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Jerry Garcia looses middle finger in Lompico

Jerry Garcia (age 4), who grew up to be a famed musician and member of the Grateful Dead, lost his middle finger in a wood-chopping accident in the community of Lompico. Jerry's family owned a house in Lompico.

Friday,  August 11, 1995 - Santa Cruz Sentinel

Jerry Garcia's finger rests in county folklore

Legendary guitarist Jerry Garcia is no longer with us, but he left a part of himself behind in Santa Cruz County.

His finger.

That's the story told Thursday by his cousin, Kris Clifford-Crow, manager of Santa Cruz Medical Clinic Westside office and a resident of Zayante.

She said Garcia's older brother, Clifford, cut off Jerry's middle finger on his right hand while playing with an ax and a piece of wood outside their grandparents' Lompico cabin. Jerry, who was holding a piece of wood, was 4 at the time.

It was an accident, she said, but the resulting confusion was so great that Jerry's grandparents forgot to take young Cliddord -- and Jerry's finger -- with them to the emergency room.

The finger has never been located.

Clifford-Crow, who is 20 years younger than her famous cousin, learned what happened later from relatives.

Garcia was 53 years old when he died Wednesday at a drug treatment center in Marin County. His death ended a 30-year musical career that brought him millions of fans worldwide.

Like Garcia, Clifford-Crow grew up in San Francisco. She remembers spending her summers with him at the cabin, which her grandparents owned since the 1930s. She wants to share her connection with Garcia with all the people that loved him.

"Jerry could pick up any instrument and play it," Clifford-Crow remembers her mother saying. "He was the only one in the family with musical talent."

Clifford-Crow tells another family story about Garcia's style.

One summer Garcia, then 15, and his cousins were headed to a summer dance in Lompico. Garcia brought a white blazer to wear but was unsure about the look. After sending Clifford-Crow's brother Dennis to gauge the attore of their friends and family, Garcia decided he was overdressed and refused to go.

"Jerry was a little more concerned about his looks back then," Clifford-Crow said.

Clifford-Crow said her family was very avante-garde during the '60s and not terribly concerned about Garcia's drug use. They wer more concerned with her brother's safety while he was in Vietnam.

Because of the difference in their ages, Clifford-Crow and her cousin were not close until the '60s were long gone. She re-established contact with him in 1981 and he invited her to a show at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco. She brought a Dead-head friend, telling him only that she knew someone in the band. After the show they went back-stage.

"Jerry gave me a big hug," she said, while her friend stood speachless. "After that, he would call me whenever he played Santa Cruz."

Clifford-Crow said she was not suprised by her cousin's death.

"His death was almost predictable after abusing his body so long." she said, lamenting not onlt "the end of an era but the end of an important part of our family history."