By Jessie Smith
It wasn’t until I got the chance to live on a bus that I realized I needed to get on the bus.
I had just taken a job running a hostel nestled in a backwoods hollow of the old hippie Farm in rural Tennessee. It was tradition for the innkeeper to get old yellow bus. Set up on cinderblocks with simple electric run by a single 16 gauge orange extension cord off the barn. This bus had a long strange trip to get to this final resting place.
It had history you could read from the walls. On the ceiling spelled “THIS IS NOT A CIELING” in cut up magazine images, which always made me fall asleep wondering, was the misspell intentional?. Mismatched paintings and mini-murals. Poetry and short messages on the walls. No one can ever be sure how many people had lived on this particular bus, but it was definitely in the high hundreds. In my brief time there, I met a handful of them coming back to visit. I even met one gal born on it.
This wasn’t just any old hippie Farm. This was THE Farm. Founded in 1971, it is one of the oldest communes (now intentional community) still in existence. With more than 10,000 souls that came through that gate to call that land home through the now 50 years these 1500 acres have been held in common. This particular bus was one of 60 busses, vans, and trucks that caravanned the country starting from The Haight-Ashbury Acid scene, traveling through towns to spread their message and pick up those ready to “get on the bus.”
Years later, I still remember my first night on the bus. A single string of lights and a lamp. The irregular sounds from an early spring frog in the nearby pond mixed with the occasional thud of a large insect hitting the illuminated window. Just out of range from the ancient satellite wifi, and far from any 3G signal, I would get occasional waves of a single bar – just enough to send a text to twitter, which relayed to Facebook. As I recall, it simply said, “First night sleeping on the bus. I wish I had internet to figure out if this spider is going to kill me in my sleep.”
Spoiler alert: it did not. But it was not my biggest threat.
I am officially the last person to live on that bus. Late one night, a particularly fierce storm with high energy passed through. No one knows exactly where the lightning hit – all we knew was the electrical system in both the hostel and the barn were completely fried, and that single extension cord to the bus became a completely frayed bundle of confetti, leaving a scorch mark on the metal and blown out windows from the shock. It was an ungrounded lightning rod.
I was lucky. Completely unaware of the storm, by chance I decided to stay on a friend’s couch rather than make the drive home that night. This bus now sits with boarded up windows and used for storage, a relic reminder of Americana history nestled in the hollow.