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Subject: The Hard Walking Gathering - Colorado 2006
From: "Butterfly Bill" <butterflyb...@grapevine.net>
Date: Mon, Jul 24 2006 11:59 am
The site of the Rainbow Family's third national gathering in Colorado was all on what was wild ground before the gathering, trod on before only by occasional rangers, animals, and their herders. Unlike in most gatherings, the main trail was not a vehicle road. Instead, all trails were created by repeated steps upon grass and in some places sagebrush by increasing numbers of human feet.
The ground surface in all the meadows was covered by variegated lumps. There were holes everywhere dug by burrowing mammals, perhaps prairie dogs like the ones I saw a few hours earlier on the way in, or as someone else suggested, moles. There were long mounds connecting some of the holes. Elsewhere there were deep tracks left by cloven footed animals like elk. The ground in late June was dry and rock hard, the tracks had all been poked during the months when the snow was still melting and it was a quagmire of mud. Now the sun had been baking it for about a month, and it was like the churned up and hole filled soil had been put in a kiln and made pottery hard. And in the many sagebrush covered areas, the soil was clumped up around the roots of the plants, and valleys between the clumps had been made deeper by small running animals. Everywhere there were lumps and bumps.
So whenever I set foot anywhere on the ground, my foot never landed level. It was always leaning one way or the other, and the muscles of my foot and calf were exerting some kind of extra effort some opposite direction to keep me from falling over. And after a whole day of walking the muscles and tendons along all my toe bones could be in throbbing pain. Likewise my calf muscles. There weren't very many steep slopes to climb, but the extra effort of just walking made me more likely to reject a trip up a hill to visit a distant kitchen. Walking was hard enough even on level ground.
And the many feet of many people treading upon the hard dry soil ground off a layer of dust that was half an inch deep in some places. Wheeled vehicles and dogs and people running kicked up clouds of it that the wind carried. Signs, banners, and the goods on Trading Circle blankets became coated with a brown haze. It was not until July 7th that there was a rain long and constant enough to turn some of it to mud. All the rains up to then were brief sprinkles, and the drops of water hitting the dust disappeared into the little craters they made.
And it was a hard walk in general for the Family. It was like all of the progress I had perceived in relationships with the Forest Service last year at the Seven Up Gathering had been gathered up into a large plastic bag, closed up with a twist tie, and taken to a dumpster at least 100 miles from the gathering. The LEOs tried any way they could think of to prevent the gathering from happening, including a blockade of the road leading in, and kept up with petty harassments of individuals on the outskirts after the gathering had gained unstoppable momentum.
No permit was signed, and the Forest Service refused to grant one even when last year's signer offered to do it again. And the LEOs tried to block off access to the resources rangers. It was almost thru subterfuge that Family people managed to secure the contacts with resource people that they did. It was a gathering of confrontation and combat, where the Om circle was shown to be a powerful and effective tactic, and cameras were principal weapons used by both sides.
I had been planning to leave Muskogee on June the 19th, with a night at a motel and an arrival in Denver on the 20th to pick up the Rainbow Guides that were being printed by a company there, then on to the gathering on the 21st, my favorite day to arrive at a national gathering. But my brake light was nice enough to start shining on the 15th calling my attention to the main brake feeder that had rusted out and needed to be replaced. I had a Chevy dealer do it since it would have been too much of a grunt to do myself, and it was on the afternoon of the 19th that they had it done. So I left on the 20th.
The Rainbow Guide was almost not printed at all. I thought I had things all set up with a printing company in Muskogee to get them done, with a salesman who appeared eager to arrange the job for me, with a company that does newsprint in Kansas. Not very many printing companies are set up to print on newsprint, which requires a press that feeds the paper in off a roll, rather than a sheet at a time like most presses. And neither was this one, they farmed such jobs out.
I had the whole guide crammed into 32 pages and the copy ready to be taken in on Monday, May 22, a month ahead of when I wanted to have them done. But on Sunday evening I got a long distance call from Flickerfeather in Florida, and he said he was sorry he was late but he was caught up with a family problem (something to do with an ailing grandfather) and he hadn't gotten around to sending me 40 more names that he had gathered at some regional events. I might have told him too late, but he also had $400 in assorted contributions he had also collected. I couldn't turn that down. So I told him to send it to me overnight delivery (which turned out to be the next day and then the morning after), and I set about expanding the Guide to the next page increment the printers had given me, 40. (They start out by cutting the printed-upon roll of paper into sheets big enough for eight individual pages.)
That took until Friday, so the next Monday I called up the printers again, and was told by the receptionist, "Mr. ____ is on vacation this week." I tried the next day with his superior, the owner of the company, and he told me there was no way the job could be done by the date I wanted. (The sales man said it could be done in a week and a half, which I still had.) I was given another company to call about 50 miles from town, but the man who answered told me that the owner of the Muskogee company had told him that he "had some concerns about the subject matter of the book." This other man said that he didn't want to either if this person did, even if he had not seen it himself. (The Muskogee company had, in their sample display for customers in their office, lots of church bulletins.)
So here I was with less than the three weeks that I would have expected out of any company I was dealing aithe for the first time, and I didn't know what I was going to do. Then like a deus ex machina, Marken of Info gave me a call. I told him my woes, and he called me again the next day to tell me that he had gotten in contact with a brother in Denver. "Do you know Allen Butcher?" I answered yes, I had known him from intentional communities conferences in Virginia when I was at Shannon Farm and he was at Twin Oaks. I called Allen on the phone, and he said he had found a printer in Denver who could do it. "They print lots of radical political stuff".
I got my copy into "overnight" delivery as fast as I could, and I called this company on the phone and the man said that the copy was fine and they could do 2000 copies for 2000 dollars. And the scanning and set up would be free. Not as good a price as newsprint might have been, but this was an any-port-in-a-storm situation. I put the $1310 that I had in contributions, from last year's gathering, Flickerfeather, and the online RG site, into my own checking account.
I parked by and walked into P&L Printing at about 1:30 in the afternoon on the 21st, and said, "I'm Butterfly Bill, the focalizer of the Rainbow Guide." A middle aged woman responded by holding up a finished Guide and said, "We're stapling and folding the last of them right now. We have about three hours left till we get it done. Her husband was at another machine doing the stapling, she was at one that was creasing and trimming.
I waited around and at one point helped out a bit by carrying boxes around as they got them done, and the final product, 2030 copies, was in nine cardboard cartons with another one open at the top and half full. They weighed at least 40 pounds apiece. I piled then all on top of the bed in the back of my GMC Safari, and paid with a personal check. I crashed the night at Allen's house.
The drive out from Denver on I-70 the next morning took my van with the extra weight of the boxes up a mountain slope that had me down to 30 mph in many places. To each side were steep rocky slopes and tall coniferous trees. It capped out at the west end of the Eisenhower Tunnel at 11,158 feet. Then down the other side to a river valley where the road north to Steamboat Springs left the interstate. That road took me thru sagebrush covered hills reminiscent of Nevada, then into the trees and over another mountain pass at 9426 feet, then a long downhill to Steamboat Springs.
The town took a while to get thru, it was mostly strung out along the highway without much depth to the side streets. I finally got to the downtown area, with many boutiquey tourist shops obviously trying to appeal to a rich clientele. (There is huge ski resort 20 nearby.) Then a few miles thru semi-country to Colorado State Highway 129, which wound upward and ever upward thru forests and meadows and country stores and wooden chalet houses. I also went ever northward; the site was almost in Wyoming
At about 10 o'clock I left 129 onto the first of three Forest Service roads, and soon found my first evidence of Rainbow activity. There was a station wagon and a truck parked in a graded lot by the side of the road, and as I approached a brother came up to my window. He recognized me and called me Bill, but I didn't recognize him. He said he was an infrequent poster on a.g.r. When he spied the open box of Rainbow Guides I offered him one, and he accepted and responded with a donation of a picture of Benjamin. (But I still can't remember names when they are only told to me once.)
He went on to tell me, "There is a roadblock up ahead and you will be given a warning that the gathering is illegal, and you will be allowed to turn around. If you go on, there will be another set of rangers further on and you WILL be given a ticket." I said that this might be the time for mine, and I made a gesture of pointing out a medal on my chest. He said it was my choice. Then another car, a station wagon with six hippies inside pulled up, and after they had gotten the same speech that I did, I asked if I could follow them in. They said sure.
So we drove on, and shortly after the intersection with the next FS road there was a light green SUV with the darker green stripe, and two LEOs who walked out into the road and bid the car ahead to stop. They talked with them for a while mostly ignoring me, then one of them came back to my window and passed me a pink sheet of paper, and said, "Are you here for the Rainbow Gathering?" I sad yes, and he went on, "I have to warn you that this gathering has been declared to be illegal and if you go on, you are subject to getting a citation."
The paper said:
2006 NATIONAL RAINBOW FAMILY GATHERING
THIS GATHERING IS IN VIOLATION OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS
USDA Forest Service regulations require that all noncommercial groups of 75 or more people obtain a free noncommercial group use permit from the Forest Service as required by law.
Participants and spectators involved in the gathering are hereby notified that they are in violation of Federal regulation 36 CFR 261.10(k) and are individually subject to legal action.
The construction or maintenance of structures and improvements, such as latrines (slit trenches), bridges, fences, water systems, and rock or mud ovens or stoves is prohibited under 36 CFR 261.10(a) without prior written permission from an authorized Forest Service officer. Violators are subject to legal action.
I said to the officer, "I choose to go in", and he said nothing and started back toward the other car. He had started out with me like he was being interrupted and I was an afterthought. The other car looked like it was being detained a bit longer, so I drove on alone, getting all stoic and Buddhistic about whatever was going to happen.
Then I came to the third road, and I saw a small Japanese car with all its doors open and its trunk lid raised, and bags all over the ground beside it. I drove by slowly, looking at the three officers present for any kind of move toward me, but they seemed preoccupied with the search they already had in progress and I was able to drive past. I continued unimpeded and unmolested all the rest of the way in.
I first passed a Bus Village in the making, with lots of four-wheelers parked there as well, but the road continued, and so did I. I went thru more still wild country until I saw two long lines of parked cars on the sides of the road.
Eventually I came to a driveway leading off the right side of the road. It curved downhill past one level parking lot to the left full of vehicles, mostly big trucks and busses, and then down some more to another flat area with more parking, next to a stream. At the top of this curve where it left the road there was a campfire and a small kitchen. I got a welcome home from a brother as I passed by, and he told me they were trying to keep the lot below for supply vehicles and people unloading only, but I could park for a few minutes while I looked around.
The inner Bus Village to the left I heard one of the welcome home folks refer to as Handi-Camp, and it reminded me too much of the Hong Kong conditions of the Michigan gathering to look comfortable. When I got out of my car, I heard a stereo playing rock music. There was also a rope stretched between two poles straddling the entryway, with pink origami birds tied to it, suggesting that somebody didn't want any more people driving in.
I got back in and went back up to the road, and drove in the opposite direction. I found a place a few blocks down where I was able to park level with all four wheels off the road, near enough that it wasn't a long walk, but far enough from what I imagined would be the commotion of the welcome home camp to be quiet enough to sleep. I pulled all of the boxes of Guides off of my bed in the back and piled them onto the floorboards and driver and passenger seats up front, as I wasn't planning on driving anywhere until after the gathering. Then I changed out of my rayons into my cottons, put on my walking shoes, and filled up my water bottle and set out exploring.
(to be continued)
The Hard Walking Gathering - Colorado 2006, Part 2
I walked back up a slight slope in the road to the welcome home camp, down the driveway to the bottom, and then crossed a Rainbow built bridge of several straight logs of dead pine, lashed together with the gaps between filled with dried mud. Then there was a dry dip about four feet deep, then a turn to the right over to the only part of the main trail that had been graded to be a vehicle road. This road went down to a ford in the stream that had a closed metal gate across it. It sloped up the other way at about 30 degrees for about 100 yards. The graded part ended at the top of the hill, and the trail continued as footpath.
This turned out to be the only long steep slope in the main trail. There was only one other stretch of maybe 30 feet a little way further. The trail made a long gradual undulating climb along the side of a stream valley. It entered and left tree cover, and in the sunny places I could look back and see the trailhead and the parked vehicles for a lot of the way in.
The site was very reminiscent of the California one of two years ago. There was a long valley with a wide riparian area covering most of its floor, curving in a counterclockwise direction, and mountain slopes on each side with patchworks of trees covered areas and meadows. The green of Colorado was just a little darker and brighter.
When I looked at the trees on the other side of the valley, I saw many patches of brown and yellowing green among the usual dark green of mountain conifers. I was later told that there had been an infestation of a beetle that ate the trees just under their bark, and destroyed their vascular systems, killing them in the end. A majority of the trees in this forest were now dead or mortally diseased, and the Forest Service intended to have the area clear cut later this year. There was a wealth of down and dead timber for construction, but there was also severe fire danger with all the dry kindling around. There were many dry trunks with spindly dry branches that could have ignited in a hurry.
The meadows were covered with varying numbers of thick-leaved clumps of a plant that looked like buffalo grass, another grass with narrower and more yellowish leaves, the same grayish green sage that I saw in California, and another plant that looked similar but with darker green rounded leaves. Some places were mostly covered with the grasses, others with the bushes. There was a rainbow of wild flowers: big yellow dandelions, something that looked like a Texas bluebonnet but definitely violet in color, another which looked like a large alyssum with tiny white petals. There were wet patches that were covered with false hellebore, but fortunately the rumor that eating them can make you high that created such a crisis for CALM in Oregon never emerged at this gathering.
The weather was also very much like the California site. At the high altitude (8800 feet at main meadow) the afternoon temperatures were usually somewhere in the 60s, but direct sunlight could make it feel much warmer. It could warm enough for nudity out in the sun and cold enough to want a coat in the shade nearby, especially if the wind picked up a bit. There were about two hours of uncomfortable cold just before sunrise. And whatever rain fell just came down in brief sprinkles not strong enough to soak.
As I walked in on June 22, the main trail was already wide enough for two people to pass, and I went by a number of large kitchens well advanced in their set up. There was a kitchen staffed mostly by young people in black, brown, and olive drab, called Nut N 2 Eat. A little way further was Early Bird Café, which was the only place that consistently had something to serve when I went by at times like 7 and 8 in the morning. Most of the rest of the gathering wasn't past just having coffee until about 10:30.
Then there was a big fire pit named Sit Down and Kick It. What the people who sat around there seemed most interested in you kicking was your weed. It was a major drumming locale at night. Then in a wooded area further on was the largest and most elaborate Nick at Night I have yet experienced, with a huge fire pit. They dug another pit nearby and filled it with mud made with warm water, and put on Naked Mud Wrestling a few nights. Further up the hill on a trail leaving the main one was Bread of Life, which was the second most consistent place in the early morning.
Shortly after passing Nick at Night I met Jai on the trail, and he said, "Come with me and I'll show you the way to Info.", which turned out to be continuing up the main trail. We passed Shut Up and Eat It, which had grown over twice as large as they had been in California. "This was the main feeding kitchen during Seed Camp." Then we passed another, called the Magic Bowl, and thru a stretch of trail where Trade Circle had laid out its first blankets. I was finally shown a clearing framed by some tall trees with two long logs tied between two trees forming the rudimentary frame of a counter. You could stand there and look out over the Main Circle meadow, like being in a sportscaster's booth overlooking the field.
I was told some stories of what had happened the previous night. Some of them differed in details, but the composite version that emerged to me was this: Some LEOs attempted to make a blockade at a point in the road leading in. (The one and only road, there was no "back door".) This left some Rainbows on the inside, and others on the outside. Rainbows started to join hands on both sides, and started up an Om, and at one end the two lines succeeded in joining hands. At this point the LEOs brought out their guns: pistols, and a few semiautomatic military rifles.
But just before the Rainbows succeeded in closing the circle, the person in command of the LEOs called a retreat and they escaped thru the gap that still remained. The LEOs got in their vehicles and left, and there was much cheering in Rainbowland that night. This was a situation where so many things had come so close to catastrophe but didn't.
(If I had left the day I had wanted and arrived when I had planned, I would have driven right into the middle of this.)
I went out to my van and brought in the first jackass load, the tent and the cot and 1 of the pillows. (Well worth the weight after I finally get them inside.) I found a place in the Info neighborhood and set up. I tried to tell Marken that I was taking a sabbath from the banking council, saying that I wanted to have a few evenings where I could do stuff like visit the Krishna devotees, and there were people like Carla on a.g.r. saying I should give it up for a year.
But he was persistent in trying to talk me back into it. "Maybe there are some other people trying to tell you, you're doing a good job, Bill" And that evening at Dinner Circle I was reminded of how I can get the best meal there by carrying the little saucepan I use for a bowl around in my right hand while I wave the bucket with the left. I can ask any of the servers to give me a dollop as I pass by, and I can pass up the bland and soupy stuff. There was also a young brother who seemed very eager to become a part of the Magic Hat, and I figured I would be able to pass things on to him after some grooming. But he fizzled out after two days.
I could say it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it, but it isn't tough, it's physically rather easy and often amusing. But finding people who will show up at Dinner Circle each and every evening has historically been a problem for Info and the RFOLL in general. I still eagerly await some young thing who remains eager and demonstrably reliable.
I brought in the second jackass load on the 23rd. It was the most cop-free day I have ever experienced at a gathering. There were no green trucks on the road (tho there were some white vehicles that looked a little too clean to be Rainbow). Inside I heard neither six-up nor seven-up all day. All of the LEOs were at the makeshift courthouse that had been set up in a fire department station near Columbine, the last town you passed on Hwy. 129 when coming to the gathering. The people who had been given tickets up to then were all to have their court hearings on that day.
I explored Main Trail further. It led thru some woods by Peace Camp kitchen, then out into a large meadow that extended uphill from the main meadow below. At its upper reaches before the treeline it was marshy and covered with false hellebore. The trail made an arc thru it, staying mostly level, then it went back into the trees and across a stream. It led into another small meadow that had been chosen by Yoga Camp, which maintained a schedule board full of assorted meditation workshops. To the right in the trees was Chess Go Tea, which had books to read and equipment for the two board games mentioned in their name.
At the back of yoga meadow was a trail into the woods which I was told led to Instant Soup. It climbed a steep grade, then went over a brief plateau to another steep climb that disappeared above eye level. I lost my ambition when I was about halfway up. Back out in the large meadow was a trail that led up the treeline to Kid Village.
Late that evening people who had been to court started to trickle back into the gathering with their stories. Most of the people with tickets were given an option that was less that pleading guilty, even less than pleading nolo contendere. It was called "collateral forfeiture", and you paid what amounted to a fine, but you had no offense record i that followed you after that. For most of the people it was $40. Nobody said that they had been banned from the National Forest for a year or any other period of time, what had been one of the great fears of a lot of the gatherers. The court had run until after it had gotten dark without getting to all of the cases, and all the people left over at that time had their tickets dismissed
On the 24th the LEOs returned. I started taking shifts monitoring Info's two-way radio with an earpiece hanging from my ear, listening to the Rainbow chatter.
There were lots of reports on locations of six-ups, and requests for shanti sena aid, alongside kitchens arranging supply runs, offering trades with each other, and talking about food in general -- interrupting each other in sometimes amusing and sometimes frustrating ways. Occasionally I would hear an announcement that the road in was being blocked off by the LEOs, then I would hear that it was reopened 15 or 20 minutes later. Apparently they would do this only when they had a gatherer's car stopped to be searched.
At Dinner Circle, just after the meal had been served, and I had finished running the Hat and was in my folding chair eating, a dark gray helicopter that looked similar to a Huey came up and flew completely around the perimeter of the circle, about fifty feet up and back, counterclockwise at walking speed, pausing in mid air several times. I could see a camera in the door being pointed at us. The Rainbows responded with waving and peace signs. After it had completed one trip around, it turned and flew off down the valley.
(to be continued)
The Hard Walking Gathering - Colorado 2006, Part 3
On the next day, the 25th, I heard on the radio that the LEOs had decreed that all cars parked on the north side of Forest Road 520 had to be moved within 24 hours. That included my van. I got someone else to take the radio, and asked Marken if there was any place I could stash the Guides in case I had to park way the hell back in the outer Bus Village. He gave me the combination for the lock on the Northwest Tribes trailer, which was in the Handi-Camp.
I high-tailed back out to the trailhead, got up on the road, and found that every vehicle on the north side had some kind of paper under a wiper on the windshield. Those who really were parked improperly got parking tickets. My own van had received a red tag saying:
ABANDONED VEHICLE TAG
The Routt County Sheriff has stopped and made a courtesy check to see if you needed assistance.
We urge Removal of this vehicle as soon as assistance
Should this vehicle remain abandoned at this location 24 hours or more, the vehicle will be removed and stored at your expense, as per the Colorado Model Traffic Code XXII, Section 22-20, as adopted by Routt County Ordinance Number 80-1
I moved all the boxes from the front seats back to the bed, and looked for a place to park on the south side. The south side was the side that had a steep dropoff to the valley 3 or 4 feet from the edge of the pavement, while the north side faced up the hill, so if I were to pick one side, it wouldn't have been that one. I drove up and then back, but at this late date the road was packed and there was no way I was going to park anything larger than a Mini-Cooper.
So I decided to stop in the loading lot and dolly the boxes up to the Northwest Tribes trailer. (Info had one that I had wheeled all the way back down.) I loaded up two boxes on it, than asked two people for help getting it thru a ditch in front the Handi-Camp lot. One of them asked what they were, and I said "Rainbow Guides." After saying that several people appeared from all around and started asking if they could have some, and I satisfied them.
I then asked if I could bring my van in to make the unloading easier, and more than one person said yes. So I removed the rope with the pink origami birds and pulled my van in. I found a place just big enough for my van, parked it, and put the Guides in the trailer. I left the van there after I had finished the unloading, and nobody tried to kick me back out. Grandpa Woodstock was walking around acting sort of like the ogre for the place, and he acted friendly toward me when he saw me. The lot turned out to be occupied by mostly "elder" or "high holy" types, including Plunker and Marken, and contrary to all my first prejudices it was a quiet mellow place at night, very conducive to sleeping, with only conversational noise coming from the Welcome Home fire.
The north side remained free of parked cars for about two days, then it filled up again by the first of July and this time the LEOs mostly gave up and let them stay there. There were places that were genuinely congested, where two cars couldn't pass and school busses had to have someone outside watching as they tried to get thru.
On the 26th, as noontime was passing into early afternoon, I started hearing on the radio, "15 LEOs coming up the trail." They were going around looking for certain individuals that they had pictures of. Interpretations were going around that they were looking for ringleaders in the big blockade confrontation. I heard position reports as they stopped at Shut Up and Eat It and Magic Bowl. Then they got to Trading Circle, and I was hearing acoustic voices yelling "Six Up". I heard reports on the radio that people were sitting on the ground with their arms cuffed behind their backs.
Then I heard shouts of "shanti sena" from down in Main Meadow, and saw a small group of people down there with others walking in from all around. I started down to see what was going on. When I was about halfway down, a young sister started calling over to me, "What are you guys with the radios doing by calling this stupid? Do you want to help the family or don't you? Why don't you high holies let the people do what they want?"
I didn't know what she was talking about, I had not said "stupid" on the radio, but her vibes felt freaky. I got further down, and a bunch of people were trying to get a mob together to go and confront the LEOs. And there were others trying to hold the growing vigilante vibe down. A shouting argument arose between those advocating action and those advocating restraint. And I finally heard on the radio a reference to the "stupid council."
I went back up to Info and heard more reports of more tension in Trade Circle on the radio. Amid the chatter, there was a brother down at the front gate who kept interrupting everybody and yelling "Back off, Ba-a-ack off, DO NOT APPROACH WITHIN 50 FEET OF THEM..." over and over onto the airwaves, sometimes interfering with the conversations of those at the scene of the action. Other people were also yelling warnings into the radio that nobody except someone with an earpiece would have heard. And in the middle of all this there were parts of conversation between two kitchen people about onions.
Finally I saw lots of people all running downhill into the woods away from Info, and I wanted to go and witness what was going on myself. I ran thru the trees for a few hundred feet, then I came upon a circle of maybe a hundred people holding hands and saying OM, and inside this ring was a another circle of a dozen people surrounding a pile of people lying face down on top of each other. There were FS uniforms walking around both inside and outside this inner circle.
One by one the people unpiled, then I saw a Rainbow brother carried by his shoulders outside both of the circles and laid on the ground. A sister climbed on top of him a started hugging him. After this, attention shifted to another pileup of people in a different place in the larger circle, where I couldn't see as well. I heard chants of "let him go, let him go..." Meanwhile there were cops pointing cameras all around. The OM ceased for a while and some people starting chanting "we love you, we love you..." rhythmically over and over again. The chatter on the radio had deteriorated to unintelligible chaos, and I finally turned it off.
I heard voices on the other end of the large circle yelling, "leave them an opening", and eventually the cops retreated thru it as they had done in the earlier battle out on the road. I went to the top of the hill by Shut Up and Eat It and looked out at the trail going down to the parking. There was a group of uniforms followed by a couple of hundred people walking down to the trailhead. I heard there were some shouting and scuffles in spite of shanti sena efforts, and one man went after one of the cops with a rock and landed a blow. He was arrested and restrained, and the gatherers let the cops succeed in getting him out of the gathering. I went back to Info and apologized for being a lousy Info radio monitor during the fray, but I had been totally swept up in this wave.
The 27th was a calm day relative to the rest. Only the giddyups were to be seen, and they were letting people pet their horses. The foot soldiers were back again on the 28th, but there were no more major confrontations between the gatherers and the LEOs. From this day on the cops entered main trail on foot only in groups of less than half a dozen, and when they did they had a definite quarry in mind. They usually looked for people with outstanding arrest warrants. Both the gatherers and the cops showed no more desire for combat, and the people who were arrested mostly submitted peacefully. The word which I heard again and again on the radio was "chill". A group of five or six six-up giddyups patrolled the site constantly between about nine in the morning until five or six in the evening.
But they struck at small groups of people camping on the outskirts of the gathering. I came across two sisters by Magic Bowl, washing their eyes out with water with very pained looks on their faces. I asked them if anything was wrong, and they told me this story, which I told them to tell again to Info. Their story was like a lot of others that I heard coming thru Info:
The two sisters, another brother, and a dog were sitting in front of their camp, a small tipi near the edge of a meadow. They heard calls of "six-up" in the distance, then a man's voice from the other side of the tipi saying, "is there anybody in this camp?" They didn't answer, but tried to sneak off into a nearby part of the meadow where there were more people they could get lost in. The leashed dog cooperated and didn't bark.
But they didn't get too far before they heard, "You three, STOP!" There were two male FS LEOs and one female. Before they had too much time to react, one of the men ran up to the brother from behind, grabbed his arm, and pulled him back so that his rump landed on the ground. "Sit down", he said while he was doing this. The female cop came up behind one of the sisters and put one of her arms across the sister's neck almost in a choke hold and likewise dragged her backward into a sitting position. The dog didn't growl at first, but then started barking and acting like a dog does when its mistress is threatened. The other man threatened, "I'm gonna spray your dog", and then actually did. He had a can of pepper spray, and he directed it right into the dog's eyes.
All three Rainbows were ordered at first to stay sitting, then they were told to get up and go back uphill to their camp, while the LEOs followed them. When they got back, the men chewed them out over the condition of their firepit. "This is the worst fire I've ever seen." The sisters said that it was a proper pit with rocks around it and there were three gallon jugs of water and a shovel nearby. There were some embers that were still smoking.
One of the sisters was ordered to bury the fire with the shovel. The brother was told to sit on the ground again. The sister was protesting while she dug, ""I can't believe you just maced my dog.!" More LEOs appeared on the scene, eventually totaling 10, and they all joined in ridiculing and scolding. "No water, no people around." "Worst firepit I've ever seen."
The sister was then asked to put the shovel down and show an ID, which, like a lot of gatherers who don't want to take something into the woods to be lost, she was unable to do. She continued digging and ignored the cops. She was ordered again to put down the shovel, and in an angry gesture she threw the shovel on the ground, causing it to ricochet on a rock and bounce onto a log.
Then the female cop who had tackled her before did it again, this time getting her prone on the ground, and the cop sprayed mace in her eyes. The other sister, who had been sitting on the other side of the pit just watching, was also pounced upon and sprayed.
The LEOs turned them loose, and the crowd of gatherers who had come to see the commotion finished burying the pit as the cops left, and the two sisters stumbled thru the fields trying to find CALM. I came across them at the first water they found to wash out their eyes in, at Magic Bowl.
And it started to look like the LEOs were targeting people they thought were key individuals in the infrastructure of the gathering. They ticketed Felipe at Kid Village, Calif at the front gate parking, and gave three separate tickets to Badjer. They did a raid on CALM where they ticketed Stone, the doctor, and went into Jayne Lightwaryr's tent and cited her for possessing prescription drugs she couldn't prove that she was authorized to have. Hawker told Info a story about how he went up to his parked van with all the radio equipment inside, and found three cops had surrounded it and were staking out for his return. (He saw then in time and didn't get caught by them that time. They finally did catch up to him later. )
Plunker was going around to the kitchens with a rap about how the police were trying to bring the gathering to a halt by requiring all of our key workers to be in court on the 30th. On the morning of that day, there were masses of people at the welcome home camp waiting for Rainbow vehicles that had volunteered to shuttle them in.
But it was only a little after one in the afternoon that some of these "Rainbow Leaders", who were mostly in a group that was scheduled for the first session in the morning, were back from the court. Karen Zirk had been exuberant in joyous enthusiasm. ("I get to go to court, I get to go to court!..."). She had a speech all rehearsed to give to the judge, and she said that she had been successful in delivering it. Most of the ticketees had been offered collateral forfeiture and had taken it. The room used for the proceedings was big enough for some observers to sit, and they were not told to leave -- in contrast to the closed off corner last year at the Cranberry Nature Center.
She also said to us that she "had a nice chat with Tim Lynn", the Incident Commander, and had made arrangements to escort him and his entourage of LEOs thru the gathering while she was naked. The next day I was walking on the trail up to Kid Village and did indeed see her coming the other way behind some uniformed men, wearing a pair of hiking boots and socks, a green backpack, a wide brimmed straw hat, and nothing else but a big grin. Tim Lynn I didn't recognize the first time, he had on some very dark sunglasses under his black baseball cap.
Back on the 27th I saw for the first time resource rangers with no LEOs with them, two young women in gunless green uniforms. They said they were going around to look at kitchens. The next morning there was a meeting at about 11 in the Cooperations meadow next to Info, that was attended by more seven-ups. I wasn't there, but a few hours later I was given some xeroxed pages stapled together, with the title: Rainbow Gathering 2006 Operating Plan - 6/28/2006. (The full text of this I am putting into a separate post.)
That evening at Dinner Circle, Plunker asked to address the circle, and everybody blobbed together in the middle to hear him. He read the operating plan, and asked for a consensus by silence. There was only one person who asked for clarification of some words, then he asked again and got the silence he had wanted.
An agreement was reached to ban all personal fires, and only allow the ones in kitchens and the larger bliss pits (which were referred to as "warming fires"). Some rangers toured the site and started issuing permits for the individual fires, No gatherer signed anything; it was for the fire and not any persons. No fee was asked for either. Their selection of which fires to allow to stay made sense to most gatherers, and I didn't hear too much bitching.
And the Family fire watchers turned quite ogrely in spots. I heard one person complaining about not having his white ashes in the morning for the shitter because someone had doused it with water in the middle of the night. Enforcement was strict, at least in the easily accessible regions.
On July 1st, the revival of the Family Council on the land that Plunker had asked for in several e-mails before the gathering actually took place. About 70 people were there when we Omed and he started the discussion out, and the number doubled after an hour or so. There were four Forest Service resource people present.
He went into a long historical narrative starting with the days of the Vortex festival where the idea for the gathering was born, then thru all the troubles that the Family has had with the FS in the past. The main point that his talk finally led to was that, since the constitutional challenges based on freedom of assembly had now lost in court, a new direction to the Family's challenge must now be taken. He cited a recent (2006) Supreme Court decision that the government must "have a compelling reason" before it can interfere with a "spiritual assembly". The Family could make a new case based on religious freedom. And he said that a "good constitutional lawyer" should be hired, one with experience who might even cost some money.
He then passed the feather asking for comments, and it started to go around, with wandering from the subject by some of the feather holders. I stayed for about two hours, but the circle lasted until Dinner Circle. There were a few people down there next noon, and there was some activity for the next few days. No stated formal consensus ever reached Info.
(to be continued)
The Hard Walking Gathering - Colorado 2006, Part 4
There had been not as many people as usual arriving at the gathering during the days of uncertainty following the blockade attempt, but there was a surge of new arrivals starting about the 27th, and along the whole length of Main Trail the spaces between the first kitchens filled in. A second welcome home straddled the trail in a small clump of trees, a little after Nut N 2 Eat, with hanging cloth banners bearing the Raps. Simply Wonderful appeared in the stretch between Early Bird and Nick at Night, and Jerusalem Kosher Kitchen was nearby, at the place where a trail led up a hill that I was told Purple Gang and Lovin' Oven were up there, but I never got up the ambition to climb.
Some more groups of Christians appeared next to Bread of Life, and across the meadow from them was Jesus Camp, which had food that was not glamorous (mostly oatmeal and rice), but they were the most consistent and reliable source of food. If you went there twixt 10:30 and sunset, they always had at least something.
Further up the hill was a line of trees that set off a higher meadow on a plateau behind, and four kitchens set up there. One of them was Granola Funk, and they did their usual elaborate constructions, in this site with unusually abundant dry timber.
The built a wooden stockade wall across an opening in the trees that with a gate that had a miniature covered bridge with windows over it. To the right was a tarp roofed shed with a counter in front. I thought for a minute I had stepped into a time/space warp and walked into a certain place at the Oklahoma Renaissance Faire.
Then I walked in side to the meadow seating area that sloped up the hill, and saw the pirate ship, and the minute lasted a little longer. They framed out a hull with slender logs, and put more logs across the top to make a deck, then they made a poop deck over the stern. The spaces between the timbers were filled in with brown construction paper onto which they had drawn outlines of planks with black felt tip pens. There was a main mast with a square sail of canvas, a mast behind with a lateen sail, and a large jib going down to a bowsprit. It had rope rigging that showed some understanding of how it works. I got reminded that I was at the Rainbow Gathering and not the ren fair when I looked thru a door in the side of the hull and saw a tapestry of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god, staring back at me.
I wanted to see their Gong Show in the evening of the 3rd, but there was some banking business that kept me at Info until it was dark. I walked thru the gate, saw a bunch of people climbing the sides of the ship amid much yelling, and people three deep three and four deep in front of the seating area beyond, which was totally covered with more people. I gave up after about 15 minutes and left. On the fourth, we thought there wasn't going to be a Dinner Circle (turned out there was), I didn't have to run the Hat, and I was able to get over there about an hour before sunset, and I staked out a place to sit right next the log that defined the front of the stage. Then came their usual excellent Talent Show of musicians, comedians, storytellers, poets, and even acrobatic rope climbers, year after year one of the best things at the gathering.
More kitchens appeared on the hill sloping down from Info and Trade Circle. A place that called itself Paonia Peace Kitchen (PPK) had a lot of the crew that is usually found in Rainbow Crystal Kitchen, but Marty Heartsong replaced Gary as ogre. I was told that Gary set up a soup kettle somewhere on a side of the road coming in, outside of the limits of the National Forest.
The Krishna devotees with the cookies set up their kitchen and kirtan tent at the edge of the trees by the stream meadow, and wherever I was at the gathering there would soon be a person with a white 5-gallon bucket coming around asking, "Would you like some Krishna cookies?"
Across the extension of Main Meadow on the side where the trail entered the trees by the stream, there appeared the huge circular tan tent that Greg Sherrill calls a "yurt" on the right side and to the left a composite Krishna camp was set up, with devotees from several different ashrams, on the left. They did a lot of other Sanskrit songs besides the Hare Krishna, and they sometimes allowed non-devotees to play the harmonium and lead the chanting, including women. This made for some moments of unusual creativity.
On the 30th we finally succeeded in getting the rest of the Guides up to Info. I had wheeled two of the boxes back up the day I moved my van. I got permission from Marken to give Patch (rastapatch on a.g.r.) the combination to the lock on the Northwest Tribes trailer, and he was able to enlist other people to get all but one up to Info. Two boxes arrived at Info a quarter full. As they were being carried up the trail people were coming up and asking for them and they were being passed out. A third box I could only surmise was passed out completely. This was fine in that they were getting distributed, but no donations were going into the can as people were getting them.
Then Patch told me that three were still in a tent by the inner Welcome Home. So the next morning I went down with the supposedly brand new four wheeled wagon that Marken had bought for Info. One box Patch told me he had left with "some focalizers" in Handi-Camp. I discovered it still sitting in the parking lot almost full, and took it back to my van, saving it and the half-full open one for the requests for Guides that I will be getting all winter. I loaded the three from the tent onto the wagon, and shortly after starting a young brother and sister offered to help me push it and keep it from tipping over on the bumpy ground. But shortly before Shut Up and Eat It the hinge pin in front broke. So I went back up to Info and fetched the dolly and got them the rest of the way in. Marken surveyed the wreckage and stashed it temporarily at Shut Up and Eat It. It was made in China.
We gave out the rest of the Guides at Info mostly to people who came up and asked for one, and the donation bucket brought in $875. This made up for all the money I spent in Denver, but didn't leave too much capital for next year.
Shortly before three on the third I went up to Kid Village and looked for another trail that I was told led to Instant Soup. I found a sign that directed me onto a path that led down to a stream and a spring head, but no kitchen. So I never succeeded in getting to the a.g.r. meeting.
Over the course of the whole gathering I observed some trends:
There were more people going nude than the last two years, and there was an explosion on the fourth. The weather was usually cold enough that I wanted to have clothes on most of the time, but there were a few sunny times in the afternoon, and on the morning of the fourth.
It wasn't until July 3rd that I finally saw someone doing that joke of tying a dope pipe to a string then tying that to a stick and holding it all like it was a fishing pole. The humor in this seems to be finally wearing off.
There were more "kid kitchens", staffed by people under the age of 30 and clad in jeans and cargo pants in black, brown, olive drab, and denim blue, and not too many rainbow tiedyes and granny skirts. And no religious exercises of serenity for them. Rather than being repulsed by "agro energy", a lot of them seem to revel in it, raising it to a point of high comedy and creativity. I would hear a lot of people yelling at each other and calling each other nasty names and think it was shanti sena time, then I would see the smiles on some of their faces and realize that they were doing if all for fun. And their kitchens don't have names like Lovin' Oven or Warriors of the Light, but imperatives like Shut Up and Eat It and Quit Your Bitchin.
And some of the kid kitchen people took to the game of stealing banners and flags in a manner that was hard for other gatherers to understand or tolerate. Some of the people involved in this called themselves "pirates", and said "Ar-r-r" and carried on with other Renaissance faire pirate antics. One morning an older brother came upon a person who had been tied and duck taped to a tree, and he came rushing in to rescue him with an opened penknife and came close to cutting skin when he tried to cut the tape, resulting in shanti sena being called on his attempt at shanti sena. It turned out that that it had been part of the agreed upon "rules" of the game that if someone got caught, the intended victims could retaliate like this, waiting an hour or so before setting him free. One of the kids said, "We were giving him drinks of water and hits off of smokes all the time he was there."
A lingering memory is one youthful female voice at Nut N 2 Eat hollering into the night, "FREE FOOD IN THE WOODS. COME EAT OUR SHIT!!!"
The only poles in erected in Main meadow were a set of slender branches in a pattern that indicated the four compass directions. The point at the middle of the meadow was left to the grass. On the morning of the third, I looked down from Info and saw two men digging a pit in the center. Soon there was a small crowd of people who had seen them and walked down. After seeing them talk for awhile, I saw one of the men fill it back up. Two different totem-carved poles were erected next to each other at the beginning of the upslope maybe a hundred feet from the center. Some more poles appeared up near the trees on the meadow slope above.
On the morning of the fourth, I came to the circle and saw a wooden walking stick with rope decorations standing in the middle of the circle. I then saw it jiggle a little, and realized that it was being held by a man lying on his stomach. I wondered if this was somebody's last stand I was seeing here. But after an hour or so he apparently got tired, and left the center unoccupied again. There was a little circle of stones laid down around it, and on these the usual silent meditation array of pictures, Tibetan prayer flags, crystals feathers, and talismans were laid.
A large circle of people started to form up near the trees, but it was never completed because of the riparian areas near the stream. A smaller set of concentric circles formed near the center. There were people going around with cardboard signs saying "Please hold the silence until the Children's Parade has entered the circle.
As the sun approached the meridian, the Om started spontaneously from several points, and from other points other people started saying, "Sh-h-h". This cycle of Om and shush repeated a few times. I kept looking up the hill toward Kid Village looking for any sign that the kids were on the move, and kept seeing nothing that really looked like it. Then it started to feel like a competition between the Omers and the shushers, and there were even a few words of joking said. Finally there was a stretch of silence that felt to me as awkward as one on a date.
The kids finally made it to the circle, and then an Om commenced that was not shushed, but the parade walked around inside the circle with drums and noise makers. The Om sputtered for a while amidst the cacophony, then it died out.
Once again, as at Oregon in '97, the Om was shushed. I talked with a few other people who agreed with me that the interjection of the children's parade totally ruined the Om. I pointed out how intense it had been at Michigan when there was no children's parade at all (Kid Village then was at the opposite end of the gathering from Main Circle). A few days later I met Felipe on the trail and told him how I felt, and before I was finished talking Lynn there by his side was nodding her head. She said she didn't like the shushing either. I suggesting just let the beginning of the parade and the beginning of the Om be determined by this thing we are all Oming to.
By the 7th I was in a state of cumulative fatigue, and not in too gung ho a mood. I attended about two hours of Vision Council, but finally had my patience worn out by a longiloquitor who hung on to the feather. It was about two in the afternoon, and I just wanted to pull the face curtain and eject, and get back to Babs and baths and all the food I wanted. I packed up the last load and walked it down, saying goodbye only to those who saw me on the trail and said it first. I left at about four, which I normally consider the lousiest time to leave a gathering in terms of people asking me for things and cops wanting to see other things on my way out.
It was sometimes slow going thru the traffic and the parking-narrowed roads, and I was in a long procession of cars as I went south on Hwy. 129. I saw a car being searched as I was going past a gas station, and saw red and blue lights of top of other vehicles going by. I didn't start feeling safe until I had made it to the main drag of Steamboat Springs.
Thus ended my stay at the Hard Walking Gathering. As water flows around rocks in its path, so did the gathering advance around an incredible number of obstacles thrown up by the Incident Command team of Forest Service Law Enforcement. The slogan that I had seen on some signs around the gathering: "Peace Wins", turned out to be true, altho there were many times when peace was very difficult to maintain and sometimes beyond the capability of a few individuals. But the spirit of peace and its methods of nonviolence did finally prevail, and so did the gathering over all that tried to stop it.
(The story ends here, but the gatherings and my involvement in them remain,
to be continued)
– Butterfly Bill
This post was the basis for the fifth chapter of Rainbow Gatherings, vol. 2.