THE AUSTIN WOMEN
Then “The Women” came. Some of us knew them from Austin. Not me, they weren’t my friends, but they were coming.
A collective of lesbians,
Came in pairs,
Left, came again.
We helped them look for their own land,
Bottom land, down by a river, beautiful place,
With very difficult access. They bought it ─ I think,
Who can remember?
But never lived there.
In the meantime they were there,
But on their own.
Really there, living in the “monks cabin.”
An old log cabin barn, we had rebuilt Lincoln logs style, numbering each log so we knew where to fit them together. I wasn’t part of all that, my back was out and I wasn’t lifting, squatting, bending, working. Pete, Lance, Kenny, Bobby worked on removing the logs, loading the logs, moving them to the farm and bringing them to the site to do the rebuilding. I had to swallow my pride in not participating in that venture, which was reminiscent, like a lot of what we were doing, of times past. Yes, as I remind readers, that was it, we were trying to be throwbacks to the old ways. We felt we missed something and were regaining the past, but it was in our present, 1973. I don’t know if we could have made it if it was 1873, since the government didn’t issue food stamp.
It wasn’t the monks cabin all the time. One night visitors from the Dreamers stayed in the loft, fucking next to me. I couldn’t very well interrupt them in the midst of coitus, ask them to take their orgasm into the woods. They didn’t ask anyone if they could fuck in the monks bunk, hippies were accustomed too fucking spontaneously, it happened all the time. Some one said it was like eating Oreo cookies, pop one in your mouth and another. Is this a clear picture? People are lonely, unhappy, lost, seeking, and here at the GBF we were going to help people find themselves, unless of course they were literally lost in the woods, which happened many times. We lost track after a while of adventurous visitors who went trekking into the woods to find themselves and got lost. We never heard from them again, till maybe they sent a post card or something from their hometown, having arrived there after spending days in the national forest, trying to find them selves, but coming out safely in another area never returning for more of our hospitality.
I love the Dreamer folks, over 30 years later we’re still connected.
We admitted, during one of our endless marathon meetings, that we couldn’t be everything to everyone who came to us for refuge, even if they were refuse, from the outside world, or even their own inner world. We discussed regularly about how to treat the visitors; “put them to work in the garden, send them for manure, let them see what the real world is like on the Dubie Plantation. We’re not just a bunch of lay-a-round the farm hillbilly hippies, we work and they will too.” And from now on, guests have to bring their own pot and beer.” That was agreed upon, but like most of what we agreed upon, it didn’t have to be carried out to the letter. We were learning to be flexible. If some one, even one of the most enmeshed members said they were going to be ready at a certain time for the garden, or building something or a town trip, it didn’t have to mean anything if they didn’t show up. No one had watches, and the sun wasn’t always reliable, especially with the two time a year changing of the clocks. After a while we did have a sun dial near the garden, but a lot of us couldn’t figure it out, even after Bobby Dubie the designer of the ancient time piece called a special meeting to indicate which direction we had to face to read it. Of course some wise guy, probably a visitor, wanted to know what to do if it was cloudy. I think Bobby ran him off.
“I forgot,” was also an acceptable excuse for not showing up or doing what some one said they would do. I used to use that with my mother and it probably carried over into my early 30s, others were in their 20s, so they had even a better excuse for forgetting what they were going to do. Stuff got done though. I saw it happen before my eyes. In fact I took on many projects on my own, building this shed, or that wall, a chicken coop, and usually, before long, I was asked to take it down since it didn’t meet the standards of the community. This may be a surprise that we had standards. I didn’t, but others to my surprise did. Actually I did also, they were just lower than the others, so I adjusted, felt hurt, rejected, but carried on and did what the majority decided, benefiting by sticking with a job others assigned me to.
One of more my memorable trips out from the farm was going to pick peaches from an abandoned peace orchard. One of our friends from Russelville turned us on to this orchard that belonged to the family of someone and we were free to pick as much as we wanted. We had long discussions about how many of us should go, what time to leave, what we needed to put the peaches in, gas money, what to do with the peaches when we brought them back, canning was the smartest, getting ball jars; there would be a canning crew. So, anyone can see, we weren’t just sitting around stoned, but had visions for the greater good, but it took concentration, agreements, acceptance of the other as almost yourself. Like good worker bees we agreed to leave at 7:00 a.m. after Nadine was milked; 8 pickers were to meet. Some were ready at 7:00, others showed up to explain what else had to be done before we left, including getting our lunch together. Lunch for 8 took some getting together. We didn’t understand why we had forgotten about the lunch the night before in our planning meeting. Some had suggested we just each peaches all day; we knew we could eat peaches all day, but some wanted more. Isn’t that just like people who have had everything they wanted all their lives and now having peaches, delicious, juicy ripe, large red and yellow organic peaches, some of us wanted more, like rice, vegies; so we put something together from the last nights meal, loaded the baskets for the peaches in, loaded the stoned in, and were off and running by 9:00 a.m.
Back to “The Women.” I use quotation marks because, well, they were “The Women.” Eventually we had to have the serious talk about “The Women,” and the challenge they brought to us. For the most part we liked them, or maybe accepted them. Or didn’t accept them or even like them. They had been friends in Austin, of some ones of us, and were standoffish a bit, wanting their own place, taking food from the main house back to the monks cabin; some of them didn’t want to mix at all with majority of our community, the men, and I really can’t say how the women of the farm related to them. At some point the questioned was raised: How do we get rid of them? Mostly it was a men’s discussion since we were no longer in the monks cabin, and consequently, couldn’t be monks any more. I was back in my cabin, which I had temporarily abandoned not for monk hood, but due to a severe back problem, considered crippled, told to take break. A collective admonition I finally abided by. Ok, now the back was better, I was over my monk hood. Didn’t like it anyway, although my new spiritual teachings were having an effect one.
“The Women,” we argued with ourselves, don’t even come to the main house for meals, they’re living here, took over part of our accommodations, but aren’t a part of what’s going on. Well, we have to be supportive of them. They’re friends from Austin, part of the movement against oppression, for revolution, sexual liberation. Accepting their lesbianism wasn’t such a stretch since we were accepting so much that was new to our culture. Women’s liberation; I was totally supportive. We all knew what the male machismo psyche had done to our planet, maybe women will do better. So are they allowed to oppress us? They say they won’t be here long; they have a plan to buy horses and ride back to Texas. Get outta here, horses? That’s what they told me personally when I volunteered to go down to their quarters, which used to be ours, to talk with, not to them, about their plans. So, for a few weeks we watched, waited, as they spent money they could have bought food for the “whole” community, but instead we now had horses grazing in our front yard, or was it the back yard. After the first year we lost track of which was which. Finally, one spring afternoon, we all stood there, in one of our yards, looking in amazement, six women on horses, saddle bags, sleeping roles, food, maybe a gun or two, who knew. They could have been something from a “Rawhide” episode that was never allowed on television. We waved them good-bye, not good riddance, we were too hippie for that, but no one complained. They made it, part of the way by horse truck, from the Texas-Arkansas border where they couldn’t cross on horseback, because of an old law on the books that if a woman crosses into Texas on horseback they have to ball the boarder guard and that was not happening; no way. Some sympathetic trucker, hoping for good luck, they were females after all, took them across without getting any.
One afternoon I sat in meditative wonderment on a hillside of Claudie MacDonald’s looking out over the low ranging mountains. I was close to Claudies cow barn where we shoveled our first manure for our crops. There we were joyfully shoveling away when Claudie came out to watch us appreciating that he didn’t have to clean it out himself. After watching for a while with a questioning smile, he finally had to speak up pointing out that we were shoveling Arkansas red clay and not the well rotted manure. He told us how much he revered the red clay, but it wasn’t going to help our crops, showing us the difference between clay and manure. We were good students, committed to our endeavor; soon we became the best, most sought after, shit-shovelers in the county, actually, in two counties, being near the country line. Yes in deed, we had a reputation that makes a man proud. Scores of loads were gratefully shoveled onto the big truck. Have Truck – Will Shovel; we’d travel, sometimes close to Russelville, that’s thirty miles, but we much preferred to get the fertilizer from farms on the mountain. Not only was it closer to home, but we became more beholden to the local farmers. And they to us, getting messages of the appreciation the locals had for us that were sent our way when visitors stopped and asked for directions to our place.
We became experts in assessing animal manure, by color, smell, texture, accessibility, preferring after all, old rotted cow, where we could pull the truck in close to the source and shovel away. We did go into some chicken houses if that was the only stuff available when we needed some, but after a few trips to those ten thousand layer factory farm houses, we stopped, seeing too many sick and tumored hens laying around. And once, only once, an old pig farm where the pigs were penned in small barely able to move crates one stacked on top of the other; their stuff was liquidy yuck, the piggies probably having diarrhea being nervous wrecks penned up like that for life. Something about the karma of pig shit also turned some of us off, especially the Jews, not that the chicken shit we shoveled came from kosher killed chicken, but we had to set standards. I remember though looking into the eyes of Claudies cattle one afternoon, seeing the sadness right there in front of me, and I knew that they knew about their future and wondered if any manure is good karma.
One time we went out to clean a cow barn that wasn’t very accessible, but we had checked it out and it was good composted shit. We had to fill a wheelbarrow, run the wheelbarrow up a board going up the back end of the truck, dump it and bring the wheelbarrow back down in into the barn. I went along, even though I was unable to work due to my bad back, but wanted to share the experience. While we (they) were shoveling away, with me watching, feigning supervision, the farm man came by to share with us the plight of his Ms Piggy whose piglets were stuck coming down the birth canal. Interesting, looking for help from mostly vegetarian hippies. Well, since I was just watching the shoveling, I told him I’d go have a look with him, after all I thought, I had seen two human birthing at that point. I figured that maybe my coming along had been for some other purpose. Like a divine appointment. Providence calling or something, or me just looking for another trippy experience. I followed him to where Ms Piggy was laying uncomfortably near the pig barn. I asked him what I could do. “Well,” he hesitated, once of twice, “sometimes we put our arm up there, you know where I’m talking about” he pointed to her vagina, “and try and extricate the one blocking the birth.” Well, yeah, sure, that’s what I thought you do. I hesitated too, but didn’t want to disappoint him, and have him spread rumors about hippies being shy of pig vagina. But first I respectfully asked Ms Piggy if she would allow me to help. She turned her head as much as she could, looked over her shoulder at me, and sort of winked, woman to man-like, giving me the, its okay look. I then rolled up my sleeve, left arm of course, my wiping hand, and reached in, up to my wrist, to my elbow, upper arm, way up inside Ms Piggy, who didn’t seem to mind, but in vain, I couldn’t reach far enough. I suggested a long pig extractor to the farmer, apologized and went back to what I knew better: shit shoveling supervision. A few days later the farm man came by to tell us that all the piglets came down fine thanking me for maybe loosening that one piglet up enough for them to all come down. Now, how about that? Unfortunately, he lost his sow. He kindly invited us over for a roast which we graciously declined.
Sitting on that hillside of Claudies, I looked out in amazement, over those endless, glorious, foothills of the Ozarks. Something in me felt I had always been there and always would. A real feeling, a sense of belonging, like the hills were me, that I was them. Maybe my first large cosmic like experience of being one with all. What was that in me, in any of us, drawn to and trying this impossible dream? Something very basic I suppose, now in retrospect: living the good life. One had the feeling we were coming alive in a new way, living an ancient inbred genetic past, following the trek that humanity had been going on for eons, till villages turned into towns, towns into cities, cities into megopolices and people lost themselves in the materiality of culture. Lost the deep part of inner spirit, that which has always been, but the malls and things were beginning to take precedence over that which was abiding.
Something was happening to thousands of young people, in the late 60s and 70s, all over the country yearning for that thing that was lost and was itching to be reborn in our collective unconsciousness. It’s been said that that generation, using psychedelics, needed a something of a material nature to open up a forgotten part our spiritual and ancestral heritage. We were weaned into a material culture and needed a thing, sugar cubes, clear light, window pane, to bring us to new spiritual awareness.
Some of us allowed a spirituality to grow;
Others hid behind themselves.
It came alive in me,
Grew beyond who I was,
Still, today, over 40 years later,
Spirituality dominates this life of mine.
Maybe it was living in the bible belt of this country of ours that helped. The locals invited us to their church meetings right away. The first weeks on the Plantation a formal invitation. I choose to stay at the farm as everyone else went to the Sunday service. All alone, surrounded by the forest, the fields not yet plowed, the shelters not yet built, the music not yet played, the lovers not yet lain with, wondering, “here I am now what will I become?” I chose to find something in me that wasn’t there ever before. I said my first prayers of thankfulness for bringing me to that place so that I may know more then I have known. As my brothers and sisters were praying in that local church, I was doing my praying in a way that was comfortable to me.
Over time we attended many Sunday covered dishes at the local churches; some of us sang in the churches. One night we toked up and went to the local high school gym for an event. We were the featured entertainment; fifteen of us, walking out onto the basketball court to sing country spiritual songs we used to sing regularly in the main house. I wonder if anyone ever took that picture.
The spirit grew in us because of our separation from the world we knew. That unknown thing inside was given space to be revealed. A library of spiritual books began to show up brought by one traveler or another. Right off, in the beginning we held hands and chanted prayers before eating.
That first time,
I remember so clearly,
Holding hands in front of the main house,
The dubie plants in the center.
Uncomfortable with praying anything,
We danced in a circle;
Laughing uncertain at our selves,
Uncertain of what we were trying to be.
In time 10, 20, 30, sometimes 50 of us were holding hands,
Chanting Hindu, Indian, hippie, prayers,
Looking across the circle into eyes that were our own,
Ourselves in each other;
Creating a new brother-sisterhood.
Maybe a new Humanhood.
I knew when we left New Mexico,
I knew for sure,
We were beating the hippie rush to Arkansas.
$4000 for forty acres.
Couldn’t beat that with a stick.
After a while, we began to get visitors who were looking for land. There was a bunch that came from Michigan, mostly educated, another bunch from New Orleans, roughnecks, working on the oil rigs, some deep sea divers. We were their guides and helpers in getting things going. We had experience. We initiated full moon work parties, going over to their places and working for the day then boogieing down for the evening, with food, music, sharing. We helped dig up gardens, chopped out roots, helped put up large army tent for the Michigan gang.
Although the boys from New Orleans weren’t even close to people I had ever known I took a liking to them and one night went over to spend a couple of days with them. They appreciated our camaraderie. I enjoyed their different kind of way, but we all drank beer, smoked dubie, talked, shared. Not much different then our way, except they were the real macho guys, we were only faking it. They threw in logs onto their big fire place that were as big as my waist, which heated an old log cabin built with logs also wider than my torso. I tried to imagine how those pioneers ever got those logs in place. Ropes and pulley systems some suggested. An odd thing happened my night there, standing by the fire place with another man, drinking wine. I had this weird thought of him throwing his empty glass in the fire place. I asked myself what kind of thought that was, when impulsively, he threw his glass into the fire place. I realized at that moment that thoughts can travel, weren’t only my own; I had to be careful what I thought. Or did he think it first? No coincidence: the non-locality of mind.