Sunday, February 24, 2008

hippie log cabin memories

I ate a lot of dog food as a kid. I am listening to the Eagles Hotel California and it's bringing a lot of memories of life with my dad in the log cabin in Oregon. I've written about it in so many venues, but honestly I'm not sure about on this blog?! In about 1972 or '73, Dad moved from L.A. to Oregon and bought 24 acres of land where he built his own log cabin (the image to the left is a photo of it when it got a rare snow). My parents had gotten divorced when I was 1 and Mom moved to Eugene with her twin sister and my cousin. Eugene was a few hours away from Dad's cabin which is about 20 miles from the blink-and-miss-it town of Deer Island - on Meissner Mountain. My dad was a hippie who wanted that back-to-the-land lifestyle, and he grew his own food in a huge veggie garden and also had chickens from which we got eggs and, well, chicken. (though I would never eat the chickens he killed for meat!).

In L.A., my dad had delivered candy and toys to those little .25-cent trinket machines (then, they were 1-, 5- and 10-cent machines). He was a working class man. He also raced motorcycles and had a band called Homegrown in L.A. He played bass guitar, and I have many memories of my childhood listening to him and his brother Pat, his girlfriend Celeta, and some others have incredibly loud jam sessions in the log cabin - and if you can sleep through that, you learn to sleep through anything, anywhere!! I also fell asleep at many a party in my childhood. Lots of pot smoking, drinking, music, and generally good times. I'm not condoning drugs, don't get me wrong - this was just what I experienced growing up. The attitudes of Oregonians with respect to marijuana is very different than in, say, Texas. Of course this was also the early 1970s, coming off the hippie era, but I would say things haven't changed too much since then in Oregon. However I will also say (in case you are wondering) I haven't touched a drug since I was 20 years old. OK maybe I did eat those brownies one time... heh heh. Kidding! Seriously I barely take tylenol! I hate any medication!

So anyway when Dad got to Oregon, at first he made money by logging here and there, and then got into a business of building log cabins. The log cabin of his own was very humble. It was one large open room with an upstairs loft that took up half the cabin space. That is where his bedroom was, and eventually I had a small room up there also when I lived with him. Before that, my brother and I just slept in sleeping bags on the floor.

One time, while sleeping, I fell off the loft all the way to the downstairs which was very far below! Lucky for me, the couch was right underneath and I landed on it. Dad woke up and came down to make sure I was ok, but the funny thing is that in the morning I woke up and was like "Why am I on the couch?!" And he was like, "You fell! Don't you remember?!" Nope, I didn't remember a thing.

At first Dad didn't have electricity and we used kerosene lanterns for light, and of course we had two wood stoves - Gandalf was the cook stove, and Smaug was the potbelly stove used to heat the house. Dad didn't have running water. Gandalf looked identical to this stove except it was all black. We cooked everything from scratch. I mean EVERYTHING. We had huge glass mayonnaise jars filled with dried beans, flour, salt, etc which he bought in bulk. We grinded our own peanut butter. We even "made" our own honey! Dad had a few bee hives and I remember him putting on this all-white bee suit including the head-covering which allowed you to see but had mesh (our hives and the suit look pretty much identical to the photo below).

However, needless to say, for a kid who can't exactly start up the stove on their own there were many times when I was hungry, and went hungry. Dry dog food pellets are actually pretty tasty when you're really hungry, and I had many a dog food pellet snack. Dad left me alone a lot because he had work to do, and well there really weren't people anywhere nearby. I often got scared, especially when he was late coming home - which he often was - and would concoct all these thoughts in my head about what had happened to him or what I would do. I also would spend hours listening to his amazing record album collection, and reading the liners. He has about 1000+ albums, including many bootlegs of bands like Cream, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin - some of the concerts he attended. They're probably worth a lot of money! But for me, they are my memories. Music is such a huge part of my life because of growing up constantly listening to music, this really great classic rock-n-roll music as well as a lot of funk like Bootsy Collins and Rick James.

Since we didn't have running water, we would drive several miles away to a freshwater spring and fill up several large Igloo containers with drinking water which we'd then use until it was gone. For bathing and washing though, we collected rainwater in big 50-gallon drums. We did not have a bathtub but Dad had made a makeshift shower by putting a 10-gallon bucket hanging underneath the loft, and made a spigot coming out the bottom. So we'd heat water on the wood stove, mix it with cool water until you got the right temperature and then pour some into the bucket. We had a shower curtain for privacy but there was not enough water in the bucket to have a full-length shower. You'd have to get wet, turn the water off, lather up your body and hair, then turn the water back on to rinse. In winter it was sooo cold and then I'd wrap up and go stand by Smaug until I was toasty warm. It was very Laura Ingalls Wylder Little House in the Big Woods pioneer-like.

Oh and of course we had an outhouse which had several locations through the years but was typically quite a ways away from the house, so in the middle of the night I would just go pee in the yard. It was kind of scary because I would hear coyotes howling!!! At one point Celeta got me a "pee pot" which is what the women used in the old times, and you emptied it in the woods in the morning.

There's a hilarious story of when I moved back with my mom in 5th grade. She lived in Dallas suburbia and I'd gone to bed at like 7 or 8pm and she happened to stay up that night to watch the 10 o'clock news, which she normally didn't. Well it was a good thing because I got up and started going out the front door. She asked me where I was going, and I said I was going to the bathroom. She said it took her a while to convince me that the bathroom was down the hall! I apparently was sleepwalking because I didn't remember in the morning but I assume I was going to go pee in the front lawn. ROFLOL!

Well more stories will have to wait, I have to get some writing done on an article about the Gulf Dead Zone, which is really depressing me as a matter of fact! We are destroying our oceans and killing the life within...


Jim McCulloch said...

A friend of mine sent me this quote from WS Merwin about the 1960s. Being as I am a superannuated hippie (or perhaps more accurately in terms of my chronological age, a beatnik) the sentiment certainly resonates with me. You seem to have grown up in a hippie-esque lifestyle in the 70s, as such things began vanishing from our shores, so perhaps you will like the quote too. (I wish I could give you an actual citation in Merwin's oeuvre, but a quick and dirty google search did not help with that.)

"We know that age to be utterly beyond reach now, irretrievably a past, a period whose distance we already feel as though it had stretched into centuries, and yet it appears to us to be not only recent, but present, still with us not as a memory but as a part of our unfinished days, a ground or backdrop before which we live. It could be said we are haunted by it, which would suggest that time was not done with in us, that what we saw and felt then is still part of our incompleteness and our choices."

Unknown said...

love the quote Jim! Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting. :) My dad said he was a beatnik first then became a hippie. Some others have commented to me that you can't be both because they're opposite but I odn't think that is true necessarily. Different but metamorphosis can occur, no? What do you think? Heck if hippies cane become YUPPIES then anything can happen and a beatnik to hippie transformation does not seem that unlikely. I don't know enough about beatniks perhaps. My dad did not become a yuppie though. He is still a true hippie living in that same cabin!

Jim McCulloch said...

I don't know if I can shed any light on this, but beatniks, of the would-be and student variety, of which I suppose I was, tended to regard ourselves romantically as spiritually awakened hipster adversaries of the American middle class, when in the hard light of reality we were simply college students at provincial universities writing bad poetry and drinking bad wine. But we enjoyed this--one of the privileges of being young--and when in the mid 1960s Ginsberg made the transition from beatnik to become a wise old hippie elder, the rest of us made a transition from bad wine to bad weed, but otherwise remained much the same, except now having graduated or dropped out as the case may have been, and living in circumstances much like your reminiscence of your childhood, perhaps in log cabins in Oregon, perhaps in homemade geodesic domes in New Mexico, or in my case dropping out to live nomadically here and there, por ejemplo in Paraguay for a year. But at that point we were all hippies.

A lot of hippies, when they resurfaced, indeed turned into yuppies. But many of us were disqualified from this by temperament (in my case), and others disqualified by having dropped out so far as to become unfit, credential-wise, for membership in the bourgeoisie, as for example my best friend (now dead, alas) who spent 4 years in federal prison for the manufacture of methamphetamine. After he got out he became a jeweler, and a very good one, because there was no way he could get a regular job.