An Excerpt from: In the Path of Exile, The Odyssey, According to Homer. 1967-1969: A journey through late 1960's America
“Hitch-hiking is against the law,” the officer said, “get in and have a seat.”
With just one foot inside the Texas State line, Homer was arrested; vagrancy being the first charge, he beat that—he was holding some cash that Willow had sent him off with—and then suspected lunacy. Homer mouthed off at the judge, told Hizz-Honnor that he, Homer, was an artist, and when the judge suggested that Homer should chop off his hair, shave his beard, and tend to some honest agriculture, instead of making superfluous objects, Homer replied in an educated, New York City like manner, “Humans have been creating Art for thirty-thousand years, cultivating crops for only ten thousand, which makes me think that the superfluous objects you mention might be more important to civilized man, than eating.” That New York City temperament again. How dare a seventeen year old talk to vested authority like that.
Homer wound up in psychological observation, not because he was crazy, but because, at that time, they just didn’t like long-hairs in Wheeler County, Texas.
He was escorted to a small windowless room painted a complacent green. The door locked from the outside. He sat in an oversize industrial wood chair. If the judge had possession of a dunce cap, out of sheer spite, Homer would’ve been required to wear it.
As is true of much of rural America, this part of Texas was a place where the concept of separation of church and state did not apply. On the wall, over a movie screen, was a sign which read:
ISAIAH 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no other God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me.
He sat there all day, every day, in that small windowless room, for four days, until they checked his background, and deemed him sufficiently chastised, admonished, and completely purged of his wrongful thinking.
Before him in that room, and on-screen, was an 8mm film which kept rolling still-life pictures, devoid of people, pastoral in nature. This is the exact way Homer described it to his friend the poet:
“It had calming instrumentals mindless soothing piano nonconfrontational flute and piccolo fade in fade out flowers and pans across mountain waterfalls spring summer fall winter breezes on buds butterflies mountain peaks in winter daisies tulips poppies daffodils pine trees fronting mountain lakes valley woodlands buttercups yellow fading to seashore islands pink and white on tree branches flowing rivers blue behind yellow flowers crimson swaying in breezes yellow unopened crocus opened tulips a pink dancing daisy squirrel preening apple and cherry blossoms rain on open flowers misty and light geraniums orange mountain fields pink and yellow and green mountain lake waters against white blossoms nature sounds harping amazing grace the film repeated over and over again without pause.”
“Good,” said the poet, “That’s good.”
If you had asked Homer six months later what message he got from that interlude, he couldn’t have thought of one. All he knew was this one fact: If that film had been an essay in psychology, it would have been a complete failure in punctuation. He sat there all day, every day for four days, and then, without explanation, they charged him eighteen dollars in court costs, and let him go.