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Occidental Walking Report
by"Baker" Bart Beck
9/21/92: It's been a great summer here in Occidental, with many long, hot days and warm nights. An early autumn and harvest this year. Everyone's staying on top of things, considering how far-out the times be. I've finally paid off my motor home, the Bartmobile, home sweet home on Coleman Valley Road.
Lou Gottlieb's back in the area again, and is really enjoying getting to see everyone in a community that loves him and is happy to have him here. He showed me some photos from his visit to Don and Sandra King in Kentucky. Beautiful place the Kings have. I telephoned Don and Sandy the other day. They hadn't heard from me in over 12 years. Don said I really blew his mind calling him from California! They both invited me to come stay any time. It sure is enjoyable to get back in touch with good friends.
Rebecca Betl (she took her last name from her favor movie "Betl-geuse") who lived at Wheeler's in '70-71 and had Andre, is back in the area, living in Graton. Her daughter Amber was with her this summer, and will turn 18 this month. Andre is 21 and living with a lady in Pleasanton, CA., and they're about to have a child. I telephoned Donna Waldner in Washington State a while back. She was surprised and happy to hear from me, and it was really good to talk with her again after 19 years. She's studying to be a veterinarian and wishes to specialize in birds. She has a four-year-old daughter.
I saw Eddie and Nassue Born (Wheeler's '71) at the Occidental Volunteer Fire Department barbecue. They were doing face-painting for children. Their child Wesley just turned 18. It kinda looked like Clown Day at the Barbecue ‹ it was the first year they've done it. They go around doing face paintings at fairs and art shows ‹ real neat for kids!
Just a final quote from Goethe:
That which issues from your heart alone
Shall bend the hearts of others to your own."
"Beekeeper" John Bermel ,9/6/92: Thank you for your latest MOST!
Your newsletter relates a rich mosaic of Morning Star history as well as
current happenings of former residents. For your efforts I'm most grateful.
I'd like to share with you and your readers news about a community in Northern California that has carried on the practice of Voluntary Primtivism in fine form. I visited the River Spirit School of Natural Living in July while returning from the Oregon Country Fair. They are on 80 acres of land located on the South Fork of the Trinity River. The setting is truly beautiful. The tribe consists of about 15 big folks and 10 kids. To support their lives, they do workshops in July and August. There is a rough road in -- yes, they do own several four-wheel drive trucks. Visitors are asked to hike in, an easy 3-mile walk through forest and meadows.
While River Spirit is not "Open Land" (they do ask a very modest daily donation to pay for expenses) it does embrace the Morning Star Faith. They are kind and warm-hearted people. They are involved in primitive crafts and skills as once practiced by the Native people in their region. They farm many acres of land, mostly by hand and with organic methods. They cook with wood fuel in simple yet profound structures. There is no electricity or telephone...
If you or anyone out there wishes to visit them, they can be reached by writing: River Spirit, P.O. Box 173, Mad River, CA 95552. They ask that you "share a little about yourself and when you would like to come." Happy Trails to You! Hugs and Smiles,
Pam (Read) Hanna 9/1/92: We had a FANTASTIC visit with Lou. It
was lovely to see him again, and we only covered Old Times Volume I. There
are so many years between, but it's such fun catching up. The visit to
Don and Sandy's was -- what? -- psychically reverberating. I guess you
know about Rainbow's disappearance. Lou is going to find out what the procedure
is for missing persons. He has a strong feeling that the young man is not
dead. We all hope not. I took your book ("A Death In Zamora") to show Don
and Sandy, and we talked about it (I had to take it back because it was
from the library). We also did a tour of God's land where Don had built
one of his magical houses -- long story about that. We met the radiant
daughter, Morningstar. She REALLY looks and acts like an angel! (not obnoxious
-- I mean a REAL angel!)
Shoshanna wrote me a long letter, and Joanie and I are finally in touch, and Lou and Don and Sandy and I phoned Vivian while we were in Kentucky. She was flabbergasted by such a Blast from the Past. It seems everyone has a body of literature that goes with. We all have group letters we've written, or something comparable. It's really a turn-on for me! Be sure to send me the newsletter whenever. And let me know if I can help with anything! Love Always,
Philip Davis (MStar '67) 9/9/92: Wow!!!*%# FAR OUT!! What a joy
to receive this newsletter after soooo many years! I looked in "The Sacramento
Bee" and saw that the Limeliters were playing outdoors in a park nearby.
Lou and I got together after the show and talked over some beers (YIN SIN!).
It had been a long time since we had been in touch. I think the last time
I saw Lou I was in New York working as a cook in the Paradox restaurant
on the Lower East side. It must have been 1968 or 69, I think, and Lou
and Rena had just returned from India.
What I read in the newsletter brought back a lot of memories, almost stream-of-consciousness kinda thing. I'm not sure I can remember any sequence, but what does that matter? Memory's a funny thing. Indian Chris and I at a gathering on Mt. Tam. Hundreds of naked people playing music and dancing in the sun until the police arrive, maybe four or five cars, eight or ten cops. Magically, spontaneously, everybody made a giant circle with the cop cars in the middle! How the hell do you arrest hundreds of naked hippies? The cops smiled and left. Old cabins on a hill in Gurneville; swimming in the Russian River; cooking tons of brown rice at Morningstar for us and lots of tourists; serving the food outside in a soup kitchen kinda line. Lou with a sign around his neck that said "This BODY has been talking entirely too much." I seem to remember someone who did a lot of cooking and taught me a little about Macrobiotics. Marty, perhaps? Waking up in my sleeping bag in a field and hearing Lou practicing the piano, beautiful classical refrains with an occasional "Oh Shit!" thrown in. Sleeping in the barn not far from the creek during a storm and a giant tree came crashing through the roof and walls, and stopped quite literally inches above my head. Lou writing a jingle for Louis Kuntz for Sheriff to the tune of a cigarette commercial? Something about "the taste of Kuntz?" Do you remember the words, Lou?
Things were not all groovy and light. I remember the "townies" smashing car windows in the wee hours at Morningstar, and some "neighbor" of Bill Wheeler's with a shotgun forcing me and some friends to back up in the mud because he wouldn't let us turn around in his driveway.
Most everything I recall with warmth and a good feeling: a beautiful organic garden and a funky flatbed truck I drove to San Francisco a couple of times loaded with produce to trade for rice and other staples at the health food store. I wish I could just barter now instead of using money.
I've been in Sacramento and environs most of the last 20 years, selling furniture. I've been married, divorced and married again. My wife is a teacher, and I have 3 children, 13, 16 and 20. I would love to help with the newsletter or anything else. I need to put this computer to work. When can a bunch of us get together? Seems that there are quite a few within a hundred miles. I must sign off now. My 13-year-old son will be home from school soon, and seein' as how it's my day off, I get to cook dinner. Speak to all of you soon! Ike Eichenlaub (MStar ''71): Indeed a "Yuppie-hobo." I guess I can live with that, but remember all Yuppie-hobos are really hippies in their hearts! Yes, indeed, I can almost fit a lot of things, but whether that is good or not is not exactly clear. I prefer to think of myself as a (I can't spell this so I'll have to go look it up) -- renaissance man! I've always felt that I needed much more money to be a Yuppie -- I think a postal employee would be called "blue collar," and a Yuppie would be more a lawyer. But I guess a postal employee who considers himself (through ego-pampering or whatever) a renaissance man (but can't spell) could squeak in under and, as much as I hate it, could be a -- God-forbid! -- YUPPIE!!! I feel I should hide under a rock with that title.
Dwayne, a true hippie capitalist while on the road, though he would hate that pigeon hole, called me a "pussy." Now is that a sexist term or what? It certainly isn't very sophisticated! He said I drove/drive like a pussy. Now I assume he means a "sissy," but by using the more derogatory term, not only is he not being politically correct (in this age one must be politically correct and offend no one), but he is also implying a sense of weakness -- "Your driving skills are not aggressive enough for a hard-nosed -- " "I'm still a hippie and proud of it, and I have not fallen from grace like your type of Yuppie-hobo scum, who is in fact a pussy!"
This was also part of our trip. For instance, we stopped in Ohio and got fairly blasted at some if his friends and had a good time, and it was late but he would not spend the night cuz -- God knows why, only why, we had to leave... something about deadlines for a building project (which later fell through, big time). The son of a bitch has been an uncompromising bachelor so frigging long that he has no idea of compromise anymore -- a weakness, but not one a pussy can exploit easily. I still love him though, maybe even more than I used to. After a while, since I would not aggressively attack other vehicles while passing and skirting between semi-trailers during the rain, he refused to let me drive. So I slept or listened to his tirades over the roar of the engine (our muffler busted). After a while he became hoarse and lost his voice altogether (this is really true!). I was relieved. At certain times the glare on the road was intense, but he refused to wear my sun glasses, preferring to squint. His eyes are set so deeply anyway -- maybe he didn't need them? Yea, we had fights, it was great. We also had fine discussions and a lot of fun -- nothing is the same -- all has changed -- yet it is familiar. Familiarity is what makes us think we can return to the way it used to be. If I could, I would re-enact the God's Land time, yet this time, Not Leave!
REMEMBERING MORNING STAR
by Vivian Gotters
I arrived at Morning Star in May of 1967. It was eleven o'clock at night as we walked up the front road, the sounds and smells of the country night surrounding us. Me, a city girl, terrified, I stared into the darkness unable to see anything but the stuff of my imagination. My partner, Laird, coaxed me along. Had I been alone I would have gone nuts. "It's the country," he said. "It's not that dark, really. You'll get used to it."
We had hitched a ride up from San Francisco. Living in the Haight-Ashbury, we had got along by panhandling on Haight Street and by selling hand-made braided belts to the "Psychedelic Shop". But the Thelen brothers who owned the store were going broke; and the S.F. establishment had made panhandling illegal. We went to Berkeley to stay with a friend of mine, but her landlord took one look at us -- long hair, beads and bells -- and said he'd call the police if we didn't leave his property immediately. Back in San Francisco, the word was out that there was a man who had thirty acres of land an hour north of the city, and he was letting people stay there and build their own dwellings. Called Morning Star Ranch, it sounded like a place where we could keep the faith.
And faith was what we needed as we walked on in the dark of night carrying everything we owned. At last, we could see a campfire at the top of the road, and as we approached we could hear the voices of the people at the fire. Coming on a new group of people, out in the middle of nowhere like that was frightening, but walking back into the darkness seemed worse, so we went over and sat down by the fire.
As my eyes adjusted to the light, I could see a small cabin nearby, on the other side an old-fashioned stone well, and in the distance up the hill, I saw a large house. People were busily coming and going, and there was much activity in spite of the late hour. One of the girls at the fire identified us as newcomers and explained that we had arrived on a special night. Some residents had returned from the city that evening with a supply of the latest psychedelic, STP, and they were just finishing the final preparations for a group trip. She apologized that there would not be enough for us; but, she said they would be able to give us some LSD if we liked. She then offered to take us to her own place where we could sleep, because she, like most of the residents, would be up all night tripping. Since we had spent the night before in a Crash Pad and were anxious to get some rest, we agreed to get a night's sleep, and then to take some LSD first thing in the morning; the best way to get to know our new surroundings.
We followed her behind the cabin and past the big house until we came to a plywood A-frame about ten feet tall at the peak. It was a two-story A-frame. A plywood floor had been laid a few feet below the apex, just room enough for someone to bed down for the night on top; while two could sleep on the bottom. Steve, the upper tenant, was away, and we were left alone in the A-frame our first night. As I settled into my sleeping bag, exhausted from the day's wanderings, I thought about how wonderful it was to have found a place where people were so willing to share that they designed even the simplest structure to accommodate extra "guests." This incredible openness and genuine friendliness was the essence of Morning Star Ranch, and the Flower Power movement. An instant turn-on, And it was contagious.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
The next morning, we were given the two doses of LSD, as promised, and we went about exploring the thirty acres that was Morning Star Ranch. The land was on a hillside, and we made our way down, passing first the chicken coops, then the barnyard. We wound our way down the hill until we were stopped by a flowing stream and we followed along its banks, listening to the sound of the water bubbling among the rocks, delighted by the sounds, smells and sights. By now we were quite stoned, and I was completely lost and delighted. I was sure we had gone miles and would never find our way back. But it was so lovely at that stream. I didn't care to return to the world I had known. I sat down on the bank. I don't know how long I sat there alone, but finally I saw a snake on the opposite bank slithering into the water. It was very beautiful, but I realized that I was so new to my environment. I didn't know whether the snake was dangerous or not. I wasn't frightened, but perhaps I should be. I called to my friend. He was not far off. When I told him I was looking at a snake, he approached with caution, but upon closer inspection, he was able to identify our new neighbor as harmless. The spell was broken, however, and we decided to start back up the hill,
We found the barnyard easily, we hadn't gone far at all. We continued walking up the hill and came to a large plateau where we recognized the stone well and the cabin we had seen the night before. It was then that we had our first look at our new Benefactor. He sat in front of the cabin talking with a woman who sat next to him. He saw us immediately. Our senses heightened by the LSD, we could hear him say, sotto voce, as he watched us walk past. "They're new arrivals. Very authentic." As bona fide Flower Children, we had an aversion to authority, no matter how benevolent, so we kept on walking. But we returned to the A-frame with a strong sense of belonging. No doubt, we had come to the right place.
Our Guide of the evening before returned to tell us that she had decided to move on. And so, we became the new tenants of the lower half of the A-frame. The platform on which the A-frame was built extended out on one side providing a place to sit and look over the hillside. Below us, just off to the left was Lou's cabin, and next to the cabin, directly below the A-frame was the Morning Star garden. It was a beautiful, thriving organic garden, and I would sit and admire the panorama and watch the gardeners at their work. They were always naked in the garden as they moved about weeding and watering the plants.
There were two major transitions I had to make in order to adjust to life at Morning Star. One was shitting in the woods, the other was the acceptance of nudity. The first day that I saw the Morning Star gardeners I was surprised by their nudity. But as I sat there, absorbing the scene in front of me, the people I watched seemed to move with an Eden-like connection to their environment, and I sensed an innocence about them that I admired; and I longed to have a similar connection with the land that would free me from the inhibitions stamped upon me by the strictures of civilization. (My stay at Morning Star did make a Native of me, yet it took several months before I could go unclothed and live in complete harmony with the Earth.)
Behind the A-frame at the top of the property stood the Upper-house. This was the larger of two houses on the ranch. Here, one could find a kitchen and a bathroom, and therefore, the Upper-house was the hub of civilization. This was home to those who had no intentions of any kind of becoming "one with the Earth." The Upper-house was Party Central, and it was here that the latest Beatles' album, "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," played continuously, non-stop, for an entire week end,
Not long after the Sgt. Pepper weekend, as I sat outside watching the daylight fade into evening, I heard the distinct roar of too many motorcycles coming up the main road. Word was out that the Gypsy Jokers had arrived and planned to stay overnight. I knew from life on Haight Street that the Jokers were an extremely violent bike gang. Unlike the Hells Angels, who protected the Flower Children and had co-sponsored several Be-In's in Golden Gate Park, the Jokers were prone to acts of random, unprovoked violence. I was very frightened. I climbed into the A-frame. By that time we had spray-painted "Jesus Saves" on the side that faced the garden. I felt that this was the safest place for me, and I stayed inside for the rest of the night. And a long night it was. They took over the campfire by the Well on the far side of Lou's cabin, close enough for me to hear every word. They yelled, laughed, fired guns, hunted imaginary deer, threw the picnic table, benches and message blackboard into the fire, yelled and laughed some more. It went on all night and into the morning. I felt awful, hiding like that, and I wondered what Lou was feeling. He was surrounded by their mayhem. At last, bolstered by the full light of morning, I decided to take a peek at the scene by the Well. As I emerged from the A-frame I could see motorcycles strewn about. The fire was still smoking. As I walked behind Lou's cabin I could hear a good deal of laughter and the sound of Lou's voice. I came around the side, and to my amazement, there sat all the Jokers, roaring with laughter, while Lou stood before the group doing "biker" imitations. And he had them down pat; and the gist of his humor was how childish the behavior of bikers really was. That was his farewell to them. They left shortly after,
I was told later that the Jokers had called ahead and asked permission to come to Morning Star and Lou had given it. There were many times when we wished that Lou would refuse access to certain people, or that he would "close" the land to further settlement as the population grew. But, at the same time, we realized how difficult it would be to set "criteria" for "acceptable" residents, and what an awful process that would be. Lou always said that the Land would call the people to it. And we knew this was true, because the Morning Star family, or tribe, was the most diverse group of people I have ever seen assembled anywhere.
Because so many people came and went, it took some time to determine who the residents of Morning Star really were, where they lived and what they were "in to." We would come together in the evenings for the one meal a day that was served at Morning Star. There was a small one bedroom house at the north edge of the property. Here, in the small kitchen of the Lower House, the evening meal was prepared. When I first arrived, there were thirty to forty people at dinner in the evenings. A month later we counted one hundred and forty. The meal was always the same. A huge pot of soup, brown rice with fresh zucchini and summer squash from the Garden, and home made whole grain bread. A diet suggested by the theories of Zen Macro-biotics. As the numbers grew we tried to encourage people to bring their own bowls and chopsticks. Cooking and clean-up in that tiny kitchen was almost impossible. I tried to help and found that there was hardly room to work. Cindy was the one that got it all done. Always naked, except for a bead and shell necklace, and occasionally, a brown hand-knit poncho on cool evenings, Cindy was one of the people I saw in the Garden each day. I would ask her what I could do to help. She'd answer, "Do your thing."
Each evening we would gather in the redwood grove in front of the Lower House. We would form a circle and hold hands for an evening benediction. Often, Tom would walk around the grove improvising exquisite music on his silver flute while we stood in silence feeling the evening settle around us, and I watched the faces around the circle become more familiar each evening. Then we'd all help ourselves to the food that was set out on the tables.
As we became part of the Morning Star family, it was suggested that
since we were meditative types, we might be happier in the quieter atmosphere
of the Barnyard people, who lived further down the hill, out of sight of
the road and the main traffic of the ranch. Being an open community, Morning
Star was home to a diverse population, and within the community, sub-groups
formed of like-mind-ed individuals. The Barnyard people were those who
had come to escape city ways, and to make peace with the Earth. There actually
was a large barn, set in the middle of a long, narrow open field,
Bea and B., (Beatrice and Willie B.), were two of the original settlers of the barnyard, and they had brought two horses, and had built a small ramshackle corral that magically managed to keep its captives from wandering off. Beatrice was blonde, full-figured, intelligent, with a strong, good natured disposition. Willie B. was black, tall and thin; and his smile was most convincing in spite of the fact that he had lost the sight in one eye. Willie B. always looked, to me, like he had just been discharged from the Union Army Cavalry, and was now ready to settle down to ranchin' with his family. Bea and B. also had several children that buzzed happily around them. They left Morning Star shortly after we arrived, and I was sorry that I didn't get to know them better. They took the horses with them, but they left one notorious goat named Annabel, and a collection of chickens, roosters and a few ducks. But, the "B's" had made the Barnyard authentic.
Inside the Barn lived Marty and Bernard. Marty had shaved his head, and wore only a "diaper," an East Indian "dhoti." He was a follower of Gurdjieff. and Marty, extremely strong of will, "did his own thing." Marty was not prepared to accept all comers with open arms, Morning Star style, so he put a large sign outside the Barn door which said, "INFECTIOUS HEPATITIS, KEEP OUT." This worked amazingly well, or perhaps it was just Marty's natural craziness that drove people away. Bernard was dark-skinned with dark, very thick hair. He attired himself in the same garb as did Marty, but he always wore a pink bandanna as a head band, around his forehead. Bernard had been busted for possessing Speed, and when he appeared in court he told the Judge that he was the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. And Bernard meant it. Marty and Bernard had a campfire in front of the Barn for which Marty claimed he had a Fire Permit, because campfires are illegal in Sonoma County in Summer. But he never would present the Permit upon request, even to the Fire Marshall. Perhaps what really kept people away was the fact that every evening, as the night grew dark and the stars came out, Marty and Bernard would sit at the campfire, and Marty would chant in a loud clear voice while Bernard played rhythms on his bongo drum. They allowed anyone to join them, but conversation of any kind was not permitted during their ritual. And they did go on and on. But I enjoyed it. Sitting by the campfire under the stars making our own song in the night. It was fine.
Sometimes Pam and Larry would join the campfire. They had built their own tiny cabin in the Barnyard. Called the "Meadow-boat," it was actually a structure built on a platform about three feet off the ground. Inside, it was only big enough to sit up in, but it had a peaked roof and windows along both sides. They slept there with their toddler son, Adam Siddhartha. Pam was about five feet tall, with long dirty blonde hair and huge blue eyes. Always bare-breasted, Pam would carry her son so that he rode along on her hip. Adam Sidd's hair was bleached golden by the sun, but his eyes were like his mother's, and to come upon them together was to be greeted by four identical smiling blue orbs. In the mornings, Pam would use the "ritual fire" to cook breakfast, and I got my first lessons in campfire cooking from Pam,
Also joining the fire in the evenings, were Tom, the flute player, and his friend Diane. They lived just below the Barnyard in a hollowed-out redwood stump. The tree had probably been struck by lightning, and the stump that was left was about five feet above the ground and about six feet wide. Tom and Diane swept the floor clean and spread their sleeping bags out, and enjoyed a very Hobbit-like existence. Diane was dark and graceful and loved to dance. The addition of their music making at the night fire made the rituals all the more interesting.
We found a sleeping spot behind the barn. We constructed a sleeping platform a few feet off the ground that was just big enough for a double mattress. Then we collected fallen trees for poles, seven to eight feet long, and we constructed the frame for a tepee. But we never covered the frame. It was Summer, and we discovered that sleeping under the stars was one of life's greatest pleasures,
As the days passed, we grew more and more used to our environment. We became accustomed to the sounds and smells that belonged to the different times of day. The rooster's crow, and the wet smells of the mornings; the loud buzzing of the insects in the dry, hot afternoons; the singing of the birds in the evenings as the coastal breeze began to cool the earth; and, the chirping of the crickets of night, the smell of dew on the grass, and the sound of the wind in the trees. With each new day, we became more in tune with the Earth, and we felt more alienated by the trappings of civilization.
THE COMMUNITY EMERGES
I began to cook an evening meal at the Barnyard campfire when the Lower House kitchen could no longer serve the entire community. I would cook a pot of rice and saute vegetables on the open fire. We could feed only about a dozen people that way, but it helped. Also, David and Penny began to serve an evening meal at their Treehouse. At the top of the property, near the south edge there was a redwood grove where David had built a most unique treehouse. I could never figure out how he did it, because from the outside, there seemed to be almost no structure, it blended with the redwoods so well. But when you climbed up and inside, you had the feeling of being surrounded by a substantial structure, and it was aesthetically very beautiful, with tinted glass and hand-made quilts and splashes of color everywhere. David was a painter. And one of his paintings hung on the front wall of Lou's cabin. Penny was fair and very quiet. She really enjoyed that Treehouse. Whenever she showed it to visitors, she shared her love of it over and over again with each new person. It was a work of art. We were all proud of it,
A whole cast of characters settled around the Treehouse, and in the old Apple Orchard next to it. And, all the way down the hill, by the entry road on the south side of the property, a colony of winos made themselves right at home. Chief among them were Chief, Wild Bill and Tennessee Jerry. There was a large flatland, along the entry road, that became known as the Parking Lot, where they could be found, carrying on, almost twenty-four hours a day. And this group, somehow, always managed to enjoy a positive cash flow. In the Barnyard, we survived by picking the abundant crop of organic vegetables from the Garden, and taking them to San Francisco to the Health Food Store in trade for other necessities: brown rice, soy sauce, sesame butter, oil, etc. Then we would go to Haight Street where we would panhandle enough change to buy matches, candles, toilet paper, etc. This worked really well for us, but we could never have done it if the Parking Lot financiers had not always been ready, willing and able to supply the capital: a dependable vehicle with a full tank of gas. They never failed us. There would be no cars in sight, but give them overnight notice, and they always came through.
John Butler settled into the one bedroom in the Lower House. In doing this, he took on the responsibility of keeping the roof on, and he did it amiably. John was a truly mysterious person to me. He was black, a good deal older than most of us, maybe late thirties. He would make guarded references to the military, or to being wanted by the CIA or FBI, or heavens knows who, he would go off to make mysterious phone calls. Rumor had it that he was a converted agent sent to Morning Star to spy, but he had become one of us. But he was very mellow, and very generous with all of us. Whenever he saw me, he would take one of my brown braids and measure it against his forearm. He would say that when they grew long enough to reach his wrist, he'd cut them off for himself. It was as though they were growing for him. Years later, I met him at the house of a mutual friend in the Haight. He came over to me and measured my braids, as always. I experienced a moment of panic when I saw that they had reached his wrist. He watched my reaction, and burst out laughing at my fear that he would really cut off my braids. Then he said the strangest thing to me. He said that he should leave for Seattle that night, because if he stayed in San Francisco any longer, he'd be killed. I didn't believe any of it, but I began to urge him to go to Seattle, just to show I cared. He said, he had nothing to live for, he had done what he had to do, and he didn't care for Seattle. About a month later I learned that he was shot to death on the street in the Haight a few nights after I saw him. I was told it was the Gypsy Jokers, but no one ever really explained it, or investigated. Still, I know that John loved the time he spent with us at Morning Star, and we were glad he was there,
John-John and Terry had converted the shed next to the Upper House into living quarters. J.J. was a native New Yorker, proud of it, and ever ready with a jibe. With long, dark hair and dark beard he was a direct contrast to Terry, California Girl, blonde-haired and blue-eyed. It was said that John-John was one of the people who gave out the free LSD at the dances at the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms.
Don and Sandy built their own house just below the Lower House. He was an ex-border patrol officer. They were devout, born-again Christians. Don worked from dawn to dusk on their dream house. He split shakes from redwood logs for the roof and siding. People were so impressed with his accomplishments that they would donate building materials just to see him continue.
And then, there were those who floated freely about the land., sleeping here and there, wherever the fancy took them. Superman was one of these. Mulatto, about forty, average height, very thin, he was bald with a fringe of dark hair that stood out from his sensitive face. In the heat of summer, he wore a long red winter coat as a cape; hence, the title Superman. "Supe" claimed he could read Egyptian hieroglyphics fluently. He also had memorized several lists of useless and pointless information which he would recite during a lull in conversation. He claimed to be a virgin.
And another free-floater was Nevada. Nevada was such a total pest, a Cosmic fly in the ointment that no one could stand to have around any length of time. He was a rodeo cowboy who never rode a horse; a Korean war veteran who was never in the service. He was a wino who drank from morning 'till night, and was shunned even by the other winos. Nevada could make the most peaceful, well-balanced person come unglued. Just to hear his loud, drunken voice coming nearer was reason to run and hide. I remember walking past Lou's cabin one day and hearing Nevada inside. Nevada was crying, begging, beseeching Lou not to throw him off the Land. I'm sure that he was the only person who ever brought Lou to that point. But, finally, Lou let him stay. The fact was that we all loved Nevada. He was part of us, and each of us learned a great deal from him. There's a movie called "Down and Out in Beverly Hills." In it, Nick Nolte plays the part of a drunk, hustling street person who moves in with an unsuspecting family. Whoever wrote the part of that character had Nevada in mind.
LIFE GOES ON
Nevada didn't like to come to the Barnyard. I really don't know what it was that turned him off, but it was about the only inhabited spot at Morning Star that was safe from him. It really was a very mellow place. Even people who came to the evening meal were those who dug the quiet. One day Marty wandered off. He went to San Francisco to a Gurdjieff meeting, and never returned. And Zen Jack arrived. Well over six feet tall and very thin, with long wispy red hair and a red beard, he wore only a red dhoti. He hardly spoke. He put a mattress down on the floor in a corner of the barn, and each day he would go off to the redwood grove next to the orchard where he was building a tree house way, way up in one of the redwoods. It was an amazing feat. He worked day after day on it. Then Bernard disappeared, and we decided to move into the barn ourselves because the rains would soon begin. Otto moved into the tepee and began to cover it with scraps of one-inch lumber that he found here and there.
The days passed and the summer grew warm. It became so hot in the Barnyard that we would stay inside the barn, lying silently on our mattresses, listening to the flies buzz around us. When the heat became too much, we would rise, leave the Barnyard and wind our way down to the creek where we could cool off. We'd usually find Tom and Diane already there. Diane would be bathing in the cold, rushing stream to the music of Tom's flute. We had favorite bathing pools and sitting rocks, and we would stay together in the sun-dappled creek bed, bathing, lounging on the rocks, sharing stories, and laughing while the afternoon sun beat down on the less fortunate.
We would return to the Barnyard when the afternoon breezes brought the cool ocean air inland to us. By that time the barn and the cooking area were shaded by the redwood trees, and we would begin to prepare the evening meal. Some would gather firewood, others would go up to the Garden to pick fresh vegetables, and several would return to the creek with gallon jugs to fill with water. Laird would light the fire, and I would measure the rice, add the water and put the pot on the fire. The vegetables were washed, cut and thrown into the heated skillet with a little oil at the appropriate time. Anyone who came to eat with us was glad to join in this ritual.
One evening, as I sat absent-mindedly listening to the water bubbling in the rice pot, holding the wooden spoon I used to stir the vegetables out in front of me, Annabel, the goat, came up along side of me, chomped down on the spoon, and calmly walked off with the business end in her mouth, leaving me holding just the handle. This was typical behavior for her. Annabel was the first goat I ever knew, and I loved her. She was the Pet of the Barnyard, and was spoiled rotten. She'd get into the barn and eat anything she could get a hold of: bedding, clothes, food--it made no difference to her. At night she'd come in the barn when it was pitch black and we were all sleeping. We would awaken to the sounds of her hoofs on the floorboards, and before we could see where she was, we could hear the sound of goat droppings landing on some-one's sleeping gear. The whole thing was intentional and premeditated on her part. No animal goes inside to shit at night. Only Annabel, and then on someone's bedding. She was outrageous. Finally, when she was eating more vegetables from the Garden than we were, it was decided that she had to go. I was sorry when she was gone. She was the smartest animal I'd ever known. I met other goats after that, but none was ever like Annabel.
One evening, some Acid found its way to the Barnyard. It was ingested immediately, and as night fell I found myself sitting out, in front of the Barn, in the dark of night. We hadn't lit the fire and cooked dinner. Each of us had receded into our own meditative space, so that we could make the inner discoveries that one can make on LSD, only for oneself. I looked up at the stars, and then my eye was attracted to a light that I saw on the hilltop. I realized that it was coming from Lou's cabin. It occurred to me then, that I had never really spoken to Lou. Nor had I seen how he lived. So, I walked up the hill and knocked on his door,
He opened the glass paned door, nodded at me, and motioned me inside. It was a small, one room cabin, cramped, and in a somewhat attractive state of disarray. A stately Grand Piano of German origin, covered with letters, books and sheet music, filled the room. To one side, on the floor, was a cot mattress with a sleeping bag on it, At the other end, there stood a desk and a portable Smith-Corona typewriter, almost buried under a mound of papers of correspondence. Between the desk and the piano there was a shelving unit, somewhat reminiscent of the "pigeon holes" used in Post Offices, that held an impressive collection of classical sheet music. Standing facing the door, these shelves gave a visitor the impression that here lived an individual with deep respect for organization, even if it eluded him on a day-to-day basis.
Because, in my condition, my verbal skills were not at their best, I came right to the point,
"What is it that you do here, anyway?"
Untroubled by my bluntness he explained, "Right now, I'm writing a speech that I've been invited to give to the Women's Club of Santa Rosa, trying to tell them what Morning Star is about. Any suggestions?"
"You can't TELL anyone what Morning Star is about," I announced. "They have to come and stay here themselves. If they come, they'll know." I said this staring out the door into the blackness as if I was looking at the Meaning of Life.
"You really are stoned, aren't you?" was his only response.
By now I had exhausted my capacity for right brain, linear thinking, so I opened the door and returned to the night. I wandered off, wondering if Lou was enjoying what he was doing at Morning Star as much as I was. By the light of day, I realized that Lou could probably enjoy and benefit from some clerical assistance, and since I was quite experienced in those matters, one could even have called paper pushing "my thing." I volunteered to help Lou as best I could. He gratefully accepted.
It was then that I discovered that the Morning Star phenomenon was a natural outgrowth of Lou's lifestyle. Lou hadn't just become open and loving and giving during the Summer of 1967. Judging by the correspondence that flowed in from all over the country, and the world, I could see that Lou had always been genuinely open with the people he met, wherever he went; and he travelled extensively. He could not possibly have answered all the letters that arrived daily, even if he worked at it all day. But I opened, and sorted through much of it, and he answered the ones that seemed pressing.
Summer wore on. One afternoon I heard excited voices at Larry and Pam's house. Rena had returned. Rena had lived in the Barnyard before we arrived and she had become ill at Morningstar and had gone back to stay with her family in New York. Now she was back. Rena was the most beautiful, open, easy to love person I ever met. She was younger than the rest of us. Her parents reluctantly allowed her to stay at Morningstar with the condition that she continue to attend Sonoma State College. Actually, they had no choice. Nobody could ever tell Rena what to do. While she was on the Land, she was dedicated to the natural life. She always went without clothes and her energy was such that she danced and bounded about, giggling a good deal of the time. That was how I first saw her, crossing the Barnyard from the "Meadowboat," dancing naked in the sun, laughing, breathless, introducing herself, never still for a moment. It was decided that she should move into the barn, and I thought of her as a little sister from then on.
The days passed, and one evening word went around that Lou wanted us to gather by the Well for a meeting. This had not happened before, and curiosity getting the better of us, we went up the hill and gathered around Lou to hear what was on his mind. We found him sitting cross-legged on the ground, his back leaning against a redwood stump. He was very tan, his dark hair had grown long, so had his beard. It was a nice gathering. I hadn't seen this many people at once in a long time. I laid down on the grass, listened to the sound of Lou's voice, watched the people watching Lou. The trees against the sky, the clouds moving by, everything was so mellow. Except Lou. His manner seemed urgent, and he was saying things about up-tight neighbors, too much garbage, too much noise, complaints about nudity. His words seemed so far away as I watched the clouds change shape, and felt the breeze move over my body. They were talking about taking the garbage to the dump. John-John said he would do it, when nobody else volunteered. Then it was over and people were walking away. Lou was trying to tell us that Trouble was approaching, but we couldn't get the message. We had become too insulated and Lou was the buffer between us and Reality.
It was odd to see Lou so serious. Usually, whenever we wanted to gather and socialize, we would go sit in front of Lou's cabin. If he was on the Land he was usually there, telling jokes, talking philosophy, recalling anecdotes, making us laugh, teaching us, sharing with us. He talked so much, to us, and to all the visitors that came to Morning Star, that some days he would wear a sign that announced he was observing a period of Silence so that he could experience some of the meditative time the rest of us enjoyed. But, honestly, to arrive at Lou's and see him wearing that sign was always a disappointment. Usually, where there was Lou, there was laughter and good feelings.
If you were up early enough in the mornings, you could sit quietly in front of Lou's cabin and listen to him play his piano. Originally his intention had been to retire to Morningstar in order to refine his already considerable keyboard skills, and begin a long-awaited career on the concert stage. With a Ph.D. in Music, Lou had a great deal of knowledge and experience. His main interest, at Morningstar, seemed to be in the keyboard literature of Johann Sebastian Bach. How wonderful it was to sit out in the foggy morning listening to Lou play. The music fit the landscape so perfectly. Sometimes, Lou would read some of Sebastian Bach's letters out loud, with a mock German accent. It was very funny, but as I watched Lou and listened to the words, Bach came alive for me at those moments.
In spite of Lou's warnings, and his efforts to appease the neighbors around Morning-star the Trouble came. And Lou had to hire a lawyer and appear in court. There were secret talks between the D.A.'s and Lou's lawyers. Things were worked out. Lou did what they told him to do, and got screwed. One of the young D.A.'s that helped make the deal, quit his position in Sonoma County because he was so disillusioned by the way he had been used. I was with Lou when he came to say good bye after he quit, and to express his regrets about what was happening to Lou and to Morningstar. But that was just the beginning.
Life went on. The first summer rain came. We prepared for the winter. Lou was always involved with some legal hassle. It became part of the Morningstar experience. But we had many supporters in Sonoma County and the Bay Area. The local farmers and ranchers, impressed with our garden, and understanding or love of nature, were generous in supplying food and materials we could not afford to get for ourselves. As Lou's bills for legal fees increased, two benefit concerts were organized by Bay Area artists, one in Sebasto-pol and another, with the Steve Miller Band, at Morningstar.
Lou was asked to speak at meetings of local church and civic groups, and at Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State College. Morningstar became News. And the more publicity Morningstar received the more the Power Structure seemed intent upon getting us out of their way. This was the same process that I had observed on San Fran-cisco's Haight Street.
The Power Structure is most threatened by what it can't control. And it can't control what it doesn't understand. In San Francisco, they were content to sweep the street clean of Flower Children. The drug addicts, thieves, schizophrenics and prostitutes that were left, the usual street people, were products of the System, understood and controllable. Haight Street became a slum street, business as usual. As social scientists, psychiatrists and journalists struggled to understand the Flower Power Movement, and playwrights and movie producers began to Romanticize the Hippies, the Power Structure sought more and more to eradicate what it couldn't control.
The officials of Sonoma County knew that they had no right to say what could, or could not be done with private property. So they came up with the rationale that Lou was running an Organized Camp, and as such, he was violating the strict county health and building codes that applied to the operation of organized camps.
Lou would state, over and over, that you could call Morningstar anything, but never organized. But to no avail. They kept on about improper sanitation facilities. That became their main gripe.
Lou decided to comply with the standards for an organized camp. An architect was hired and the planning started for a legal, up-to-code, state -of-the-art bath house. It would be very expensive, several thousand dollars. Lou put up cash, local people donated labor and materials, and the architect donated his time as well. The hillside above the barnyard was torn up by bulldozers in order to dig a proper septic system and leach field. A concrete slab was poured. Each step was inspected by the proper County Inspector. The plans were submitted by the architect and approved. The cinder blocks were hauled in, rebar set, the bath house was going up at a record pace.
A feeling of optimism began to spread. Perhaps, we thought, this was for the best. Although we laughed at how we were required to have "two sides" male and female, for the showers, sinks and toilets, and the place was ugly as sin, it was large enough to allow for about eighty to one hundred to live legally on the Land. We never would have that many permanent residents.
Life began to flow along again, except for the activity around the strange structure. People left, and new ones kept on coming. The rhythm in the Barnyard resumed as we watched the days grow shorter and cooler. Rena hitchhiked to school each morning. She had some bad experiences, and finally began arranging for more predictable transportation. One Saturday morning, she came to me more serious that I had ever seen her. She told me that she was in Love with Lou. They had spent the night together, and before she became completely swept off her feet, she wanted to get my reaction. She was concerned about the difference in their ages. The depth of her feelings, the intensity and joy that she exuded, the sincerity in her voice as she tried to talk about what she was about to do, helped to convince me that this was a meant-to-be relationship. Besides, the only one more idealistic and unrealistic about Morningstar than Rena, was Lou. A marriage made in heaven, for sure. It wasn't long before Rena moved in with Lou, and her step was even lighter and her giggles more frequent.
The summer wore on and the issue of "Open Land" became a matter of constant de-bate. People came and went. Shel Silverstein of Playboy, and friendly journalists from The San Francisco Chronicle visited as a result of the article published in Time magazine early in July. And on week-ends, folks came from all over the Bay Area to see "the hippie commune." Sundays, Mr. and Mrs. San Jose and their children would arrive; walking into the barn, unannounced, cameras in hand, "Hey, look in here. There's some hippies inside here! Let's get some pictures." Morningstar had become a media event.
Lou explained to visitors that the "Open Land" experiment was destined to fail unless other people were willing to offer their land for settlement. We all knew that most of the problems at Morningstar were caused by overpopulation. But the example of his already overcrowded thirty acres did not serve to encourage others to follow in Lou's formidable footsteps. Only Bill Wheeler, a neighbor and artist from Coleman Valley Road, listened with interest to what Lou said, and was moved by Lou's theories about the private ownership of land.
The Bath house was finally completed, and the building and health inspectors were called out for a final inspection. They arrived early one morning, approached the brand-spanking-new structure, walked in, out and around the completed building, and finally posted a sign by each door that said, "CONDEMNED" in large red letters. To this day, I don't understand how they dared to do such a thing, but they did it. We were shocked. We were outraged. But we never even discussed it. There was no point in talking. The optimism that we had first felt when the construction began, turned to cynicism. We had attempted to conform and we were made foolish. The completed bath house stood there with the "Condemned" signs at each door, and no one went near it. A concrete symbol of the senseless intolerance with which we were treated.
Lou kept going to court, almost every day now. The County seemed to feel that they had established the fact that Lou was running an organized camp, in violation of the health and building codes. One morning, as I swept out the Barn after breakfast, two health inspectors appeared at the open door, identified themselves, and came inside and looked around. I could tell that they were surprised by the neatness and order of the place. But then, as if they had discovered what they had come for, one of them pointed at the garbage bag next to the door. It contained the day's refuse and I hadn't taken it up to the trash cans yet that morning. Somewhat relieved at their discovery, they announced that we were in violation of the Health Codes because we had garbage in the cooking area. They then whipped out a big "Condemned" sign and tacked it to the Barn Door. This, of course, is why they had come in the first place. I was outraged. I went in search of Lou.
I found him standing on the front porch of his cabin. I said, "Lou, they've condemned the Barn, can't you do something?" He looked at me, said nothing. Suddenly, I remembered the time, months before, when he had tried to gather us together at a meeting near the Well, to warn us of the trouble that was coming our way. Now I understood, way, way too late.
The movement against Morningstar Ranch gained momentum. Giddy with the Power that comes from "winning: right or wrong," the Court now decreed that as long as Lou continued to let people stay at Morn-ingstar Ranch, in violation of whatever codes they created, he was subject to a substantial fine of $500 per person for each day that he allowed people to remain on the Land. For those of us living there, it was distressing to learn that our presence on the land was costing Lou enormous sums of money. He paid several thousand dollars in fines before we understood what was happening.
We realized that we would have to leave Morningstar, immediately; and we discussed the idea of leaving the property, and staging a sit-in on the County road at the entrance to the Ranch. We thought that we would obstruct traffic and then they would have to arrest us to get us off Graton Road. That way, we could stage a protest and Lou would no longer have to pay any fines. Or better yet, we thought, we'd just sit down together on the Land, refuse to leave, and they would have to come and arrest us and take us off Morning-star themselves. Even as we talked, the County moved with a swiftness that was hard to believe. They ruled that in order to avoid paying more fines, Lou would have to ask each of us to leave his land, individually; and if we refused, HE, Lou, would have, personally, to place each of us under citizen's arrest. Only then would the Sheriff's men come and take us away to jail.
And that, believe it or not, is exactly what happened. About fifteen of us, who felt that it was ours to do, formed a line near the Well. Three or four Sheriff's cars had already arrived, and they sat with their doors open, waiting. The Officers stood leaning against their cars, watching and listening. Lou came over and addressed each of us in turn. I was third or fourth in line. He asked me to leave Morningstar. I said that I wouldn't. He said, "Then I must place you under arrest." And I walked over to the police car and got in. The only time I was ever arrested. I remember sitting down on the cream colored back seat, staring through the grey steel fence that separated the back from the front, feeling like a captured critter when the car door slammed shut. As we rode through town, people looked at me, I thought, sure of my guilt. And I remembered how often I had assumed that anyone riding in the back of a police car was a guilty party. But, I had always looked away, averting my eyes, discretely. Most people, I learned, stand and stare into police cars with a morbid fascination. I was very embarrassed.
We had a few hours of advanced notice at Morningstar before the organized arrest took place, and we had managed to plan somewhat. Rena had volunteered to use some cash she had in order to bail us out of jail after we were arrested. Therefore, I had the assurance of a speedy release to console me as the Police car passed through the driveway gate into the Sonoma County Jail. As we drove into the dark building and got out of the car, I could see a "holding cell" in one corner: filthy, exuding the smell of stale urine and cigarette smoke, filled with an assortment of drunk, uncomfortable, disreputable, confused men of assorted ages. I was relieved when we were escorted past this hellish scene into the receiving offices of the jail. And so, we arrived, five women from Morningstar; the men seemed to have disappeared.
As we went through the booking procedure, I was surprised by the changes in behavior of my comrades-in-arms. Penny became very nervous. To my surprise, she became very rebellious and belligerent, disobeying the guards and talking back to them. Rena was totally freaked out. She danced about teary eyed, the reality of the place was too much for her. Sandy was withdrawn, but calm and prayerful, much to my relief. Only Kathy re-mained Kathy. Very quiet, but very present, she seemed completely unperturbed by the goings on around her. Actually, the guards were "good" to us, because we were women, and we were not hardened criminals. But Rena's antics and Penny's back talk was trying what little patience these people had, and I nervously awaited our speedy release. Rena made the call to arrange bail, and then we were put in a holding cell inside the offices; blessedly, one that had been hosed down since its last occupants had vacated. It was an awful place just the same. So dirty. And when the door closed behind us, the sound of heavy steel slamming shut, seemingly forever, made my heart hurt.
At last, we were taken out of the holding cell and presented with the papers that we needed to sign to get bailed out. Before I signed the paper, I asked directly of one of the matrons if the men were getting bailed out also. She assured me that they were, and I signed the paper feeling much relieved. After seven or eight hours, the five of us were back on the sidewalk outside the jail. We stood waiting for the guys to come out. It never happened. We learned, too late, that they had refused bail because the jail was already overcrowded. They knew that they would be more of a nuisance to the County if they stayed inside. We got into the cars of friends that were waiting to take us back to Morningstar. It was dusk, and I was very tired, and saddened that we had been duped into separating ourselves from the others. It felt like desertion as we rode further and further away from the jail.
We arrived at Morningstar, and I made my way back to the Barn, automatically. Where else would I go? My things were there. It was almost dark, and I entered the Barn only to discover that in order to "comply" with the court order, the Barn had been cleared. Everything that had been left behind was piled in one corner, on top of my bed, and covered over, so that the Barn appeared to be "uninhabited." As I stood looking around me, I was overcome with anger. I went flying up the hill, feeling abandoned and cheated. I found Sandy standing by the Well. Her house was intact, but she felt at a loss because her husband, Don, was still in jail. She didn't feel that she should be at Morningstar while he sat in jail. I, too, felt that we had done the wrong thing by leaving, so, we approached a couple that was getting into their VW bus, and asked them to take us back to Santa Rosa, to the jail. They were incredulous, but we insisted that was what we had to do. Finally, they agreed and we rode back to the jail in the dark.
By the time Sandy and I got back to the jail, it was about midnight. We calmly walked up to the receiving window inside, and announced that we had made a mistake, we wanted our bail revoked, and we wanted to be put back in jail. The officers within earshot were flabbergasted. We had to repeat ourselves several times before they would believe that we were for real. Finally, probably because they wanted to get rid of us, they said that the Bondsman was the only one who could take the bail back. We would have to deal with him. And no, we could not use their phone, we would have to leave the jail and find a public phone. The nearest phone turned out to be a long way off. We walked in the dark night, for about twenty minutes, feeling better about ourselves because we were fighting back. Finally, we found a gas station with a phone booth, looked up the Bail Bondsman in the yellow pages, and called the number that said, "24 Hour Service."
We woke him up. He was at home. It took him a long, long time to understand that we wanted to be put back in jail. He had been sympathetic to the Morningstar cause, and had offered to bail us all out at a reduced rate. To his surprise the men had refused his generous offer, and now, at two in the morning, two of the women awakened him from a deep sleep, and were asking to go back to jail. For a brief time he tried to talk to us rationally. But he soon gave up. He finally refused to cooperate and hung up. Now, we realized that we were stranded in Santa Rosa in the middle of the night. Miraculously, someone pulled into the service station and agreed to take us all the way back to Morningstar.
When I finally made my way back down to the Barnyard, the stars shone brightly all around me. I knew what I would face when I got into the Barn. At least, there would be no surprises this time. Wearily, I made my way through the darkened Barn, knealt down beside my bed, and began pulling the clothing and books off the mattress onto the floor, quickly flinging stuff all around me. It wasn't long before I was in bed, sleeping soundly.
I awoke with the first light. I looked out of the open door into the foggy morning, and I realized, for the first time, that if I was discovered sleeping there, I would be arrested again. I got up and starting piling all the stuff back on the mattress, realizing that as long as the place looked vacant, no one would imagine that anyone would sleep under that mess. And that's how I lived the next days: trying to adjust to the changes, waiting for the men to get out of jail, waiting for us all to appear in court.
[to be continued]
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