A friend stopped me on campus during final exams week in the spring of 1967. Could I keep a secret. Sure. Then she whispered that she wanted to try marijuana one time. She said she knew that I smoked it, even though I had never mentioned it to her. It was still like that in the sixties.
I picked her up on my Honda Dream motorcycle. It was a red 150 cc with a kick-starter. Smooth and reliable, just perfect for school. I suggested we go out to Griffy Reservoir for the sunset. We would be alone, away from prying eyes and worry. She hopped on the back and we took off.
She complained about being cold, so I stopped and gave her my jacket. When we got there, I pulled down a trail and rode across the spillway. Half way across, there were two men sitting on the dam, drinking. I had to slow down to miss their empty bottles lying about. They looked very drunk. I parked the cycle at the far end of the dam.
I took the marijuana out of a pocket in my jacket that my friend was wearing.
“You mean I was carrying it the whole time?” She said accusingly. “I should at least have known about that.”
I guess she should have. But that was typical of my spaciness at the time. As I rolled a joint, she watched my technique as if this were a lab class. Then I lit up and showed her how to hold a toke in. She did just like I said, and started coughing. “It sure burns your throat,” she said. “But it doesn’t smell that bad.”
We smoked the rest of the joint. It was good marijuana. I had just paid twenty dollars for an ounce. That was a lot of money back then. This smoke did not have any of the sugar or tobacco mixed in with it that you often found in cheap Mexican marijuana in those days. We sat there and watched the sun drop to the treetops on the other side of the reservoir. A water snake swam along in front of us. We watched it grab a tadpole with its mouth.
“WOW! That was magic”
She turned to me. “What did you say?”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Yes you did. I heard you.” She looked at me funny. “You know, I don’t feel a thing. I think this is all bunk. What did you say?” she repeated.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“YES YOU DID. I heard it.”
We sat in silence, watching the light change across the reservoir as the sun set. Then I did hear something. The sounds of children screaming. Their voices were coming from the dam.
“I suppose you didn’t hear that either,” she said.
I heard some splashing and then again, children screaming. I looked down the spillway and saw a small child about a hundred yards away struggling in the water. A young girl reached to pull the boy out. But she slipped and fell in too. Now the two kids were struggling in the water. The girl began to scream.
“I think–I think they’re drowning.”
We took off running full blast along the trail at the edge of the reservoir to the spillway and sprinted along its top. We passed the two drunks. They looked up at us as we passed. When we got to the kids, I could see a little boy under water, with an older girl splashing next to him. She was going under too.
I scooted down the steep angled cement to the waterline. It was a dirt fill dam surfaced with concrete slabs. There was a rim of wet moss on the concrete, well above the waterline. The moment I put my foot on moss, I lost all traction and slid into the water. I swam over to the kids and dove for the boy. I grabbed his hand and pulled him up. He came to the surface coughing and crying. The girl grabbed me from behind and climbed onto my back, pushing me under water. I tried to push her off me and get both the kid’s heads out of the water. They were scratching and clawing at me, trying to climb on top of me, pushing me under again and again. I paddled them over to the edge of the dam and tried to push them up the slope. But I had no luck. It was far too steep and slippery. The kids were both too panicked to control themselves.
“I’M COMING!” my friend edged down the side of the dam toward me.
“STOP! Don’t step on that moss or you’ll slide in too. It’s slippery! Find something to pull us out with!”
My friend climbed back up the slope of the dam. The kids continued climbing on me, pushing me under. I was struggling just to keep myself up. She came back down the slope holding my jacket. She held one sleeve and swung the other to me. Then she leaned back against the cement to keep her balance. I had to reach for the sleeve several times before I got a hold on it. All the while the two children were clawing at me and gasping for air. I grabbed the little boy and shouted for him to hold onto the sleeve. He wouldn’t let go of me so I had to push him away. My friend pulled him up the mossy cement to her. He scrambled to the top of the dam. We did the same thing with the girl. Then my friend helped me get up to the dry cement. On the spillway they coughed and spit water out.
By the time we climbed to the top of the dam, the kids were already running along the road toward a nearby subdivision. We walked back to my motorcycle, past the drunks. They looked at us and didn’t say a word. They had watched the whole thing and had never offered to help at all. Goddamned drunks anyhow.
I reached into my pocket for the motorcycle key. I found it, but my wallet was gone. I had lost it in the water! We went back to the dam, but couldn’t see a thing. Damnit. There went my driver’s license. I was planning on driving home tomorrow for a summer job.
We decided to go to the police station to report the lost driver’s license. I figured that the police could give me some kind of receipt until I got home. We also decided to report how unsafe the dam was. No signs or safety fences. Any kid could fall in and drown.
My friend wore my jacket on the motorcycle ride back. We were cold on the ride back, in the motorcycle breeze. We walked into the police station in Bloomington, Indiana, wet and disheveled. The cop at the desk looked me over and gave me a suspicious look. Then we told him what had happened. He warmed up to us and called for the police chief. Out he came, big and bull-looking. We introduced ourselves and repeated our story about how unsafe the dam was for kids. He thanked us and said that they would look into putting up signs and a fence. Then he told us to wait while he made a few phone calls. He had a clerk type up a note for me explaining what had happened to my driver’s license.
My friend nudged me and gave me this look of panic. She gestured down to the pocket of my jacket that she was wearing. I could clearly see the marijuana.
“You think he knows?” she asked.
The police chief came back into the room. He said a someone from the newspaper would be coming shortly. After they took a few pictures, we were out the door. Outside the police station, my friend handed me my jacket. Her face was grim.
“Dwight, does this always happen when you smoke marijuana?”
I am quite convinced that was the first, last, and only time my friend ever smoked marijuana.