Visiting Ken Babbs: Outriders in Oregon

The Facts: Jenni Fagan & Bonnie Jo Campbell arrived in Portland, Oregon, picked up a dude who was willing to drive us (Eric Miller), and headed south to Dexter, Oregon, to visit Merry Prankster and Intrepid Traveler, Skypilot Kapn’Ken Babbs, who turned out to be a extraordinarily generous host.


The Babbs bike, built by  Kapn Skypilot

The Artifacts: Too many to mention, a treasure trove, but for a start…

Books and more books and books-in-progress, notebooks, Videos, CDs, vinyl records, reel-to-reel tapes, blueberry pancakes (made by Skypilot), enchiladas (his specialty), a homemade psychedelic bicycle with a banana seat and high-rise handlebars, much laughter and chortling and guffawing and some roaring, a psychedelic toilet seat, a divinely proportioned jersey milk cow named Bunny who was in a mood (milked by daughter who is also next door neighbor on her own acres), a rabbit named Bossy, old goats that were fed by Eileen Babbs (after she got home from work), another damned skunk under the house, a cement mixer bought at a yard sale, a bridge over the Lost Creek (the highest bridge, made out of a train car, retrieved and rebuilt after the last big flood that washed it away), a garden full of spinach and berries and flowers and more, and also fresh ivory coffee cream from aforementioned Jersey cow ladled and not spooned from the top of the bottle, songs sung by Babbs, dishes washed by Ken Babbs with no help from his guests, more laughter, music by James McMurtry (son of novelist and erstwhile Prankster-ish Larry McMurtry), more freedom plus positivity and joy, much grinning and some tapping of noggin at the temple, homemade Pinot Noir, another book in progress by Eileen about teaching Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion to high school students, more laughter and joy, pictures on the refrigerator, all in and around a solid house built himself in the style of a western barn before too much fuss or careful attention was insisted upon by the inspectors.


Basic info about Ken Babbs (out of date):

Follow the Intrepid Traveler’s Blog:

Here’s another link to an article in the Oregonian that shows a few more pictures of his house. (We visitors all felt a little shy about taking too many pix).

And start to get to know him by reading his novel WHO SHOT THE WATER BUFFALO and the Tom Wolfe Book THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST for a burlesque version of some of his early life, and there’s much more.

For more info about the Outrider project, which has paired up Scottish and American writers to travel the New World, created by the Edinburgh Book Festival

also follow Jenni Fagan’s blog

Also, follow us on FB and Twitter



@edbookfest  #outriders





About bonniejocampbell

I'm the author of ONCE UPON A RIVER, AMERICAN SALVAGE, MOTHERS TELL YOUR DAUGHTERS, Q ROAD, WOMEN & OTHER ANIMALS. I love Michigan, donkeys, black walnuts, blackcap raspberries, Flannery O'Connor.
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