments of parting company with Peacemaker. He'd hug us and shake our hands, pat our backs ......and as he walked away, he'd turn around, smile really big, and then he'd flash his 'peace sign' with his fingers.
Peacemaker didn't believe in saying goodbye......he knew we'd all meet again on another day.....perhaps even in another year.....so it was more like, "Catch cha later!"
It's been about 21 years since the last time I was honored with having Peacemaker as a guest in my home.
I miss him.
I often wonder what ever happened to him, or where he's spending his time.
I never knew his real name, never knew his age, or even where he had come from.
I'm in another state now, with a different husband and a different life. He doesn't know where I am.
But if you ever see Peacemaker, invite him in, listen to his stories, put on some old records, sing with him....take good care of him.....he'll give you memories that will make you smile for the rest of your life.
And to quote The Hollies again.......
It's a long long road from which there is no return
While we're on our way to there, why not share
And the load, it doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy - he's my brother
He ain't heavy - he's my brother, he's my brother, he's my brother
This is the only "Peacemaker" Hippie doll that I will make.......after all, there was only one Peacemaker, a brother to all who are fortunate enough to know him. There will never be another.
Special thanks to Peacemaker, wherever you are.
Copyright © April 27, 2003 Cathy Palmer-Scruggs / Catt Alexander
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In spite of the dolls I create and the stories I write, I do not use recreational drugs, I don't smoke cigarettes, and I don't even drink alcoholic beverages.. I out-grew a lot of things a long time ago.