Racial Diversity at the Pendleton Round-Up

Ken Kesey, author of the great American novel, collaborated with long-time friend Ken Babbs for, Last Go Round in 1994. The book was appropriately titled; it was his final work of fiction. The story takes place at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up, the second annual. The characters in the story were real people. Kesey’s father had told him stories about the Round-Up and the disputed results of the bronc-riding contest.

Pendleton citizens had such a good time 1909 with Fourth-of-July horse races, Indian dances, greased-pig contests and fireworks that they decided it should be an event on its own, separate from Independence Day. The first Round-Up took place in 1910 and has been held annually – except 1942-1943, World War II hiatus – every September since. The event brings more than 50,000 people to Pendleton, nearly quadrupling its population. Continue reading “Racial Diversity at the Pendleton Round-Up”

Ken Kesey Hasn’t Left Us; He’s Just Dead

Ken Kesey wrote the Great American Novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, published in 1964. Well, okay, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was pretty good, too. Twain was certainly more prolific. Kesey’s published works other than his first, and more famous novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, include the novel Sailor’s Song, the historical novel Last Go Round, set in the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up, plus assorted miscellany, some collected in Kesey’s Garage Sale. (Paul Newman’s first directorial effort was the film adaptation of Sometimes a Great Notion.)

Kesey is also famous – or infamous – for the Acid Tests of the 1960s, bringing LSD and the Grateful Dead to notoriety. Kesey was the ringleader of the Merry Band of Pranksters – “Too young to be a beatnik and too old to be a hippy” – and the instigator of their road trip, in the psychedelically-painted bus “Further,” to the New York World’s Fair. Tom Wolfe chronicled the excursion in his classic of “new journalism,” The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Ken Kesey eventually had enough of the lifestyle and came to the realization that Pranksters was another name for moochers. He took his bus back home to his farm near Eugene and spent a relatively quiet rest of his life. He died in 2001.

Further – also known as “Furthur,” after decades of deterioration on Kesey’s farm, has been restored. A feature-length film of the Merry Pranksters adventures, “Magic Trip,” has been released and is available on DVD.


Ken Kesey was a champion wrestler at the University of Oregon. His son Jed was also. On the way to a match in 1984, the team’s bus, previously used to transport chickens and lacking seat belts, slid off an icy road. Jed was kept on life support for two days until his parents, Ken and Faye, gave permission to shut it off. Twenty-year-old Jed Kesey had previously signed an organ-donor authorization. Twelve of his organs went to others. The Keseys sued the National College Athletics Association and settled for $70,000. They used the money to buy a new bus for the U of O wrestling team. Read Ken Kesey’s letter about his son.