I so miss photographer Jack Stoddart and all my other slightly twisted artist friends (you know who
you are) and love to report on their latest ventures. Jack is now a music producer on his farm in rural Tennessee and has incorporated his children into his business. On Memorial Day weekend they present a festival featuring American roots style music. You can camp near the river, listen to the music, eat barbeque and hand out with your friends. You are invited.
Time Travel Sometimes Takes You Back
Took a walk yesterday…..with my youngest son and his sweet girlfriend. My old bud Dave came with us. Up the old road behind Pat and Beverly’s. They are gone now, victims of age and bad driving. Not gone dead, just moved back to Texas for proper supervision. Beverly always baited me with conservative conversation, and I always took the bait. Often she really pissed me off, I miss them. We loved them in a way that only long time neighbors who live far out in the country can love each other. I’ll never forgot the night that someone shot our dog. Pat and Beverly showed up armed and dangerous to protect our children while we rushed him to the vet. As they hopped out of the truck Pat discharged his beloved 12 gauge a few times for effect. Beverly had a 357 on her hip that I’d seen her use on stray dogs that were after her chickens..I'm pretty sure she didn't shoot our dog though. Even drop-out hippies need protection.
As we walked up the steep rutted road I explained that this was the longer way to Bill’s old place. For a few years in the 70s two pair of south Alabama hippies had tried to make a stand way up in the woods. No doubt victims of Mother Earth News coupled with authority issues and general discontent they had left Alabama and bought 75 acres with not enough water, way up on the ridge below Tinch Town. I’m certain it seemed like a good idea at the time, get as far back as you can and live off the land. And so it went in 1975, with nothing more than a V.W. Bus, an old army surplus Dodge Power Wagon, a few hammers and saws, Bill, Jody, Fuzzy and Peggy tried to do something impossible. First they built the geodesic dome, out of mostly rough cut oak purchased from Coalie (M.C.) Garrett, who had a small mill near by and an affinity for freaks of all kinds. With the simplest of tools they worked, and the object of their efforts become "The Dome". People would tune up their big four-wheel drive trucks and go visit when the weather was nice, and sometimes when it wasn’t. For Bill and the rest, that was not the plan. Bill even went so far as to catch some snakes, some copperheads and rattlesnakes and keep them in old aquarium’s he had trucked up the mountain. Feed them mice from the house. Hill people will drive even farther to see some snakes, so that didn’t work out. Once the Dome was more or less livable, it was time to build the "Icosa", a five sided smaller version of the dome. I remember tightening the last room bolts and pulling the house together. Somehow that was my job and I enjoyed it. Even though I lived down below on the river, we were all attached and friends, hippies helped each other. At this point both couples had a house and the real job of living there began. As good an idea as living 7 miles back in the woods might seem, anyone with a taste for any kind of worldly goods is in trouble when they run out. In this particular case it was beer and smokes that ran out quickest. There was no way to work at a job and no real way to make money… it just sort of fell apart. After the building part, the living part proved too hard. It was a grand experiment without much planning. Hippies can by impulsive and direct. They’ve all been gone for a long time now Bill, Jody, Fuzzy and Peggy.. One is completely gone and the other three just away. So what does it mean to me? I still live on the river with my family. Grandchildren and friends are often here. Sometimes we sit on the porch and watch the day fade to night. Sometimes we talk about what it was we were all looking for, who found it, who didn’t. Sometimes we just sit and remember the old freaks that have left us, graduated to the greatest escape of all. I still walk up to the Dome, to the Icosa. Not often….a few times a year. It never fails to make me sad…lonely for my younger days. But it makes me happy as well. They did something real, even if it didn’t work. They took a stand and built with their hands, and the buildings stand there still. Like a shrine or a landmark to a short period of time when we thought we had some answers. Maybe we did.