Part Three: The Power of Agreements
Wildflowers were still blooming in July, and the vineyards were green; there was fruit on the apple and fig trees and a rich yield of boysenberries behind the bunkhouse. It felt good standing in the sunlight with Bo, beside Crockett and Brooks. The mountains were a blue-purple against the sky. Everything seemed alive and measureless; a breeze funneled down the canyon, blowing over the garden. Even the heat felt clean. I could smell coffee brewing in the kitchen.
We’d been there just moments when Juanita burst out the door to give Bo a big hug; then me.
“God, Paul, don’t you guys ever bathe anymore?”
Crockett grinned. “yeah, ya are a little ripe-smellin’.”
Bo and I exchanged glances. Neither one of us had bathed for days. She wore what she’d worn a month ago – tattered tight-fitting Levi’s and a filthy green blouse which clung to her small upturned breasts. I was in buckskins. I’d worn them since we came to Spahn’s, and they were smeared with grease from hours spent working on engines. Still, Crockett’s remark pissed me off.
Juanita gushed on about how well the garden was growing and how good she felt. And there was no denying it, she did look robust and energized; and somehow, prettier. Both she and Brooks seemed to reflect the vitality of the surroundings. I glanced suspiciously at Crockett, who stood to my left beside Bo, a cigarette dangling from his lips, his eyes on the mountains. When Juanita asked us inside to eat, we followed her – Brooks, Bo, then Crockett. I walked behind Crockett, scrutinizing him, wondering what he had done to bring about such profound changes in my friends.
The ranch house appeared unchanged, except that they’d moved the big dining-room table into the center of the living room. Juanita brought in a steaming pot of beans, and moments later a tin piled high with freshly baked cornbread. Bo followed with coffee. Bo and I ate ravenously while Brooks told us of their latest mining ventures and how much work he was doing. I’d never seen Brooks so voluble and enthused. He mentioned Bob Berry, and when I asked who that was, he told me it was Crockett’s partner. I understood by an exchange of glances between Brooks and Juanita that she and Berry had something going. Crockett, meanwhile, sat directly across from me, chain-smoking Pall Malls and playing solitaire, raising his eyes only on occasion, to let the smoke clear so he could see the cards. I got the impression Brooks was trying to entice him into the conversation, but all he got out of the stoic miner was an occasional “yeah,” “uh-huh,” or “nope.” I found myself watching Crockett’s thick, gnarled fingers manipulate the cards as he laid out his hand.
Looking at Crockett, you had the feeling he belonged to the desert; his skin was weathered yet resilient, like a reptile’s. His face looked like the craggy wall of a mountain, as though it had been eroded and sculptured out of rock; it was hard to imagine that such a face had ever been young. His gray eyes were deeply set beneath a prominent thick-browed forehead, his nose beaklike and commanding. A strong, well-formed jaw accentuated the sensitivity of his mouth, which was full and all the more intriguing because he seldom opened it, at least during the first few hours we were there. Yet there was something tangibly solid about the man. He was like a mountain; you felt his awareness.
Later, while Brooks and I hiked down the wash to bring up the supplies, I asked him about Crockett; that’s when Brooks told me that he and Juanita weren’t going back to the Family.
“What do you mean? Helter-Skelter is coming down. You can’t bail out!” As I spoke the words, I felt detached from them.
“Me and Crockett got a scene going here. I mean it, Paul, this dude is far-out; he’s taught me a lot. I feel good. I want to stay feeling good.”
“But what about Charlie?… What about the Family?”
“What about them?”
“What are you gonna do when Charlie comes up and finds out what’s goin’ on?”
“Crockett put up a psychic barrier to keep him out; no one can come up here unless they have true love in their hearts.”
I flashed on all our failed attempts to send supplies to Barker’s. I pictured Charlie pacing back and forth in front of the saloon, cursing; I thought of Crockett playing solitaire. I said, “Come off it, Brooks!”
At the base of the wash we unloaded the pickup. Brooks helped me strap a pack of canned goods to my back; then he handed me several canteens. He hoisted his pack to his back and adjusted it. We began the climb back up the wash. Months before, Brooks could barely climb the wash without a pack; now he was moving like a mountain goat. I told him to slow down.
“What about Helter-Skelter?” I asked.
“Let Charlie worry about it… I’m not.”
“The shit is coming down, man… it’s heavy!”
“Not up here, it ain’t.”
“Hey, you’re letting this old mumblefuck miner turn your head around.”
“Yeah, I guess I am.”
Though I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time, Crockett was well prepared for my arrival; he’d heard much about me from Brooks and Juanita. They had told him that I was close to Charlie, one of the few people who could “get things done,” who didn’t seem to be totally under Charlie’s domination. By the time I got to Barker’s, Crockett had been there nearly two months, long enough to become deeply intrigued by the story of Charles Manson, his Family, and what they called Helter-Skelter. He’d taken a liking to Brooks and wanted to help him break away from an influence which had obviously been destructive. When he met me and found that I too was riddled with Charlie’s programs and viewpoints, he let it be known that he could teach me “things.” But he never came out and said it; he never preached. That was Crockett’s beauty as a teacher: he seldom told you anything; he merely suggested ways you might discover yourself.
But it didn’t happen right away. I was suspicious of Paul Crockett. What could he teach me? He was old (forty-six), had short hair, never smoked dope or took drugs, and he spoke like a hick – the epitome of everything I had been programmed to despise. He was a redneck and a pig. At that point I figured if any teaching were to be done, it would be me educating him, clueing him on Helter-Skelter. Brooks, I figured, was easy prey – so spaced-out that anybody could teach him anything. Brooks and I had always been on opposite ends of the spectrum in the Family – Brooks at the bottom, shoveling shit, me at the top alongside Charlie, getting my fill of all the goodies and privileges. In coming to know the two of us, Crockett was given a gander at the whole spectrum of Charlie’s program. Not only that, in Bo and Juanita he had discovered how the same programs worked on the girls; everything that came from their mouths was in some way a part of Charlie’s rap. But I figured (as we climbed the hill) that Crockett, too, would fall “into the hole,” once I set him straight.
Paul Crockett was born on February 24, 1924, at 9:30 P.M. in a little town called Ada in the state of Oklahoma. He was less than a year old when his parents moved to Texas, where he grew up with no recollection whatever of ever having been in Oklahoma. Though his mother was a schoolteacher and his father a Methodist minister, Crockett never took to institutions, religious or secular, preferring instead, as he used to put it, “to figure things out for myself.” He left home at the age of eighteen and joined the Air Force to become a navigator and an officer. He was sent to the South Pacific, where he flew in fifty-two combat missions, concluding from the experience that war only proved “what fools men are.” When they told him he could become a captain before his twenty-first birthday if he’d stay on, he asked if he had a choice. When they said yes, he resigned and came home.
It was after his combat experiences that he began asking himself serious questions about life and its purpose. The influence of his father and mother had inspired a thirst for knowledge, yet he could not come to grips with accepting the word of others. While working at a variety of jobs – construction, bicycle repair, manual labor – he began reading: novels, philosophical works, theology, books on Eastern religions; the Bible, Gurdjieff, anything he could get his hands on. Later he would say that reading gave him a lot of data to work with but that gaining knowledge came from doing – from integrating and accepting his own experiences; he found too that there were many experiences that simply couldn’t be explained “in normal ways.”
He used to tell the story of the day his brother pushed him out of a car while going down the highway. “We were doin’ about seventy… As I was fallin’, time seemed to slow down. I could see the pavement and the rocks along the side of the highway. I pulled my arms in close to my body. My whole body seemed to be enclosed in a kind of cloud. A couple of times I stuck my hand out away from my body, but I pulled it back quick because it hurt when I stuck it out there. When I finally came to a stop in the gravel along the roadside, I’d skidded about fifty feet. Except for my hand, which had a gravel burn on it, I wasn’t even scratched. Hell, I just stood up and dusted off my clothes.”
One of the biggest influences in Crocket’s life was a man he met in Carlsbad in the early fifties – Dr. S. L. Bailey: “Old Doc Bailey was the first man I met who could answer some of my questions. When I first met the Doc he was into what he called concept therapy and conceptology. He was working with a woman named Ruth Drown, who had developed the Drown Radio Therapy – a method of measuring the energy flow in the body by taking pictures with this little box. The AMA saw the box and called it, ‘the fraud.’ But it worked. It had all kinds of dials and it measured energy frequency in any part of the body. Like if you had too many positive electrons in a certain gland or in the bone marrow, you’d tune in on it. Then, by puttin’ your hand on the electrode plate and turning the dial very slowly back and forth and always keeping in touch with it – not too fast or too slow – the flow of electrons would either come to the body or go out of the body to give you the balance you needed.
“At the time I met the Doc, I had a problem which stemmed from one leg being shorter than the other, or at least that’s what I’d been led to believe. Over the years it had gotten worse, till it hurt so bad at night that I couldn’t sleep. And when I did sleep, I was so stiff in the mornin’, I couldn’t move. It got so I stayed awake all the time. I went all over creation tryin’ to get helped; to orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and even out to the Bradshaw Clinic. They took X rays and said my body was calcifyin’… that the pictures showed I was turnin’ into bone; not long after that I met the Doc and ended up getting’ treated by him and his machine for the next nine years until my body and my mind were pretty well cleared up.
“I saw the Doc help a lot of people… a lot of people in all kinds of pain would come and restore the balance and take away the pain. He had a hell of a followin’. You could hardly get into his office, there was such a crowd there. It seemed impossible… but to me it was a reality. I saw it work.
“But it wasn’t the machine; it was the Doc’s way with people; he got them to agree to really want help and to set about it systematically. He was positive and he was truthful, and from him I learned to trust and know somethin’ of what I was… Then, one day, the old Doc shook hands with me and said, ‘Well, I think I got you in good shape.’ I wondered what he was shakin’ hands for, then about two hours later some friends come and told me he’d just dropped dead. I thought: Well, hell… first time he shakes hands with me in nine years, then he goes and dies. I didn’t know what to make of that.”
After the death of Dr. Bailey, Crockett studied other disciplines, including Scientology, theosophy, and the doctrine of the Rosicrucians, utilizing precepts that he could use in his own life. “But I was never willin’ to sell myself like most of them groups want you to do… I might agree to do certain things for a certain period of time, but when that time was up, I was on my way.”
In the late sixties Crockett became interested in mining and got into a joint venture with a couple of friends. They traveled through the Southwest looking for gold, silver, copper, tungsten, titanium, and anything else that had a market value. Then in March 1969, Crockett and a friend named Bob Berry came to Death Valley to explore the mining possibilities in a place they’d been the previous summer and knew was rich in gold: Golar Canyon. There he met Brooks Posten and Juanita.
More than a year later he described his feelings in an interview: “I’d never run into a stranger situation; talkin’ to this kid disturbed me. He kept tellin’ me about life and love and that to be free you had to submit to love; he talked about karma and psychic balance, and a lot of what he said was perfectly true and beautiful. It really intrigued me. But the words he spoke were not from him; they come outta him, but they were from another source… from a man he called, Charlie. I began to wonder where the kid was… where was his personality. It seemed hard to believe that anyone could be that heavily programmed. He told me about the Family, the girls, and about this holocaust, this Armageddon that was gonna happen, Helter-Skelter. I got real interested. I wondered about this guy, Charlie… But mostly I liked Brooks and wanted to get him straightened out. It seemed like a good time to use the knowledge I had gained in a positive way. I’d only figured on stayin’ in Golar Canyon a couple of weeks. I wound up stayin’ eight months. It seemed like I’d found another kind of gold worth minin’.”
During dinner that first night I laid out my rap on Helter-Skelter, trying to convince Crockett what I felt to be “the truth.” That the shit was coming down, that we were on the verge of an all-out race war, and that the survivors would wind up in Death Valley with Charles Manson. Part of what I said was motivated by my belief in Charlie and Helter-Skelter; but I also considered it a personal challenge to convince this old mountain goat, Crockett (in front of Brooks and Juanita), what the real score was. To me Crockett was an adversary. I could see that he had all but succeeded in prying Brooks and Juanita away from the Family and everything we had worked so hard to achieve. Despite my own forebodings and misgivings, I had made an incredible inner investment in the Family. My loyalty to Charlie wasn’t dissolved; I felt I owed him a lot. He trusted me, depended on me.
During the course of the meal I held forth without pause. No one could get a word in edgewise… and it was good. I rattled it off like a well-rehearsed soliloquy while the others ate. Crockett listened, looking up at me from time to time and nodding his head. Then at last he finished his meal and pushed his plate away from him and lit a cigarette.
“The way I see it,” he said, “Helter-Skelter is only coming down on you and Charlie – in your head… If you think Helter-Skelter, well, that’s what’s gonna happen. If you put your attention on that, well, then that’s what you’ll get. For me, well, there ain’t no such thing.”
With that, Crockett took out his cards and began to play solitaire.
Later that night, Bob Berry returned from Las Vegas with supplies; Juanita greeted him warmly at the door, and after he had been introduced to Bo and me, she brought him a cup of coffee. Bob was about thirty – five-six, stocky, and muscular. He had short dark hair and rather coarse features. He looked more like a cowboy than a miner, and like Crockett, was not one to talk much. Whenever Juanita showed him affection in front of us, he’d blush and try to appear indifferent. He and Juanita were staying together in the bus, where Bob claimed they were on “mountain-lion watch.” Brooks later explained that they’d spotted a few cougars around the ranch and that Bob used this as a pretext to go up there and sleep with Juanita. For a conservative guy like Bob, running into a sexually liberated member of the Manson Family, especially a gal like Juanita, whose appetites were voracious, was better than discovering gold. He hadn’t finished his second cup of coffee when he said it was time for him and Juanita to go back “on watch.”
The next day I hiked with Brooks and Crockett into the high country above the ranch to dig some rock out of a gold mine they were working, called the Gold Dollar. I was still battling with Crockett in my mind and refused to work with them. While they dug, I sat on a promontory overlooking the Panamint Valley. But I could hear Crockett instructing Brooks on the techniques of digging rock: “No… not like that… like I told ya, sometimes ya gotta talk to these rocks… ya gotta talk them right out of there. It ain’t how hard ya hit it, it’s the way ya hit it… It’s like a vibration… the right vibration… ya tap in the right place, ya talk to it, and it comes out… comes out so’s the ore’s not all busted up and destroyed. Ya pay attention and ya get the feel. Ya work together… with it, not against it.”
That night Crockett asked me if I wanted to play some attention games with him and Brooks. We were all seated around the table after dinner. Bo and Juanita had gone with Bob Berry down to Ballarat; the ranch house was quiet and the table was cleared for an ashtray filled with Crockett’s cigarette butts.
“Okay, now, let’s start it out like this. When I tell ya to put your attention on something, ya do it… ya really put all your concentration on it. Then when I tell ya to take it off and put it someplace else, ya take it off and put it on whatever I tell ya… Got it?”
“Okay, now look there at the doorknob… focus on it… put all your attention on it.”
Brooks and I gazed at the doorknob.
“Keep your mind on that… only that.”
Moments later, Crockett told us to take our attention off the doorknob and put it on the ashtray. We did.
“Now take it off the ashtray and put it on that chair.”
After about fifteen minutes I interrupted him. “What the hell kind of game is that?”
“Attention game. Ya do it for hours and hours over a period of time, and it will build up your powers of concentration. It will rehabilitate a facility inside ya that most people have forgotten how to use… a power. Ya see, most people know how to put their attention on things, but they don’t know how to take it off… they don’t know how to reject things. Your attention is a part of you: it’s what you extend as a spirit; if ya got it all stuck out on different things, ya don’t have all your energy with ya. But if ya learn to take it off, ya keep all your energy intact. It grounds ya in the moment; it keeps ya conscious.”
What Crockett said reminded me of Charlie’s rap about “coming to Now.” But Crockett made it more understandable. Had I not been so spaced-out and open to such thoughts because of my experiences with Charlie and the Family on LSD, I might have shut him out.
“People know how to accept but not how to reject. To reject, or take your attention off, doesn’t mean ya have to dislike or put value on what you’re rejecting; it means simply that ya reject it; ya take your attention off. Most people can’t reject without disliking or evaluating what they reject… but if ya dislike it, ya really don’t reject. Fact is, ya might as well accept it, ‘cause it’s a part of ya.”
We began playing the game again, and I really got into it. Before I knew it, two hours had gone by. I wanted to keep playing, but Crockett was tired. He took his pack of cards and went up to the bunkhouse to sleep. Brooks went with him, leaving me there to wait up for Bo.
The next day, I was on Crockett like a tick, asking him all kinds of questions, then trying to answer them myself with what Charlie had told me. He listened and went about his work, digging rock, asking me to get out of his way, saying very little. We hiked all over the mountains that day, and I would up carrying back a pack full of rocks. That night while we “high-graded” the rocks, separated the ore from the waste, Crockett started rapping about agreements.
“Everything that is,” he said, “is by agreement. It’s the same as your attention. When you agree to something, ya tie up your attention in it… and attention is spirit, the matrix of creation. People agree to things all the time – implied agreements, all kinds of agreements… Ya say you’ll be someplace at a certain time without really meanin’ it; ya don’t go, but ya don’t take down the agreement either, so that part of your energy is strung out… lost in that agreement. Had ya rejected it outright, ya would not lose the energy. But people wind up leavin’ their attention buttered all over creation… through agreements. Ya get my drift?”
I nodded. Crockett was coming on pretty strong, yet what he said made a lot of sense to me. Though I didn’t know it at the time, he was preparing me to see enough so that I might reject Charlie’s trip.
But as he spoke, it got even heavier. “Look at it this way: we live in an electronic universe. Agreements are circuits made up of psychic energy; circuits can short out or blow if you’re not careful, but the power of agreements extends beyond that. Everything ya see around ya is a product of it – this table, the house, my body, your body. What holds all that in place is the force of agreement. Ya agree it’s there, and so do I. In that sense it’s a reality. It’s been made that way through millennia of time… through this process.”
“You sure you never took LSD?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“You mean everything is by agreement… Charlie says everything is in your imagination.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of how it is… but it’s there because we agree to it… and it’s been agreed to by the spirit of people for years. It’s a legacy, an agreed-upon reality, but there is another reality… when ya look at it from that reality, an astral reality, everything is just tiny particles of light being held together by electromagnetic lines of force. You can’t put your hand through a wall, because you’ve agreed it’s solid and that it’s there. But on another level, you can put your hand through it… it is light, it is penetrable. But only on this higher level of reality which is a truer reality… it’s only because people have gotten so far away from the true reality over thousands of years that they find this hard to see… to see it ya have to overcome the power of agreement of millions of people and thousands of years.”
Many who have taken acid have had glimpses of this other reality Crockett spoke of. I knew I had, many times – times when solid objects start moving and become transparent, times when “the normal way” of seeing things suddenly lost its validity. Charlie had spoken of these things, but he had never explained them so that I understood. Often when I had asked Charlie questions he had answered by saying, “I f you don’t know, there’s no telling you. You either know or you don’t. If you ask a question, the answer is in the question… therefore, you do know.” I saw that line of reasoning as a strength in Charlie. Later, in retrospect, I viewed it as his way of copping out.
For three days I wandered around the mountains with Crockett and Brooks; listening to Crockett had put me in a state of confusion. I knew I had to go back to the Family. I felt my obligations to Charlie; I found myself repeating his programs in my mind. Brooks asked me to stay with him and Crockett; he said Crockett would help us get our own musical scene together; he claimed Crockett (who never played music in his life) had taught him more about music than anyone else. Paradoxically, what drew me to Crockett was his indifference; he wasn’t really trying to influence me or to convince me. He didn’t tell me anything unless I asked him. What he did advise was not to believe anyone. “Find out and know for yourself.” If I wanted to play the attention games, I was welcome; if not, that was fine. Brooks, however, did urge me to stay. He wanted company. His memory of Charlie and the Family was not that short; the more people he got to “agree” with Crockett, the stronger that reality became too. “Come on, Paul, I talked to Bo. She says she’ll stay if you do.”
After just two days I had begun to see Crockett’s influence on Bo; it wasn’t that he spent a lot of time with her, but when he was with her he was completely focused and attentive. And he treated her with a sincere and genuine human reverence, or, as he put it, “like a lady.” Ironically, Crockett was deeply imbued with a sense of manners and propriety where women were concerned. “I think the beauty of women is about as close to truth as a man can get,” he once mused. His impact on her was overwhelming. She began smiling, and I realized when I saw her smile – Bo had the kind of smile that when you saw it you felt like someone turned on a light inside you – that I hadn’t seen her that happy since the first summer at Spahn’s.
One night after dinner I went out on the porch and Bo followed me. Her hair was washed and coiled in a braid on top of her head. Her face seemed rounder and more childlike. I sat down and leaned against the wall of the ranch house, and she sat beside me.
“What are we going to do, Paul?”
“We got to go to Spahn’s.”
“I don’t think -”
“The shit’s coming down, Bo… Dammit! We got to go back. I told Charlie we’d be back. I got to return Danny’s truck.”
“Do you want to go back?”
“No, but I got to.”
“’Cause Helter-Skelter is coming down.”
COPYRIGHT PAUL WATKINS AND GUILLERMO SOLEDAD