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Further Remembrance of Ken Kesey
by David Moses Fruchter
Dec 2001
Citation:  Fruchter, David Moses. "Furthur: Remembrance of Ken Kesey". Erowid Extracts. December 2001; 2:21.
Beloved author and counter-culture hero Ken Kesey died Saturday, November 10, 2001 at the age of 66. Kesey's death was attributed to complications arising from diabetes and recent surgery to remove a tumor. Kesey's own words on the subject: "Nothing lasts."

Raised in Oregon, Kesey attended graduate school in creative writing at Stanford University. It was during this period that he volunteered as a subject for clinical trials with LSD at a nearby VA hospital, and managed to smuggle some of the drug out to share with fellow residents of his Perry Lane neighborhood, infamous for its bohemian, artistic and intellectual residents. This was the first of several communities to coalesce around Kesey and psychedelic drugs.

Kesey took a job as a psychiatric aide in that same VA hospital, where he garnered much of the material for his first published novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The novel was told from the hallucinatory point of view of a Columbian Indian patient, Chief Broom, and it was the film version's neglect of that character which later caused Kesey to sue, unsuccessfully, to prevent the film's release.

Kesey's second novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, was a tale of a logging family, the Pacific Northwest, and the paradoxes of self-reliance. Shortly after completing it in 1964, Kesey left novel-writing to found the Merry Pranksters, a loose group of bold, surreal artists and performers whose ventures included a wild cross-country road trip in the psychedelic converted school bus they called Furthur, and the Acid Tests, all-night LSD-soaked free-for-alls of art, music, bizarre antics and community.

After serving three months in jail for marijuana possession, Kesey retreated to his farm in rural Oregon with his wife, Faye, and his children, Jed, Zane and Shannon. Kesey remained unapologetic about his advocacy of drugs: "I think acid is a blessed drug," he said in 1986, adding: "There have been more people killed in planes searching for marijuana [than] smoking it."

The next 20-odd years of life on the farm for Kesey, his family and the occasional odd visitor are chronicled in his 1988 short-story collection, Demon Box, which also contains the children's story "Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear". After being published separately, this story was named a Recommended Book for Children by the Library of Congress.

Kesey's final novel, a collaboration with fellow Prankster Ken Babbs, was appropriately titled Last Go Round. Babbs, Kesey's close friend of over 30 years, also provided this moving epitaph for Kesey:

"He will be sorely missed but if there is one thing he would want us to do it would be to carry on his life's work. Namely to treat others with kindness and if anyone does you dirt forgive that person right away. This goes beyond the art, the writing, the performances, even the bus. Right down to the bone." We'll try, Ken.