Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Three Dead In Massachusetts

“You want some, Pig?”

“Keep that devil’s lettuce away from me! The ol’ Pig smokes Camels like Jesus said to in th’ Bible!”

“He said that?”

“I’m just repeatin’ what I heard in Sunday School.”


Anything made of metal that remained still for more than ten minutes got a Stealie welded to it; objects not made of metal would get Stealies stuck to them.


Garcia’s head looks like a chimney brush. Just saying.


This is also from the Kresge Plaza show in 1970; like I said, the students had taken the campus in protest of the Kent State murders.

We speak now to the Younger Enthusiast, may they stay so forever. On April 30th, 1970, Nixon announced his new strategy to win the Vietnam War, which was by going to war with Cambodia. And, if that failed, Laos. Nixon was going to win this war, no matter how many wars he had to start. Naturally, this alarmed able-bodied young men, whom are required to have a war, and it doubly alarmed students because in 1969 the college deferment had been eliminated.

(Did people avoid the draft by taking a couple credits each semester for the length of the war? That might have been my method. I could have easily hid from the war for a decade at my local community college, taking whatever class interested me. That sounds like a pleasure, actually: you could learn, and make new friends.)

In 1940, the Unites States started drafting young men, which makes sense, but then the government forgot to stop when WWII ended, and so there was conscription until 1973. Any amount of thought or research will lead you to the fact that armed forces rarely want conscripts; they’re just going to fuck everything up on purpose. Remember how Klinger from MASH was always trying to get thrown out of the Army? In real life, that’s less cute because the guy who really wants out of the Army is surrounded by guns and grenades. How are you going to get any soldiering done when half your time is making sure your squad isn’t trying to escape? Throughout history, a conscripted troop will bolt the first chance he gets.

But this is the US government we’re talking about, so the draft stayed. There were free passes, though: college, marriage and/or children, homosexuality. The nation needed to protect its thinkers, families, and gays, so they were not allowed to go to war. (That’s why gays weren’t drafted, right?) In ’69, like I said, Nixon removed the student deferment.

And then, right before May Day, he announces the whole “Start two wars to win one” campaign. The students responded with equanimity.

And then they began setting things on fire.

They did at Kent State, at least: things got out of control. A little bit by the kids, but mostly by the adults. And the adults had all the weapons. The bayonets, too: on the 3rd, several students got stuck. The National Guard had brought bayonets to the campus, and then used them. That was on the 3rd. On the 4th, the National Guard remembered that they had rifles, and they used them, too.

Two of the dead were 19 years old, and the other two were 20. Nine others, all students, were wounded. The closest was not within 100 feet of the Guard’s position, the farthest was over 700 feet away. All were unarmed.

No criminal charges were ever brought. Civil cases failed. The public blamed the kids, and reelected Nixon in a landslide 16 months later.

This is what the Alt-Right are trying to do at Berkeley right now, this is what they want. Ann Coulter masturbates to that photo of the girl crying over her dead friend.

That went from history to current events kinda quick.

Everything happens at once.

It does tend to do that.


  1. Thanks for this. I grew up a few miles down the road, and went to the State school next door, UofA. In 1970 my grandmother was a grad student at Kent, my dad was down 76 at Youngstown State, and a couple dutch uncles were KSU undergrads. They were on campus and going to class, as were Sandy Scheuer and Bill Schroeder. To the extent that I have any audience, I’ve made Kent a cause if only because it’s a little personal, and so fucked as to be unignorable. Governor “Law and Order” Rhodes, whose name is now on gyms and government office buildings, responded to what amounted to property crime and disorderly conduct with the National Guard, who ended up firing into a crowd of students in a parking lot.

    I always regarded the place I grew up as the edge of civilization – it all feels fairly represented by Hillbilly Elegy but the Rust Belt was at least industrialized and nominally educated. Kent is notably more rural, the beginning of the corn fields and farms that extend west forever. Michener’s book does a good job of capturing the townie mood at the time, which was predictably intolerant and ugly. These people cheered the Guard on and called for more. Contemporary Letters to the Editor are available, should you wish for something to feel indignant about.

    That local context gets lost in most of the assessment I see about Kent, but it’s important; this had at least something to do with dumb, angry provincials offended that anyone else should challenge status quo. Immensely disappointing that this feels so relevant once again, as an emboldened class of fascists among us sound more and more like the Know-Nothings.

    KSU, by the way, installed markers in the lot where the four kids fell around 2000; you can’t park in those spots now. You can stand there and look up the hill to the pagoda where the Guardsmen turned and fired. They built a gym over half the site sometime in the late 70s. To their credit, an iron sculpture with a bullet hole remains in front of Taylor Hall.

  2. Ah, where to start? Student deferments started to be phased out in ’69 and the first lottery was for men born up to 1950.

    I was a HS grad in ’70 and held a student deferment (2-S) – figuratively since I had burned my card at the Moritorium Demo in St. Pete – until a couple years later when it was my turn to go in the spinning drum.

    My number was 302 and the Clearwater, FL draft board was drafting up to about 160. So reasonable safe and I promptly quit school as I was making $100 dollars a week as a beer joint guitar player.

    I laugh when people say the Dead were not political.

    Trump’s deferments:

    Also, a rememberance that the only member of Bush’s team to serve was Colin Powell. Dubya was in the reserves, defending Colorado bars from the Viet Cong.

    Finally, from Senator McGovern:
    “I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”

    For the young folks, if Trump reinstates the active draft, it is still there BTW, tell him to fuck right off.

  3. Luther Von Baconson

    May 7, 2017 at 10:43 am

    for several summers I can remember us picking up hitchhikers, quite a few from the US, some stayed with us for a night or two. Rochdale College was a haven for some. There is a great documentary floating around somewheres called Dream Tower.

  4. From a remembrance of Colonel Bruce Hampton, ret.:

    “At the draft registration office, he arrived with half his head shaved and several dozen pipe cleaners taped to his skull, seeking a chance to kill for his country. He was given a deferral.”

    • Correction: should not have used the word “remembrance.” This story was originally published on June 28, 1987.

  5. Yeah, John is right about the lottery. Student deferments were only valid for full-time students for 4 years, so no way to skate through with a couple of credits forever at a CC. I drew #36 so was in bad shape until I got lucky. My mom had read some obscure notice in the paper, not well publicized, that the War Dept. had said they were not calling up any troops in the first quarter of ’73 (which was an odd announcement to make, and not their standard MO). They were already past my number in ’72, and the way it worked was if you lose your deferment and they are already past your number in a given year, you go into a 1-time priority pool in the following year for 3 months, after which you amazingly enough go to the back of the line, if you haven’t been called. The draft counselors didn’t trust the govt (smart boys) and advised us to hang on to our golden deferments, but I figured I’d play the odds — plus I was nearly out of time — and trust the wisdom of my mom. I handed in my notice to give up the deferment just before midnight through the back door of the Ann Arbor post office on New Year’s eve, having forgotten to mail it during regular hours due to premature celebrations at a bar, begged the (obviously ex-marine) clerk to postmark it before midnight, and incredibly, it worked. But not so well for a whole lot of guys who weren’t so lucky in those insane times.

  6. Just wanted to recommend the book Drew mentioned, Kent State: What Happened and Why by James Michener. It’s a good book with lots of detail. For instance, one of the kids who was killed hoped to one day become the third drummer for The Grateful Dead.

  7. Great story on Rochelle college Luther, I knew a guy who lived there, on the top floors they sold stuff and were untouchable because of the laundry chutes for disposal of product. He had lots of far out stories. Some of these cranky hippies would be the protesters at the festival express concert.

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