Willie Nelson and Gatewood Galbraith

Gatewood and Willie
High Times
by Steve Bloom
January 1991

It’ s high noon in Kentucky.  The heavy morning fog that shrouded Lexington has lifted just in time for today’s big events.

Willie Nelson is in town.  Last night, October 12, he played Maysville — about 65 miles north and east on the Ohio border.  Nelson has come to Lexington to pump up Gatewood Galbraith’s drive to win the Democratic nomination for governor next May.  He agrees with Galbraith that hemp farming is the solution to Kentucky’s economic problems.  A longtime pot smoker, Nelson learned how American farmers used to grow hemp for food, fuel and fiber when he read Jack herer’s book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes.  A CNN interview with Gailbraith prompted Nelson to contact the Lexington lawyer-turned-candidate.

The gothic Fayette County Courthouse was chosen as the first stop in the day-long campaign tour of Kentucky’s two largest cities, Lexington and Louisville, and it’s capital, Frankfort.  The day will conclude with a benefit concert featuring Nelson and his band at Louisville Gardens.

Anticipation mounts as the local press, interested citizens and Hemp Tour road warriers gather around the Courthouse.  I’m interviewing Marlowe Tackett, the evening’s other musical attraction, when I hear the crowd roar and applaud.  It’s Willie and Gatewood.  They’ve just arrived in Galbraith’s bright-red Mercedes station wagon.  Fueled with hemp oil, the car is known in these parts and High Times readers as the Hempmobile.  Galbraith, dressed in a blue suit red tie and wing tips, looks like a typical politician/lawyer.  Nelson is wearing black jeans, a Highwayman t-shirt, boots and a baseball cap rimmed with Indian beadwork.  His hair is greybrown, long and braided.  He looks like Willie. 

The two ascend the Courthouse steps.  It’s become a beautiful blue-sky day.  Galbraith begins without the help of amplification.  “I am extremely honored and pleased to be here today,” he says, his voice rough and full of Kentucky drawl.  “We are going through a terrific, terrific transition in this country.  The production of energy over the next 20 years is going to move from the hands of the petrochemical, pharmaceutical and synthetic industries back to the agricultural sector, because agrifuel is the way you combat the hold in the ozone and acid rain.  For the good of the environment, farmers must return to their heritage of raising fuel and fiber.  Our relationship with Mother Earth is the most basic relationship we have.”

The supportive audience applauds.  Galbraith surveys the crowd and continues.  “When a government tells us that we cannot go to our mother’s source, which is Earth, and plant a seed in God’s green earth and utilize the green plant that comes up out of there in its natural form for our fiber, food and medicine, then that government is awry and no longer represents the best interests of its citizens.  It’s very important that people band together right now and begin promoting the best interests of Mother Earth, of our farmers and of the agricultural sector.  It adds zest, it adds the kind of life that the citizens of the freeest country on Earth should be living, and it’s what we’re going to implement here in the state of Kentucky.”

Galbraith seques neatly into a moving and emphatic introduction of his guest of honor.  “Ladies and gentlemen, I wouldn’t be any more poud if I was standing here with the president of any country on this Earth.  This man has come here today at great personal sacrifice and expense because he understands what we’re trying to do with this campaign.  Ladies and gentlemen, my very good friend and a national institution, someone I love and am very proud of — Willie Nelson!”

“First of all, I’d like to say that Gatewood didn’t call me, I called him,” Nelson says.  I said, ‘I’ve got to talk to that guy.  I’ve got to find out if he’s real.’  So I called Gatewood and said, “Gatewood, what are you all about?’ We got together and talked and I found out that the man knows what he’s talking about.  He knows the hemp situation from the seed to the harvest.  He speaks the truth. They don’t want you to know that hemp is petroleum.  They don’t want you know that hemp is petroleum.  They don’t want you to know that hemp is food, that hemp is paper, that you can save trees.  Once again it’s up to the farmers of America to save the planet.  We have to return to the agricultural way of doing things.  I am in favor of a war on drugs, but I’m not in favor of a war on flowers and herbs.  If I had a guitar I’d sing and walk off, but I don’t ”

Instead, Gailbraith opens the floor, or the steps, for questions from the press, High Times included.  With two stops yet to go on the day’s barnstorming tour, Galbraith cuts the conference short after Nelson and High Times editor Steve Hager exchagne hats — a Willie tradcition — and instructs everybody to head to the Hempmobile.  In one of the day’s better “phot-ops,” Nelson lifts a five-gallon container of hemp oil an dpours it into the Mercedes’ diesel fuel tank.

“Rudolf Diesel orginally designed the diesel engine to run off of seed oil,” Gailbraith lectures. “Methanol from hemp produced by Kentucky farmers could absolutely replace every bit of oil that we have our military halfway around the world ready to start a war over.  Hemp oil produces no sulfur.  The carbons that this fuel burns are annual renewable carbons which will go into next year’s hemp crop and stay out of the ozone.”

“Folks, we’re driving up to Frankfort, the cradle of Kentucky democracy.  We’re going to have some things to say to them too.  I hope you’ll join us.”

Willie and Gatewood strap themselves into the Hempmobile and take off, followed by Nelson’s two luxury buses, Rodger Belkap’s purple Freedom Fighter school bus, a chartered bus for the press and several dozen cars and vans.  The caravan finds Interestate 64 West, and begins the short drive to Frankfort, where a Democratic Unity rally is awaiting their arrival.

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