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It’s balmy, dictionary quality balmy on this lovely Vermont afternoon. We’ve just finished playing for the permanent residents of the Rutland State Penitentiary, and are on our way north to Carter and Chani’s house. A green highway, blue hazy mountains behind. We pass an old wood frame highway hamburger house, and Shawn pulls off the road decisively.

We order Maple Creamees from the young girl at the window. They’re as good as we’d hoped for, and we’d had high hopes. Smooth indeed, a sweet mixed race swirling softee tower of cold delight on a cake cone. Vermont is on our tongues, in our lungs, and a green feast for California summer eyes. We are satisfied. We sit at the edge of a slope overlooking maple trees and a wide grassy meadow. We, creamees, trees.

The Hawks have performed a civic duty and one of the Corporal Acts of Mercy. We have visited the imprisoned, and we have played Humboldt, Branded Man (by Haggard), Long Black Veil, and Drinker’s Hall of Fame, Beautiful Narcotc Place I Reside, Hard Times, and many more, with our acoustic instruments in a small prison rec room. The inmates enjoyed it, and so did we. Our first time at Rutland 2 years ago was a less relaxed time for us. Being ushered through many heavy duty steel doors and bars into a concertina wired prison yard, even one as small and bucolic as Rutland, is intimidating. The prisoners, of all ages, weight classes, tattoo choices, and ethnicities, prowl or hang in the yard, watching us pass. “Hey, Willie Nelson! What’s up?” calls one to cowboy hated grey hippie Paul L, and we all laugh. We’re back, and feeling at home our second time through.We’re back on the green road, passing covered bridges and tiny hamlets perched on the river valley bank back from the highway.

An American flag flies in a vast corn field down below us. The best looking flag we’ve ever seen. This is the American we know and love so well. It’s the 9th of July. Jimi Hendrix stretches out on the iPod. We are a rich nation.