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Some more on the Ganja Boogie Band in Nogo Arkansas

BUILDING MY CABIN
New Mexico was sort of our training ground for getting us into the frame of mind for what we wanted to do in Arkansas. In New Mexico the hippies had adobe models for building their homes, but in Nogo, like I said, we were freer in building our houses. I had never built anything before, hence some of what I built was pretty primitive and basic, but worked. At least when I, with some help from Eloise and Lance, built my cabin, no one could tell me it didn’t meet community standards, unlike some of the other building I did that were more for the community, but like is said, had to come down and be rebuilt.
I decided early on where I wanted my cabin,
Set in to the edge of the forest, West side of the five acre field.
With the early morning sun to wake me,
Have me close to what was to be our garden.
Many windows all around especially facing east.
For me and Miguel,
Sometimes a guest.
For a while Lance and Eloise, who helped build it.
Small, 12 x 12; twelve feet high to the east looking out onto the field and morning Sun.
Sloping to six feet on the west, looking out into the forest, up hillside from the creek where there was a 10 foot Magic Waterfall for bathing, playing.
I cleared an area on the edge of the forest line,
Brought some boulders about as round as my arms forming a circle, 6-8 inches thick;
Heavy ─ took more then me to move them in place,
Put them on the four corners.
I saw how the old timers did it back in the day.
Cut down some oaks girded with poison by Claudie MacDonald to clear land for more cows,
Like a mule I dragged them down the hill to the site.
Four heavier ones placed horizontally on the boulders for foundation. Simple.
I was really making it simple since I had no plan on paper.
Smaller trees for vertical supports on the corners,
Standing on top of the boulders;
More thinner trees tied in with the uprights for framing in the walls.
Amazing: Had all the framing done with dying trees,
Some recycled 2 x 4s framed the windows.
Made my own windows on the north and south from plastic.
Found old framed windows for the east and west.
We drove to the saw mill in Donnie’s truck and filled it with bark covered slabs,
Rough outs, they were called.
Sliced from the sides of trees before the logs were sent off for further milling. We all did our siding with rough outs instead of vinyl.
Made use of what would be otherwise burned.
Used recycled boards from a house we took down for the floor.
Used some old boards to build a door to fit snug,
Figured out a latch using some rope that pulled a piece of wood that dropped in place behind a gizmo holding the door tight.
I was really humming along with Lance and Eloise helping.
Kenge too.
Ken Dubie came up to me one day as we near finished:
“Coach, I never thought I’d see a house here, but you did good.”
He built one with paper plans.
I never doubted I would have a shelter sanctuary.
It was my second;
The first was the tent Miguel and I lived in for six months,
Right in front of the cabin site.
Put a stump in there as a kind of alter, with candle, feather, sacred book. Did my first praying alone in that tent,
Read my first spiritual books, Yogi Ramacharaka,
We had a few of his, brought by Janga.
Took afternoon breaks from working the garden,
To rest and read,
Beginning to feel a new inner presence.
Something felt familiar with this study,
This new way,
But maybe –
A re-emergence of what was always known.
Finished the loft on the 12 foot east side with widows,
To see the morning sun,
The garden.
Built a ladder with strong tree trunks to support the loft,
And get me in my sleeping space.
Chiseled in places to put in steps.
Got a small wood stove,
Set it by the six foot west side to send the heat up to the loft;
Along side the stove I built a three by three table for wittlin and reading
By kerosene lamp;
Built a stool in an hour challenging myself,
To see if I could do it.
Did a lot of whittlin that winter,
Carved small wood boxes with a hatchet and hammer,
Utility knife.
Slicing off pieces of wood from logs,
Utility knife to form pieces right,
Doweled the sides together.
Thought I was something.
A steep wooded slope down from my cabin to the creek,
Right in back there,
Magical Waterfall, about 10 feet, into a pool fifteen foot across.
In the winter it took a lot of breathing to get in, but in warm weather,
It was an ideal place for
Solitude and contemplation of all that is.
Or the little I knew of it at the time.
Oh, My God, thank you for bringing me to this place.
May I always be here; yes,
That content.
I wouldn’t pee, shit or masturbate near it.
But had sex a time or two.
Go figure my sacred standards.
Long alone walks down the creek, around the mountain,
To another creek, another waterfall,
An overhang, we liked to call “The Cave.”
You could crawl in about five feet,
Look out to the creek.
A place for more contemplation,
Consider things.
Emulating my new reading of the yogis,
I went to the cave for two days.
Do I really want to sleep here alone? Snakes? Bugs?
Did some one leave a sleeping bag, blankets?
No food with me, there was rice, pop corn, a pot for cooking.
Left behind,
Another seeker.
Kenge for sure.
Alone, no books, no person,
Me with the forest trees,
Running water.
A rock put on rock,
A sitting, meditation place.
Yes, maybe I am on a spiritual journey,
This is a beginning.
Now what do I do?
Look around, think, wonder,
What am I doing, what do I want, where am I?
Who am I?
Where do I fit into the universal picture?
Questions forever raised by many,
Now in my solitude,
Sharing the wonderment of the ages and the masters.
Coach Ellenboogie, sitting alone, no one here, me and the
Natural world.
“Hey Coach?” I loved hearing Bobby’s voice calling me out of my aloneness, reverie; quitting my attempt at something that was beyond me.
But no, I was in a new becoming.
“What the hell you doing, Coach?”
“I don’t know. Imaging what it would be like to be in a cave.”
“You’re in a cave. When you coming back?”
“Now.”
We sat together, talked, smoked a dubie. Shared ourselves.
When I first met Bobby in Santa Fe, he looked like the
Consummate hippie. Maybe he thought I was.
Short man, with an afro half as large has his head.
A Brooklyn Jew. Who knew? A close brother for life.
Earned a Ph.D in psychology,
Laughing: For studying rats in a maze.
“Come on down to the Community School, you and Trudy,
We need teachers.”
The story was beginning to unfold.
That winter in Santa Fe, someone sent him a thin block of hashish,
Our morning starter before off to school,
To be with the kids.
Even though, we taught, played, were responsible,
We taught the children,
What we were doing seriously.
Rented two houses together in Arroyo Hondo outside of town.
Other teachers moved in with us,
One large house and a smaller cabin.
Phyllis, came along from Ann Arbor,
Became a teacher.
Soon followed by Kenny, Lance, Carol.
I was impressed by their activism for peace,
It was all new to me.
Ann Arbor, the hot bed of counter-culture.
The School was our focal point for binding us together.
We were also the counter-culture.
All the hippies and others,
Brought their kids to that school
Making us the center of many lives.
It was a time of seeking new ways to be.
Thank you and God Bless,
John Kimmey and Charlie Bently, may he rest in peace.
For helping make that School happen.
My Nogo cabin, it was funky rustic,
Everything we built was the same.
I figured it cost about $25. It was perfect.
Till winter came. Forgot all about insulation,
Or there was no money.
Or I didn’t think I needed any,
Being a tough,
Semi-macho hippie.
Froze my cahones off on some of those long cold lonely winter nights
Waiting,
Did a lot of waiting for the sun to join me in the morning.
Finally, those first rays of light,
I’d climb down the ladder,
Go out in the cold to the shitter bucket I had,
In a hole with boards over it,
Right next to the cabin.
Squatted, rinsed my hands and face
With ice cold water from a jar I kept.
Went to get Nadine for milking in the small milking shed we built.
Ken Dubie was my teacher on this one too. Our farm guru.
Carried the milk to the main house,
Strained it,
Set it in the spring box to keep fresh,
Using the night’s before milk for breakfast.
First skimming off the thick cream on top,
Put that in a quart jar,
Shake her up baby,
Soon the whey separated from the cream and yup,
There was butter.
That easy.
Looked at the dishes sometimes left over from the night before meal,
Sitting in dirty water, with ice frozen over on top.
Some nights they just didn’t get done.
Taking out the ice,
Finger tips frozen from the milking,
The warm utters only partially thawing them,
Carrying in the bucket of milk,
Now the ice. Damn.
Why am I doing this?
Fired up the cook stove,
Heated up dish water,
Dumped out the last nights water,
Put on some oatmeal, or millet meal, or mixed up batter for pancakes if we had a bunch of guests.
Learned something about simple natural cooking in them years.
Kept it up forever so far in this life.
Miguel wanted to go to school,
Not Jennie and Robin.
Had to get him some breakfast,
Drive him out to the main road,
By the MacDonalds for the bus.
He’d actually cry and carry on if
It was Nogo on some of them winter mornings,
When the mud and ice were baring our way out.
Or the vehicles wouldn’t start,
Or, sometimes I just didn’t want to do it.
Not often, I honored his decision.
He was a young troubled kid,
My son,
Mixed blood from his mother:
Alcohol and drugs don’t run well,
Through an umbilical cord.
Had anger in him,
Robin was his scapegoat,
Or punching bag.
It troubled me deeply,
35 years later, I’m still troubled,
His difficulty fitting in.
I have mine, he has his.
Doesn’t stop love from flowing to a son.

THE MAIN HOUSE
It had insulation.
Collectivized use of limited resources.
A big wood stove we all huddled around,
Passing joints.
Hour after hour in the cave room,
Off from the kitchen,
About 12 foot square, dark,
Two small windows,
Our large added on main room,
Still being built that first winter.
“Hey,” someone with sense, speaks over the stoned
Chatter, laughter, music, singing,
“We need to make a wood run.”
I joke, “can’t we get a delivery?”
“Yeah, Coach, you and Janga sit here and wait till you freeze.”
Ten of us pile into the back of the big pick up,
Wait, whose gonna drive?
Some one gets out,
Gets in front.
Same truck we use for manure runs.
Chain saws sharpened,
Lubricating oil,
Axes,
Old fashioned two people saws,
Files,
Rope,
What we needed and we’re off.
A couple of hours of hard work,
Keeping warm moving around,
To keep warm later,
Cook food.
Back to the Dubie Plantation,
Knowing some one would put a meal together.
One team got the wood,
Another does the meal.
Seemed right.
Unload the truck first.
There was no meal ready,
We needed wood for the meal. Dah.
Using a line of people we move the wood from truck,
Hand to hand stacking into the shed.
Save some out for personal stoves;
Most for the main house.
The communal space.
Almost like being downtown,
Being that’s where all the action was.
That 100 year old log cabin.
I laughed more then once,
Standing cooking at the cook stove,
Watching snow flakes come through,
The cracks in the walls.
I guess it wasn’t worth tightening up.
“It’s just snow,” some one said.
“The cold comes right through the one-inch walls anyway.”
Only the cave room was log.
We talked about it anyway,
More than once, twice,
We were smart, some even college educated.
Oh, yeah, we talked,
Passed a joint watching the snow sizzle on the stove,
As the beans and rice and chaptis and rutabaga cooked.
“Rutabaga again?” some one always complained about our main vegetable stored in the root cellar.
When the meal was considered close to being done,
Some one took the conch shell,
Went outside,
Blew it loud and clear,
To bring in the others from their living spaces, or from work projects.
We’d wait ─ gathered together,
Circle up, hold hands, shivering some,
Warmed by looking into eyes across the circle,
Our own eyes in another.
Warmed knowing,
We were experimenting with something,
New and exciting and dynamic.
Yes, Bobby reminds me still, we thought we would be there forever.
Life will just go on like this. Idyllic.
Long chanting, long om,
A few moments of quiet as we felt our
Collective center and oneness.
Smelling the sweet aroma of the waiting feast.
It was always feast no matter what
We were eating.
Janga brought back a large plastic dome,
Aluminum frame.
He must have put the whole thing together himself.
It became our meal place,
Carrying the meal in from the kitchen.
Long tables, sitting on the floor,
Small wood stove in there also.
We knew: Compared to the rest of the world;
To the Viet Nam village just bombed by our brothers,
It was a thankful feast.

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Comment by Saroj Earl on January 22, 2012 at 10:01pm

Enjoyed the read, Coach Ellenboogie .... except for the misery of the cold winter, wished I had been there, back in simpler times - or wish it was possible to go back there.   Watched a video last night about building a simple little house on wheels for a simple abode.  Why do I need this big house?  For more space to collect more stuff?

Comment by Michael Levin on December 14, 2009 at 4:19pm
As always, now, these recollections take the reader back in lyrical prose to a time that inspired a whole couple of generations. I love the photos posted elsewhere of these halcyon days:


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