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Huerfano: A Memoir of Life in the Counterculture

Roberta Price
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 376
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    Book Description:

    In the late 1960s, new age communes began springing up in the American Southwest with names like Drop City, New Buffalo, Lama Foundation, Morning Star, Reality Construction Company, and the Hog Farm. In the summer of 1969, Roberta Price, a recent college graduate, secured a grant to visit these communities and photograph them. When she and her lover David arrived at Libre in the Huerfano Valley of southern Colorado, they were so taken with what they found that they wanted to participate instead of observe. The following spring they married, dropped out of graduate school in upstate New York, packed their belongings into a 1947 Chrysler Windsor Coupe, and moved to Libre, leaving family and academia behind. Huerfano is Price's captivating memoir of the seven years she spent in the Huerfano ("Orphan") Valley when it was a petrie dish of countercultural experiments. She and David joined with fellow baby boomers in learning to mix cement, strip logs, weave rugs, tan leather, grow marijuana, build houses, fix cars, give birth, and make cheese, beer, and furniture as well as poetry, art, music, and love. They built a house around a boulder high on a ridge overlooking the valley and made ends meet by growing their own food, selling homemade goods, and hiring themselves out as day laborers. Over time their collective ranks swelled to more than three hundred, only to diminish again as, for many participants, the dream of a life of unbridled possibility gradually yielded to the hard realities of a life of voluntary poverty. Price tells her story with a clear, distinctive voice, documenting her experiences with photos as well as words. Placing her story in the larger context of the times, she describes her participation in the antiwar movement, the advent of the women's movement, and her encounters with such icons as Ken Kesey, Gary Snyder, Abbie Hoffman, Stewart Brand, Allen Ginsburg, and Baba Ram Dass. At once comic, poignant, and above all honest, Huerfano recaptures the sense of affirmation and experimentation that fueled the counterculture without lapsing into nostalgic sentimentality on the one hand or cynicism on the other.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-153-3
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Prologue November 2003
    (pp. 1-4)

    Last night I had a dream about a dream. It was 1974, the Thanksgiving feast at the Red Rockers, a time when the hippie population of the Huerfano Valley had swelled from the first six at Libre in 1968 to more than three hundred of us. We were at Libre, the Red Rockers, the Triple A, the Ortiviz Farm, Archuletaville. We were in the tiny towns of Gardner, Redwing, Malachite, and Farisita. We were by the butte in the valley’s center, up the canyons, on the high mountain meadows and ridges on both sides—in adobes, geodesic domes, log cabins,...

  4. 1: Shop Around April 1, 1970
    (pp. 5-12)

    David and I are leaving graduate school at Buffalo for good and moving to a hippie commune in southeastern Colorado. We’re twenty-four, and we’ve come of age in the third quarter of the twentieth century, when many of us have the opportunity to make passionate choices. We haven’t told our graduate school friends about our decision straight out, although we’ve told them about discovering Libre last summer, when we were traveling around Colorado and New Mexico on a SUNY Buffalo faculty fund grant to study the communes that were sprouting up in the Southwest. Libre, which means “free” in Spanish,...

  5. 2: May Day May 7, 1970
    (pp. 13-18)

    Five weeks later, on the way to tell New Haven friends about our wedding, we loop south to White Plains to tell my parents. I call from a gas station on the Merritt Parkway, and Mom sounds a little surprised, but she doesn’t say David can’t come to the house. Maybe she senses we’ve got news. We drive up the hill in our 1947 Chrysler Windsor coupe that we bought in Barstow, California, last July, after our Corvair camper died a miserable death in the desert outside Needles. When we found the Chrysler in the first used car lot coming...

  6. 3: The Wedding Gang May 23, 1970
    (pp. 19-30)

    On the morning of our wedding day, as David and I drive up the dirt road above Zoar Valley, Hugh stands waiting for us by the side of the road. David pulls up and leans out the window of the Chrysler, which is washed and polished, its buoyant postwar lines matching our spirits. Hugh smiles and says, “Nice car to drive, after a war!” quoting Dylan’s “Talkin’ World War III Blues.” The DJ on the radio said it’s Dylan’s birthday this weekend, and this seems significant.

    Hugh snuck back from Canada for our wedding, which means a lot to us....

  7. 4: Searching June 1970
    (pp. 31-38)

    It has taken David and me exactly a year to arrive at where we’re headed. This June, we’re packing the Chrysler and moving to Libre. Last summer, we packed a Corvair camper and toured southwestern communes. We sampled communes in Colorado and New Mexico like Goldilocks trying out the furniture and porridge at the Three Bears’ house. With Leslie Fiedler’s help, I got a faculty fund summer grant from the SUNY Buffalo English department to study new art and literature arising out of alternative lifestyles. No graduate student teaching fellow had ever applied for a grant before, but nothing in...

  8. 5: Libre June 1969
    (pp. 39-51)

    Inside Jim’s lean-to were a Great Majestic wood cook-stove, a crude wood kitchen counter with three crowded shelves, a funky table, three chairs. And Sandy. Small and brunette with thin lips, she wore tinted granny glasses, a thick Mexican sweater, harem pants made from the same garish material as Jim’s shirt, and Hopi moccasins. She stood by the stove, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette with suave concentration, the way people smoke in French movies. She said “Hi” softly when Jim introduced us, exhaling smoke like the Cheshire cat and stirring a pot of beans. Above her, copper-bottomed French pots hung from...

  9. 6: The Way West June 2, 1970
    (pp. 52-55)

    The Chrysler’s long hood points west like a ship’s prow as it heads into the plains. One year after the acid trip on Libre’s ridge, the first summer of a new decade, we head to Colorado to start a new life. We’ve got lots of time to think about past Libre visits as we drive. Scraps of conversations, the look in someone’s eyes, the Sangres at sunset come back like snippets of a vivid dream. Normally, the Chrysler cruises at sixty-five, but it’s packed to its gills now, and it struggles to do sixty on a flat road. It moves...

  10. 7: Libre Again June 4, 1970
    (pp. 57-62)

    As we turn off Interstate 25 onto Highway 69 two days later, I’m driving, my cheeks flushed from fatigue. David rolls a joint to celebrate, leaning back, one foot on the dash, and we climb into the valley, passing Badito Cone on our right. On the left, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains pop up. New, jagged, and exuberant, they stretch along the southern horizon—Black Mountain, Silver Mountain, Little and Big Sheep Mountains, Slide Mountain, Blanca Peak, Kit Carson Peak, Crestone Peak, and the pointy Crestone Needles strut across the curve of the world. This range in the Rockies is...

  11. 8: Come Together June 5, 1970
    (pp. 63-69)

    The next morning I lie quietly as David sleeps, thinking about the council we must get through in order to join Libre. On our past visits, everyone acted as if a council was a mere formality. We wanted to have a council last winter, but Peter Rabbit said that we should just show up in June ready to build and call a council then. Now there are people building here whom we’ve never met. Will that make it harder to get the council’s okay?

    After our oatmeal with nuts and raisins, Sandy says she’ll clean up, that we should get...

  12. 9: You Can Be in My Dream If I Can Be in Yours Jnue 5, 1970
    (pp. 70-76)

    The council’s not going as I expected. People straggle into the dome around sunset, stand around chatting, and chug the jug wine we brought. The four oldest kids, two brother-and-sister pairs, each from a new family building here, orbit the dome. They run in and out, slamming the screen doors, yelling and laughing in the meadow. Nanda, a two-year-old boy Patricia and Steve adopted at birth, tries to follow the older kids, and even the Okies’ baby Amon wants to scramble after the running, laughing pack. Tom Growwalks in holding a metal pail shot full of holes. He mumbles that...

  13. 10: Up on the Ridge June 24, 1970
    (pp. 77-84)

    We’ve got three months or less until the first snow. It took three weeks since the council to get some building materials up the ridge and set up camp. I knew it would take an enormous amount of time to build our house, but in these last three weeks I’ve learned that even the simplest tasks take longer than expected. For example, the day after the council, we planned to take the Libre flatbed across the valley to Singing River Road beyond Redwing to cut lodgepole pines for our tipi. We needed to pitch the tipi and set up a...

  14. 11: Food Stamps July 1, 1970
    (pp. 85-95)

    We’re running out of timeandmoney. Our friends stayed a week, worked and played hard, and we fed them well. We drank a lot of Coors during and after the hot, dry days of construction work. We’ve spent most of our nest egg on provisions, gas, building materials, auto repairs, other necessities. Even if we work on Bill Keidel’s crew building the vacation cabin two canyons over for the Buddhist oil and gas lawyer, our wages will have to go for more building materials. Cement, sand, lumber, nails, tar paper, roofing paper, windows, hardware, propane—the list is endless....

  15. 12: Water, Cool Water July 4, 1970
    (pp. 96-100)

    In the Huerfano you live at the mercy of the sky. Dry Creek’s been dry for two weeks, and the spring box didn’t refill last night. The wildflowers fade and curl, and when the hot wind blows, dust flies up in the meadows. We could see the ribs on the dead cow by the road down at Johnny Bucci’s yesterday, which looked skinny even though it was bloated. The hours of daylight stretch out over the long summer days, and the sun shines relentlessly. We can’t work in the middle of the day, so we take restless siestas. The tipi’s...

  16. 13: The Time Capsule August 5, 1970
    (pp. 101-106)

    I haven’t talked about David much. He’s a given, like the clear air here, which I don’t mention much either. We’re together almost all the time. Working on the house, building, digging, hammering, carrying, sawing, mixing cement. In five years we’ll log more time together than the average commuter husband and wife who’ve been married twenty-five years. We began with a conversation about Ezra Pound one night freshman year. His beard’s longer now, and his hair falls to his shoulders. He’s nut brown from the sun, and his muscles are harder. The sex isn’t as frequent as it used to...

  17. 14: Visitors September 2, 1970
    (pp. 107-111)

    Our most recent visitor, Jean Claude, has stayed with us for a week. He’s a thin, frail French student who’s been traveling around the American West. Jean Claude gets up very early in the morning, and before we can stop him, he uses half a pound of coffee to make a pot that is so strong David and I can’t drink it. Jean Claude drinks it all himself at breakfast, and then goes back to bed with severe stomach pains for a few hours. In the afternoon, he staggers over in his espadrilles to help us at the site, but...

  18. 15: Heart Failure September 15, 1970
    (pp. 112-118)

    For the last three months we’ve seen Richard, our closest neighbor, almost every day. His face is familiar now. It doesn’t change much and has no dramatic features: intelligent hazel eyes, long brown hair, a thin straight mouth, simple wire-rimmed glasses. He’s quiet and calm, a good neighbor. Tonight, though, Richard isn’t calm. His face is grayish white, and his eyes are red. He sits on a rocker in Peter’s zome and chain-smokes while we wait for the sheriff. Peter’s uncharacteristically quiet, and his shoulders slump more than usual. He walks around the zome as if there were weights tied...

  19. 16: The Libra Birthday Party October 8, 1970
    (pp. 119-124)

    The snowflakes started mid-morning, silent and slow. Each one is big, wet, and individual, and they fall at a slant under the tarp as I work at the stove. They dissolve instantly when they hit the cake batter, but that’s okay, because you’re supposed to add more liquid at high altitudes. The eggbeater’s a problem, though—its gears seize up in the cold, so I can’t crank it very fast. I’m making the cake on the right side of the cookstove, away from the firebox. This side’s not too hot, just warm enough to keep the ingredients at “room temperature”...

  20. 17: School Days October 12, 1970
    (pp. 125-131)

    Libre school is held at a different house each day. Not ours, because we don’t even have a roof yet, much less a house, although the two kitchen walls are high in the section we’ll enclose with temporary walls for winter. There’s no school at Dalias’s horan either—its roof caved in during the rainy season, and it isn’t fixed yet. With every rain or snow, the hogan walls dissolve a little more. Each morning I walk with the kids to one of the other houses, unfold the cardboard strip of perfect alphabet letters Beth made, and spend an hour...

  21. 18: Pearl Harbor Day December 7, 1970
    (pp. 132-138)

    It’s Pearl Harbor Day. The draft board won’t give David any more deferments, and he’s got to appear for a physical in New York City in January. My parents are visiting. The sky is steel gray, the mountains stark and wintry, and Dallas drives us up the ridge in the True Truck. I’d hoped the sun would come out for my parents’ visit. I’d hoped David could get another extension from the draft board. Instead, we lurch over the rocky ridge road on a gray day, and I think about our dwindling options as we look down at dead winter...

  22. 19: The Physical January 11, 1971
    (pp. 139-144)

    In mid-December we pointed the Chrysler east and retraced last June’s journey across the plains. Most immigrants or pioneers don’t get to return to their points of origin so easily. We came back for Christmas with my family and David’s draft physical. When we left Buffalo and David lost his graduate school deferment, he wangled two three-month postponements. But then the letter came, denying further extensions and setting the date and place of the physical, in downtown New York City at Whitehall today. We’ve kept a New York address in case things go badly—we don’t want them to know...

  23. 20: Sinbad February 1971
    (pp. 145-151)

    While we were back east, Dallas’s younger brother Billy took care of our cats. He’d been crashing around, and by agreeing to feed our cats, he got a place to stay if nothing better came along. People often go away in winter, so other more comfortable places were frequently available. Richard, Beth, and the kids went to St. Louis for Christmas, so Billy stayed in their house, which was far cozier than ours. He walked down and fed Kachina and Sinbad at our place twice a day. Then Billy moved down the ridge to zome-sit for Peter and Nancy while...

  24. 21: Miami March 15, 1971
    (pp. 152-158)

    In retrospect, hitchhiking to Florida was a little like being Dorothy inThe Wizard of Oz,picked up by a tornado and lifted off the farm. Instead of Oz, however, I landed in the Miami Colosseum, leaning over the rail of the biggest boat there, a sixty-five foot Chris Craft yacht. In slow moments during the Miami Boat Show, I go back over our trip, connecting the dots.

    We didn’t travel at tornado speed. The day we left, we almost couldn’t get out of Libre. It had been so cold for so long that Libre’s ordinarily marginally working vehicles refused...

  25. 22: Here Comes the Sun April 1, 1971
    (pp. 159-163)

    We’re back on the ridge a week after the equinox. The days are longer now, the sun shines more strongly on our faces and sets farther west along the rims of the Sangre de Cristos. Wild crocuses push up through the remaining patches of snow on the north side of the ridge. In seven years, all the cells in your body have changed, but more than one-seventh of us has changed this past year. We’ve adjusted to marriage and mountain life, we know a lot more about construction, and we’re connected to the Libre family. This year we can get...

  26. 23: The Nature of Time May 1, 1971
    (pp. 164-168)

    It’s May—time to think about gardens. This year, all the communes in the Huerfano are undergoing some loose centralization. We’re going to farm collectively at the Ortiviz, and have school there for all our kids. We’ve agreed about the group farm and school. We’ve agreed to chip in what we can, and to work as much as we can down there, but that’s about as specific as we’ve gotten. There’s a range of sharing in the Huerfano. The Red Rockers, with a core of two sets of siblings and old friends who met in kindergarten, share the most and...

  27. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  28. 24: Lia May 15, 1971
    (pp. 169-173)

    It wasn’t easy for Dean and Linda this spring. A couple of weeks ago, Dean went to the Ortiviz Farm to give Linda some space. A few days later, Linda walked Lia down there so Lia could be with Dean for a while. Lia was playing with some farm kids on the upper land while Dean cleared out nearby ditches with the Ortiviz men. It was a glorious day in May, and they were getting a lot done when little Joe-Joe ran up to Dean and said, “Lia’s playing in the pond, but she’s not moving.” Lia was almost three....

  29. 25: Change in Seasons August 15, 1971
    (pp. 174-178)

    Mount Blanca across the valley is the highest mountain in the Sangre de Cristo Range. It’s over fourteen thousand feet, one of the fifty-four “Fourteeners” in the Rockies, and it’s dusted with new snow already, a sign that summer’s ending, but I’m not thinking much of the change of seasons. I always stop on the road after milking the goats in the morning and look across the valley for a while, listening to Little Egypt, Trinity, and Johanna behind me, munching and snorting contentedly on the new alfalfa I’ve put in their feeder. Then I check out signs of life...

  30. 26: Gathering Together November 1971
    (pp. 179-184)

    Looking at the crowd at the first Thanksgiving dinner in the Red Rockers’ sixty-foot dome, I feel as if David and I are practically a Norman Rockwell holiday couple. Compared to most Huerfano duos, we’re devoted to each other, but our romance has changed a little too. Not just that we’re old marrieds, or that building a house is the most challenging, frustrating, and tiring thing either of us has ever done. My feelings for David are deeper but more suffused with my feelings about the house, Doug, the cats, the goats, Libre, the entire valley, and, above all, our...

  31. 27: Consciousness Raising April 1, 1972
    (pp. 185-194)

    It’s April Fool’s Day, but this foolishness isn’t funny.

    By winter we’d walled in the bottom half of the house. One temporary wall had moved west around the rock like the hand of a clock to mark the passage of 1971, while the other temporary wall stayed put. We framed and shelled the small octagonal room on top, and built the deck above the half of the house that’s finished. We could have moved our bedroom upstairs last fall if the Indian summer had lasted a few more weeks. Instead, we didn’t move our bed up there till last week....

  32. 28: Easter April 8, 1972
    (pp. 195-200)

    Halfway across the world, Vietnamization is almost complete. Most U.S. troops have been withdrawn, and the intelligence structure has been dismantled. The communist Easter offensive began last week. In Paris, Kissinger’s hinting that the U.S. might respond by nuking Hanoi, but the breaking Huerfano news is that Trinity just had triplets, two does and a buck, and something’s not right. I found them in a motionless pile in the corner of the goat house this morning when I came up to milk Johanna and Little Egypt. Trinity stared at me blankly and hovered as I poked them with my finger....

  33. 29: Brotherly Love June 15, 1972
    (pp. 201-205)

    Dallas’s bare feet look Gothic and delicate sticking out from under my brother’s rental car in the Libre parking lot. They look like Christ’s feet in a van der Weyden altarpiece, but not as pale. My brother Jimmy paces at the rear of the car, carefully stepping over Dallas’s feet, and Jimmy’s companion, Penny, looks at them bemusedly. She’s not as worried as Jimmy about being marooned here. Maybe she’s studied van der Weyden. She’s from California and is quite beautiful. Dallas’s feet flip over like pancakes, and he crawls out from under the car, stands, and slowly and carefully...

  34. 30: Woodstock Revisited August 10, 1972
    (pp. 206-212)

    We’ve done a lot in our third summer. We poured the foundation for the fifth wall, adding another eighth to the house on the west, and we finished the insulated deck over this new section. The enclosed part of the house has turned the corner and moved uphill around the rock. Because of the twelve-foot difference in floor levels between the downhill part and the unfinished back, this transitional section has two stories. On the lower level, even with the dining area, is a root cellar—pantry which we dug about six feet into the side of the ridge. A...

  35. 31: Julep May 1973
    (pp. 213-218)

    We made it through winter with nothing eventful happening. Nothing as eventful as what’s happening at Bill Keidel and Annie’s tonight. She’s having their baby. She lies in a circle of kerosene lamps on a mattress Bill put in the living room. Dr. Mai pulls on her surgical gloves and kneels between Annie’s splayed, hairy legs, waiting. Annie’s been in labor for hours, it must be past two. It’s cold tonight, so Bill lit a fire in the space heater. David and Peter are outside smoking a joint, and Bill’s making hot toddies. Linda, Nancy, and I sit in a...

  36. 32: The Peach Run August 12, 1973
    (pp. 219-224)

    The more the house gets built, the less progress we make. The first year we put in all eight posts, set the eight roof beams out from the rock and onto the posts, poured four huge foundations, and built the bottom quarter. The second year we finished the next quarter and closed in the downhill half of the house, covered and insulated the deck sections above it, and built and roofed the top room. Last year we poured the fifth foundation and added the eighth of the house that circles back uphill around the rock. This summer we haven’t added...

  37. 33: Mr. Wagley’s Peaches August 18, 1973
    (pp. 225-229)

    The next day we’re on the road early after a quick breakfast of granola and my goat milk yogurt, anxious to get over Monarch Pass. Winnie’s shoulders and jaw jut forward as he drives. We lean forward, too, as if to help Dr. Gonzo motivate over the hill. Hickory grips the pole by the stairwell, listening to the engine. The guys checked the tires this morning again—a blowout could be fatal. Conversation stops completely when the engine starts heaving and the bus slows. Tourist families in big sedans and ranchers in pickups pass in a blur. We stare straight...

  38. 34: Homecoming August 1973
    (pp. 230-233)

    My romance with Hickory isn’t revolutionary or new, and the force that pulled me into his arms is actually very ordinary. I catalogue the brief passions of Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac and their alter egos, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, then I review the free love and changing romantic constellations in Bloomsbury or at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s in Taos. To live creatively means taking risks and breaking barriers. That’s not new either. Talking to myself this way proves my sophistication and detachment, and it’s a diversion from my churning stomach, my shifting heart. My familiarity with cultural history and...

  39. 35: Cousin Carlene September 1973
    (pp. 234-240)

    Since the peaches, David and I don’t talk about free love, Hickory, or our future. It’s like putting unstable chemicals into a pot over a low flame and then trying to relax and forget about it. The pot’s lid rattles occasionally, and it’s just a matter of time before it boils over or explodes, but we’re exhausted and pretend not to notice. A visit from one of my cousins five days later serves as a diversion. Cousin Carlene and her second husband show up for an afternoon visit on their grand tour of the West. She’s the youngest of Aunt...

  40. 36: The Red Rocks October 1973
    (pp. 241-245)

    In the middle of the big round table in the Red Rock dome is a three-foot lazy Susan for condiments and platters. It spins like a roulette wheel at meals, then stops with a jerk when people grab and hold onto it while they’re helping themselves. Tonight, Winnie heaves the restaurant-size pan of enchiladas onto the lazy Susan with a flourish, steps back like a gunslinger holding a scorched pot holder on each hip, and narrows his eyes. He waits until Stephanie and Benjo look up from their Peyote Church grace and says, “Two enchiladas each, and everybody can have...

  41. 37: Horse Dreams December 24, 1973
    (pp. 246-251)

    One late October night after dinner David twisted the gear to lower the delicate mantle on an Aladdin kerosene lamp. If a mantle burns too high, it flames up, ruined, and they’re expensive to replace. He took his cigarette out of his mouth, looked at it for a while, and said, “Henry and I want to go to Denver this winter to try to make it with our music—get gigs, and try to sell our songs. I’d like to raise some money for spring, you know?” He didn’t ask me to come too. Of course, that was impossible, as...

  42. 38: Biting the Bullet June 1974
    (pp. 252-259)

    David and Henry came back to the Huerfano a month ago. Over the winter they’d gotten gigs in Denver and surrounding ski resorts. A coked-out agent from L.A. heard them at Vail and gave them his card, but they didn’t call him. They spent most of their earnings on living expenses. It’s almost summer. For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. In this new, warming season, they’re back, the goats had their kids, Dean and Linda had a another baby, and I had another affair. Then I made enough money working in a Hollywood western to buy a...

  43. 39: Tricky Dick August 8, 1974
    (pp. 260-265)

    Nancy gave Libre ten thousand dollars for a new water system this summer, and everyone’s been working on it. In June, Mr. Vargas, the Huerfano water witch, came up with his willow dowsing stick to find the right spot to dig a well by Peter and Nancy’s zome. Since Nancy gave the money, they get to have the well nearby. Peter and some other men here have dug down forty-five feet and there’s no water yet. Peter hired Philbert Montez to trench the lower land to bury the pipes. Philbert’s not trenching down to Patricia’s house because of Peter and...

  44. 40: Rufus September 1974
    (pp. 266-271)

    Up in Denver two weeks later, I’m regrouping at Dr. Frank’s. The remainingBite the Bulletmoney is in an envelope beside me as I sit on Frank’s couch and comb through theDenver Postclassifieds, looking for a six-or seven-year-old mare. I call a number in Longmont. The mare sounds good, so I drive out into the plains. The bay mare is in a corral and looks fine, but a little sorrel horse hitched nearby catches my eye.

    “What about that horse hitched to the fence over there?” I ask Curly, an old cowboy who’s been showing me the...

  45. 41: Me and Bobby McGee November-December 1974
    (pp. 272-277)

    At the biggest Thanksgiving ever at the Red Rockers, there are more than two hundred of us, so we need to go outside the big dome for our circle. We stand in the old snow, holding hands in a straggly Möbius strip weaving around the meadow. The mood’s festive, in spite of a bitter, cold wind, and we grin across the circle at one another. When somebody yells “Thank you!” we all say “Thank you!” dropping hands, running together, hugging and laughing in a big clump. I see this place as we dreamed it, a new society based on love....

  46. 42: Nick February 14, 1975
    (pp. 278-282)

    The first time I see Nick, he’s up to his knees in spilled seeds. Minnesota came back from town and said a tractor trailer full of feed tipped over by the old Farisita schoolhouse on Highway 69, and there were three-foot drifts of high-grade cattle feed by the road. The next day Doug and I take some shovels and the old Chevy pickup to get some for the animals before it’s ruined by the coming snow. Waste not, want not. When we get there, most of it’s gone.

    “I can’t believe people!” I say to Doug.

    “You mean you can’t...

  47. 43: Christine March 1975
    (pp. 283-286)

    I’m not the first one to hang out with a local. Patricia’s young boyfriend Vincie was born in the Huerfano, and so was Christine, who moved in with Jim and had a baby here six months ago. The day their daughter was born, Jim told me they’d named her Electra.

    I asked, “Do you know the Electra story, I mean, Sophocles’ play?”

    “No,” he smiled. “We just like it because it sounds like ‘electricity.’” They were so happy that I didn’t say any more, but maybe I should have told them the story. You always think back on things you...

  48. 44: The Bionic Dog April 1975
    (pp. 287-293)

    The April Bionic Dog gig at the Marlboro Inn is the first one in the valley in a long time, and I feel like a high school girl getting ready for a dance. The band’s pretty good these days, and I want Nick and the rest of the Farises to hear it and see what an exciting life we lead. We’ve got a block of rooms at the Marlboro. The band gets two rooms as part of their pay, the Red Rockers and Triple A have each rented two, and the Ortiviz Farm is renting one. Joy Faris, Nick’s eldest...

  49. 45: The Roundup September 1975
    (pp. 294-299)

    Cheri left for Florida a week after our parking lot talk. I didn’t see Nick for a long time after that. Brent and Cari officially split up. Brent moved out of the house Richard built, and Cari stayed. Brent held a council and started building a new house down the ridge road. Cari and David traveled around the rest of the summer. Nick finally came to see me at the end of the summer after Cheri got back from Florida. I hated him for being too scared to see me while she was away, and I stomped around the house...

  50. 46: Aunt Mabel and the Owl August 1976
    (pp. 300-305)

    After David and I decide on a closed marriage, the year goes smoothly and rapidly, a rest stop, a chance to be friends again, something we need. The summer has moved at high speed, like all good times, and it’s August already. Two days ago, I got a ride to Gardner with Nancy. I hadn’t been speaking to her for a week. On a town trip a week ago, she’d complained over and over, biting her lip, “I don’t have any money, I’mcompletelyout of money.” David and I don’t have much ourselves, but we bought some gas for...

  51. 47: Donuts September 1976
    (pp. 306-310)

    Like the Lakota and other Plains tribes, who used every part of the buffalo, and like the Makah and other North-western peoples, who never let any part of a whale go to waste, we use every part of the marijuana plants we harvest. What to do with the stems and seeds is the biggest challenge and takes the most ingenuity. We chop them into manageable lengths and put them in a big canner of water to simmer for a day or two. Then we remove the stems and stalks, dump them in the compost, and strain the green, brackish fluid....

  52. 48: More Big Birds October 1976
    (pp. 311-317)

    One month later, on a crisp October morning when the air’s so sharp that the mountain peaks are more precise than ever, I stop short on the way to the outhouse. A young falcon sits on top of a dead piñon right in front of me, looks in my eyes, and takes off insouciantly. When I get back to the kitchen, I tell David that my brother and Warrie just had their baby. He doesn’t seem surprised when I explain how I know.

    Later, my mother confirms the news when I call her from Gardner. “It’s a little boy,” she...

  53. 49: The Deerskin and the Dobie Pad June 1977
    (pp. 318-323)

    Six months after Sky King’s drop, I went to Dr. Frank’s in Denver to escape awhile. My seventh year at Libre began with another hot and dry June, and our water was very low. At Frank’s I took lots of showers and didn’t feel guilty. I asked him if it’s true that after seven years all my cells are different from the ones I came west with, and he said, “Sort of.” One night when he and Cream Cheese went out, I was restless, so restless I called Freddy on a whim. Over the winter he’d buzzed Libre a few...

  54. 50: The King Is Dead August 1977
    (pp. 324-327)

    Two months later, it’s mid-August and hot, and I sit in the Boulderado Hotel lobby, soaking up the Naropa vibes. Three stories above me is a big stained glass ceiling. The cantilevered stairs and balustrade around the mezzanine are dark, carved cherry. The men who built the Boulderado, high on the crest of the silver boom, had a City of Gold vision older than Coronado and pulled out all the stops. I lie back on the shredded upholstery and squint up at the translucent patterns, thinking of the big plans and boomtown hopes at the birth of the century. The...

  55. 51: Beatniks in the Huerfano August 1977
    (pp. 328-339)

    Last night, Ginsberg, Corso, and Orlovsky landed in the Huerfano. A pilot friend of theirs flew them down from Boulder, and I drove the Chrysler to an obscure airstrip near Huerfano Butte to pick them up. It was a small plane, so Allen had asked me if Bobby, a young poet, could catch a ride in the Chrysler with me from Boulder. Bobby has honey-colored skin and a crown of wavy auburn hair like an Italian cherub’s. He’s the kind of boy Ginsberg likes to mentor. We drove down from Boulder two days ago, and he fit right in at...

  56. 52: Ram Dass and Holy Faith September 1977
    (pp. 340-345)

    The morning of my last day in the Huerfano, I run out of dish soap. David’s getting some in town today, but I go up to Cari’s to borrow a little to do the breakfast dishes. Cari’s not there—she must have gone to Walsenburg with David, Peter, and Annie. Cari’s still in love with David, and that makes me feel less guilty about leaving. I stand on the deck outside her house, thinking of all the people who’ve lived there and left, and run my fingers over the hammer marks on the four-by-four uprights. Looking out over the valley...

  57. Postlogue November 2004
    (pp. 346-352)

    Some of us stayed in the Huerfano. Jim and Sesame are at Libre. Dean is too; he’s happy with Sibylla, the German woman Rufus liked so much. Dallas’s brother Billy built a house on the knoll south of what was Peter’s meadow. Over the years a few others have taken up residence in empty houses. Tom Grow’s around. Muffin went to veterinary school and is the valley vet now.

    Nick and his family are still in the area, of course. He’s been married three times and works for Faris Land and Cattle Company selling vacation ranches. Over in La Veta,...

  58. Author’s Note and Acknowledgments
    (pp. 353-354)
  59. Back Matter
    (pp. 355-356)