Epoch was published by the creative writing program of Cornell's English Department, though this story was published after Fariņa had left Cornell. (An earlier issue, Spring 1959, had printed Thomas Pynchon's short story, "Mortality and Mercy in Vienna.")
"God Bless America and All the Ships at Sea" is about two college students hitchhiking across the desert, headed for Albuquerque. One of them says he is "looking for experience" because he feels that life is passing him by. At a gas station they run into three kids, ages 12-16, dressed in dusty farm clothes, traveling from Oklahoma to Califoria. The college students want to hitch a ride from them, but when they learn that the kids are driving a stolen car and that and the brakes don't work, they have second thoughts. While the college students debate about whether to go along in the car, the farmboys decide they don't want to bring them along and they take off without them. And that's all there is to the story.
Fariņa seems to be satirizing the suburban hobo phenomenon of the sixties, which was made fashionable a couple of years later by Dylan, Eric Andersen, and Fariņa himself--young men who left their comfortable middle class homes in search of experience. The story was published in 1960, before Dylan and his crowd became famous, but there is a reference to "folksingers" in the story. Fariņa was working in Manhattan by 1960, and hanging out in Greenwich Village, where he would have seen the early phase of this phenomenon (which I believe had started with the Beats).
Fariņa's clue that the farm boys were from Oklahoma--which was of course the home state of Woody Guthrie--suggests that they are "the real thing." The college students, on the other hand, can only pretend to be the real thing, the restless wanderers: they exhibit a stifling caution, a sterile a pre-meditatedness in their quest for experience, that contrasts sharply with the carefree farmboys riding a stolen car across the country with no brakes. The college students halt and hesitate, debating about what they should do, while the farm boys just go ahead and do it.
I am told that the title of the story alludes to a famous broadcaster from the thirties and forties who began his program with the phrase, "God Bless America and All the Ships at Sea." Fariņa often used "God Bless America" ironically: Gnossos murmurs the phrase to himself when he witnesses the atomic explosion in chapter 6 of Been Down So Long, and of course the phrase appears in "House Un-American Blues Activity Dream." We find a similar irony in Dylan's "With God on our Side."