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Subject: The Fallen Tree Gathering - Wyoming 2008
From: "Butterfly Bill" < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2008 20:11
As I said I would do in my last post to a.g.r. in June, I tried to find the Snyder Basin site before I went to the actual site of this gathering. There had been a controversy on this newsgroup the week before when it was revealed that some Boy Scouts in the Order of the Arrow had been planning for three years to do some volunteer fence removal work for the Forest Service in some areas overlapped by the site being seed camped by the Rainbows, and that this event would be cancelled is the gathering took place here. It had been suggested that the gathering move to the site used by the Family in 1994, about 60 miles away to show our respect for the Scouts and the other people who use the National Forests.
I got to the town of Big Piney just a little bit before sunset on the 21st of June, and I found and went off on the Forest Service road mentioned in the directions. But rather than finding signs saying Snyder Basin I found a fork in the road with a sign giving only a county road number on one tine and no sign at all on the other. I waved down a local coming back the other way in a truck and asked him which way to Snyder Basin, and he told me to continue straight ahead, on a dirt road with many deep ruts and potholes that I didn't feel comfortable going more than 15 mph on. I continued on until it got uncomfortably dark and I turned around and went back to the town. I found a camping equipment store that had a sign that said, "Overnight parking welcome", and spent the night in my van among some 18 wheeler trucks.
In the daylight of the following morning, the 22nd, I ventured forth again, found another intersection with a sign saying Snyder Basin, and drove that road for 30 or so miles. I saw several white RVs parked along the way, some with ATVs parked next to them, but no evidence of Rainbow activity. I also saw lots of brown trees on hillsides across valleys, indicating that the pine beetle infestation that was decimating the trees at the Colorado site two years ago extended up to here. Finally I came to a T intersection, with no signs on either side mentioning Snyder Basin.
I turned around and went back out to Big Piney and then to Boulder where I stopped at a convenience store, went inside and found a Rainbowy looking brother who showed me another man in the parking lot who could give me directions to the Big Sandy site where the gathering had not moved from. It lead me down another series of roads almost 40 miles total, most of which were dirt, but in slightly better shape than the other ones. For most of the way it went thru sagebrush covered plains, and I didn't encounter mountain slopes and trees until I was only a few miles from the front gate. Two brothers came out to the road to greet me at Front Gate and one said, "Hi, BB", and he gave me a choice of turning to the right to a bus village or continuing on for two more miles to a parking place that was nearer to the head of the main trail.
I drove on until I saw cars spread out near some trees, parked my van there temporarily, and went off looking for the trailhead and someone that I knew to ask questions about the Boy Scout situation. After going over a short but steep hill I found what looked like a parking lot for the earlies, and almost immediately found Marken and Badjer, who told me that the Boy Scout leaders had found an alternative place for the boys to work and that no individual scout had been deprived of his summer trip. Marken showed me a space for my van right next to his step van camper, and I brought it over and parked there.
Marken invited me inside his van to his dining table and showed me some topographical maps as he explained the site to me. It was a walk of over two miles up and down some steep slopes to Main Meadow. There were at least three separate meadows discovered so far, and he called the uppermost "Mosquito Meadow". Main Meadow was the middle one, and it was "shaped like a heart". (I thought it was more like a thick V from looking at the map.) The bottom point of the heart was to the south, and the axis ran nearly due north.
The area where we both were now was being called Handi-Camp, tho there were only a few actually disabled people living there. It was bounded on the south by a wooden rail fence that was the boundary between the National Forest and the adjacent land that was administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM land was supposed to be off limits to Rainbow gatherers, altho Front Gate and the nearby A-Camp occupied it two miles down the road. There was a strict two week camping limit there, and Plunker first parked his vehicle and claimed the spot in his individual name until his fortnight was up, then Karin Zirk supplanted it with her step van.
While I was talking with Marken, Gary Stubbs came in the van and during the conversation told me that the Welcome Home camp that had been envisioned and planned in some more pre-gathering posts to a.g.r. was now a reality. I checked it out about an hour later. There was a stream that was split into two branches as it ran past Handi-Camp, and Rainbow bridges made out of three parallel logs crossed both of them. There was then a short walk thru the woods, then I saw the rainbow colored banner saying "Welcome Rainbow Family" that had been hung across the main street of Richfield, West Virginia three years ago now stretched between two trees over this Main Trail. Then I found a cooking fireplace made of rocks mortared with mud and a line of bliss fire pits, and folding tables set up on the other side of the trail and many canvas folding chairs here and there.
When I entered I saw Plunker and several other people who greeted me with enthusiastic calls of "Butterfly Bill!". Plunker was in a speaking mood and he filled me in more on what the movie had been with the Forest Service so far, and how to him the last minute revelation of the Boy Scout reservation had been only the latest in a series of obstacles that had been deliberately set in the Family's way. I stayed around for a few hours. Crews of two other kitchens besides Rainbow Crystal (Gary's kitchen) were combining their resources into Welcome Home.
Since it was obvious that I wasn't going to find Info up there with Marken still down here in the parking lot, and he had impressed upon me that the trip was going to be long and strenuous, I didn't set about exploring the site until the third day. I stayed in Handi-Camp all day on the 23rd, and I took some time to rest up from the drive in. I also spent some time at Welcome Home catching up with several old friends in conversation.
Here I first heard Plunker make his first plea for help from the family in searching for a 21 year old man named Garrett, who was the son of the local county sheriff and who had last been seen driving near the gathering, and who might have joined it. Plunker took an impassioned interest in this case, coming to Dinner Circle several times in the days thereafter to ask for more help.
At about 1:30 in the afternoon I was lying down in my van when I heard a brother yelling "fire!", and I looked out and saw people running towards the hump hill. I got up and followed them but I saw Badjer coming the other way, and he told me the fire had been contained. I was back at my van when I heard another brother again hollering "fire!", along with, "Get up off your asses and help us fight it!"
This time I went over the hill and coming down the other side I saw two brothers carrying a large plastic bucket with rope handles on each side and maybe 20 gallons of water in it. One of the brothers stumbled and said, "God damn it, I just fucked up my knee". I stepped in and took the handle myself. We walked as fast as we could over maybe a quarter mile of sagebrush until we saw a lot of other people in a place just inside the treeline. As I approached, there was a Forest Service LEO (law enforcement officer) truck and a green uniformed cop with a small camera taking a picture of everyone who came by. As we got near he said, "Look at all this help." Neither he nor the other officer with him was doing anything about the fire.
When we got on the other side of the LEO vehicle, we saw another SUV painted in civilian colors with New Mexico plates and nobody inside or around it acting like he owned it. Beyond that was a old tree trunk about 25 feet long that had been uprooted lying on its side, totally charred black, and an elliptical area about 15 feet wide of fallen timber around it that had also been blackened. There were no more flames and just smolderings of smoke here and there, which people were pouring water over and using shovels to cover with dirt. I stayed there for about a half hour helping with this effort. There was no campfire ring nearby, and no obvious cause of the blaze. The wind had just happened to be blowing so the flames proceeded directly up the fallen tree trunk with little veering to either side.
Later that afternoon a brother from Arkansas named Barnacle Bob set up in Handi-Camp a large white tent just like the one Info used for the first time last year, 10 by 20 feet with a peaked roof hung over a frame of aluminum pipes that had tapered ends that slid into each other for assembly, and covered the floor with assorted camping equipment, auto parts, tools, and other goodies that he was ready to give away, but only if you convinced him you had a genuine lack and need for it. He had a full ton pickup truck with a homemade box on the back. On the morning of the 24th we loaded most of the Info gear onto it, and I was also able to put on my Army duffel bag with my tent, pillows, and one sleeping bag along with the bag containing my cot. The 15 boxes of Rainbow Guides were also loaded. Marken thought that a jeep road went all the way to the edge of Main Meadow. I started up the mountain for the first time with just a small backpack shortly after the truck left, at maybe 2 o'clock.
The trail from Welcome Home to Main Meadow started with a hill about 40 feet high with a slope of 45 degrees, followed by a brief leveling and then 20 feet up another hill just as steep. But after this it crossed a plateau that was mostly level but with roller coaster bumps not more than 10 or 15 feet from crest to vale.
Here I saw what havoc the beetles had wreaked. Dry fallen tree trunks were scattered all over the forest floor in helter-skelter patterns. Walking from the trunk of one healthy and still standing tree to another you might have stepped over a dozen fallen ones. The blight seemed to have affected only the younger trees; those with trunks at least about 8 inches in diameter were mostly unaffected, while the fallen trees were typically 2 to 5 inches in diameter.
The trees here were almost all lodgepole pines with long straight trunks. All the fallen trees were straight and usually at least 20 feet long, and the people who marked this trail were able pick up enough of them to line both edges of the path for most of this mile long section. There was never a gathering where there was so much long and straight construction lumber lying on the ground, and all the kitchens made liberal use of it. There were many serving counters made of cut sticks laid crosswise on long bliss rails. Lovin' Oven built a six tier cooling rack for their bread, and Warriors of the Light made a freeway sign with a banner stretched between two 20 foot tall posts.
This section of the trail finally descended about 100 feet to an elliptical meadow about 200 yards long, and at the far end was the first Rainbow settlement, Rich Spirit Drums, which was a big tarp shaped like half a tepee covering an area that provided the materials to make your own wooden ashiko drum. (This was not to be confused with Rich in Sprit, the brother who focalizes Instant Soup Kitchen and posts here on a.g.r.)
Here I found Marken standing by several piles of the Info stuff including the Guides covered with tarps. The road did lead all the way to Main Meadow, but the snow had melted only about two weeks previous, and there was a grassy and swampy spot in the road where Barnacle Bob spun his wheels in mud, so all the stuff was offloaded here to be hand carried the rest of the way. Already people coming up the trail were being asked to carry things up. A brief shower had me waiting under the tarp for a while before continuing onward.
From here the road started upward again in a slope that was never less than about 20 degrees and it continued unbroken, except for a brief dip to cross a stream, for another mile until you were halfway into Main Meadow. It was an exhausting climb that soon had me huffing and puffing like the little engine that could. I also was going faster than I would have normally because both my duffel bag and cot had been picked up by someone else and I wanted to chase them down. I caught up with my duffel bag about a third of the way up, and later found my cot among the CALM gear. As the altitude got higher there were more and more aspens among the pines, and these were not afflicted with any diseases. The fallen pines continued to litter the forest floor. As I got to the middle of the meadow I could see a tree covered hill crest on the other side, and beyond it a line of snow capped peaks.
I finally found Owl and Sparrow and an increasing pile of Info gear near the crotch in the top of the heart by a large granite boulder about ten feet high, covered with lichen. There were many of these emerging from the grass all around the meadow, and people enjoyed climbing to the tops of them and sitting. On the side of the rock opposite the pile of gear I found two trees close enough together to strung a rope for my tarp, and I started to set up my dome tent. I saw Dinner Circle forming about a hundred yards away, and while I was still setting up the tent Greg Sherrill came over and said, "These guys want you to pass the Magic Hat."
I said I might get over there when I got the tent up, and he said, "I think they want something more definite than that." I continued until I got the tent fully assembled, and had enough time to get over there before the serving started.
(to be continued)
The Fallen Tree Gathering, part 2
There were maybe 200 people in the Dinner Circle, and more people than usual throwing coins into the bucket rather than bills. This seemed like a crowd of mostly hardcore Rainbows who lived the life of creative poverty all year round. The high gasoline prices seemed to affect the demographics of the gathering in this way: the number of people who drove themselves to the gathering and paid for their gas seemed to be smaller than usual compared to the ones who had hitchhiked or otherwise gotten to the gathering in other people's vehicles, and weren't affected so directly by high gas prices.
Later in the week there were more Rainbows who take time off from steady jobs to come to the gathering, and the number of 20 dollar bills and larger ones increased. But there were a much smaller number of tourists, people coming to a gathering for the first time out of curiosity. The total attendance was estimated by the Forest Service to be about 7,000, about the same as last year in Arkansas, but much smaller than the 20,000 who passed thru the gathering in Colorado two years ago.
And I saw other things about the faces and clothes of the mostly young people in those first few Dinner Circles. This gathering made more and more apparent the generation gap that has opened in the family over the last ten or so years between the original and now older gatherers who experienced the hippie scene and might have gone to Grateful Dead concerts and who like to wear tie-dyes and India prints, and the younger people who grew up on punk rock and prefer clothes of black and khaki and adorning themselves with tattoos and body piercings. In fact, their basic color could be described as brown. The clothes may be dyed brown, or they start out as black or olive drab or denim blue, but a few weeks in the woods with no washing machines nearby coats them all with a dirt brown tinge.
The oldsters usually call the youngsters "kids", and this word is not taken as derogatory by the younger people. Some of the kitchens crewed mostly by younger people use that word in their names, like Fat Kids Kitchen and T.K.K., which stands for "Those Kids' Kitchen". Oldsters who get frustrated with their behavior will sometimes call them "gutter punks", and this also means teenagers who are homeless and live on the streets of big cities. (The youngsters tend to use the long existing term "high holies" when speaking ill of the oldsters.) In Kid Village "kids" still means children, but outside of there it usually means younger gatherers in their teens or twenties.
And these kids can be just as rebellious against their parents' generation as their parents were against their grandparents. The philosophy expressed by some of them is hard core anarchism and defiance of any authority and any rules, and this can sometimes include Rap 107. Jai, who works in Info and is always involved in cleanup, was complaining about not being listened to when he complained about one kid kitchen burning all their trash including plastic.
Sometimes their expressions can be comical in ways that make even this old fart laugh. There was one campfire behind a tarp that had written on it "Judas Camp". Around it were members of a band who managed to make thrash rock out of their acoustic guitars and their voices, and their antics showed talent that could have made them a good pirate act at a Renaissance faire. Next to Robbie's tepee was another group of brown clad youth who called themselves "Goat Camp", and greeted passers-by with "ma-a-a-a".
But it also resulted in places like one camp that called itself Menace to Sobriety where people drank alcohol openly, inside the gathering. These people suddenly cleaned up their camp (except for their firepit) and left on the 3rd of July, apparently on their own initiative without anyone trying to run them out.
But the kids were not all rebelliousness; there were many young people eager to hear stories and advice from the elders, and the heartsongs I heard from some of them at Vision Council and at the Council on the Land on the 1st and 2nd of July expressed many of the same desires for peace and love and freedom that the first gatherers had in the 1970s, as did the lyrics of many of their guitar songs. And there were still young people choosing the hippie fashions over punk.
After Dinner Circle on the 24th I did some walking around. Right next to Info to the east was Peace Village Kitchen, ogred by one brother who was good at getting other people, mostly kids, to come in and work with him. (He didn't seem to have a large crew that followed him from gathering to gathering.) In the other direction the treeline curved around to a tepee and a large tarp spread on the ground that was called Yoga Camp, and a little bit further was a kitchen called O-ji's.
In front of this kitchen, out in the meadow, was a huge boogie pit for drummers and dancers. The pit dug out of the ground was 20 feet in diameter and about 3 feet deep, with an inner fire ring of large boulders, about 7 feet wide. The soil that had been dug up was piled into a ring around the pit, about 6 feet wide and from 2 to 3 feet high, 50 feet in outside diameter. The outside of the ring was lined with stacked boulders, and there were vertical posts of wood all around the outside 3 feet tall connected by horizontal rails that had been lashed on with burlap twine. There was an entryway on the side near the kitchen with steps of rock and piled sand. About 50 yards away was Early Bird Kitchen, which also had made a large bliss fire pit, but only about two thirds as big as the other and with no woodwork on the outside.
It had become evident on the trip up that this was not going to be a gathering where I could commute to my van nightly. I spent the night in my tent, and determined that the one sleeping bag I had brought up was not going to be enough for the cold nights. The temperature got down into the high 30s the first week and only rose to the low 40s by gathering's end. The greater than two mile uphill trip meant that I was going to want to bring only a minimal amount of gear in. I packed my usual two dozen dresses in my van, but I only wore 5 of them over the course of three weeks. I left my harp and drum in the van.
My tent by Info was near enough to the big boogie pit that the drums were still at about mezzo piano inside my tent, and most of the nights the drum jam started shortly after Dinner Circle and continued until about three in the morning. When the drumming was good and together I found myself able to fall asleep while it was going on. But there were a few mornings when there would be one determined individual carrying on all by himself until sunrise, and that was harder to ignore. But unlike the way it was at the last gathering where I had to sleep inside and not out in my van, the air was drumless most of the mornings and a lot of the afternoons. Only on July 3rd did it continue all day.
There was a walk thru the woods for about 150 yards to an area where there was a 10 foot long narrow trench which served as a shitter. After it got full 7 more were dug and then filled near that same spot. Someone painted these words on a short stick that had been split in half, and left it on the ground next to the trench:
"Praise Poo! It is our gift to the earth. It is our one material offering until we give back our bodies, so praise Poo!"
Getting up at about 6 in the morning as I usually do and having to walk all the way down that shitter trail, sometimes with an urge to explode, and then have to bare my bottom in the cold morning air was the most unpleasant part of this gathering, and I was always glad when it was over.
Early on the morning of the 25th I went back down to my van to fetch more stuff and to be there when the first formal meeting with the Forest Service took place near Welcome Home. The meeting started at 11:00 with a circle of about 20 Rainbows and three resource rangers: Tom Florich, the Lands/Minerals Program Manager for the local forest district, Rebecca Roof, who had been assigned specially to work with the Rainbows in Colorado and Arkansas, and Ruth Esperance, whom I had not seen before. They turned down offers of chairs to sit in and remained standing thruout the meeting.
Tom was a man with white hair under a cowboy hat, and a walrus mustache the same color, and he talked with a movie cowboy accent. He started the meeting out by passing out copies of the provisional Operating and Maintenance Plan, which was being agreed to in lieu of signing a permit. He said, "We can change parts of it, add things to it, or delete stuff as we discuss this." At first there was no feather being passed; people just spoke up from all around the circle.
He made it clear that he didn't like the huge boogie pit near O-ji's, and asked if we couldn't fill it in partially, reducing the pit's diameter. A discussion ensued about what number of feet would be a good maximum, and 10 was suggested but rejected for 12. He was able to accept it as a fait accompli, but he didn't want it to start being a precedent for future ones, as the pit near Early Bird was starting to show. It was finally agreed to by the family to talk to the kitchens near the pit and try to persuade them to fill it in partially, reducing the diameter to 12 feet.
Some family people asked if the rangers could close one or both of the Forest Service Roads that ran past the site, and Tom said they couldn't do it because they were used regularly by locals, and it wouldn't be fair to favor us over them. A CALM member asked that if FS persons discovered a gatherer who was sick, that they not immediately call an ambulance from town, but give the gatherer the option to go to CALM instead. This was ultimately made part of the final operating plan
Soon there started to be questions and complaints about the actions of individual LEOs with people driving in and out on the road, and with gatherers they encountered in Handi- Camp and the two Bus Villages that had been established so far. People were being stopped and ticketed for any petty thing the officers could find, such things as having one of two license plate lights being burned out, having mud obscuring tail lights or license plates, or turning off of a dirt road onto another or into a parking lot, with no other vehicles around, without putting on turn signals. A few were stopped for having things hanging from the rearview mirror behind their windshield.
Sometimes when they had stopped a vehicle they brought in a K9 dog to sniff, and if the dog did the barking that indicated it had found some marijuana or hashish, they would take out all the contents of the car and spread it out on the ground, leaving the victims to pack it all back in after they had left. It was suspected that the officers were prodding the dogs to respond. There was one brother who was a vocal Christian who didn't use any drugs at all, who told me late in the gathering that he had had a dog go off on his car, and when the search revealed nothing, the cops said, "Well, you must have had a passenger in your car who had marijuana on his hands."
For a few days when they found an item like a duffel bag that had obviously military origins, they asked the owner of that item for something like a sales receipt proving that they didn't steal it, and when the owner couldn't they confiscated the item. There was a story going around that some officers had made a gatherer remove a pair of camouflage pants he was wearing in front of several onlookers, and left him walking away with no pants on.
The rangers replied that they were with Resource Management, and not Law Enforcement, so there was nothing they could do but relay our concerns to the LEOs. When we were in Marken's van the first day Gary Stubbs told me that he had decided that he would be nice this gathering; he would not taunt or try to provoke the LEOs as he had done in the past, and thruout this meeting he stayed to his word and was polite in his questioning. But he said that he had been promised by Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey that some of the law enforcement people would be at these meetings, and he asked where they were now. Tom said he would try to bring some of them the next day.
The meeting was over at 1: 40, and I walked back up to Main Circle shortly thereafter with another sleeping bag, another tarp, one more pillow, and more warm clothing in the duffel bag. I had it impressed upon me how using a walking stick, made of something I picked up off the ground, could make it easier to maintain by balance and give me a little extra push when I was climbing hills. When I got to info, Now and Barry had assembled the white tent and were beginning on a frame for a large tarp with counters beneath, all made from long dead logs found in the woods nearby.
After Dinner Circle there was a mass streaking originating from Early Bird of about 30 people, mostly brothers. They ran around the west half of the meadow and they kept their clothes off around that kitchen's boogie fire well into the night. I didn't take off mine because the sun was setting and it was getting cold enough to don the quilted greatcoat. There were only a few hours in the afternoon when nudity was comfortable if you were out in a sunlit meadow, and I didn't see too much of it until the Fourth of July and the few days after.
(to be continued)
The Fallen Tree Gathering, part 3
I returned to my van and Welcome Home the following morning, the 26th, for the second meeting about the Operating Plan. It started at about 11:00, and this time there were some LEOs present, along with Mr. Florich and a woman resource ranger whom I hadn't met before. Again they all remained standing while the rest of us sat. Gene Smithson, the Incident Commander, did most of the talking. He had a nasal Alabama accent, and when answering someone in the circle he often walked forward from his own place in it, approaching that person as he talked. But he could respond to stress with a sense of humor, and that mitigated what could otherwise have been a quite aggressive persona.
He said more than once in response to complaints, "I can't speak for the officers outside. I don't know all that is going on because most of the time I'm inside, in my office. But they do have to enforce the law, and that is what they will do." He said he would "look into" some of the other complaints.
When asked if Info or some other people in the Family could get a list of all the arrests that had been made he said that they couldn't provide it. But we finally got out of him the name of a place where they would be taken to, the Sweetwater County Jail in Rock Springs.
There was a discussion about CALM vehicles evacuating patients being detained by the LEOs, and of ways to identifying them to officers that included passes and lists of license plate numbers and other methods that had been tried last year in Arkansas. It was asked that they be allowed back into the gathering without interference, and he said that there was no way to know if they weren't being used to smuggle drugs in.
Gary said, "If we can't get you to close the road can you at least let us be naked on it, and we got a sort of agreement that beyond the front gate locals would enter at their own "risk".
Another person complained passionately, alluding to a son that had been killed by a reckless driver, about "LEOs sometimes going 55" down the Forest Service roads, and again he talked about how he couldn't know all about what his officers were doing, but he would look into it.
The LEOs left at about 11:45, and Karin took charge of the meeting, reading out the Operating Plan paragraph by paragraph until we got to the second to last section, about site rehabilitation, and Tom said he had to leave to get to some other appointments at 5 past noon. We agreed to meet at the same time and place next day, but I didn't make it to that one.
After the meeting was over I packed most of my private stash food into my backpack and hiked back up. Marken said that there was another road going up that was longer, but with gentler slopes. It passed thru scenery more pleasant than the dead tree strewn forest floor, along a stream flanked by meadows where purple and yellow flowers dotted the grass before entering the woods and then circling around the back of the middle meadow, but it was one and a half times as long and had as many roller coaster slopes, and it led to Rich Spirit and the same humongous climb up to Main Meadow.
At about 9 the next morning, the 27th, there was a brief discussion in Info involving Daniel, who had been focalizing the Dinner Circle proceedings, and a few Info people. Daniel had set up sticks in Main Circle marking the four compass directions and outlining entryways into the circle from those directions, in a pattern commonly used in pagan ceremonies. In the dark of the previous night, a group of kids from Fat Kids Kitchen had come in, torn the sticks down, and made a pile of them which someone almost set on fire before he was stopped by other people who had come to observe the commotion. The pile of sticks was still there that morning.
We discussed how some of us had heard objections by some people, some in Christian camps, to the presence of something that was so clearly belonging to one religion in the middle of the gathering that was supposed to be non-sectarian. (Every year there has been a similar controversy about having a peace pole on the Fourth of July.)
Finally I talked about how in a Unitarian Church they always have a blank wall behind the minister's podium, so that the worshipper can project whatever symbolism that person finds appropriate on to it, and I could see how that idea could be applied here. Daniel said that they were useful to guide on when he was trying to get people into concentric circles, so from then on he set a few posts in the meadow shortly before dinner and took them down after it was over.
Some versions I heard of this story said that they were assisted by some kids from Death Camp. The main inhabitants of this camp were a husband and wife who had some children with them, the oldest in his teens and the rest elementary school age, and they made little effort to discipline them as they went around pulling pranks on people. They would go up to passersby and hit them with sticks, aim squirt guns that had been filled with urine, and throw firecrackers in people's tents as they were sleeping. The parents laughed and encouraged them in this kind of behavior. Any attempts to reason with them would get replies of "we don't care about your Rainbow rules", and attempts at retaliation would make them single you out for future attacks. They had attracted some hangers on who were not members of this genetic family, and there had been children from Kid Village who had acted like there had been war declared and engaged in skirmishes with them.
They had made their first appearance at the Colorado gathering two years ago, and they had been returning every year since. And what to do about them was a subject of debate among many gatherers. There were people who wanted to go in and physically eject them, and I heard people who had come around to Info talking about plans to do this. I was told that at the Ocala regional gathering in Florida this had actually been done. But there were others who said that we had to accept them as family too, and respond with Rainbow love. I heard a lot of talking about them, but nobody attempted any organized solution that I heard about. So this remained another outcast element at the gathering like A-Camp and Trading Circle whose presence was begrudgingly tolerated.
Only three of the boxes of Rainbow Guides had been brought up, the remaining ones were still under the tarp down by Rich Spirit. Late in the morning I asked Greg Sherrill if he could inspire a group of people to bring up the remaining ones, and two hours later I discovered them all inside the Info tent. I carried them all to my own tent and stored them there.
As afternoon came on I could see how I was getting an illness that Marken told me he had gotten and lots of gatherers had been complaining about, one that brought flu like symptoms, fatigue, nausea, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. It lasted about a day before going away. I only felt queasy sometimes and didn't puke or get the runs, but I felt weak enough to have to stay on my cot and I slept for most of the afternoon and then the night. I told Marken I couldn't run the Hat, and he found someone to substitute. I woke up the next morning with almost all of the symptoms gone.
On the morning of the 28th I went over to Kid Village for the first time. From Info it was a walk of a few hundred yards to the east along the treeline until to where it curved around back to the southeast. Just before this point there was leading off thru some trees, and all of this camp was among the tree trunks. They constructed their usual large stone stove, and there were several cutting tables and the usual circle of canvas folding chairs for the elders, and a serving counter behind.
Then I returned to Info and went the other way around the treeline, and found that more kitchens had set up near the main trail as it curved to the right and gradually climbed a hill, most notably Shut Up and Eat It, Montana Mud, Jesus Camp, and Crucial Kitchen, which had a name that sounded like a gutter punk camp, but was really some Krishna devotees. Another Krishna kitchen, the one that passes out the cookies, had a sign that said Haribol and it was to the south of Info across the grass. Behind them at the edge of the meadow and next to a rocky crest that provided a picturesque view of a valley below, was Milliways.
The trail upward from Main Meadow curved around gradually to the right and eventually reached what Marken had been calling Mosquito Meadow, but had been named the Michael Bolton Memorial Meadow after some people decided to grant Granola Funk the honor of naming it. It was maybe 200 yards long and elliptical in shape, slanting form southwest to northeast. At the southwest end was Bread of Life kitchen, and I stayed for their morning church service, which involved lots of singing to guitars and drums, and words of testimony and praise from many of the individual people who were sitting in the circle. Tea Time had situated itself in the trees on the southern side, and Granola Funk had not yet made their usually elaborate construction on the northeast end.
Another meadow had been discovered about a half a mile to the north and called Warriors Meadow after Warrior's of the Light Kitchen who had the northernmost kitchen in the gathering at the southern end of it. And about a mile north of that point the two Forest Service roads on each side of the site came together in a point, and another parking lot and Bus Village had been opened up there, and the walk from there down into the gathering was a gentle slope that was easily navigable by wheeled carts, so a lot of kitchens sprouted along the forest trail between Warriors and the meadow to the south Among these kitchens were Instant Soup, Jerusalem Camp, Purple Gang/New York Kitchen, and Lovin' Oven. The younger trees in this stretch of the woods were not so affected by the beetle blight, and there were many skinny trees clustered together only a few feet apart from each other.
While I was walking up, a young sister named Emily told me that Robbie Gordon had arrived and his truck was parked up at the north end, and she led me to a tent near to it where he had been spending the night. I suggested that he didn't have to have his tepee poles carried down; he could find plenty of straight poles down below, but they had already been carried at least halfway. He set up his tepee not far from Info, and I frequently visited the constant conversation that was going on inside or out in front of it.
Sue Bernstein had announced at Info that there would be a "party" at Front Gate that evening, the Saturday before the 4th when there was usually a surge of people coming in. I was able to leave after Dinner Circle and get down to Handi-Camp before the sun had set. I drove my van out to Front Gate, and on the way a BLM LER (they call their cops law enforcement rangers) in a truck going the other way stopped me and said, "Did you lose your front license plate?" I told them Oklahoma only required one on the rear, and he said OK and let me go on.
The road coming in intersected with another road that led back at an acute angle and in this point Karin Zirk's step van camper was parked behind a campfire. There were about a dozen people sitting on logs or folding chairs around it, and at one point there was a brother with a guitar and a sister with a flute making music. Every fifteen minutes or so a vehicle or two would come by, and the same two people always went out to greet them while the rest of us stayed sitting by the fire. They told me A-Camp was in a cul de sac alley that departed the main road about a hundred yards further down, and they had been making no trouble. I didn't see any of them during the whole time I was there. An LER truck stopped for about 20 minutes, and the ranger inside casually talked with some gatherers about how he had had long hair and been a hippie back when he was young. I stayed until I got sleepy at about 1 in the morning and drove back to Handi-Camp, feeling they were not at all wanting for manpower.
(to be continued)
The Fallen Tree Gathering, part 4
I climbed back up to Info early in the morning on the 29th. At about noon Tom Florich and Gene Smithson came around to Info, and Gene inquired anxiously about whether we had done anything about the big boogie pit. I and a few other Info people went over there with them to take a look. It didn't look like anything had been done to it, other than a few of the leashed on rails round the outside had come loose and fallen to the ground,
A brother named Spring Ogre who was one to the two focalizers of O-ji's Kitchen came out and talked to us at length when we asked him about it. Neither he nor his kitchen wanted to take responsibility for building the pit; he said "a bunch of kids came in the night and made it", and he didn't want to take any part in dismantling it because "a hundred gutter punks will come around and take it out on me for doing it." At another point he said that there were people who had come around in the morning to work on it, "but the presence of all these cops scared them away." This was in the middle of a long rant where he talked about a confrontation he had had with A-Camp at a previous gathering where "none of the high holies wanted to back me up, instead they just left me to almost get the shit beat out of me", and how he was tired of not being treated with any respect. He hollered loudly and menacingly.
Another brother from Yoga Camp came over and started cutting apart some of the lashings on the outside rails, saying "I don't want this thing here because it brings around all these cops." Then Greg Sherrill came around with a wheelbarrow with three shovels piled in it, and set it down and took one of the shovels like he was preparing to dig with it, and Ogre came over and stood in his way. Greg responded by attempting to hit him with it, not really succeeding in landing a blow, and Ogre grabbed it out of his hand and threw it to the ground, tipping over the wheelbarrow, while a few other people rushed up to restrain both of them.
Ogre then started bellowing about how he was going to have him charged with assault, that if Harry Hugs had to go to jail for what he did then Greg should too. Greg was gently persuaded to leave by the people who had surrounded him, and I wound up picking up the wheelbarrow myself and taking it back to Info.
All of this went on in plain view of both Mr. Florich and Mr. Smithson.
On the morning of June 30th I walked around to the boogie pit and found that not only had there been no filling in, but the railings had all been repaired to their original condition. Tom came around at about noon with a female resource ranger whom I hadn't seen before, and we had a brief circle in the Cooperations circle near Info. When the subject of the boogie pit came up, I said, "You could see yesterday what we are up against", and he sort of nodded in agreement. We all tried to assure him that it would eventually be thoroughly cleaned up.
The next day was the 1st of July, and we had another meeting at noon by Info with Tom Florich and a man named Bob Beckley who had a nametag saying "Missoula District", and no mention was made about the boogie pit.
They had set up another rump courthouse for the people who had received tickets in Farson, a town 47 miles south of Boulder, and many people came back to Info saying their tickets had been dismissed. There were two more court days on the 2nd and the 3rd.
A brother came around asking where the "Council on the Land" would be, and I told him I hadn't heard anything about one being planned, but if he wanted one, he could focalize it if he desired. A few other people came around asking about it, and finally at about 1:30 a circle of about 20 people formed in the Cooperations circle, a shady spot behind info. There were a lot of heartsongs shared, and I found many expressions of old time Rainbow ideals coming from young people, but the Operating Plan was never brought up and there was never any formal consensus by the Rainbow Council to accept it.
By the 2nd the weather had warmed by about ten degrees and the intermittent rains of the first week did not return. The snow capped peaks in the distance started to turn from white to gray, and the mosquitoes that started to appear about an hour before sunset became more numerous. But by an hour after sunset it became too cold for them, so they weren't so much of a nuisance when sleeping.
Another attempt at the Council on the Land was made out in Main Meadow with a circle of less than a dozen people. Again the Operating Plan was not discussed. And we heard more news in the search for Garret, the missing sheriff's son, that didn't look good. His truck and been found in the woods outside the gathering and it was riddled with bullet holes. No traces of Garrett himself were found and the vehicle was abandoned. Most people surmised that Garrett had gone berserk and shot up the truck himself.
On the morning of the 3rd I finally went up to the Michael Bolton Memorial Meadow to see what Granola Funk had built this year. As I approached from the back, it looked like a cluster of Arabian tents, but as I came around to the front, I could see that the structure was in the shape of a giant bird. There was a raised platform of sticks on crossbeams set on upright columns of logs, with a cloth covered dome over it. To the rear were logs arranged in a fan pattern with sheets attached to look like a tail, and projecting from the front was a long log with a cylinder of cloth over it to make it look like a swan's neck, or more like a plesiosaur's. There was a head that looked like an owly-eyed hawk at the end. Coming from the side of the body were long lean-tos of cloth raised in the front by upright posts that looked like wings. The end of the meadow curved up like the floor of an amphitheater, and lines of sitting logs were laid across it. The variety show on the evening of the 4th was the usual excellent showcase of guitarists, singers, acrobats, poets, and comedians.
At Dinner Circle on the 3rd there must have been over two thousand present and there were four concentric circles and more than half of a fifth of people sitting on the ground waiting to be served. I heard some calls of "six up", and saw 10 LEOs walking around the outside of the circles and toward Kid Village. Shortly after the pots and buckets had started around there was a cry of "fire!" coming from the edge of the meadow near Kid Village, and immediately people started running in that direction. Some people picked up the dishwashing buckets as they went.
Then I saw in the distance, about 200 yards away, people running around near the edge of the meadow like there was some kind of commotion going on. People in the circle started calling things like, "Don't go over there unless you have some equipment and know what you are doing, otherwise stay here." I was there with a partially filled Magic Hat bucket, and I chose to stay put. I saw no smoke rising from anywhere.
The milling around in the distance subsided, and people started coming back to the circle and we all resumed the serving and Magic Hat collecting. We were told that the fire call was false, but there had been an altercation with the LEOs. Some people were muttering things about them opening fire on gatherers with their riot control guns, which shot paintball-like pellets that released pepper spray on impact. Some said that gatherers had shaken sticks and thrown rocks at the LEOs, but a lot of other people said that this wasn't so and only verbal threats had been made.
After about ten minutes Plunker came to the edge of the circle and started hollering for a focus, and several people started helping him by telling people around them to stop talking. When he finally had enough silence, he gave a forceful oration:
"We do PEACE! We don't respond with the same kind of violence that they do. Members of our family have been beaten, some have even been murdered. I and some others of our brothers and sisters have done time in federal prison for exercising our right to gather, but do we respond in kind? NO! We stay back when they try to provoke us, we witness, we record, we ninja around them when they try to blockade us, but we always keep the peace."
At one point he said, "our people have bled...", and a brother yelled back, "How long will we continue to bleed?" Plunker replied, "Anybody who keeps talking up violence against them I have to assume is one of three things. Either you're on the payroll of the Forest Service, or you're an agent provocateur, or you're an asshole. That last word brought laughs and cheers from some people. The hecklers stopped talking, and Plunker closed it out by saying, "We are strong in spirit, and our day is coming."
Dinner Circle proceeded to its end without any more turmoil, and later dozens of people came into Info to write out testimonies to be collected by our two Rainbow lawyers. There were lots of small groups of onlookers clustering around people with video cameras and cell phones playing videos on their little screens. The guns the LEOs had could fire the pellets repeatedly like machine guns, some people had been hit dozens of times raising welts on their skin, and the cops must have fired off hundreds of rounds. There were children all around, and some of them were hit.
On the 6th I was finally able to talk in detail about it with Felipe, and he filled in the story some more. A brother who sometimes called himself The Plumber (because he "fixed broken pipes", which were "broken" because they didn't have any marijuana in them) was sitting by the side of the trail not far from Kid Village with a bowl in his lap (the kind you serve food in, not what is in a smoking pipe), openly trimming a branch of cannabis when the LEOs approached him. They had had a warrant out for him and had entered the gathering to deliberately seek him out.
When The Plumber saw them approaching, he first picked up his back pack and started to run, then dropped it by the trail and headed into Kid Village, perhaps thinking he would find some protection there. But when he got there with the cops in pursuit, several gatherers saw what was going on and started yelling insults and threats back at them, while there were other gatherers trying to move in between and hold the threateners back. Some of these got the worst of the gunshots. Felipe was even more angry with this brother than he was with the LEOs for running into Kid Village and endangering everybody there. "Before this the LEOs had always been very respectful of our children and Kid Village."
[After the gathering I read more accounts of this incident on a.g.r., some of which contradict Felipe's story, saying the The Plumber was walking into Kid Village without even being aware that he was being pursued until the cops grabbed him and handcuffed him after he had already entered KV.]
The next day at Info I heard a story of how the fire call had come to be made. A sister was listening to her Shanti Sena radio and said out loud, "Did you say fire?" It turned out that what she heard was really "shots being fired", but her out loud remark had prompted someone else to start yelling "fire".
(to be continued)
The Fallen Tree Gathering, part 5
On the morning of the 4th I saw that a peace pole had been erected, slightly off center to the place where the servers had been circling before Dinner Circle. It was a log about foot in diameter that had some totem pole-like carvings on it, and the meditators started sitting around it and laying trinkets and talismans on and around it. There was one point where I could hear the bass tones of a drum in the distance, and I finally got up to search out the source. On the other side of Shut Up and Eat it, a few hundred yards away, I found that it was a single young sister, and as I approached her I found that an older woman had already talked to her about it and she had stopped. I found that the silence was not being observed as strictly over in that part of the gathering, and a group of kids taunted me briefly about being naked with words like, "Dude, cover up. This is shameful."
At about 10:30 Daniel stood up and walked around while he beckoned others with his upturned palms to stand up and outlined a big circle with both of his arms. It looked for a while like nobody would respond to him, then a few people stood and joined hands. More did, and the circle of people started to expand and walk backwards towards the trees that bordered the meadow. I, as I usually do, chose to stay in the middle near the pole along with maybe 50 other people.
Soon there was a big ring of people all around the edge of the meadow, and the south side of the circle disappeared over the hill below my sight horizon. We stood in silence for a few dozen minutes, then I heard a soft hum in the distance, and finally a few people saying it loud enough to tell it was an Om. I started to say it myself but found that I could no longer hear it on the outside if I did, and it seemed that others were experiencing this too, because nobody in the inside circle spoke too loudly, but preferred to listen to it in the distance.
The Children's Parade came out into the meadow towards the inner circle, and they did it in complete silence, not playing drums as they had sometimes done in the past. The parade was long, maybe 500 children and adults, and the Om was continued until almost all of them had come inside. Finally arms started to be raised and the cheers and hollers erupted. A few people started singing together, to the tune of Will the Circle be Unbroken:
We're a Rainbow, made of children
We're a family, singin' our song
There is nothing gonna stop us
Rainbow love is way too strong
Then a large drum circle assembled near the pole and played until nightfall. 200 watermelons had been purchased and stacked by Info the night before, and these were cut up and served out, and the rinds were thrown into the large cardboard boxes they came in.
Early in the afternoon we got the word at Info that Garrett had been found in the woods outside the gathering dead. The police called it a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. One of the police tracking dogs traced his scent walking back to the place where the truck had been, but wasn't at the time he returned because the FS had had it towed away. Another scent trail lead away from that place to where his body had been found. It was inferred that he had looked for the truck, then gone off and shot himself shortly after discovering it missing. Plunker conveyed to us a message from the bereaved parents thanking the Rainbow Family for all of its efforts in trying to find him.
The 5th came, and the usual mass exodus began. All day long I was seeing people depart with large backpacks, mostly up the road toward the northern parking lot.
We had announced a council at Info at 1:00 to find a new Rainbow Guide focalizer, and by 1:15 nobody had come. I started saying, "This might be the funeral of the Rainbow Guide", but then a brother came in and said he was interested. His name was Jeff Ebner, and he lived near Columbus, Ohio and he worked with computers for a living, and he was "very interested". He seemed intelligent and together as Jai, Marken, and I talked with him, and finally I gave him the filled out entry cards and the money we had collected. He said as he took it, "I won't let you down." He answered my e-mails promptly after I got back home.
I heard at Info that there was going to be a Shanti Sena council about Death Camp at Jerusalem Camp at 3 in the afternoon. I started walking up at about 2:30 and when I got above Michael Bolton Meadow it seemed like there weren't too many people on the trails. Then I heard a commotion of people coming from Purple Gang/New York Kitchen and then saw that most everybody in this neck of the woods was milling around there, and I remembered that this was the day of their elaborate "brunch".
I detoured to pass by their serving counter and was surprised to find no line in front of it, so I went up to it with my pan out. But I was told that I would need a "ticket". Right after that I heard another person call out a range of numbers, and ten people came forth in response. I didn't have a ticket so I started walking back to where i was going, but I happened to see Garrick talking with some people. I walked up to him and told him I thought tickets were for cops.
Then he explained to me that anyone could get a ticket for free, and the idea of it was so people wouldn't have to stand in a line, but could sit around and relax, converse, or listen to the musicians that were performing while waiting for their turn. I agreed that this sounded like a good system. He asked me if I wanted one, but I told him I had a pressing engagement in only about fifteen minutes at Jerusalem camp. So he said he would "use his influence" and cut into line to get me something, and I gave him my pan and he returned after a couple of minutes. There were several items and I remember some cole slaw that had a Thai peanut taste, some very spicy fried potatoes, a thing sort of like a crepe, but made of scrambled eggs. I was told they served over 600 people. The meeting in Jerusalem camp didn't happen because half the people told were given 2:00 as the time, and they didn't wait around for the rest of us at 3.
On the morning of the 6th I want down to my van, started it up, and went up the FS road to the east of the site seeking out the middle Bus Village that had a reportedly shorter walk to Kid Village and the rest of the gathering. But there were really two separate middle bus villages, and the first cluster of cars that I found and parked at turned out to be the smaller one whose trail led to another opening to Main Meadow near the Fairy Camp. It was shorter, but it still had some steep slopes and was not really easier.
I found that the boogie pit by O-ji's was now being filled in. The rocks that had been around the back of the raised ring were thrown into the pit, then the watermelon rinds were thrown over them before being covered with dirt. The inner fire ring was the last to be taken apart, and all the logs that had made the railings were burned up in it. There was an attempt at a drum circle that evening that sounded like only two guys, and it only lasted about two hours. Then the drums were silent for the rest of my stay.
(to be continued)
The Fallen Tree Gathering, part 6
At about 11 in the morning on the 7th I walked over to Robbie's tepee and found him sitting outside with several of his friends who live near him on the mesa west of Taos, along with Badjer. They were talking among themselves about how they wanted to bring the gathering to New Mexico. Badjer said to me, "You know how they busted up the regional there last year, and how they arrested Robbie and how they hit him with sticks to get him into the car. Well, this is not exactly what I'm gonna tell them at the council, but I would like to show them just what this 500 pound gorilla can do." This sentiment was expressed by a lot of the others there, along with a feeling that there was a good spirit going around their region for hosting a gathering and that their time had come.
As noon approached someone suggested that "this pre-council be turned into the actual vision council". There were starting to be people coming in and seeing our group and coming over. Someone asked if anybody had a conch, and one was produced. I used my tuba and French horn experienced to blow it four times in each direction, then repeat it a few minutes later and then a third. A discussion started about where to have the council; a few of us wanted to have it in the partial shade of the Cooperations meadow, but some others said that it should at least start out in Main Meadow, because that was the traditional place and people would be going there first. Finally we all went out there and got in a circle, not around the peace pole which had been taken down, but in the place where Dinner Circle happened. Badjer and I rolled Robbie out in his wheelchair, and I went back to Info to pick up a folding canvas chair. Many others brought similar conveniences, and a few had umbrellas for the sun. We started with 65 people in the circle, and it grew to almost a hundred after an hour.
Back at the tepee someone had produced a turkey feather, and it was brought out and used here. Badjer started the council with "a prayer that this council will help us to clarify our purpose", then he passed the feather. There was no passing of the feather in silence to start the council out, and there was no further discussion about moving the council; we stayed out in Main Meadow both days.
Many people after Badjer passed the feather without saying anything, or just said a greeting like, "Hello all my brothers and sisters. I love you, family." I passed the feather in silence every time I got it. Robbie was about a quarter of the way around the circle, and when it got to him, he gave the first organized pitch for New Mexico.
"We've been waiting for the chance to put on a gathering for quite a few years. The last time was in 1995. We have sites that we have found that will work. We have good relations with the local people and with the Indians. There are co-ops and natural food sources nearby. And last year we got busted ..." The next to speak was his friend Tony, who also expressed his enthusiasm for New Mexico in his thick Cockney accent. As the feather went on one person talked about Indiana, then some people brought up the northeast, and more specifically Vermont.
Shiloh and Gabriel, the two brothers who were at the council last year in Arkansas holding out for so long for the east coast, were back this year and they said many of the same things. There had been only one gathering in Vermont since the beginning of Rainbow, while some western states were on their third gathering. We need to move all over the country to spread the Rainbow light everywhere, and there were people in the east who needed to have the chance to be exposed to their first gathering. The east coast was hurting, and there were people there who needed to be healed.
People countered back, saying that scouts had looked for and found no suitable sites. The one that was used in 1991 was no longer workable; some parts of it had been declared wilderness areas. Repeatedly I heard said, "Bring us some maps a photographs, show us you have some sites," The brother who had advocated Washington last year was back saying some of the same things he had baid then, but again others insisted that the state had been scouted several time and no workable sites had been found. By 3:10 when the feather had made it all the way around the first time, it was obvious that the contest would be between New England and New Mexico.
At 3:20 someone came to the circle and said there was a "fire near Handi-Camp", and we could see some smoke rising over the tops of the trees to the southeast. Several people got up and ran in that direction, and I went back to Info. There had been no radio from the common stock given to info this year, people came and went with their own, and at this moment there was no person owning one in Info. Then Marken and I looked into the Lost and Found box and looked for some that were working. We found one, but it had a small and tinny sounding speaker that made the voices coming thru hard to understand. The batteries on that one ran down and we tried another, which was not much better. The chatter was disjointed, but we were finally able to make out that the fire was nowhere near Handi-Camp, but on the BLM land a few miles to the southeast of Front Gate.
I heard a bullhorn in the distance and I wasn't able to make out what was being said clearly, but someone said that it was a LEO truck issuing a mandatory evacuation order. Another person sitting in Info said "they are just doing that to cover their own asses legally. If they give the order, and you don't evacuate, then you really get hurt, you can't sue them anymore." We didn't see anyone leaving, so we stayed put. No other LEOs entered and tried to actively move us out.
Thruout this interruption a few people stayed in Main Meadow and talked informally. At about 5:45 I looked over saw that more had returned, and it looked like the council might have started again. I went over and found that it had. There were now about 40 people present. The discussion continued mostly with people restating things they had said before, and Robbie who had been keeping track said that about approximately equal groups of about 20 people each had spoken for both New Mexico and Vermont. Servers arrived with food at 7:00 and Dinner Circle ensued , interrupting the council once more, but it resumed again about 45 minutes later. After three suggestions that it was getting too dark to see other people's eyes, the council adjourned until the next day.
Thruout the day this had been one of the most polite and smoothly running councils that I had ever been at. David Alexander English again gave his long rap about international gatherings, and we had a few people who seemed like wingnuts, but few people hogged the feather and talked repetitiously. There was almost no addressing of the feather, and most everyone was able to speak without any heckling or other interruptions.
I walked out to my van the next morning, the 8th, and drove it up to the northernmost Bus Village, drove south from the point for about 100 yards over a road of grass that had been bent over flat by car tires, and found a place to park about 50 feet from a rail fence with a gate and the head of the main trail going south. I got down to Main Meadow at about 1:15 and found the council already in progress.
There was more back and forth talk about New Mexico and Vermont, more people starting out by saying "I love New Mexico but..." and "I like the idea of a gathering in the east, but...", and there were people who proposed ways of getting out of our impasse like "we must listen to Spirit", "we should ask ourselves the fundamental question: why do we gather?, "we must get over our own egos and learn to listen to each other"...,
But as the feather went around and around, more and more people started to say they favored New Mexico, and fewer and fewer spoke for Vermont. Finally a brother tried calling for consensus for New Mexico, but some calls of "block" came forth. Then the feather got to Shiloh and Gabriel, and first one than the other said that they might be willing to compromise by including in the consensus that there be a "staging area" in the east on the day of the Summer Solstice. There people could gather resources and people could find rides to the national gathering, and kitchens could find crews. From there caravans of vehicles could head out to New Mexico. This way there would be a rainbow experience available for those who couldn't make it out west, and there would be no competition with the national gathering.
A few people found including all these extra words in a consensus to be awkward and unprecedented, and some of the speakers after these two suggested that the east coast people could just arrange such a thing by themselves without having the national family give its "official" blessing. But many were relieved to hear this, indicating that these two people would not be holding out indefinitely.
Two more calls for consensus to New Mexico were offered, and the second person tried it by asking for a simple consensus by silence. This brought about a procedural argument about whether the feather should be passed around the circle without anyone speaking, or there should be just a period of silence while the proposer held on to the feather. Finally a brother asked for a silence of at least ten seconds, and while he was doing this Shiloh, Gabriel, and another brother got up and moved back from the circle and sat down about five feet behind, without saying anything. A sister said "I don't block but..." while she asked for some clarification on some points." Then Patch (rastapatch on this group), who had showed up to the gathering for the first time this day, gave us a little lecture on how "consensus just means you consent, and it doesn't mean you have to like it all the way."
After Patch was done, the brother again asked for consensus by silence, and he held on to the feather for at least 30 seconds until there was no doubt from anyone that the silence had been kept. Patch stood up and stretched out both his arms with open palms, and the two people on each side of him took his hands and soon all of us, except for the three who had backed out, were in a circle holding hands and an Om started. Before we parted hands, a sister asked to speak, and she said that she still hoped that we could go east the year after next. Then we dropped hands and a few people let out a cheer but most of us just started picking up the things that we had brought and left. It was 6:35 pm.
On the morning of the 9th I counted the change and then the bills from the Magic Hat with Marken. The total take from the Hat for the whole gathering was $11,594.95. Then I took down my tent and packed all of my heavy blankets into my duffel bag. Motor vehicles had appeared on Main Meadow the day before, and one of the brothers who lives with Robbie on the mesa had a Nissan Pathfinder that he brought down to carry all of Robbie's stuff back up. There was room on it for my duffel bag, tent, and cot, so I was able to walk back up with only a small backpack. I hadn't known it when I was doing it, but I parked only about 30 feet away from Robbie's truck. When I approached the gate in the fence before the parking lot, I saw four LEO trucks parked in the "administrative area" they had staked out just behind it, and they hung around for about two hours after I got there.
Then the trucks started to leave one by one, and I was feeling relieved, but one stopped by my van, and an officer got out and pointed out the little sticker on my license plate with the year on it, and asked why it still said "2008" Then I realized that I had forgotten to renew it last February. He called in my number to his dispatcher, and got an answer back that it was indeed expired, and he gave me a ticket for costing $175, and explained all my options. When I got home I went to the tag office and renewed, and mailed in a check in the envelope that came with the ticket. This was unfortunately not a bullshit ticket that I could contest and get a dismissal; it was a real fuckup on my part.
The battery was dead on Robbie's truck, and it had a tendency to stall when the engine was still cold, so I ultimately had to give him a jump with cables four times before he got on his way at about 7 in the evening. I slept in my van and left at the butt crack of dawn the next day.
Thus ended my stay at the Fallen Tree Gathering. It was a sometimes exhausting physical workout, but it restored my confidence in my strength and stamina in spite of my increasing age, as the Utah gathering had five years ago. Most of us expected a larger attendance than what we actually had, but we could see some possible causes, like the sparseness of population in the part of Wyoming we were in, the long hike into the gathering from parking, and the high gasoline prices.
The LEOs continued what they had started last year in Arkansas after they couldn't declares the gathering illegal and try mass blockades, a program of guerilla warfare and petty harassment intended to intimidate people away from the gathering, and it might be said that they succeeded at this somewhat. But more and more people were just starting to add the cost of a ticket and the gas for an extra trip to the courtroom as part of the normal expenses of going to a gathering. They certainly did not make me decide not to go to New Mexico next year.
(the story ends here, but the gatherings remain:
to be continued)
– Butterfly Bill
This post was the basis for the eighth chapter of Rainbow Gatherings, vol. 2.