The visit to The Farm became a restful week and a half of strangers becoming friends, while trading my mental images from the 1970's for present day reality in my head. Some took. My bigger task was healing my bruised feet. Before I arrived at The Farm a stranger stops me on the side of the road, calling me over to his truck. "Where ya headin," asks the gruff voice from behind the wheel of his pick-up? After I bring him up to speed in a hundred words or less, he asks if I take donations. My face smiles a yes. The stranger is out of his truck faster than I thought he could move. In five minutes he returns from the mini-mart that he's parked in front of with fifty dollars for my wallet. Not sure what to say except thank you, I ask for his address so I can at least send word from my travels. Four miles to The Farm. Landmarks say I'm headed in the right direction. There are no signs. Although Betty has delivered new footwear, the damage from the Columbia boots is still healing, or at least wants to heal if i'd take the losd off. I shuffle rather than walk. Marc Hubbard pulls up in his sticker riddled sedan. "Headed for The Farm?"
"Are you from The Farm,"I ask although I can't think of where else such an anti-political car could be heading.
"Born and bred. My name is Marc. My friends call me Hubs. When you get to the gate tell Vicki that you'll be staying with Hubs. That'll get you in. I live on First Street. First house on the left. It's easy to find." We talk for a few more minutes. I shoot down the offer for a ride. My feet are furious. I shuffle the last mile or two into the gate.
There is a feeling that comes up in me as I walk up the porch steps to the gatehouse. Although before me is a great distance of untilled earth, part of me has stepped back in time. Reguardless of all I'm told or see, I look for 1973 behind evey tree, in every field.
Sitting now in a sweet library that used to be a railroad station my hands move past the rain outside, past my wet underwear, barely scratching the surface of my journal before my dime runs out. It'll take me a while again to believe that such a thing as this dry comfort exists. My stomach is too full, to the point of all seams straining from the buffet at The Shed across the street.(They'll have to rise their price from $4.99 a meal after my visit) I ate two huge plates, and I seemed to have dropped a few bisquits into my pocket. My grandmother'd be proud.
I begin to move over the three days of solitude on the native Natchez trail with words but my mouth is unpracticed. For three days all of my meals have been over fire, to include sleeping with branches by my head in the tent when the weather turned sour, just so I could be sure that I'd have a flame for my morning coffee and hotcakes. The new Light-Year tent by Sierra Design is tight spaced compared to my winter set-up, but at three pounds I don't complain. The MSR Fusion 2 that has held me for over six months is back in New England waiting on next winter's snow to call it into service again. Fantastic tent, although the seven plus pounds is a stout package outside of winter. When it pours now,I pull my huge pack inside the slim tent with me, and sleep in a curve around it until the sky is spent. By morning we can not even bear to look at each other.
The creeks have been my glourious bath with healthy fat fish running their red stripes over my feet. The water is still cold enough to make me gasp out load--even when I don't want to. Animals have been the only voices that have come to me on the Natchez Trace, except for one lonely pervert at the only rest-area with picnic tables I passed yesterday. I ate my Cliff Bar as he talked and stared at me, smiled in no direction, and walked on just wishing I had made more coffee.
The Farm is still a story writing in my head. When I first arrived at the gatehouse I was greeted by Vicki who was just opening the door to a small building that held countless newspaper clippings, magazines stories, and books about what The Farm was, and is. There was not a question that I could compose that Vicki did not have the answer for. When I asked about Peter Jenkins, and the death of his dog Cooper, I was told not to even think of asking where the dog was buried, and conversation dried. It hadn't entered my head, or heart to ask about where the dog was buried over thirty years ago. Peter is still a sore spot at The Farm with some of the remaing root people because his book is said to frown on The Farm. I don't remember that, but I read those pages over twenty years ago.
A week after meeting Vicki at the gatehouse, I met James. When James heard my story, he became a living thread that tied my life together with Peter's past. James was the good friend of Peter's during Peter's stay at The Farm, and his tent mate. Most of the early Farm lived in tents, buses, and packed hippie to hippie in shoddy houses.
James sat on the picnic table in Hub's yard as he took me back over thirty years to Peter's walk through that long ago summer on The Farm. It was a different world on The Farm then. The Farm was a farm. Everything was held in collective ownership. The Farm was still a working farm filled with beards and long hair moving together in the sun. The 'family' if you will, was still married in the seventies. The Big Change Over took place in 1983, a divorce of The Farm's way of life. Until 1983, The Farm was very much 'all for one , and one for all.' After 1983 the bottom fell out sending nearly two thousand people back into the world. Now only a couple hundred people live on The Farm.
"I told Peter that I would help him bury his dog Cooper. I'm a dog man. The picture in the book...I took that one when Cooper was buried. I loved that dog. Matter of fact, I am the only person that knows where Cooper is buried. I could take you there." We were helping Hub's put new skins on his drums in Hub's front yard. James lives off in town now. The odds of us meeting are about....well, sometimes there just isn't a chance of it and it still happens. This was one of those times.
While I tried to keep my thumbs out of the way, I wondered if it was right to go to the grave. Was I over working the walk? Yet, how could I have ever lined these things up to happen. In the 1970's there was over fifteen hundred people on The Farm. Thirty plus years go by, and the one man that helped Peter bury his lost friend just happens to sit down in the yard that I'm staying at even though he hasn't lived here in years. No. The walk has it's own plan. The more I thought about it, it appeared that this thread of Peter's walk was coming to me. When the drums could be left to Hub's hands, James and I got into Jame's truck with his two lap dogs, and drove over roads that James turned back in time with his words. "This is the road where Cooper ran up beside the water truck. The roads were alot different then. Deeper with ruts halfway up those banks. The sides were all built up so that the truck ran down a deep gully passing through in this area. Right here is where it happened. That dog was always biting at the tire."
We continued down the road to a gate. With a word, the little dogs were following their master around the gate. I tried to stay out of my head as I followed them. It was useless. We walked down the overgrown dirt road as James took away houses, and added tents with his jestures. James is a large man bearded in salt and pepper. He spoke softly. It made me listen harded, and somehow added value more to what he said. Soon, we were in the trees. We stood just like the trees over the article of earth that sank on itself where Cooper was put to rest. James talked on about things time changed. I stayed where I was in my mind for long minutes, not because I knew Cooper, or Peter, or even James. I stood looking down on all the death of what used to be, in the earth, in me. I wanted to paint, to write, to return again to feel this well rising up in me until I felt that I had given it notice, or respect. I never did come back, although I reached for it believing until the moment I left that I would bring smoke, or music or words. Returning felt like theatre for myself so I just visited the memory. After a few more words we were in the truck again, pushing present tense into memory with all of its fingers still sticking out of the box.
Time does not allow me to write about The Farm more now. More time to think will help the boiling down process.
The time at The Farm was Filled with new friends that were as straight to the heart as blood. Late in the evening we had a sweat lodge of a baker's dozen under blankets and a bamboo frame, falling naked into a river between sets of new stones. I camped in another cave until a storm soaked me and my gear until nothing would float. Mande and I road bikes through the trees time after time over paths as old as The Farm. I walked alot of roads with my eyes squinted so I could see flower children everywhere. I bit a cookie one night knowing it was a little laced. I was starved . It tasted great. Three hours after my treat I was arms and legs melting into a bed. Bad cookie. Bad. Leaving The Farm was hugs deep as old water. I recieved first kisses, and of course as I walked part of me lingered behind. My chest was full of music. My feet stepped instead of shuffling on sore soles. Leaving is cutting ourselves with knives of good-bye.