A Short History of My Life

The following was originally intended to be published as a short, historical ebook. Due to the unforeseen emergence of cannabis legalization in the United States, many of my non-cannabis writing and publishing projects have been put on hold.


In late 1943, in the middle of World War II and near the end of the Great Depression, my great-great grandmother, Rosella Rabinski, was asked by one of her daughters to document her life. The following is her manuscript.

In a modern world dominated by Twitter, YouTube, and ubiquitous smartphones—where instantaneous communication and fast, reliable travel are taken for granted—Rosella’s life history illustrates just how far the western world has evolved in the past one hundred and fifty years.

thoughts-on-suicide-gooey-rabinski-7

Not Rosella; my daughter Bean (Rosella’s great-great-great granddaughter).

Rosella had, by today’s standards, a poor education. What little she gathered, she basically foisted upon herself. She lost her mother at the age of nine and her father at 13. After she became an orphan, Rosella gained additional education only because she demanded it, with little encouragement from those around her. She joined the workforce as a nanny when she was about 16.

Born at the beginning of the American Civil War, Rosella (who went by “Ella”) was an only child and orphan at a time when most families had a dozen or more children. She had a unique spirit.

How many women were progressive enough to hyphenate their name in the early 20th century?

I never met her (I was born a couple of decades after her manuscript was written, which was shortly before she died), but am thankful that her daughter urged her to compose this short life history. Due to the miracle of modern digital publishing and social media, Ella’s story is now available to the world—not simply the seven children she raised.

My apologies for the run-on paragraphs and sometimes awkward construction found within this document. I have attempted to preserve the original text whenever possible. Also brace yourself for social stereotypes, stigma-inspired references, and the mild bigotry and class separation that was prevalent at the time.


Chapter 1: How I Began

My daughter, Cecile May, has asked me to write a short history of my life.

This is December 1943. I will begin by saying that I, Rosella Rabinski, was born in Liberty Township in Knox County, Ohio. It was just over the line of Clinton Township, three miles west of Mount Vernon, on January 5, 1861.

I was born in a double-hewed log cabin, with two rooms downstairs and a double fireplace. The room on the west had two windows and was plastered. The kitchen on the east had one window, two outside doors, a stairway, and a door leading to the front room. We lived there for some time. It was zero weather when I was born, I heard them say. Today the temperature is 36 degrees above.

My father and mother both came from large families. Mother was one of eleven children and Father had two full brothers, six half-brothers and sisters on his mother’s side, and five or six half-brothers and sisters on his father’s side.

I was an only child.

In those days there were, of course, no automobiles and very few buggies. We had no paved roads. Some people had so-called spring wagons. Often, the roads were almost impassable. I can remember when the mud was so deep that it came nearly up to the hubs of wagon wheels and up to horses’ knees. Now, in 1943, one seldom sees horses and wagons on the roads—and most roads are paved. Back then we had sleds and sleighs and the young people would put a string of bells on their horses when they went sleigh riding. Those bells could be heard for a mile.

Hearses for children were drawn by white horses. However, those were happier times than today. Later there was built what we called a surrey, with two seats and a covered top.

About forty years ago, they began to build automobiles. The first one I saw was used by our mail carrier. It was built like a high-wheeled buggy—but had a motor, of course.

It has been handed down to me that there was a German, Lewis Bricker (the name in some localities was Praker, I have been told), who married Elizabeth Calvert, the daughter of Cecil Calvert (an Englishman who was much opposed to his daughter marrying a German). But they seemed to get along well. Elizabeth was said to have driven a team of horses to Philadelphia with loads of grain and provisions. The couple reared a large family and accumulated a fortune. Two of their sons, John and Jacob, married two Koonsman girls. Jacob married Elizabeth Koonsman and, in 1808, John married Barbara Koonsman (my grandmother).

Lewis Bricker migrated from Pennsylvania to Liberty Township in Knox County, Ohio and bought several 100-acre tracts of land from the government (beginning in what is known as the Liberty Township east line, three miles west of Mount Vernon). John Bricker and Barbara had one daughter, Rebecca, who was born in 1809. This was before they moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio in covered wagons in 1810.

The new land of Ohio was heavily wooded—none of it cleared. Not even was there a road laid out. Some of the Bricker sons and daughters came to Ohio and settled on this land, building cabins of rough logs. These houses were like a song I’ve heard: They had “clapboard roofs and puncheon floors[1], a crack for a window and a quilt for a door.” The clapboard roofs were split out of logs about four feet long. They had small trees and saplings put up for rafters. Then poles were put across them to lay the clapboards on, and poles over the clapboards to hold them down. The cracks between the logs were filled with pieces of wood and clay plaster to keep out the cold. To collect the logs, they had what they called “log rollings” where they would burn felled trees.

There were some Indians around then, and some were savage. They killed a family not far from where Chesterville, Ohio, now is. The people near Mount Vernon built a block house to protect them from the Indians. There were also some wild animals—bears, panthers, and plenty of wolves. I remember hearing my folks say that a catamount, or wild cat, came into our upstairs, leaving our house by running down the stairs and out a side door.

My grandmother, Barbara Koonsman, was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1789. She came from a family of six children (three boys and three girls). Her brothers were Jesse, George, and Daniel; her sisters were Nancy and Elizabeth.

John Bricker made a trip now and then back to Pennsylvania by horseback. Once he took with him some maple syrup in saddle bags. Some trip, was it not for a horse! He stopped at a tavern to stay the night and took his saddle bags upstairs to his room. He didn’t sleep much that night, as he thought several times that he heard somebody on the stairs. He would raise up in the bed to let the supposed thief know that he wasn’t asleep. Apparently somebody thought that he had something valuable in the saddle bags.

Another man went the same trip on horseback, and when he was on his way, his horse became lame. He stopped at a blacksmith shop to have his horse examined; it had a wire around its foot above the hoof. The blacksmith said, “You better examine your gun”; the traveler did and found the chambers filled with ashes! He re-loaded it and went on his way. He came to a woods where a man, all blacked up, came out and waylayed him. The traveler said he would shoot, but the robber only laughed because he thought the traveler had a gun full of ashes. But, to his amazement, the traveler shot real bullets! And the robber was the tavern keeper!

As time went on, John Bricker and Barbara had more children, making a total of six (three boys and three girls). First there was the eldest, Rebecca (who was born in Pennsylvania in 1809); next a boy, George; then the third, Aaron; then Mary; then another son, Solomon; and finally, Sarah (the baby of the family, who married a Higbee). When Rebecca was only twelve years old, John Bricker died of tuberculosis, leaving Barbara (my grandmother) with six small children.


Chapter 2: Changes & Civil War

There have been many changes since my grandmother, Barbara Koonsman-Bricker-Rush, came to Knox County in Ohio. I am now 83 years old, but I can remember that there was a big two-story building called the Market House where people came with their wagons full of produce. They drove onto the Public Square (also called Monument Square), unhitched their horses, turned them to the back of their wagons, and fed them.

Some people lived upstairs in the Market House. I remember an old man named McGrady who had a shoe shop there. He lived in a large brick house on Mulberry Street (second house from Chestnut street, on the west side). Later his daughter lived there. And then her adopted son, Charles Blair. Now those buildings are gone and the Mount Vernon Post Office stands on the corner of Mulberry and High Streets, on the northwest corner. On the northwest corner of the Public Square, there was a restaurant at which one could get a good meal for 15₵. One night it burned down. Now the whole block is built of brick.

As Christmas is near (it is now December 20, 1943), I will tell you, these people had a real Santa. A man would come around with nuts and cakes. He would say, “Will you pray?” and they all knelt. Then he would scatter nuts and cakes to see them go after them.

We think we have hard times, but let me tell you: They had no stoves as we know them today. Instead, they had what was a fireplace built of flat stones, plastered up with clay. In this fireplace was placed, lengthwise, an iron rod. On this rod were hooks called trunnels, on which they hung their iron kettles and tea kettles. When they fried meat, they pulled some coals out on the hearth and set their iron skillet on these coals, as well as their coffee pots.

They also had what they called “Dutch ovens” in which they baked their bread. These were approximately 12 inches in diameter and six inches tall, with legs about two inches long and an iron lid. When their bread was light enough to bake, they scraped coals of fire out of the hearth, placed the Dutch oven on them, and put coals of fire on the lid. Yum! Yum! Was that bread good! Maybe you think I don’t know! (My step-grandmother had an oven and baked to please me.) People also had clay ovens in their yards that were big enough to bake six loaves of bread or pies at the same time. They would build a fire in these clay ovens and let it burn down to coals, raking the coals out and putting their bread and pies in to bake.

I remember that when I was small, after the Civil War, there were quite a few tramps (or “beggars,” as they were called in those days) running around the country. One day mother and I were alone when one came to our house. Our dog didn’t like tramps; he would meet them before they could get to the door. The tramp went first to one door, then to the other. But our dog “Old Bull” met him there and the tramp finally went away. One evening, while my father and I were at my Grandmother’s, a tramp came to our house (which was nearby). There was a hogshead[2] in the yard, with a pig in it. We surmised that he thought we were in it. We watched him until he left, then my father went home.

A man (whose name I can’t recall now) went out hunting and was belated. A bear had overtaken him and he had crawled up a sapling, which bent down with his weight. The bear stood on its hind legs and reached the man, but he kicked it’s nose until it bled. Some of his friends went out to hunt for him and found him there.

When John Bricker (my grandmother’s first husband, but not my grandfather), was boiling down maple syrup, wolves would come so near he could see their eyes. But they were afraid of fire and did not come close. One night, my grandmother heard them outside and said she guessed they got our sheep—but the sheep were safe. One day an Indian came to their door, asking for bread. Barbara ran out past him, leaving two small children in the house alone. But, as she said she had no bread, the Indian went away.

Now, as I said, I was born in the year 1861, and I remember seeing the soldiers that came home in their blue suits. The men from the North went to the South and burned buildings and destroyed properties. I heard a Northern Army soldier tell me how they took pianos, tore them up, and made bunks out of them.

A woman told me there was a band of Negroes that went forth to kill the white people. One Negro woman wanted to save her mistress. She had on a full skirt, which she spread over her mistress until the men had passed.

There were good slaveholders and bad slaveholders, just like some men are good and some are bad today. I think those slaves could have been bought and freed. Then there would have been no bloodshed. The Northern soldiers drew pensions, some who said they never carried a gun. Did the Southern soldiers get pensions? No! But the South had to pay a part of these pensions. Even our northern states were affected by the war and farmers couldn’t get much for their livestock and produce. Eggs brought six and eight cents a dozen; hogs four cents a pound; butter eight cents a pound; a good-sized chicken twenty cents. It was several years before times improved.

An example of men’s cruelty to animals: I heard it said that a man somewhere in West Virginia struck his horse on its head with a shovel. The horse kicked the man in the stomach and killed him. I think he got what was coming to him.

As I said previously, when Rebecca was only twelve years old, her father, John Bricker, took tuberculosis and died (on May 9, 1821). This left her mother with six little children, including Rebecca. In 1826, Grandmother was married to Peter Rush, who had been a bloomer by trade (a bloomer was a furnace and forge in which wrought iron blooms were made directly from ore). He lived on a farm near Bloomfield, in Morrow County, Ohio.

She went to live with him there. They had two boys: Jeremiah, who was born on May 1, 1827; and Ananias (my father), who was born on September 4, 1833. Soon thereafter, they moved to my grandmother’s farm west of Mount Vernon, where another son, Andrew Miller, was born on June 4, 1843. My father was reared in the same house (a log cabin) in which I was born. Andrew Miller, his youngest brother, was also born in that cabin, and they lived there until they were grown. Then they built a frame house in the same yard, which still stands today (1943) and is nearly 100 years old.

My grandfather, Peter Rush, was a soldier in the War of 1812. The Commissioner of Pensions states: “Peter Rush served from August 28, 1812, to October 31, 1812, as a private in the Company commanded by Captain Jacob Young and John Greer of the Ohio Militia. In 1855 he was 77 years of age and a resident of Knox County. He received the B.L. Warrants 35620-120-55 and 15980-40-50.”

My father, Ananias Rush, on January 11, 1860, married Martha Ann Roop, a twin (who was born on March 31, 1834) of Margaret Roop—and moved back into the original log cabin. On January 5, 1861, a daughter was born to them, which, of course, was I. My father and mother did not live in this log cabin long. Father’s oldest brother, who had lived about a half mile west, on Grandmother’s farm, moved to Illinois and we moved into his house. Another brother, Jeremiah, had moved to a place just west of Richwood, Ohio.

Besides her twin sister Margaret, my mother had six brothers and three sisters: Frederick, born March 18, 1819; Peter, born March 31, 1824; John, born November 28, 1831; Jacob, born June 19, 1836; Michael, born May 23, 1839; George, born August 13, 1842; Elizabeth, born August 31, 1821; Catherine, born September 15, 1826; and Mary, born April 14, 1829. My grandfather, on my mother’s side, was John Roop, who was born July 18, 1787 and died October 22, 1859. My grandmother was Catherine Meyers, who was born October 30, 1797 and died July 29, 1857. They were married on January 29, 1818.

When I was a child, the land was not tiled and the ground was very swampy. Many people suffered with ague (an intermittent fever), something we never hear mentioned today because the land has since been tiled.

My Uncle Jerry’s wife, at Richwood, complained of ague, so my grandmother wanted my father to go to Richwood and move them back to Knox County. Father and Mother started for Richwood one afternoon in a wagon with a team of horses. I, of course, went with them. We went the first day as far as the home of Filo Pruner, a brother of Uncle Jerry’s wife, near Sparta, Ohio. We stayed the night at his home. Then Filo, my father, my mother, and I started out the next morning for Uncle Jerry’s. My father and Filo each drove a team hitched to a “big wagon.” We took dinner with us and ate it at Whetstone River Bridge, an old covered bridge.

We forded the Scioto River, as there was no bridge then where we had to cross (they were just building one). The water was so deep that it nearly came up to the wagon bed. We arrived at Uncle Jerry’s about sundown; I think we stayed two nights and a day before starting back home. I remember it rained nearly all the way home, and the cover we had for protection from the rain was only two bed sheets. I was six years old and I remember that trip like it was yesterday. Mother and I and two of Uncle Jerry’s girls, Dicy and Emma, rode in one covered wagon. The two men, Father, Filo Pruner, and Uncle Jerry’s oldest son, Arnold, rode in the Pruner wagon. We brought back with us some of their household furniture—a cupboard in one wagon and a bureau in the other.

Uncle Jerry and Aunt Lavina then had a baby girl named Barbara (named after my grandmother). Barbara was born on March 25, 1867. At the time of this writing, she is 76 years old. The boy who came with us from Richwood, Arnold—born on July 28, 1856—is now 87 years old. They both live in Pasadena, California. As soon as Uncle Jerry’s family was able to travel, they loaded the rest of their belongings into his wagon and came back home to Knox County. They moved into a cabin near Grandmother’s until they could get another house. Uncle Jerry’s brother had a house and some land. As soon as his brother’s house was empty, they moved into it. While living there, they had a baby boy, Raymond (making five boys and five girls). That last baby boy was later a Methodist preacher, but is now retired, being 74 years of age. Another son, Benton, lived in Oakland, California. Only these four of the ten children are living at this time.


Chapter 3: School

When I was about six years old, I started to school. My first teacher was a young man by the name of William Bricker. He taught three months, then took a vacation. Viola Bricker then taught three months, beginning the first of June and continuing through August. Then no more school until December, January, and February. No teacher taught more than three or four months at a time.

Manda Hagerty taught one summer and Mother visited the school. I remember different teachers. Miss Hagerty had “red” hair. When my mother was very ill, I was not sent to school. But the winter she died, a young man by the name of Russell Robertson taught at the Bedell School where I attended. He was studying medicine at the time, in the winter of 1869 and 1870.

My mother died on January 8, 1870, when I was nine years old.

As I said, I went to school only part of the time. There were about 75 pupils in the school. The teacher boarded with the Sylvester Pratt family. One day, while he was gone for his dinner, the boys decided to shut the teacher out. There was no lock on the door, so they braced some of the benches against it and wouldn’t let him in. This was all because they wanted him to treat, it being Christmas time.

Dr. Robertson taught two terms at this school and turned out to be a fine doctor. After he began practicing medicine, I went to him when I needed a doctor’s services. Once he told me that, when I was his pupil, I was so timid that he was afraid to say anything to me. He died the summer before I was married.

My grandmother, Barbara Koonsman-Bricker-Rush, was the mother of nine children, the six born to her and John Bricker, and the three born to her and Peter Rush. Her husband, Peter, had six children by his former wife (three boys whose names I recall were James, John, and William; two of the girls were named Mary and Margaret). I do not recall the names of the other girls. By the time Peter and Barbara’s children were nearly grown, the fields had been cleared so they could raise crops on them.

My grandfather Peter Rush had a loom and my Aunt Rebecca learned to weave cloth. They raised flax, and of this flax, they took the straw and hackled it: Made it into thread and wove it into linen sheets and other articles. They raised sheep and had their wool carded[3] and spun into yarn. They knit their own stockings and made flannel. They also made what they called Lincy Woolcy[4] for men’s clothes. The warp was linen and the filling was wool.

I have told you that I was an only child. I guess my mother and father sort of spoiled me. Mother always took me to church and I would sing and think I was as big as anyone. I had several cousins to play with, one who was nearly three years older than I. We each had our dolls and played house. There was a woods near my cousin’s home. We would go there, mark out a floor plan, and cover the supposed floor with different kinds of moss. I remember that place when I was almost grown. At my home, we played “in the shade of the apple trees.” I also remember playing “keeping store.”

In our house was a large chimney. Outside the chimney was olay burned red that we used for sugar. I once had a family of four gray kittens which we dressed up one day. My Mother decided to get rid of them and took them away, but brought me a blue and white cat instead.

My mother always had poor health, but when she became seriously ill, we sometimes had a “hired girl” (what maids were called in my early days). Sometimes my father did the housework with my help, and my Aunt baked our bread and also helped out (as did some of my mother’s nieces). I remember that one time I wanted chicken to eat. Mother told me, “You can have one if you can kill it.” I was about eight years old. I caught a chicken and took a corn cutter and cut its head off. I then scaled and picked it. I can’t remember the rest, but presume my father cooked it. I also remember that one time we were out of bread and I said I could make biscuits if Mother would tell me how. Father put some flour in a pan and I made the biscuits. I remember what a time I had getting the dough off my hands.

When Father would be in the fields working, I would go to the milk house and skim the milk and feed the calf—while my mother was sick in bed. I also had to do other things, such as sweep the floors and make the beds. Playtime was over for me. Mother kept getting worse. Hannah Meeker stayed with us until after Mother died and we held her funeral. It was in a home where my father’s half-brother, Uncle George Bricker, had lived before he went to Illinois to live that my mother died on the 8th of January, 1870. I was nine years old on the 5th of January. My mother was laid to rest in an old family burying ground and was the last one to be buried in it.

My father and I then went to live with my Grandmother. In a year-and-a-half (sometime in the last of June, 1871), my father remarried, this time to Delia Ann Lewis. They lived in the home with her father and mother. A year later, a baby boy, George Franklin, was born to them. The Lewises had a beautiful eight-room home, six rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs, and there were beautiful pine trees in the yard. There were two springs of cold water and a spring house with water running through it. All went well at first, but later clouds began to gather and that beautiful house wasn’t a happy home.

Before my father married the second time, I spent a lot of my time in the field with him, sometimes riding a horse to help him plow corn. I wonder that I hadn’t been killed. My Aunt Rebecca was always saying, “You will get her killed.” Once I slid down over a horse’s head. Another time the horse was tied to the limb of a tree; the horse went under the tree and raked me off behind his heels. Another time I was riding home to dinner when our dog ran out of some bushes and frightened the horse, which jumped and threw me off. I thought every bone in my body had been broken, but I got up and walked home.

I also spent much of my time fishing. There was a stream of water called Armstrong Run. There was a big sycamore log on one side of the Run and a deep hole was washed out beside it. There I sat for hours catching fish. I remember once seeing how many I could catch. I caught fifty minnows, some about as long as my fingers (about three inches). When I was older, and when my Grandmother was sick, I would lean over that sycamore log and snare the bigger fish, called Suckers. I’d take them home and they would fry them for Grandmother. I could have drowned and they never would have known where I was.

On December 11, 1873, my father died with pneumonia, leaving Delia Ann with a baby boy eighteen months old. Then, in about eighteen months, Delia Ann’s father died, leaving no man around to help keep the place beautiful. Two weeks before his death, my father came to my Grandmother’s and took me to where he lived, with the Lewises. We then traveled to Friendship Church, from which we proceeded back to his home. In the evening, he took me nearly home to Grandmother’s. That was the last time I saw him until the day before he died.

I think he had a premonition that his time was short on this earth, for he talked to me until I nearly cried. He told me he wanted me to be good to Grandmother and Aunt Rebecca. He turned and looked at me and said, “I can’t do much for you now as long as John Lewis [his father-in-law] lives,” then he went back to their home. About two weeks later my cousin Arnold Rush said to me, “Did you know your pa is awful bad sick?” That was the first I had heard of his being ill. The next day my Aunt Sarah Higby went with me to see my father. He was as bad sick as he could be and still be alive. Then he said to me, “You will not have a father here much longer, but be a good girl and you will have a father in heaven.” He died the next evening.

I was nearly thirteen years old—old enough to realize what I had lost, for no one loved their father more than I did mine.

My father was laid to rest in what was known as Liberty Chapel Cemetery. How well I remember: My Uncle Miller Rush took Grandmother, Aunt Rebecca Bricker, Aunt Mag Rush (his wife), and me in his wagon to the funeral. Ben Lewis took Pap’s horses (I called my father “Pap”) to his wagon and took Delia Ann, her father and mother, and little George Franklin, to the funeral. George Franklin was only one-and-a-half years old (he never remembered his father; he was reared by his mother and grandmother Lewis). On the day of the funeral, the roads were muddy and the mud was deep. When they went to put my father’s casket in the grave, there was so much water in it that they dipped it out with a bucket before they could lower the casket. But he wasn’t there: His spirit had gone to its giver and his body had gone to “Old Mother Earth.”

My father’s death hastened the death of my grandmother, who passed on May 10, 1874, at about 85. I was left then with only my Aunt Rebecca. The coming fall, Aunt Rebecca and I went to the home of her daughter (my cousin), Rose Thayer, where I lived most of the time until I was about sixteen years old. Many were the times my grandmother would look out the window toward the way my father always came and say, “Oh, will I never see my son come anymore?” Father’s mother, my dear old grandmother, tried to make up to me for the loss of my mother, but nothing and nobody can fill a mother’s place.

After the sadness of losing Mother, Father, and Grandmother, I enjoyed life, for it seemed that everyone befriended me, realizing that I was an orphan. However, seeing other children caressed by their parents caused me to miss my father and mother more, and it would leave me an ache in my heart that none will ever know.

As I said, it was about eighteen months after Father died that Delia Ann’s father died. By that time, I was practically a grown woman. I often went to see Delia Ann and my half-brother, George Franklin. They were always glad to see me. One night Grandmother Lewis fell down the cellar steps, broke her hip, and wasn’t able to walk again for a long time—except by pushing a chair ahead of her.

After the death of my mother, father, and grandmother, and the schoolhouse being quite a distance away, I did not go to school very much. As I have said, I was all alone and had scarcely nobody and nothing to fall back on.

When I lived with my old aunt and said anything about wanting books, she would say, “When I went to school, if they had an English reader and a spelling book, that was all they needed.” My mother being sick so much, I was neglected. I was sent to school until I was ten years old—with nothing but a McGuffy spelling book. One of the neighbor girls asked the teacher, Joan Phillips, if she didn’t think I could have a first reader. She said, “I will see.” She had me read a piece from my spelling book and said, “Yes, I guess you can have a first reader.” I was overjoyed. I went home, told my father, and got the reader.

When I look back over the years, I wonder, “Is it really me?”, like the old woman who got her petticoats cut off. I didn’t have a first reader very long until I got a second reader, then next I was ready for the third reader. I was eleven then. We had left some chickens at our old house. They had laid some eggs there and hatched some chickens, which had grown to a size large enough to sell. One day I decided to take my old dog and catch some of these chickens and send them to town to get myself a third reader and spelling book.

My dear cousin, Rose Thayer (the one called “Grandma”), took those chickens to town and got my books for me. You now wonder about where my other books came from. Well, dear “Grandma” Thayer lent me an arithmetic book, a neighbor girl another book, and so on. This neighbor girl, Clara Newell, was instrumental in helping me get my first reader, and also got me into what we called the Lower School (a school that took up after my school, the Bedell School, was out).

The Lower School had a sweet little teacher by the name of Ella Rogers, who lived with her grandfather, Henry Pratt. Her mother was also dead. It was she who taught me to write. She had me get some foolscap paper[5] and she made me a copy. It was there that I got my first lessons in penmanship. I am not the best scribe now, but, like the speed in which I learned to read, I soon learned to write pretty well. I went from the third to the fourth reader, then to the fifth reader—but no farther. I never was the best in arithmetic, but can make out. As I said, with no one to encourage me (and as I didn’t have the books that I wanted), I quit school and didn’t go much after I was thirteen years old. Now children have an armful of books.

When I was sixteen, I was small for my age. People didn’t think I could do much work. They would say they didn’t think I ever would be very big. I wanted so much to grow and get big like the other children. I seemed to be healthy enough, but I had slept with my grandmother when she was somewhere in her eighties and on the downward road. Therefore, it has been suggested that perhaps I was stunted. After she died, I didn’t live with old people and I started to grow. By the time I was twenty years of age, I was as big as most other girls, but people never thought I was as old as I was. I didn’t keep company with the opposite sex as early as some others did.


Chapter 4: Maple Sugar & Nannies

As I said previously, after my grandmother’s death, my Aunt Rebecca and I went to live with my cousin Rose Thayer. She lived close to a woods where there were maple sugar trees. I decided to tap some of these trees. I put crocks and a jar beside the trees to catch the sugar water. I put an iron kettle on a pole, built a fire under it, boiled the water down, and made some maple sugar. I had made enough maple sugar that, when sold, brought enough to get me a dress and a belt.

Then I got an awful headache and felt like my brains were flopping up and down. The next morning I was broken out with measles. That stopped my sugar-making. Cousin Rose and Aunt Rebecca had to give me their “cure-all.” They got some spicewood and made some tea. And what else do you think they put in the spicewood tea? Sheep “nannies” (sheep manure). They knew I wouldn’t drink it if I knew what was in it, so I was not told until after I got well. However, as you know, it didn’t kill me.

I don’t know if I ever had the mumps. I remember my cousin Olive Rush was once where they had mumps. We heard people say to rub your neck on a hog trough and you wouldn’t get the mumps. We both rubbed our necks on a hog trough and we didn’t get the mumps. But I may have had them before that. I had been exposed at different times later and never got them.

In connection with the making of maple sugar, I am reminded that, when I was seven or eight years old (or perhaps younger), there was a sugar camp on my grandmother’s farm. Uncle Miller Rush tapped the trees. He took a ¾” bit and bored holes in the trees and drove two spoils in the holes he had bored. Spoils were made of alders with one side shaved off and the pith pushed out. The sap (or sugar water) ran out of those trees, through the spoils, and down into a trough that had been made from a piece of a butternut tree. It was hewed out and made into a trough.

The water was then carried from these troughs in buckets and put into barrels. It was then put in 18 or 20-gallon kettles which were placed over a furnace made of stones and clay. These kettles were hung on so-called trunnels made from wood. These trunnels were made with a forked end, with one end cut off and hooked over a pole. The sugar water was then boiled down to a syrup, keeping a big fire under the kettles. When the syrup reached a certain consistency, it was strained. If syrup was wanted for table use, it was taken off the fire before it got thick enough for sugar. When sugar was made, the syrup was boiled down real thick. It was then stirred with a large wooden paddle until it got crumbly. Grandmother had what they called a wooden cask, which held four or five gallons. I remember getting sugar out of that cask.

I just heard on the radio somebody talking about making a cake. I remember one of my first cakes. My step-mother had made a cake and, after she put it in the oven and it began to rise, she stirred it down. I told her I would make a cake for her. I was about twelve years old then. I made a cake and it wasn’t so bad.


Chapter 5: Work

Today, as I proceed with this history, it is January 8, 1944, and just 74 years ago today my mother died. I was nine years old. I look back and see the many changes. Father had a sleigh for traveling when snow was on the ground. In the summer, he would hitch two horses to a spring wagon. Sometimes he would hitch the horses to a “big wagon.”

I did not have a home like other girls. I would go places and do housework for people until they didn’t need me any longer. They would say, “I guess we don’t need you any longer,” then take me to my aunt’s or my uncle’s (my Uncle George Bricker’s). An old gentleman by the name of Hatcher had heard of me and he came to see if I wouldn’t come and live with them. I was just past fifteen. I went and stayed there five days. Mrs. Hatcher was eighty years old and was an old maid when she married. She was very queer and all the time when she would lie down, she would groan like this: aah, haa, aah, haa. So much that I couldn’t’ stand to hear her, so I told them I was needed at home. They gave me 50₵.

In the meantime, Nicholas Darling came for me to go to their house, as his wife wasn’t very well. They had no children. There was just Nicholas and his wife. She had been another “old maid,” as queer as one gets. But for all that, she was good to me in her way. She paid me $1.00 a week, but I had most of the work to do except baking. (Remember, girls didn’t get wages then like they do now.) I lived in their home about five months, then came back to my cousin Rose Thayer’s and Aunt Rebecca’s.

Later Mr. Darling came after me again, but I stayed there only two weeks, as his wife didn’t want to pay me what the work was worth. When he told her what he was to pay me ($1.50 a week), she said she wouldn’t have asked for my services, so I said I would go home. Then she wanted me to stay, but I was hurt by her saying what she did.

I walked some distance, to Fredericktown, Ohio, where my cousin Mary Thayer was working. I was thinking I could get her to go home with me on the train, but she refused, as she was expecting her friend Charley Hatten. Her mother, cousin Rose, had learned about Charley Hatten and sent Mary’s brother Elias to bring her home. When she told my cousin Rose and my Aunt Rebecca about my wanting to come home, they sent Whit Higby after me. He came with two horses, one with a side saddle for me to ride. The Darlings didn’t like my leaving, but such was life for me. Someone would come and say, “Can I get you to help us for a week or two?”—till they got their work done—then I would pack my clothes and go back home until somebody else wanted me.

When I was about 22 years of age, I went to work for a family by the name of Anderson. Mrs. Anderson was a nice woman. She told me they once had a “hired girl” by the name of Frye and how Mr. Anderson and his hired hand had hauled water for their livestock in a barrel and had put her in the barrel. One would hold her and the other would drive. While I was there, they got a new baby. When Mrs. Anderson was in bed and I passed Mr. Anderson on going out to milk the cow, he pulled me down on his lap. There was a table close by with some books on it. I got off his lap, took one of those books, and threw it at him—hitting him in the mouth. Was he mad! I got out the door as fast as I could, but he sent his boot after me. He didn’t like me after that, but there was no love lost between us. I decided to leave them and go back home to my cousin’s.

I wasn’t home yet when our neighbor, Mrs. Charlie Blaire, wanted me. I went. And what a difference! I didn’t have nearly the work to do—and I felt right at home with them. They had two little girls that liked me and I liked them. They would argue over which one would sleep with me. I was there eight weeks and they paid me the same wages as the Darlings did. After that I was a regular visitor in their home. When I went there, the little girls didn’t want me to leave and their mother always wanted me to stay. They were more like my own people than neighbors.

We lived across a field from the Blairs, about a mile, and to get there I would go through a valley where there were trees on both sides of the road and where birds of different kinds were, such as Blue Jays, Red Birds, and Merry Brown Thrush.

The two Blair girls, Lottie and Nellie, grew to be young ladies. But the eldest, Lottie, incurred tuberculosis and died. This, naturally, nearly broke her parents’ hearts, as well as the hearts of her grandparents. The younger girl, Nellie, got married to a school teacher by the name of Charles Body. Before these two girls were grown, a son was born, named Herbert (and a badly spoiled child he was). Then another girl named Mary. Nellie and Charles Body had one little girl when Lottie died.

The Blairs were good Christian people. Early in life they had parties at their home, as they had a big house. My cousin and I were always invited to these parties—oyster suppers, and so forth. Later, when I worked away farther from home, I didn’t visit them so often. I was at their home after I was married, then they left the farm and moved to Mt. Vernon. We were living in Mt. Vernon at the same time.

I worked for Deacon Travis for, I think, fourteen weeks. They paid me $2.00 a week. Later I went to Curtis Grubb’s for two weeks and it was from them that the James Ramsey’s heard about me. I went to the Ramsey’s and could have stayed there, but the Leonards offered me $2.00 a week, so I was there six months, after which I returned to the Ramsey’s.

From the Ramsey’s I went to work for a family by the name of Banning. They owned a flour mill and lived in Mount Vernon. Mrs. Banning was a nice person, but had never done much work. They had a little boy, William, who was three years old. William would walk up to anybody who came in the house and say, “I will spit in your face.” His father wouldn’t permit his mother to correct him. One day he said to me, “I will spit in your face.” I said, “If you do, I will wash your mouth out with soap. He said, “Wash my mouth.” I picked up a cloth and washed his mouth.

He cried and his mother came in and wanted to know what was the matter. I told her and she said, “Well, Willie, I can’t blame Ella.” Later she told me that had broken Willie of this bad habit. (I told him about this when he was grown.) Mrs. Banning said, when she showed me her diamonds, that she wouldn’t show them to other girls she had had. The father, mother, and this son have all gone to their rewards. The Bannings paid me only $2.00 a week and I left there after six weeks. There was too much work for this money.

I was always treated with great respect except by one old lady, a Mrs. McIntire. Mrs. McIntire had two girls who always wanted to be near me when I was there. Mrs. McIntire had a sick mother and the preacher and his wife came to see her and were going to have prayer. She asked her daughters to come into the room, but they wouldn’t go in without me. Then I asked to enter the room to have prayer, and Mrs. McIntire made a remark that humiliated me.

I also went to Levi Braddock’s and was there six weeks when I decided to quit and made the excuse that I was needed at home. Then I decided I would go and be a chamber maid at the Gambier School for Girls. But before I was ready to leave, John White came for me to work for them. It was from there that your daddy started keeping company with me.

I stayed a part of that winter at my cousin Rose Thayer’s, then went back to the Ramsey’s and stayed there until I was married to your father on November 26, 1890. The marriage ceremony was performed by Rev. Joseph Hamilton, the same minister who preached my mother’s funeral and who was pastor of the Methodist Church called Liberty Chapel (which my mother had attended, with which I was united, and where my father was a member after my mother’s death—and where he was baptized and laid to rest).

As I have said, I quit school at sixteen and, as I wasn’t left with much of this life’s goods, I went out to make my living amongst strangers. I was 23 years of age when I went to live with the Ramsey family, who had one child, a boy nine years old. They were grand people and Mrs. Ramsey was like a mother to me. Their names were James and Almeda. It was about seven years from the time I went to live with them until I was married.


Chapter 6: Family

On February 2, 1891, your father and I moved onto the Peter Allerding farm—where we lived for three years. On this farm, David Harold was born on April 23, 1892 and Cecile May on October 6, 1893. We then moved onto the Ramsey farm, where Irene Elizabeth was born on January 30, 1895.

We then bought a farm of 70 acres, known as the Dave Travis farm, which is between the two Delaware roads, about seven miles west of Mount Vernon. We moved to this farm on April 1, 1895. On July 30, 1896, Floyd Jacob Bryan was born. On May 25, 1898, twins, George Andrew and Rose Anna, were born. And on September 23, 1900, Mildred Marie was born. All on the Travis farm.

In recalling the past, when we lived on the Allerding farm, near the Ramsey’s, I went to town in a cart, driving a horse we called Jack. At the Ramsey place I passed some boys, among whom was “Do Do” Ringwalt. He reached over with a whip and hit Jack (a colt your daddy had brought from home), who started to run. “Do Do” was a mental case.

When we lived on the Ramsey place, Daddy hitched up a horse named Dandy—a colt Grandfather White had given him—and we went out to look for hogs. When we got as far as the Lewis place, some boys in an old shop scared Dandy. The horse started to run and turned the cart over on its side, where I was sitting, throwing me between the side of the cart and the wheel. I was dragged until Dandy got loose from the cart. But Daddy held on and Dandy made a sled of him, pulling him by just the lines.

Daddy lost the skin off his little finger and I had a fractured rib. And were we muddy! But we were lucky not to be worse off. Daddy kept Dandy until the fall of 1900 when Mildred was born, then sold him and bought a mare we named Rock (to raise colts).

The first colt was a horse I named Captola. She had Queen and then Belle. Queen and Belle were our team when we later lived in Mt. Vernon. Daddy bought a mate for Captola, which we named Morgue (after the man by the name of Morgan from whom we purchased him). Daddy sold this team to make the final payment on a house we had bought in Mount Vernon, on Sandusky St. Incidentally, the man who bought this team was blown to pieces by nitroglycerine—a sad ending. But not the horses he had bought from us, Cap and Morgue.

When I look back over my life with Daddy, I recall the first year we lived on the Allerding farm. I went out and raked hay in a green calico dress, which got caught in the gears of the rake and was ruined.

When we left the Ramsey farm and moved onto our own farm between the two Delaware roads—the David Travis farm—Irene was two months old. I couldn’t help much, but as soon as I could wrap up the children and take them to the barn, I would leave them in the “entry” while I did the milking and feeding. Sometimes your father would take a load of hogs to town in the afternoon, getting home at night. I would take the lantern, go out to meet him, and stay with him until he had his horses put in the barn. I did this until the children got big enough to do it.

As I said, I always went to the barn and put feed in the boxes for the horses when your Daddy was gone. When we were on our farm, I mowed hay, raked hay, loaded hay, cut corn, and hauled in corn. Why did I do it? To get ahead and have something for my children.

I was just thinking how you children used to go to meet your Daddy when you would see him coming up the road from town toward home. He would stop and let you in the wagon and almost always have a sack of candy for you. But longest joys don’t last forever. As I said, your Daddy would occasionally go to town in the afternoon, then seldom got home until late at night. You children would be in bed, but I always stayed up and got his supper and took the lantern and held it for him until he got his horse unhitched.

I remember that one time I was holding the lantern when “Old Rock” jumped at me. (She was very mean about biting people.) I started backward and couldn’t stop until I fell down. One time I rode the mowing machine to cut clover for seed, with Mildred on my lap a part of the time. Once, when all the children were at school, I said to your Daddy, “You harness the horses and, when I get my work done, I will hitch them up and haul in a load of corn.” Then he would drive it to the house and unload it while I got dinner.

Just remembering and living life over again! Having a family, there was work for all. One day I sent Irene and Floyd to the potato patch to dig some potatoes. Irene was about five years old and Floyd eighteen months younger. I heard Floyd cry. He had bent over to pick up some potatoes and, when Irene went to dig some more, she struck just in time to hit him on the nose. When he came to the house, his nose was bleeding and the right nostril was closed by the hoe hitting it—a thing that should have been taken care of by a doctor. But your Daddy wasn’t one to have a doctor for “little things.”

When Mildred was three years old, I wanted to go to see my Aunt Margaret Smith (my mother’s twin sister), who lived in Hebron, Ohio (near Newark). We had a field of small corn, which your Daddy said was so short he dreaded cutting it. I said, “If you will take me to see Aunt Margaret, I will help cut the corn.” I helped out on that and another field. We got a neighbor to stay with the children and drove “Old Rock,” hitched to a buggy, to Hebron. I think we stayed about three days.

I have prayed that the Lord might spare my life to make my son Harold a home, for it seems no one in the family wants to keep him in theirs. He has an ungovernable temper and some think he should be put in a home for the feeble-minded. However, he is not one who could be called “silly.” At times, he seems as bright as other people. When he went to school, he didn’t learn like the others did, but he can read and can tell a lot of what he learned in history.

The children all went to school, and Cecile and Irene passed the Boxwell examination (required before entrance to a high school). But where were they going to stay while in school? One day we were driving up Sandusky Street in Mount Vernon and noticed a house for sale. It was the home where my cousin Emma Rush-Secord had lived. Your Daddy went to see the administrator, a Dr. Wagner, and bought the place.

When school began in the fall, we moved the two girls down into some of the rooms of this house which were unoccupied. Then we moved from the farm to this house the first of April, 1910, when Cecile and Irene were still in high school. Four of the others went to grammar school there. Cecile decided to quit high school and got a job in a dry goods store and then got married. But Irene continued in high school for three more years. We them moved back to the farm, leaving Cecile and Irene at the home in Mt. Vernon. Later George entered high school.

Cecile married Frank Koletka on August 18, 1913. On October 20, 1914, a baby girl, Rose Marie, was born. They soon went to live in Huntington, West Virginia, where her husband’s people lived. Then they had a son, Jack. Irene also married and had a baby girl, Anita. Cecile got work in a dry goods store in Huntington and asked Irene, who had given up housekeeping, to come down to Huntington to keep house for her—which she did. When Anita was a year old, Irene saw an ad in a newspaper for a stenographer. She answered it and got the job. Then she sent for my last girl, Mildred, who went to Huntington (leaving me all alone with their father and two boys, Harold and Floyd George). In the meantime, Rose married.

When we moved into our own home. The house was larger and newer than where we had rented. It had a shingle roof on the main part. But your daddy thought a slate roof would last longer, so he decided to put a slate roof on it. He, my half-brother Franklin, and Charles Hatten (my cousin Mary Hatten’s husband) put the roof on.


Chapter 7: The Fire

One day later, George (who was too young to go to school), put wood in the heating stove in the dining room (a stove we called the “parlor cook stove”). It was dry rail wood. The chimney was built on two wood planks. They caught fire.

The fire was making good headway when Cecile and Irene discovered there was a large hole burning in the ceiling. Your father was at the far end of the farm. I sent two of the children to him, two to our neighbors (the Myerses), and put a 15-foot ladder up on the house. I screamed “fire” as loudly as I could. The neighbors came running and said they could have heard me for two miles. Your daddy went up on the house and said “We will have to cut a hole in the roof.” He did and found the fire was going up the rafters. If he hadn’t, the main part of the house would have been on fire.

This was the fall, when men were getting ready to sow their wheat. Thus, the house just stood there as it was, with nothing done to the flue or roof. Night after night, I would look up at that flue and see if there was any fire there. After Daddy got his wheat sowed, Charles Hatten helped him tear the roof off the dining room, build a bedroom on the south of the dining room, move the pantry from the south to the east of the dining room, and raze the kitchen and move it to the south. The door, which was formerly on the outside of the house, now led to the pantry. The door which had been the south outside door to the dining room now went into the bedroom.

Then we made stairs to the basement out of what was our long sitting room on the southwest corner of the dining room, and made a back stairs leading from the downstairs bedroom. The roof over the dining room was razed and we made a bedroom over the dining room. An outside entrance to the basement was also built. This was all done in the fall of 1903, when Mildred was three years old.


Chapter 8: Crystal Anniversaries & Farms

When we were married fifteen years, we had a crystal wedding anniversary. Two preachers were there, Rev. McBroom and Rev. Warren Bedell. Rev. Bedell was a schoolmate and friend of my father. There were about 100 people present. We set a table in the front yard, had a 10-gallon can of ice cream, plenty of cake, and a whole stalk of bananas. The party was not to get presents, but to get our friends together (although we received some very nice crystalware; I still have some pieces left). There have been many changes since then.

Those two ministers and their wives have gone to their reward and only a few of the others are left. My children are all grown and married—except Harold. Some of their children have married and now have children.

Daddy’s mother died in the fall of 1896. Your daddy did his father’s farming until his father died in the fall of 1898. Your daddy’s father wanted he and his brother David to take over the place, but his daughters Jennie McKinstry, Mary Doty, and Sarah Lacey went to court and took the estate out of the administrator’s hands. It was then sold by the Sheriff and Judge Wayt bid on it. He tried to settle with your daddy’s brother, John White, but he couldn’t get him to agree to anything. Judge Wayt came out from Mt. Vernon on two different days. He ate dinner with us the first day and said he would eat the next day with John, but that John was so cross, he came back and ate dinner with us the second day.

Thus, Daddy gave up getting any of his father’s farm. John and Cassius Ewalt (sister Anna’s husband) got a surveyor’s chain and parceled land off the west side and wanted Daddy to take it, but he let them have it all.

Later, Ransom Yaokum sold Daddy eighty acres from his farm to the north of ours. Later a man who owned what was called “the McIntire land” sold him fifty acres. Daddy came home from town the evening after he had bought the fifty acre tract and said, “I did something bad today.” I said, “What did you do?” He replied, “I bought the fifty acres over there” (making us 206 acres). The first year we owned this fifty acres, I think we must have harvested 200 bushels of wheat off that place. The next year Daddy, with the children’s help, put up seven big ricks of hay off the same field. The children rode the horses and dragged in the shocks. Elder McBroom helped him that year. We all worked and saved.

I can remember that, after we were married and during the presidency of Grover Cleveland, we sold hogs for three cents a pound. Later that year, we got seven cents a pound. When I was a child, and after the Civil War, muslin was 15₵ and 20₵ a yard. I remember that I got muslin later for 6₵ and 8₵ a yard, and once I bought calico for 3₵ a yard.

Later, when the South began to rebuild and raised more cotton, prices came down to where calico and prints that had sold for 25₵ came down to 10₵ and 12-1/2₵. Woolens sold at $1.00, $1.50, and $2.00 a yard, and there was not much that we could afford to buy (the effect of the Civil War). Times finally got better and farmers were paid some better prices, but not until the last twenty-five years did farmers get better prices for what they produced. But, really, these were the good old “wagon” days, before the automobile. Fewer people were killed.

Your father was the youngest of eleven children and is the only surviving member at this date. His sister, Anna, died two years ago, the 13th of January. We were married fifty-three years on November 26, 1943.

At the time of this writing, I am in Huntington, West Virginia, with my daughter Irene. I will be 83 years old on January 5, 1944. I don’t amount to much—only keep Irene company. My daughter, Rose Anna (Riley) is at our place, keeping the home fires burning. Your father is quite feeble for his years and not as able to work as I am.

Your Mother,

S/ Rosella Rabinski


If you’ve finished this term paper-cum-mini book of American history, you deserve an amusing anecdote. Granma Rabinski had provided me with only hardcopy of my great-great grandmother’s manually typed paper (we must remember, it was written in late 1943, nearly two years before the end of World War II).

The availability of only a physical copy, with nothing digital, meant I had no option but to manually type the paper on my laptop. A small task for such an interesting chunk of history, right?

Until the file became corrupted during my final edit. I had to not only repeat the editing, but also re-type all of the words. Every last one of them.

So if you find me channeling my great-great Granma’s writing style, you now know why….


[1] A type of floor characterized by roughly hewn floorboards, common in log cabins during the colonial and pioneer days of the United States.

[2] According to Wikipedia, a hogshead is a large cask of liquid or food. A tobacco hogshead, for example, was a very large wooden barrel (in standardized form, it was 48 inches long and 30 inches in diameter and weighed roughly 1,000 pounds) and was used in American colonial times to store tobacco.

[3] According to Wikipedia, “carding” is a mechanical process that disentangles, cleans, and intermixes fibers to produce a continuous web or sliver suitable for subsequent processing.

[4] Known today as linsey-woolsey.

[5] According to Wikipedia, this is lined, legal-size paper that is called foolscap because, in the 18th century, folio-size paper featured a watermark of a fool’s cap.


All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2016 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.

Gooey Rabinski is a writer, instructional designer, and cannabis satirist who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, The KindSKUNK, Cannabis Culture, WhaxyHeads, Weed World, Green Flower MediaCannabis HBK11RenderHealth Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.

He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.

His cannabis-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.

The Power of Critical Thinking

Recently, I was feeling beaten. Battered. Tired of the game of cannabis prohibition, I was yearning for more progressive neighbors than I find in Central Texas.

Despite the trendy music and art culture and hipster neckbeards abundantly scattered throughout Austin, the fact that I’m a daily consumer of cannabis—but live in a prohibitionist state—was weighing on me.

And the real kicker: This is the case with the majority of cannabis consumers in America. Despite great progress in states like Oregon, California, and Washington, most patients and adult users are simply playing the same ol’ game of black market bingo, often with stiff penalties if they get caught.

Anger & Intelligence

Anger isn’t an intelligent emotion. It almost never improves a situation or is a recommended strategic interlude during one’s planning sessions. Like tens of millions of other cannabis advocates around the world, I was not happy.

I took my downtrodden, pathetic self and attacked the road on my bike (think carbon fiber, not Harley Davidson). It was a blatant and desperate effort to forge through the mental and emotional fog that was thwarting some of my best attempts to be productive and drop insightful words into articles.


Research is a big part of the jobs of writers. While finished articles, books, and courses are often sexy (stick with me, here), the research that enables their creation typically isn’t. From flakey Wikipedia entries to bad links buried in academic research papers, my days often aren’t worthy of entertaining discussion at the weekend barbeque.

With such a torrent of information passing through my eyes and ears, I’ll admit, standout pieces are rare. I sometimes just shut it all down and go spend time in nature or playing in traffic (cycling) in an effort to escape from the same tired memes and oversaturated article topics streaming through social media.


Then, one evening, after a restless post-ride sleep that, while physically refreshing, left me mentally frustrated and still full of angst, I found a burning bush.

The Burning Bush

I was trying to rationalize my state of mind. “Challenging days are good,” I thought to myself. “Hard days give you empathy for patients, like folks who can’t get out of bed or are relegated to a wheelchair,” I preached to my jaded mind.

I imagined what a traumatized sissy I was, waylaid by a single mildly confrontational day. I was able to physically get out of bed this morning. I was able to work. My fingers functioned on the keyboard. I was able to eat unassisted.

What the hell was I whining about?

I was angered by things like placid bureaucrats and unresponsive senators. Stories of families uprooted from conservative states such as Kentucky, Ohio, and Kansas to move to more enlightened areas, where they or their children can gain safe access to laboratory tested, high-quality cannabis medicine, were a big part of my negative feelings.

Regardless of how much Denis Leary or The Doors I listened to on Spotify in an effort to improve my mood, it just wasn’t working. Even my mad, sativa-pimped cycling adventure missed the mark (losing myself in riding is typically my break-glass-in-case-of-emergency move).

Then I came across a photo on Twitter of a middle aged man in the suburbs urinating in the gas tank of a car (he resembles my deceased grandfather, sans the beer).

Research. Politics. Botany. Psychology. Chemistry. It all became seemingly so absurd in light of a photograph of an adult peeing into the side of a late model Ford Taurus, replete with a can of what appears to be Budweiser precariously perched on the trunk (maybe the Photochop experts in my reader base can discern this detail).

man-peeing-on-Ford-Taurus-Gooey-Rabinski-was-here

And then something magically simple happened: The poster asked for feedback on a video he had put on YouTube.

You know what? It was one of the best damn videos I have watched in a long time. Was it the massive production budget? No. The amazing CGI effects? Um, not quite. The sexy cleavage heaving forth from a young blonde more intent on discussing her contrived opinion of rolling papers than the plight of sick patients?

No again. Thank effing god.

It was critical thinking. It was a young person brave enough to plug in his brain, use it, and speak truth to power—with his face on camera.

In a world enamored by a massive amount of shitty content, the good stuff sometimes seems oh-so-rare. Making it oh-so-fantastic when one finally trips across these golden nuggets of information.

Instead of me describing it further, why don’t you check it out for yourself? Watch it before you go to bed, and think about what you heard as you attempt to drift off. Especially if you’re getting to sleep with the pharmaceutical drug Ambien instead of a good cannabis indica.

How safe are the people who are being addicted to opiates by a medical establishment that places profits over patients?

The power of social media and mobile technology is creating a revolution in how information—and opinions—are expressed and shared. Don’t make my mistake and get so frustrated that you forget the power that resides in your keyboard or webcam.


All text Copyright © 2003-2016 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.

Gooey Rabinski is a senior technical writer and instructional designer who has contributed feature articles to magazines such as High Times, SKUNK, Cannabis CultureHeads, Weed World, Cannabis HBK11RenderHealth Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself. He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.

His freelance work appears online at Green Flower Media, The Kind, Whaxy, and others.

His cannabis-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.

America Votes on Cannabis

As America goes to vote today, several states, counties, and municipalities are considering cannabis-related issues. Below is a short list rundown of some of the major efforts in three states: Oregon, Ohio, and Colorado.

Oregon Counties: Banning Sales?

In Oregon, many counties and cities are voting on whether to ban recreational sales of the plant. In counties that received at least 55% of the vote for legalization a couple of years back, a ballot issue must be presented to voters in the county to again decide if they want to ban sales within their own borders (counties can’t negate the legality of cannabis possession and consumption—that would defy state law).

oregon flag

Those counties in Oregon that received under 55% of the vote during the state election can simply decide that they want to ban sales by a legal mechanism like a city council resolution involving no popular vote. Thus, a county in which 54% of the voters said yes to legal recreational cannabis for the state of Oregon may find itself facing a ban on rec sales after a conservative city council goes against the obvious will of the voters.

This sad and divisive state of affairs exemplifies the fact that the anti-cannabis culture war is alive and well. The Drug War may be gearing down, but cultural resistance to cannabis and those who use or even celebrate it is alive and well.

Evangelicals, conservatives, and those who pine for the nonexistent “good ol’ days” are organizing on social media and combining their forces to prevent national, federal legalization of medical or lifestyle cannabis. People of this mindset consider medical to simply be a ruse intended to allow full legalization to take over the nation (and for some activists, it probably is). Forget helping patients, fear mongering is the rule of the day among conservatives hellbent on preventing a dispensary, retail outlet, or cannabis social lounge from appearing in their community.

Ohio: Fully Legalizing?

In Ohio, of course, there’s the controversial and very schizophrenic ResponsibleOhio-backed Issue 3 to fully legalize cannabis possession and consumption. More on this after the election. Personally, I’m hoping it passes and that Issue 2, the Legislature-sponsored anti-monopoly bill, fails. Why? Because a failure of Issue 3 would be bad for the national momentum of the cannabis legalization movement.

Yes, I hate oligopolies and the often-greedy two percenters. But the big picture goal is full national legalization and the right for all tax-paying citizens to cultivate. Until that goal is achieved, intelligent strategy must prevail and some setbacks will inevitably be endured. It’s called politics because getting some of what we want doesn’t always involve getting everything we want, regardless of whether we’re “right.”

Ohio_flag

Issue 3 is bad in many respects. Many pundits are ardently opposed to many parts of it. However, the majority of those same experts are advocating for passage of Issue 3. If it fails—and Issue 2 succeeds—it will spell a long and difficult road for the Buckeye State to join the ranks of those states that have chosen the very progressive route of fully regulated and taxed legalization for adults 21 and over.

Even worse, it will be cited by conservative voices as an example of how moderate and conservative voters in America’s heartland don’t want legal pot, be it medical or recreational. If passed, even if it was negated by passage of Issue 2, Issue 3 will send a signal that more traditional states from untraditional parts of the country are also onboard with the full legalization of cannabis, including its many economic bennies.

Colorado: Show Me The Money?

And in Colorado, citizens will vote to determine if the state must return about $66 million in tax revenues collected from recreational pot sales. Personally, while I’m not currently residing in Colorado, I say let the state keep it. It makes even more impressive the state’s metrics when it comes to tax revenues and assistance to a struggling educational infrastructure and deteriorating roads. And these numbers are simply getting bigger and bigger each month.


Those of you in legal states, enjoy your newfound freedom. Those still struggling to gain safe, regulated access to reasonably priced, high-quality open-market cannabis and cannabis products in most parts of the country must continue to be patient—or move to a legal state.

With four states and D.C. now on our side, there are at least options. Seattle, Denver, and Portland are all excellent cities with vibrant economies, even moreso now that they have legalized and are collecting taxes.


Gooey Rabinski is a technical writer and instructional designer who has contributed feature articles to magazines such as High Times, Skunk, Heads, Weed World, Cannabis HBK11RenderHealth Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself. He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana (2015 Edition), available on Amazon Kindle, and a contributing writer at Whaxy.com.

His marijuana-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.

 

Summer of Love: Ohio Legalization, Drug Testing, Rogue DEA

It’s officially mid-September and most of us are looking back on a long, dry (or wet) summer filled with good cannabis medicine and memories of having shared it with friends.

So what were the major events or announcements of the summer of 2015? How did medical and recreational cannabis consumers both make advances and suffer setbacks during a summer that continued one of the worse droughts the western part of the nation has ever experienced?


Ohio Leads Red State Legalization

First, Ohio’s privately backed marijuana legalization voter initiative, ResponsibleOhio, will appear on the November ballot as Issue 3. Both proponents and detractors are currently haggling over the exact language that will appear at the voting booth, noting that a tone that leans one way or the other could sway the election—especially in an off-off year in which there are no major federal or state offices up for grabs.

ResponsibleOhio offers the Buckeye State’s patients and tokers the appeal of legal purchase, possession, and consumption, and would even allow those willing to pay a $50 annual fee and be registered in a database (that may or may not find its way to the DEA) to grow up to four mature plants.

responsibleohio-ohio-marijuana-v2

Ohioans who have experienced arrest or incarceration due to possession of relatively small quantities of cannabis can empathize with the need to fully decriminalize the herb for use by both recreational and medical users. The state will save millions in law enforcement and judicial system expenses if legalization occurs and a network of cultivation and manufacturing facilities, dispensaries, and retail outlets appears to satisfy consumer demand and push the black market and Mexican cartels out of many communities.

And therein lies the catch: While Ohio’s highly regulated system would permit up to 1,100 manufacturing facilities and retail outlets to be created, it would limit the number of cultivation facilities to only 10 pre-designated locations throughout the state. These facilities would be owned by the 10 investors who currently compose the ResponsibleOhio PAC and investment group.

Should Ohio’s patients and smokers take the bait, supporting a system that some label a “cartel” and others agree is an oligopoly? (Technically, it isn’t a monopoly because more than one company would control production.) Helping thousands of pot-loving citizens forego the embarrassment and expense of a drug bust and possible jail time is certainly a good thing.

But what about Ohio’s farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs? You know, the mom and pop operations. While it can be argued that inclusion of such small businesses may introduce concerns for product quality and customer service, one thing is certain: Ohioans would suffer higher prices and more limited selection with an arbitrary cap on production facilities at only 10. It’s certainly not a “free market” approach.

Ohio_flag

Despite recently obtaining enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, ResponsibleOhio still has an uphill battle. Opponents of both legalized cannabis and corporate monopolies in the state legislature recently introduced a bill that would stop ResponsibleOhio in its tracks. If the bill passes, it would nullify ResponsibleOhio’s effort.

One can reasonably ask, what if both cannabis legalization and the anti-monopoly bill pass? Normally, the bill receiving a larger number of votes would take precedence. However, because of the specific language of each of these bills, the anti-monopoly law would take effect immediately, whereas cannabis would not become legalized until 30 days following the election, on December 3.

The “in force” status of the anti-monopoly law would prevent the ResponsibleOhio effort, regardless of how many votes it receives, from ever going into effect. While some might call this a dirty trick and others will label it business-as-usual in politics, it’s easy to understand how the stakeholders in ResponsibleOhio might feel a bit chapped if each has invested nearly $4 million to be on the losing end of a political pissing match.


Employees Get Help & Harm

In other news, employees experienced both a slap and a helping hand from state governments this summer. In Colorado, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that a patient who worked for Dish Network could be fired after testing positive for cannabis—despite the fact that he was a registered medical patient in the state.

The logic of the justices? The fact that the act of consuming cannabis is legal in the state of Colorado, but illegal at the federal level. To defend the behavior, the Court determined that the act must be legal at both the state and federal level. The employer, Dish Network, was therefore acting legally in firing an employee for violating a federal law. Despite the fact that the employee is restricted to a wheelchair, never consumed on the job, and always performed satisfactorily.

Congress for blog

In Washington, D.C., however, patients and recreational smokers got a break when the District passed a law prohibiting employers within its borders from drug testing job applicants and employees. Their logic was simple (and should have been embraced by the prohibitionist justices on the Colorado Supreme Court): If it’s legal to cultivate, possess, and consume an herb, it’s illogical to then penalize or prosecute those same legal activities.

Hopefully Colorado’s legislature or a voter referendum will emerge that directly prohibits cannabis testing on the part of companies or government agencies. Anywhere that medical or recreational consumption is legalized, it only makes sense to also prohibit testing for that behavior.

A recent Court of Appeals ruling in Arizona had made use of the smell of cannabis prohibited as probable cause during police stops, arrests, or investigations.

The court based its decision on the fact that legitimate medical marijuana patients would be deemed “second-class citizens,” “losing their rights to privacy and security, including privacy within their own homes.”

Judge Peter Eckerstrom, writing for the majority, said:

“Medical marijuana use pursuant to [Arizona Medical Marijuana Act] is lawful under Arizona law. Therefore its scent alone does not disclose whether a crime has occurred.”


Federal-Level Shenanigans

Most of the progress being made in the medical and recreational legalization movements has occurred at the state level. While favorable and progressive legislation continues to be introduced in Congress—often with bipartisan support, as is the case with the Rand Paul-sponsored CARERS Act—there’s also plenty of bad news coming out of Washington.

First, Congress tempted cannapreneurs and business owners with the prospect of an amendment that would grant a federal blessing to merchant banking services for the cannabis industry. Unfortunately, the amendment never got out of a committee run by a conservative Republican.

CARERS Act sponsors for twitter

Without robust merchant banking services, the cannabis cultivation and retail markets will remain the red headed stepchild of the business world. Working almost exclusively in cash (and paying vendors and others in money orders) is not only a ridiculously 20th century hassle, but also dangerous. Cultivators and dispensary owners have enough security headaches, given the value of their product, without having to worry about the theft of their cash.

Congress has also failed to pass any legislation that helps military veterans with PTSD get treatment with medical cannabis. While advocacy groups promote the fact that at least 22 veterans commit suicide each day—many of whom are suffering from severe PTSD and other anxiety disorders—the nation’s leaders are dragging their heels.

There is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that cannabis is one of the most therapeutic treatments for veterans who have suffered from severe trauma and have returned to the civilian world. While war veterans both suffer and die, senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle continue to bury their heads in 20th century ideology and an anti-progressive mindset.

Another blow for PTSD: On July 15, the Colorado Board of Health voted 6-2 against including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on the list of medical conditions recognized by the state’s medical cannabis program.

Other federal-level shakeups included the firing/resignation of former DEA chief Michele Leonhart, mostly over the Mexican cartel-funded prostitutes who were cavorting with DEA agents in Columbia—not her prohibitionist zeal for ignoring the medical benefits of cannabis and prosecuting growers, patients, and dispensaries.  Of course, a vote of “no confidence” by 20 lawmakers on the House Oversight committee certainly didn’t help Ms. Leonhart’s chances of surviving in the organization.

The new DEA chief, Chuck Rosenberg, made headlines in early August when he admitted that heroin is more dangerous than cannabis—and then promptly put his foot in his mouth by saying that he wasn’t an expert on the topic. Thousands of cannabis activists world-wide cried foul, asking “Don’t we want drug experts running our Drug Enforcement Administration?”

Speaking of the DEA, which falls under the Department of Justice, two Representatives from California, Democrat Sam Farr and Republican Dana Rohrabacher, lashed out at former Attorney General Eric Holder with a letter in April, basically asking why the hell the DEA was still investing federal tax dollars in going after individuals and businesses in states that have legalized medical or recreational cannabis.

DOJ defies law for twitter

According to the Justice Department, the law prevents it “from impeding the ability of States to carry out their medical marijuana laws, not from taking actions against particular individuals or entities, even if they are acting compliant with State law.”

However, this clearly isn’t the spirit of the law. In April, Rohrabacher and Farr sent a letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder to clarify their position and the intent of the law. “As the authors of the provision in question, we write to inform you that this interpretation of our amendment is emphatically wrong.”

The new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, has yet to speak up regarding the DEA’s role in states that have legalized cannabis and where, culturally, it is a common and accepted medical therapy or recreational activity. How will she respond to Reps Farr and Rohrabacher?

With the DEA basically telling members of Congress that it reports to a higher authority (called the Controlled Substances Act) and the Schedule I status of cannabis, Lynch will inevitably be pressured to take action or speak up on the topic and address the concerns of representatives from the most populated state in the nation. Farr and Rohrabacher will no doubt pressure her on the issue that the DEA is, basically, breaking the law when it hassles patients or dispensaries in states like California, Colorado, and Washington.


States Push to Eliminate Federal Interference

In early August, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a resolution asking Congress that federal laws “be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference.”

With efforts like the CARERS Act in Congress getting little traction (despite some big name backing from New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul), progressive state legislatures are asking the feds to make it official. Essentially, state governments are asking Congress to officially step back from any interference with state laws intended to legalize cannabis and provide safe access for both patients and recreational users.

Of course, with progressive states pestering the feds for true independence when it comes to the legalization and regulation of cannabis and a thriving cannabis marketplace, there are also the Luddite states. New York, for example, over the summer chose only five companies to win lucrative cultivation permits to build large facilities in the state. The Empire State’s medical program is so restricted, however, that many observers and advocates claim it will be nearly worthless.

narrow-medical-marijuana-laws-2

Meanwhile, both Kansas and Oklahoma sued Colorado back in the spring, claiming that its legalization will result in plenty of cannabis product making its way across state borders. Colorado responded by saying that Kansas and Oklahoma are free to also legalize, obliterating cartel control and black markets in both states and, with it, any fear that illegal contraband is crossing over their borders.

The two states are also suing the federal government on the grounds that the lazy feds are being negligent by allowing states like Colorado and Oregon to legalize and regulate a thriving and rapidly growing cannabis market. Of course, it’s a market that caters to the desires of consumers and contributes tens of millions of dollars in tax dollars to the school system. It also results in decreased crime rates, lower teenage usage levels, and fewer traffic fatalities (going counter to prohibitionist predictions).


That’s enough for this blog post. Next week, I’ll tackle the dearth of cannabis research and how other federal shenanigans, including the sluggish progress of the CARERS Act, has maintained the Schedule I status of cannabis and prevented any significant research or human trials into its efficacy in the United States.


Gooey Rabinski is a counterculture writer who has contributed to magazines such as HBK11RenderHigh Times, Cannabis CultureSKUNK, HeadsWeed World, and Cannabis Health Journal. He is currently a contributing writer at Whaxy and the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana (2015 Edition), available on Amazon Kindle.

His marijuana-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinsk

The Schizophrenia of ResponsibleOhio

[Updated August 16, 2015]

Come November, voters in Ohio will have to decide if they want a highly regulated cannabis legalization law to go into effect in their state by voting yes or no on Issue 3. The law would allow citizens to legally purchase, possess, and consume marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

Like progressive leaders Oregon, California, Colorado, and Alaska, all of which legalized recreational cannabis within the past two years, Ohio’s law would permit adults 21 and over to cultivate the herb. Ohio’s particular regulations specify up to four indoor plants and possession of up to eight ounces of raw marijuana flowers. Outdoor gardens, permitted in much of California and Oregon, would be prohibited, however (just as they are in Colorado,). All forms of personal cultivation are currenty banned in Washington State.

Only Ten Producers

The initiative, sponsored by a group of wealthy individual investors (some of whom are minor celebrities) and based in Columbus, the state’s capital, would limit production of marijuana to only ten pre-selected facilities positioned throughout the state. The state would then license roughly 1,100 businesses, at fees of between $10,000 and $50,000, to open manufacturing facilities, medical dispensaries, and retail outlets.

responsibleohio-ohio-marijuana-v2

These businesses would be forced to purchase their herbal product  from the ten cultivation facilities. In this respect, the scheme is a monopoly (technically, it is an oligopoly) that would prevent any person or business, regardless of their expertise or potential benefit to the market, to get into the business of cannabis production (above the four plants per adult personal limit).

ResponsibleOhio, of course, argues that it will not be a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel based on the fact that the ten companies will compete with each other. It is assumed that retail outlets and dispensaries would be capable of purchasing from any and all of the ten facilities. However, this would ultimately be determined not by ResponsibleOhio or its member companies, but instead by a governing board appointed by Governor Kasich, a Republican who is opposed to legalization (and may appoint his prohibitionist buddies to administer the program).

It can easily be argued that so few production facilities would result in a lack of innovation and possibly little research and development—such as the breeding of new medicinal strains. The recreational quality (high type), medical efficacy (cannabinoid profile), and potency of pot produced by the ResponsibleOhio investment group-cum-constitutionally amended state law would depend entirely on how vigilantly the ten production facilities competed with one another (and the regulations surrounding that competition and their individual operations that are eventually written and implemented by the state).

Good for Consumers

For consumers, ResponsibleOhio is a pretty sweet deal, but would almost certainly result in higher prices than in some other states. Medical users will be permitted to purchase discounted (wholesale) marijuana at designated dispensaries (among the 1,100 businesses permitted under the initiative) if they are registered with the state (as in California). Recreational users would purchase from retail outlets and require no registration. If ResponsibleOhio’s legal herb is of relatively low quality or costs more than the black market, citizens will have the option of growing their own (if they wish to remain legal).

34306114001_4001302384001_video-still-for-video-4001343279001

Unlike what is offered by the current black market, the investment group’s ten cultivation factories would utilize outside laboratories to batch test all cannabis grown. It could be argued that the ability to visit a medical dispensary or retail outlet and purchase a product that has been thoroughly tested, with accurate labeling and a guarantee of quality, safety, and purity is certainly worth the prices currently being charged by the black market.

It is sad, however, that a lack of competition at the cultivation level would most certainly curtail innovation and the competition necessary to truly drive down prices.

For cannabis consumers in the Buckeye State, ResponsibleOhio is so much better than the prohibition with which they live now that it’s not even funny. With the exception of the continued prohibition of outdoor gardens, consumers would have the option of purchasing on the black market (and possibly getting busted), buying from a medical dispensary or retail outlet, or growing their own. No longer would adults be convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana or personal gardens.

Bad for Employees

However, the proposed ResponsibleOhio legislation in no way protects employees who legally use medical or recreational marijuana. Employers who are acclimated to drug testing employees—and firing those who fail drugs tests—will continue to be legally permitted to do so.

In this respect, ResponsibleOhio addresses some of the concerns of Ohio’s citizens who wish to avoid the black market and legally cultivate, possess, and consume cannabis as medicine or euphoriant while avoiding some of the stickier issues of workplace drug testing and the rights of both workers and the companies that employ them.

Colorado-says-patients-can-be-fired-for-pot2

Brandon Coats, who lost lawsuit over firing for legal medical cannabis consumption in Colorado

On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana patients can be fired if they fail a drug test. Even in this progressive state, prohibitionist forces are defending employers and outdated practices from the late 20th century and Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign. Would a legal challenge in Ohio’s court system produce a different result, especially given the current conservative Republican legislature and presidential candidate Kasich’s opposition to cannabis legalization of any type?

Crain’s Business Cleveland article from August 16 describes how a variety of groups in Ohio oppose the bill, including the Council of Smaller Enterprises, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

The board of directors of the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association on August 13 announced opposition to the ballot issue “on the grounds that granting what, in effect, are business monopolies would undermine free-market competition.”

According to Ian James, the executive director of ResponsibleOhio, “This is disappointing, but not surprising.”

“They all know that legalization does not have an impact on the ability to enforce drug-free workplaces. After passage of the marijuana legalization amendment, you remain a drug-free and a zero-tolerance workplace, period.”   — Ian James

The only problem with James’ logic is that metabolites of THC, the chemical compound in cannabis that delivers its euphoric high, remain detectable in the human body for roughly 30 days following consumption of the herb or an extract or concentrate thereof (like tinctures, edibles, and oils). Heavy habitual users may test positive up to two months after ceasing consumption.

ian james for gooey rabinski blog

ResponsibleOhio executive director Ian James

Thus, patients and recreational consumers who are not consuming cannabis or high while at work, but who smoked at a party or medicated for a disease like Crohn’s or cancer weeks prior to a workplace test, would be penalized for their fully legal consumption of cannabis. Most of Ohio’s citizens must work to earn a living. According to James, the same people to whom his investment group would be marketing cannabis flowers and manufactured products if the law passed would be subject to dismissal because “legalization does not have an impact on the ability to enforce drug-free workplaces.”

Growers Database

Unfortunately, those growing their own would have to register with the state and pay a $50 annual fee. I don’t think anybody cares about the $50 (that doesn’t even buy a quarter ounce of quality herb in the state today). But registration in a state-owned database is something that justifiably intimidates and frightens a lot of existing growers who are contemplating passage of this initiative and the ability to legally grow a few plants.

DSC_7632

What if the Republican-dominated state cooperated with federal authorities (like the DEA) and handed over the database, revealing exactly who was growing cannabis (in flagrant violation of federal law)? Regardless of the real possibility of this occurring, many curious cannabis cultivators are wary.

While I personally would like to see the grow limit raised and legal outdoor gardens—from a consumer perspective—ResponsibleOhio looks pretty nice. In theory, prices set by all stages of cultivation, manufacturing, and retail sales would strive to equal or beat those of the black market, helping ensure market demand and sufficient sales volumes to maintain all segments of the industry. If retail outlets and the black market engaged in a price war, consumers would obviously benefit.

Can a Closed Market Drive Down Prices?

States like Oregon, Colorado, and Washington have proven that open markets drive down prices while simultaneously improving quality, selection, and brand dependability. In some areas of Colorado and the West Coast, ounces of top-shelf sativa and indica strains, like Jack Herer and G13, sometimes sell for only $130 to $200—significantly below the national average for the black market.

In tightly regulated New Jersey, state-run dispensaries sell an ounce of top-shelf cannabis flowers for $550; at Delaware’s sole dispensary, that ounce costs $400-450.

OpportunitiesForOhioans1

The only problem for those in Ohio, however, is that theirs would not be an open market. With only ten production facilities—albeit owned by ten separate companies—market competition likely wouldn’t occur at a level necessary to significantly drive down prices through the natural forces of the market. At least not like in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. With only ten potential sources of raw plant material, sales outlets could cut their margins only so thin in an effort to compete with one another on price.

In this respect, retail stores would be hobbled by limited selection and greater difficulty in differentiating themselves from their competition. Exclusivity is a trait of many successful marketing campaigns. None of the 1,100 retail outlets would be able to claim that they offered a unique strain of cannabis. Thus, customer loyalty would be considerably harder to obtain. Pot customers would understand that they could purchase the same basic product—albeit possibly in different packaging or processed in a somewhat different manner—from each and every retailer in the state.

Ohio_flag

This frustrates some activists and progressive leaders for two reasons. First, they cite that Ohioans will likely pay more for their cannabis than citizens in other states featuring true open market production, manufacturing, and retail sales. Second, what about other entrepreneurs who might want to get into the production of cannabis for sale in the state? Is it ethical, in a supposedly open market democracy, to exclude them?

Voters should not assume that legal herb produced by the ResponsibleOhio group would be cheaper than that of the black market. In states like Colorado, black market prices have been driven down by legal dispensaries and retail shops, but are still cheaper than legal herb. Thus, cannabis consumers in Colorado prove that they are willing to pay more for legal and safe access to tested, labeled, and reputable marijuana.

(In March 2015, Colorado sold about $75 million worth of cannabis in combined medical [dispensary] and recreational [retail shop] sales. By July, the monthly revenue for recreational sales alone topped $50 million for the first time, contributing about $4 in taxes to Colorado’s schools.)

Pros and Cons

Thus, marijuana consumers in Ohio who are tired of high prices, dealing with the black market, and, of course, the threat of being busted for purchasing street weed might want to embrace ResponsibleOhio and vote Yes in November. In the end, ResponsibleOhio is offering a value proposition to pot consumers: Would cannabis users rather pay the black market a little less, but get a baggie full of something that has no strain name, no brand, no pedigree, and certainly no guarantee?

Outdoor gardens banned

Outdoor cultivation would be banned under ResponsibleOhio’s law

The simple ability for a patient or recreational consumer to shop a retail outlet during business hours, purchase up to an ounce of a particular strain like Kali Mist or Jack Herer, and then take it home and consume it—all within the bounds of the law—is something that sounds almost too good to be true for the average toker or patient almost anywhere in the Midwest, including Ohio. The fact that this luxury would be enabled by a pseudo-monopoly on the production side of the business somewhat sucks. Most would agree that monopolies, especially those encouraged and maintained by the state, are anti-American and anti-middle class.

For those of a libertarian mindset who encourage free markets, believe in the power of entrepreneurialism (consider the wealth that has been generated by Silicon Valley), and don’t support arbitrary government restrictions that put wealth into only the pockets of a few will be against ResponsibleOhio on principle. Of course, if ResponsibleOhio fails to pass, they’ll also be forced to continue purchasing their cannabis on the black market, with uncertain quality, a total lack of testing, no labeling or ability to choose strains, high prices, and the risk of imprisonment.

Come November, Ohio voters must decide if they not only embrace marijuana legalization, but if they are willing to limit production to an artificial monopoly of only ten cultivation facilities. ResponsibleOhio is basically telling voters: “We’ll pay the $20 million required to get this issue on the ballot and educate voters so it passes if you’ll give us exclusivity on the production of the product.”


To learn more about ResponsibleOhio, check out ResponsibleOhio: The Upside.

Image credit: ResponsibleOhio PAC


HBK11RenderGooey Rabinski is a technical writer and instructional designer who has contributed to magazines such as High Times, Cannabis CultureSKUNK, HeadsWeed World, and Cannabis Health Journal. He is currently a contributing writer to Whaxy.com and the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana (2015 Edition), available on Amazon Kindle.

His marijuana-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.

ResponsibleOhio: The Upside

responsibleohio-ohio-marijuanaWARNING: Hell has frozen over. Ohio, situated right about where America’s rust belt meets the Bible belt, is flirting with full marijuana legalization. The effort is being spearheaded by ResponsibleOhio, a marijuana legalization campaign sponsored by a well-funded investor group based in Columbus. The group has raised $36 million from 10 investors throughout the United States.

In other states to date, grassroots activists, typically working in partnership with a national legalization organization like NORML or the Marijuana Policy Project, have gained the voter support necessary to pass medical marijuana or pro-pot voter referendums. In this respect, Ohio is setting itself apart and gaining national news, especially among those who strongly favor or oppose full legalization of pot.

Can They Really?

Pot fans should hold off on that celebratory toke, however. ResponsibleOhio, which technically is a Political Action Committee, or PAC, has already collected more than 550,000 signatures, more than the necessary 306,000 by July 1. Passage of the law will come down to how effectively the group can educate and influence voters between now and November 3. Also, because the 2015 election in Ohio will feature no major national or state races, it’s considered an “off-off-year.” This typically results in older and more conservative citizens actually casting votes. Despite this, ResponsibleOhio says it has the resources to inform the voter base and win majority support for the bill. It also believes that activist organizations and legalization proponents, even early holdouts, will support it.

ResponsibleOhio’s Executive Director, Ian James, said his organization will have

“…the only [marijuana] issue on the ballot and the only one that has the resources to win.” He added, “To vote down the only possibility you have to legalize marijuana would be foolhardy.”

The group predicts that the legal sale of medical and recreational cannabis in the state could generate $554 million in tax revenues by 2020.

Critics have called this figure overly optimistic, citing the fact that Colorado in 2014 generated only about 10 percent of this figure, or $53 million, in taxes. It should be noted, however, that 2014 was the first year of Colorado’s legalization. If this bill becomes law in Ohio, 2020 would mark four years of the law having been in effect. Also, Colorado has a population of only 5.4 million, versus Ohio’s 11.6 million residents.

According to Chrissie Thompson, writing for Cincinnati.com:

“The group is putting another $20 million into developing 10 marijuana farms across the state—anchoring the effort in Southwest Ohio, with three farms in Greater Cincinnati and one just north in Montgomery. The exclusive growing market has been called everything from a ‘monopoly’ to a ‘cartel’ by anti-marijuana politicians and traditional marijuana supporters alike.”

The Good

The good part of this pending legislation is that it would bring both medical marijuana, even for youths, and fully legal recreational pot smoking to the Buckeye State, a midwestern bastion best known for being a swing state in presidential elections, top-shelf college football, and more Amish residents than the state of Pennsylvania. Citizens 21 and older would be permitted to possess up to one ounce of cannabis with no medical exemption or license necessary. They would also be permitted to grow up to four mature (flowering) plants.

DistroInforgraphic-500x500The investment group behind ResponsibleOhio—and its associated independent companies—would maintain a lock on the cultivation of cannabis in their 10 facilities across the state. However, more than 1,100 “retail and manufacturing” licenses would be made available to the public.

These facilities might produce everything from joints and ounce jars to stealthy edibles and canna-candy. Often, these retail and manufacturing businesses would literally be packaging and branding companies. However, unlike the regulated but open market in Colorado, these companies would be limited to sourcing their herb from the 10 authorized production facilities.

An important aspect of this legislation is the positive economic impact it would have. Ohio has been one of the worst states in terms of unemployment and a sluggish recovery. Any stimulus to its economy would certainly be a good thing, especially if it helps fund fire stations and the repair of Ohio’s pothole-riddled roads (as outlined in the bill, which can be read here).

The taxes derived from the production and sale of legal marijuana would benefit a rust belt state that has seen residents leaving for good jobs in other areas. Like many regions, Ohio is also suffering from an increasingly aging population of baby boomers who, if living on retirement, produce no income taxes. Despite a hefty licensing fee, entrepreneurs and marijuana advocates will have the opportunity to open retail and manufacturing facilities in which they can satisfy a burning need in their communities—while making an honest (if not highly regulated) living.

Ohio Marijuana Control Commission

This bill would also create the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission (OMCC), comprised of seven members, all of whom would be appointed by the governor. Given that the governor of Ohio is currently a fairly conservative Republican, this is, for many, an unpleasant reality. Here’s the language of the amendment: The OMCC would “regulate the acquisition, growth, cultivation, extraction, production, processing, manufacture, testing, distribution, retail sales, licensing, and taxation of medical marijuana, marijuana and marijuana-infused products and the operations of marijuana establishments, and the growth and cultivation of homegrown marijuana.”

34306114001_4001302384001_video-still-for-video-4001343279001The amendment also calls for special taxes. Manufacturing and retail facilities would be required to pay a 15 percent tax, while consumers would be hit with a five percent tax on top of standard Ohio sales tax (these rates are lower than those in Colorado and Washington). Militant activists may scream about this, but it isn’t that different from how alcohol and tobacco are regulated and taxed across the nation.

According to the language of the amendment, the OMCC “would also serve as a clearing house for scientific and medical research on medical marijuana, marijuana and marijuana-infused products.” This could, in a perfect world, be very good. It would be beneficial to all parties, including consumers, if the Commission encouraged and maybe even funded plentiful academic and corporate research into the medical efficacy and strain specificity of cannabis.

This would, in theory, allow the 10 cultivation facilities to continually improve their product, something very much in the best interest of pot buyers and patients. If fully legal recreational herb was established in the state, there would surely be plenty of private and public research and analysis conducted on the output of the 10 ResponsibleOhio production facilities.

Cultivation + Retail

The ability to grow up to four plants is one of the most democratic and egalitarian aspects of this bill. While the right to legally grow any number of plants in a traditionally conservative state like Ohio would be amazing in and of itself, some activists and chronic pot smokers will predictably want higher limits. However, this limit is actually higher than those in Colorado and Washington, D.C. (three mature plants), equal to Oregon’s recreational limit, and close to recently legalized Alaska’s allowance of six plants. Washington State, which, along with Colorado, was among the first two states to legalize marijuana for recreational consumption, has actually prohibited cultivation.

It must also be recognized that this would be a limit for flowering plants. Thus, depending on the final language of the law, growers could potentially keep a dozen or more veg-stage plants alive, choosing only the best and healthiest to go into full flower and be counted among the four. If cultivated properly and continually, this limit could easily serve the needs of all over-21 adults living at a residence, producing pot (or medicine) with a regularity, affordability, and quality impossible on the black market.

OpportunitiesForOhioans1However, those who choose to grow at home won’t be able to just jump right in. The amendment, which would define a relatively highly regulated industry in Ohio, would require a $50 per year licensing fee and registration with the state. Many libertarians who fear big government will see just more red tape and taxes. However, given the expense of street cannabis (sometimes in excess of $100 per quarter ounce in the state), $50 per year and the cost of a few grow lights, nutrients, and electricity is a powerful incentive to help eliminate the criminal elements that prey on a black market. Not to mention saving regular pot smokers hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.

If passed, this law would funnel money into taxes and consumer spending, stimulating the legal economy instead of funding criminals who may also produce and sell highly addictive hard drugs like meth and crack. If properly executed and managed, a legalization scheme of this type could significantly reduce criminal activity, decreasing hard drug addiction and offering an alternative to alcohol and its negative physical manifestations (and their associated financial burden to society).

The retail and manufacturing licenses that would be sold wouldn’t be free or even cheap. RMSs, or Retail Marijuana Stores, would be required to pay a $10,000 annual licensing fee. This is similar to liquor licenses regulated by most states. The registration fee is a realistic business expense that helps enlist more professional and properly funded individuals and organizations. While sure to frustrate some “mom and pop” grassroots activists, this registration fee is a way of helping ensure the participation of legitimate companies with sufficient funding to properly serve customers.

Medical

The amendment also provides language specific to medical patients. It creates “licensed not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries (‘MMD’) to dispense medical marijuana to patients with debilitating medical conditions and to their Commission licensed caregivers with a medical marijuana certification issued by the patient’s current treating physician…” Registered medical patients would be able to purchase cannabis at wholesale prices.

dscn2108.jpgThe biggest reason that some Ohio and national marijuana activists are understandably critical of the efforts of ResponsibleOhio is what would be its monopoly on marijuana production. However, to average pot-smoking Ohio citizens, who currently grow and consume marijuana illegally—many of whom have been convicted and jailed for it—the legislation proposed by ResponsibleOhio would bring significant reform and multiple benefits.

In reality, the manufacturing facilities would be owned by different individuals and companies. According to CNNMoney, “the group stresses that the growing facilities would be operated by separate companies that would compete on price and quality.” On its website, ResponsibleOhio states, “There is no coordination between them, they will be trying to make money by selling the best goods at the best prices to stores, dispensaries, and manufacturers.” Thus, it would be a closed market in terms of not allowing just anyone to begin the mass cultivation of cannabis to sell (technically, it sounds like a limited franchise). However, it would not be a monopoly and, in theory, involve no price fixing due to the competition between the 10 authorized manufacturing companies.

Keith Stroup, founder and legal council of NORML, recently published a blog in which he addressed the issue of venture capital-backed voter referendums. He wrote, “Different people will come to different conclusions. I continue to feel we should keep our eye on the prize of legalization, and not get sidetracked fighting over who will profit from legalization. After all, we live in a free enterprise system and we should not expect legal marijuana will be different.”

The details of this bill, including the licensing fees and tax structure, will probably evade the average Ohioan who votes this fall. For those who are tuned into the details, it will be interesting to see those who will support and oppose this controversial, but groundbreaking, ballot initiative—and why. This amendment to Ohio’s Constitution would, after all, allow residents to legally grow, purchase, possess, and smoke marijuana.

That’s no small thing. Especially for the Buckeye State. Because, after all, not even Seattle or Los Angeles has it that good.

— Gooey Rabinski


HBK11RenderGooey Rabinski is a counterculture writer who has contributed to magazines such as High Times, Cannabis CultureSkunk, Heads, Weed World, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself. He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana (2015 Edition), available on Amazon Kindle.

His marijuana-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.

Glass Wizard Brent Thackery Blows

The ability to blow top-shelf glass—the rare examples that make even experienced blowers stop and take notice—isn’t extremely common. The capability to make a living at it is even more rare. But that’s exactly what one entrepreneurial 29-year-old from Indiana, under the moniker of the Midwest Funk Connection, has accomplished.

Brent Thackery has been blowing glass for only eight years, a relatively short period of time to master an art as delicate and sophisticated as his. During that time, his art has been purchased by several A List fans of the culture, including actor Woody Harrelson, funkmaster George Clinton, and others from the music industry.

Humble Origins

Thackery’s adoption of his craft reads like a bohemian-style great American success story. “I borrowed two hundred bucks from my cousin and went to a welding supply store and bought a blow torch,” he told me during an interview from his studio. “A local company makes bottles for pharmaceutical companies. I dressed like a ninja and jacked a bunch of stuff from their dumpster and began working with it,” he said, laughing.

Close up of a pendant

“It was a slow start at first,” he explained. “I took a scientific class and made test tubes and water jackets and all that stuff. The rest of it was sitting in my garage, screwing up pieces,” he told me. “I was making my living as a tattoo artist at the time. Whenever I was waiting for clients, I’d mess with the glass. I have kids, so there was also the pressure to make money,” he said. At first, Thackery’s family mocked him, not believing that he could make a living blowing glass. “But here we are, eight years later, tearin’ it up,” he said. 

Accolades

“He’s pretty amazing,” said Willy Crosby, a blower with the Galactic Empire studio in Columbus, Ohio, who specializes in decorative pieces for tobacco connoisseurs. Crosby said he believes that it’s Thackery’s attention to detail that helps set him apart. “Brent puts just as much time into the decorations and extremities of his pieces as the main piece,” said Crosby.

“At one point, I think half of my staff had commissioned custom pieces from him, and these are kids who—like me—see thousands and thousands of different pieces per year,” said Steven Arthur, owner of the Magic Bus, a popular headshop in Indianapolis. “His stuff is dynamite, that’s for sure.”

The secret of Thackery’s success lies in his unique combination of talents. His technical precision and honeycomb treatments are among the best in the business. But accuracy alone produces nothing more than a machine-tooled glass bong. Thackery’s mesmerizing pieces are hybrids of his technical prowess and an inherent sense for the organic. His work reflects an intimate and almost primordial sense for “lopsided balance.” Sometimes resembling alien toadstools, other times portraying trippy sea creatures or elaborate and fantastical structures, Thackery’s art is exactly that: Art.

Take me to your leader

His creations are almost hauntingly sophisticated and deep. Many of Thackery’s pieces seem to magically provide a glimpse into the wide infinity of space. One of his trademarks is decorating pieces with one or more swirling or flower-like worm holes, twisting time and space into a few square inches of Pyrex.

While possessing a keen sense of the need to market and sell his work in order to survive in the modern world, Thackery considers his pieces more than a mere product. Comfortingly, his spirituality toward his work is exceeded only by his humility. When describing how his glass first began attracting attention, Thackery said, “People just began gravitating toward it.” It may be that much of his success is due to his focus on his trade and the pieces he produces, not himself or his ego. “Glass blowing itself is more than sitting down and making a pipe. The glass is actually the teacher,” he said.

Organically Inspired Beauty

When one peers into the seemingly impossibly deep spaces on some of Thackery’s highly organic pieces, a natural response is to wonder how someone could develop the skill to create such beautiful art. When queried, he responded, “I just sat in front of the torch and put in the time. I was passionate about it. Obsessed with it, you know? That’s really the key, I think. If you’re obsessed with anything, you’re going to get good at it,” he philosophized.

The quality of a showcase piece created by Thackery doesn’t come cheap: His bubblers sell for between $350 and $3,000. For those on a more meager budget, he produces less elaborate—yet equally gorgeous—pipes, vases, oil lamps, and necklace beads. “I’ve probably had more than 20 of his bubblers through my store in the past year, and I don’t think I’ve had two that were the same,” said the Magic Bus’ Arthur. “Brent’s probably the only artist that I can say that about,” he said. “And I see tens of thousands of pipes per year.”

Tripped out psychedelic colors snap

Thackery pointed out that some high-end glass techniques are the simple result of a blower’s ability to take the heat. “The hotter that you work with the glass, the more fluid it becomes. You have to be able to think faster and more fluidly in order to move your hands to accommodate the quickness of the flow. Just being able to move with the glass at the rate it wants to fall makes you a better blower,” he said.

This Indiana artist’s passion translates into a spiritual respect for his craft. “The individual pieces are a point in time,” he told me. “Sometimes, when you’re blowing glass, it’s like a Zen state, and you forget that you’re even blowing glass. You’re kind of on a little day trip and you come back and the piece is done,” he said with his charismatic laugh.

One could easily regard this artist’s pieces as pure art, not wanting to coat them with resin while consuming his or her favorite herb. Thackery, however, is quick to correct any such misunderstandings. “Actually, it’s sacrilegious to not smoke with them,” he said. When asked his goals, the young blower’s hippy spirituality shined through. “I don’t really have any goals,” he said. “What happens happens, you know?” After a reflective pause, however, he admitted, “I’d like to make a pipe that the whole world could hit at the same time.”

Big Country Weighs In

Big Country, from Big Country Glass in West Virginia, has been blowing his own pieces and reselling heady glass from other artists since 1991. “Out of all the glass blowers I know, Brent definitely has his own thing going,” Big Country told me during an interview at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Ohio.

  • On Implosions: “He does a lot of implosions using gold and silver fuming and he’s pretty much mastered how to work the two. Using a mixture of gold and silver, you can alter the heat of the flame and get just about any color in the rainbow. If you’ve seen some of Brent’s implosions, he definitely has that on the lock.”
  • On Shaping: “His shaping is his own thing, for sure. They’re not standard shapes. He doesn’t blow a traditional bubbler; he doesn’t blow a traditional hammer. He blows these big goopy massive evil-lookin’ things.”
  • On Style: “I’ve seen his shit for quite a few years now. I would never walk into a shop and not be able to pick out his stuff. If you see 50 pieces, his will jump out to you immediately.”

Interview Session One

Gooey Rabinski: During the past eight years, how have your glass blowing skills evolved?

Brent Thackery: It was a slow start. At that time, it seemed few people were doing it. You didn’t really hear about anybody doing it. So there was no way to really learn or find a mentor. So I took a scientific glass blowing class. That kind of laid the foundation. The rest of it was just sittin’ in my garage, screwing up pieces [laughs].

GR: What were your first income sources from glass blowing?

BT: I hooked up with some people who began selling some of my stuff. And I did a lot of production work. It required persistence and helped me get my technique down.

GR: Tell me more about the production work.

BT: It really helped a lot in that I’d have an idea and have to follow it through. I learned to not allow the glass to control me. I had to control the glass to create product that we had to have.

GR: Your work is among the best I’ve seen. Surely you didn’t develop this skill set with a single scientific class and some production work….

Try a 3D fluid filled orb on for size

BT: It was really just giving up my life and sitting in the garage for ten or fifteen hours a day for two or three years and not having a life at all. Just sitting in front of the torch and puttin’ in the time and being really passionate about it. That’s really the key, I think.

GR: What are your outlets for selling?

BT: Basically, it’s young people, they’re pretty much the mainstay. I do have a guy who sells stuff for me. He’s a businessman and he’s a major player in the industry. He had never seen a pipe that was worth more than a couple hundred dollars and I sent him a sample…one of the first bigger pieces I had done. He took it to a show in Las Vegas. He called me from the show and ordered like 30 of them. I was blown away. It might take a week or so to make one, and he wanted 30 overnighted to him! [laughs]

GR: What’s the average price range of the pieces you’re crafting?

BT: For the elaborate pieces, anywhere from $800 and up. If somebody came to me with $100,000, I could create a piece worth that much. That’s really my philosophy, to go over the top. Whatever I can do to expand the art of everything. I’ll admit, I want people to be amazed when they look at something.

GR: Do you like to focus on the bigger pieces?

BT: Absolutely. Not just ‘bigger,’ but technical things. Like when people say, ‘You can’t do that. The glass isn’t capable of doing that.’ And then I’ll make a mistake and it will contradict everything that I thought was possible. That avenue takes me to new places.

GR: So, on the creative side, you have to get an idea that you can see in your mind but somehow, on the physics side of it, you have to make the glass and the flame realize your vision?

BT: Yea. It’s a matter of opening myself to the channels of energy that are just kind of flowing through me. I’m using myself as a medium and these other energies are creating the glass for me. That’s kind of the way I like to look at it.

Interview Session Two

GR: Is it sacrilege to place a world-class heady piece on the shelf and never puff on it?

Thackery specializes in flowers and orbs

BT: [Laughing] Absolutely…absolutely.

GR: What type of pieces have you been working on? Have you been focusing on any particular style?

BT: I’ve been doing a lot of big stuff. A lot of fuming stuff, just trying to keep it real simple. I’m really trying to do new stuff and get away from what everybody else is doing and what’s expected, you know?

GR: Sounds like you’re developing some of your own techniques.

BT: Yea, trying to do a lot of experimental stuff. Just trying to come at it from different angles and different perspectives. Instead of just knocking out a straightforward production piece that everybody’s looking for, trying to do something totally weird, just to make it a novelty.

GR: So you’re creating those pieces where gawkers say, “You can really smoke out of that?” [Laughing]

BT: [Laughing] Yea, that’s what I’m trying to get. That mindset that you can have a piece sitting there and it’s not necessarily something that you need to hide. It’s sitting around and you think, “Wow, I just want to look at this for a while before I use it.”

GR: Would you say glass blowing—as a profession and way of earning one’s living—is a form of freedom from the establishment?

BT: Absolutely. Freedom from whatever is oppressing people. [This proves] that there’s an avenue to live the life you want to live. The life that you dream about. With my own work, I just want to get a message out of peace and harmony into the world.

brentsstuff_0032

GR: What’s your favorite piece to date?

BT: I made a piece for a big card player. It was just a gigantic black piece. I did a lot of gold fuming on it. That’s one of my favorites, for sure. I just pulled off a new piece a couple of weeks ago with some new colors. When I put them all together, it was just about every color in the neighborhood, but they all flowed seamlessly. ‘Cause there’s silver and gold in the colors, which changes the tint of things.

GR: Is glass blowing a natural extension of your creativity and spirituality?

BT: Absolutely. It’s become a part of who I am. If you’re searching for new things and your brain kicks up on glass, there’s no limit. I haven’t run into a wall yet. In some things in life, you’ll reach a plateau in your learning where you can’t go any further on your own, but this has held my interest. I was a tattoo artist for ten years and I couldn’t learn anymore. I was trying to learn from other people and I wasn’t getting anywhere. Then I began doing glass on the side and, ever since, I just can’t stop.

[This interview was conducted in 2007.]


HBK11RenderGooey Rabinski is a technical writer and instructional designer who has contributed dozens of feature articles to magazines such as High Times, SKUNK, Heads, Weed World, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself and media outlets such as Whaxy and Green Flower Media. He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.

His marijuana-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.

Gooey Interviews: David Gans

Endarkened forces are bearing down
On us unconforming souls
Waving flags and bashing fags
And burning truth like coal.

             Lyrics from It’s Gonna Get Better by David Gans


You may or may not have heard of David Gans. If you’re of a progressive mindset, don’t trust your government, believe in enlightened approaches to social justice, think romance is often a comical game, and are just generally fed up with the bullshit from Corporate America, you probably already like Gans—you just don’t know it.

A California native and lifelong resident, Deadhead documentarian Gans has enjoyed a multi-faceted career in both journalism and music that has spanned nearly four decades and includes books, albums, and the Grateful Dead Hour, a nationally syndicated radio show and his day job for the past 22 years. His songs are an eclectic collection of intelligent, socially conscious, and political rabble rousing tunes often doused in biting irony.

GOTV07_millmanDuring his career, Gans has interviewed some of the biggest names in popular rock music. Artists such as Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, the Talking Heads (the topic of one of his books), Jerry Garcia (the topic of several of Gans’ album and book projects), and the Doobie Brothers gave their stories to Gans for magazines such as Rolling Stone and Musician.

In the fall of 2007, David Gans and I spent some time backstage at the Fall Hookahville music festival where he was performing. We discussed the Grateful Dead (the topic of most of Gans’ work), his latest album, and national politics—while exploring the libertarian values espoused in his music.

Gooey Rabinski: What was it about Jerry Garcia and this god-like magnetism?

David Gans: He was a ridiculously charismatic guy. His musicianship was superlative. And his song writing and the character of his performance were just incredibly attractive to people. A lot of people who like to get really really high—in a positive way, not stupid fucking drunk people—but people who took acid as a tool of self-discovery and to widen the doors of perception and all that…it’s not that they took it seriously, but it was, in a way, a spiritual pursuit.

Going to see that band and hearing that guy play, he could take you on trips and just amazing places—if you got that. The people who didn’t understand Grateful Dead music and just thought it some stupid stoned hippy music, they never got it. But the people who did get it really got it. It could really take you someplace.

When Jerry was paying attention, when he engaged with the music, it really was deep shit. So I totally understand people who would follow him to the ends of the earth. There reached a point somewhere along the line when the legend started to eclipse the man. I think Jerry got kind of tired of being Jerry Garcia pretty early in the game.

GR: Do you think that coincided with the band’s commercial success?

DG: Yes and no. That was really a whole other thing. I think Jerry sort of withdrew from that reluctant guru role much earlier than that. He had that thing like Bob Dylan had of being somebody where everything he said was taken so seriously that an offhand comment would become a moral lesson in the world. I think he began to realize that, when he spoke from the stage, people were listening a little too intently.

GR: It’s almost like a Jesus Christ syndrome in how people regarded Garcia….

DG: Yea, Jerry was dealing with that as well. Because he had all these people who got really really high and really into what he was doing—and took it more seriously than he took it. And more seriously than I think he thought it was meant to be taken. The power of that alarmed him some. He didn’t want to be responsible for telling people what to do and he didn’t want people interpreting what he said as being powerful instructions.

I have this feeling that’s one of the reasons why he and Bob Dylan connected so well. They were two guys who had had way too much attention. That, you know, Dylan was famous in the early ’60 and late ‘60s for having that guy Alan J. Weberman going through his garbage and divining stuff. Dylan also changed the world and he kept sayin’ stuff that mattered to the world and he kept making observations.

GR: But just because he drinks a pint of milk every day doesn’t mean that cows are god….

DG: Well, right. People were taking his stuff way too seriously. Just as a practical matter of how to live in the world, not being able to go down to the corner and have a beer I think could get to you after a while. But Jerry was an unbelievingly engaging guy. When he had the charm turned on—which was most of the time I ever saw him—he could talk about anything and not just be bullshitting, you know? He was interested in stuff…he was well-read…he watched movies…he watched TV. He knew what was going on in the world and he cared about what was going on in the world. He could talk intelligently and inspiringly about it.

I think the Grateful Dead and the whole San Francisco hippy movement thing really did, for a while, think they could change the world. And then reality closed in and they realized that, not only could they not change the world, but they couldn’t even live the way they started out to live.

When the Grateful Dead started being a touring band—in like 1968—I think the whole nature of their family existence changed. ‘Cause they started out as a neighborhood band living communally in this big social experiment with all these other people and they ended up…. Being on tour is like being in a space capsule, but it’s launched on earth. You’re not really in the world. You’re carrying this complete environment of your own around with you. And part of their mission in those days was to bring that thing to various places. They were going to turn New York onto it.

Twisted Love Songs album coverWhatever notions they had about a social experiment fell by the wayside. And this is just my opinion from years of observation. I wasn’t there at the time, but I had seen how it went down and what became of it. I just think the practical matter of being a touring band and keeping your music fresh and dealing with that audience and stuff became their reason for being. All that early stuff that they thought was going to be so cool ended up being less important than keeping the show on the road.

GR: I’ve heard your latest album, Twisted Love Songs. In It’s Gonna Get Better, you label politicians as “pious thieves.”

DG: People have been beating god to death to get what they want from the world. An example is this guy [Senator] Larry Craig from Idaho who pleads guilty to this crime of soliciting sex in a public bathroom—and this is a guy who has spent years advocating loudly and passionately legislation to punish guys like himself.

What does that tell you about that party and those people? The ugly, violent, moralistic nature of that party provides this incredible cover for economic crimes. You know, they get everybody all hung up about sayin’ “fuck” on the radio….

GR: Or a breast at half time….

DG: Yea. You know, there’s all these things regarding public morality—which they’re so hypocritical about–but they’re just ways of distracting people from real crimes. They’ll police our behavior in private and with each other, but they won’t police people’s terrible economic abuse of one another in the marketplace. They keep trying to forget the role of the state in regulating toxic emissions into the environment and abuses of financial instruments to enrich people at the expense of others, and then they want to creep into everyone’s bedroom and find out who’s fuckin’ who up the ass.

It’s just so completely wrong. That they’ve managed to acquire this much power with that as the lever of it is just absurd and criminal to me. So that’s what that song’s about: They’re pious thieves.

GR: But can we really get rid of them? Everyone says, “back in the good ol’ days,” but I believe that there was no “good ol’ days.” There’s been corrupt, evil motherfuckers forever. Egypt…Greece…Rome…England…we’ve always had an evil ruling class. As we do now.

DG: America was supposed to be this experiment in social equality. And the Constitution is a beautiful, absolutely brilliant and humane document that has been neglected, forgotten, abused, and raped by these people. Particularly the Bush Administration, which is the worst thing that’s happened to the planet in I don’t know how long.

GR: But what do we do about it? I hear all of these simple solutions, such as “go vote,” and none of them sound quite right.

DG: Well, voting is a part of the solution. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” That means embody those values that you think matter. You can’t live a completely pure existence. One of the great pitfalls of trying to do that is to demand ideological purity of everybody. You just can’t be 100% ideologically pure in this universe.

GR: So what do you like to do most? Write music? Play music? Write? Or is it less about the medium and more about the topic?

DG: Well, getting to be a Grateful Dead expert wasn’t really what I intended. I was a general interest journalist for ten years—’76 to ’86—but then, toward the end of that time, I accidentally got a book deal and wrote Playing in the Band.

GR: Your music encompasses the way many Americans and Canadians feel since Bush came into office.

DG: I grew up in a time when we thought music was going to change the world.

GR: The late sixties?

DG: Yea, pretty much. The Beatles got everybody’s attention and then started doing something constructive with it, which was great. Everybody wanted to hear what they were doing and, as they grew up, they started writing music that meant something more than just mating rituals. Which is what all the early stuff was.

GR: Like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis?

DG: Well, you know, music was about raw energy and it was about sex and shit, but people came along. The folk singers tried to change the world and Bob Dylan tried to change the world and the Beatles were pop stars who had a much bigger audience than the folk singers and they started doing socially responsible stuff. That’s when I came of age.

Solo Acoustic album coverGR: At the beginning of your first set [at Hookahville], you mentioned democracy. Has America ever really had a democracy? It certainly seems like we might not have one now.

DG: Well, they’ve done their best to get rid of it, but I think it might survive. I don’t know…history is all about survival of the fittest and the brutality of people in defense of their own property and in reaction to their own fears going back to the beginning of history. America was founded on these principles—and operated in spite of these principles—since day one.

A lot of people have been screwed over and a lot of people have gotten rich off the backs of other people in the name of American values. But I think, on a whole, it’s been a pretty successful experiment and, if we’re careful and if we’re positive and if we’re proactive, we can save it from the degradations of the kleptocrats. The Bush people are just the worst in terms of not giving a rat’s ass about who’s lives are made more miserable by their profiteering.

GR: You said earlier that you think Bush has been….

DG: Way worse than Nixon.

GR: Worse than Nixon?

DG: Well, we hated Nixon with a passion in ’74.

GR: But he created the DEA….

DG: Nixon also created the Environmental Protection Agency. Nixon went to China. Nixon did stuff that….

GR: So you’re saying he gave a damn?

DG: Well, Nixon was pathological, too. Believe me, man, Nixon was a sick motherfucker. But he was politically expedient. In those days, you could do more things. With the rise of the religious right, the fundamentalists and the profiteers have formed this incredible unholy alliance. The fundamentalists provide this great distraction, this cover.

Everybody’s arguing about a titty being seen at the Superbowl, but the debate about toxic waste and economic justice is relegated to the middle of the newspaper and not even covered in the evening news because all these other circuses are crowding it out.

I’ll rave about this shit ‘til the cows come home, but when I get up on stage, I try to make a little subtle reference to it here and there and just tell my story and let people get some value out of it—and maybe some inspiration.

GR: ‘Cause certainly if we look at the 2000 [U.S. presidential] election with Florida and then the 2004 election with Ohio….

convcoverNeighboring camper/pot salesman: How are you guys doin? I don’t mean to interrupt, but I have a bag of [Crutchster’s] Dumpster…a bunch of little bottoms. A quarter is $60. Perfect for rollin’ joints! I just got a huge pile of it.

GR: I might want to swap you for some hash.

Salesman: What kind of hash?

GR: Afghani.

DG: [Laughing] I’m not in the market ‘cause I’m flying home Saturday morning.

[We talk briefly with the guy selling pot and then return to the interview.]

GR: Is it fair to say that, within a reality of not being 100% ideologically pure, that one votes with one’s dollars?

DG: Yea.

[Gans, an old school master of journalism in almost any medium, has also produced or co-produced eight other albums, including Grateful Dead: So Many Roads, a five-CD collection spanning Dead shows between 1965 and 1995.]

GR: It’s nice to know that yuppies can also get stoned and trip and listen to good music….[laughing].

DG: It’s not about yuppies. Everybody in the world should hear that music, you know? The fact that they’re putting a record together that’s sold in a place where lots of good music is being sold these days. And because the regular retail record business is completely falling apart.

You just have to try to make things better in any way that you can and try not to make things worse and—you know what I’m sayin’? You can’t say Starbucks sucks and the Grateful Dead shouldn’t do business with them, because they’re trying to sell their music and get new people to like it, which is something we were always trying to do, too. When we were young Deadheads, we wanted to evangelize this to the world.

Okay, now they’ve found a way to get [this music] in the hands of people who would never run into the Grateful Dead in their ordinary travels, but they see that at Starbucks and they check it out.

Like this thing came up recently where the Grateful Dead put out a CD that’s being sold at Starbucks. It’s a double CD and it’s kind of an introduction to Grateful Dead music. It’s kinda neat. It’s not a record that I need because I’ve been listening to the Grateful Dead for 35 years.

But a lot of people are totally up in arms. They’re asking how can they get in bed with Starbucks, these corporate criminals. I know there’s some truth to that, that there are things that Starbucks has done in terms of being predatory in locating their stores and stuff, but I also hear from some people—and I’ve not done any direct research on this—that they’re very good employers. That [Starbucks] treats their workers well and their workers are stakeholders in some way and have good health plans and such.

GR: You articulate those values well.

DG: Well, thank you. Mission accomplished [laughing].

Anybody who expects me to take their faith as the truth is going to have a problem. If you believe god did this and god made that and god wants you to do that…then fine, you do that. But you don’t get to tell me how to behave because your god believes that shit, because I don’t believe that shit.

All of Western religion is based on stories that were told and written down years after the events took place and it’s all people telling other people what to do and you have to ask, what’s in it for them? The patriarchical god doesn’t do me the slightest bit of good because I don’t know him. And I’m not taking anybody else’s word for his. I think it’s a criminal thing to go around trying to run the world and telling people to deny their own nature on the basis of some shit that’s been told for 2000 years and passed along by people with a vested interest in continuing to be in power.

That doesn’t mean that I hate religion, it means that I hate religious fanatics who want to run the world in their image. That’s one of the things that my songs get a little gnarly about. I’d like to inspire and persuade people, but you don’t do that by telling them what to think. You do that by showing them how you think and setting an example. That Ghandi thing again: Be the change you want to see in the world. So I try to live a life that’s not lethal to anybody else.

The Works of David Gans

Books

  • Conversations with the Dead (The Grateful Dead Interview Book)
  • Playing in the Band (An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead)
  • Not Fade Away (The Online World Remembers Jerry Garcia)
  • Talking Heads (The Band and Their Music)

Albums

  • Twisted Love Songs
  • Solo Electric
  • Solo Acoustic
  • Home by Morning
  • Live at the Powerhouse
  • Grateful Fest 6 (Live at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park)

HBK11RenderGooey Rabinski is a technical writer and instructional designer who has contributed dozens of feature articles to magazines such as High Times, SKUNK, Heads, Weed World, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself. He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana (2015 Edition), available on Amazon Kindle, and is a contributing writer at Whaxy.com.

His marijuana-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.