Ken Kesey would be kicking up plenty of dirt about the way the new athletic director is treating his beloved Oregon Wresting. I am Ken's son, when I was young I learned about his passion for this team. Eventually my brother and I were lucky enough to be University of Oregon wrestlers, my father couldn't have been prouder. Every one of these Ducks spilled sweat, tears and blood for the team, my brother died in a wreck while the teams van was traveling to Pullman, you can't give any more than that!
Now with a single underhanded stroke of Pat Kilkenny's pen, our team is axed in favor of baseball. Wrestlers are good sports and never argue with the official, but something smells completely wrong here. My coach, Ron Finley, the nicest guy you ever will meet has been calling in all the favors he has ever done to raise money to pay for this program. Ron is obviously well loved, as he has raised nearly 3 million in cash and pledges. Yet Kilkenny just seems to scoff at these monumental, heartwarming efforts. It is exactly during this kind of stink that Ken Kesey would step in and make sure the people see the ugly truth of what's happening. I am not Ken Kesey, but I will no longer be silent while this tragedy unfolds.
We CAN save Oregon Wrestling! I am calling all wrestlers, pranksters, and friends of Kesey past and present to join me Saturday aboard Ken's bus FURTHER for an evening of spreading the word loudly throughout the town.
I will start at Roaring Rapids Pizza around 4:00, all press is welcome, we will have plenty to say!
Pleasant Hill, OR
For a great website about Oregon wrestling, go to:
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THANK YOU, ZANE KESEY
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ROBERT LIPSYTE; Alone With Ken Kesey, Talk Turns to Buses
Published: November 29, 1991
Ken Kesey expects to be shouting, "Get tough, suck it up" tonight as he twists his big, hard farmer's gut through wrestling moves his father taught him. The Fighting Ducks of the University of Oregon are at home, and Kesey has never let anything shake his passion for his old varsity team, not even his own son's grave in the backyard.
But he gropes for the words to explain. "They've got a good team this year," he begins, his thick, nimble fingers, strong from milking and deft from magic tricks, shaving off leaves of cheese and laying them out on Saltine crackers. He has fed the cows on his farm here south of Eugene and it is dusk beyond the glass sliding doors of the dining room. The boy's headstone is dim.
Kesey, ringleader of the psychedelic 60's, best-selling novelist, nonstop talker, finally says, "Look, there are lots of crooked lawyers but that doesn't make the law bad. All the stuff in sports, the game is still pure."
Kesey wanted Jed to wrestle. The boy was not a natural athlete, but he was strong and he was smart. He could learn moves. It would be a bond between them as it had been between Ken and his dad.
"You don't get so many chances in life to shout for your kid," he said. "Hey, go write that good sentence, add up those numbers, learn that genetic code. But you could be at the side of the mat or along the track and the kid can look at me and know I cared as much as he did."
And Kesey cared. He had come back from the literary lionization of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," his wildly successful 1962 first novel; from the madcap fame of the Merry Pranksters' bus trip that became known as the "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," from drug fogs and drug busts to nurture his roots in this rural community where he had been a high school and college sports star. In the 70's, he "fixed the toilet and joined the P.T.A." and helped his wife, Faye, raise four children.
Jed was the third, the second son. He was 20 when the Fighting Ducks' borrowed wrestling van crashed on an icy road en route to a match in Washington. Kesey was at the side of the hospital bed when Jed died.
"As Faulkner said, every so often the dog has to battle the bear just so he can call himself a dog again," Kesey said. "I felt the bite of the bear when Jed died. I didn't feel it was God's will that he be up there in a van without seat belts, without a CB to call ahead to a hospital. I felt there was stuff that had happened that was unfair and that could be changed."
The headstone has vanished in the darkness and Kesey pours Thanksgiving eggnog and laces it with bourbon. It's my turn to grope for words. We have talked about all this before. Jed is dead almost eight years now, but somehow metaphor is still easier than facts. "The bus," I finally say, "have you used that as, well, you know, I mean it's like an ironic thread. . . ."
"Thought about it, never wrote about it," he says. "Everybody responds to a bus, Greyhound, schoolbus. It took America to the next place. You know, the Smithsonian wants the old bus."
That was the bus called "Further" and it was sitting, seats rotted, paint peeling, in Kesey's barn when he came back from the hospital to bury Jed near the chicken coop and make a pact over the grave. "Jed went out and did his dadgumdest for me and I felt as if I didn't go out and do the same for him, when we saw each other again across the river we'd have to look away," Kesey said.
So the dog went after the bear, the state of Oregon, the university, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, in an attempt to raise the safety standards of the so-called minor sports, the "athletic orphans," as Kesey calls them, like wrestling and softball and volleyball. It was another consciousness-raising road trip, and it produced another noteworthy bus. With the settlement of one of his lawsuits arising from the crash, Kesey bought the Oregon wrestling team a $40,000 bus with reclining seats, safety belts and emergency radios.
The battle took Kesey off the farm and back into the national arena. In the late 80's he began to write seriously again, to teach, to appear with those other 60's icons, the Grateful Dead. He produced two successful children's books, and closed in on another bear, his long-promised "big novel," the futuristic "Sailor's Song."
It is past midnight now. The cheese and crackers are a pile of rind scraps and crumbs. The bourbon is low. Late tonight, Kesey will head back to his writing cottage on the Oregon coast to wrestle the final chapters to the mat. But first, he will go shout for his Fighting Ducks, "Suck it up, get tough, keep your head up."
Yesterday, Zane Kesey loaded the bus up with wrestlers, some of whom wrestled with his dad, others of a younger testesteronic age, all bussed through the streets of Eugene, exhorting the natives to rise up in ire and umbrage to convince the University of Oregon not to drop the wrestling program. They parked at MacArthur Court, the basketball arena, where the ducks were playing Washington State.
FOR THE EUGENE REGISTER GUARD STORY GO TO SAVEWRESTLING Ron Finley, former Oregon wrestling coach, spearheading the drive to save Oregon wrestling. Good friend of Ken Kesey.