Stories

Shit: Two Tales

April 5th, 2010

by Creek Hanauer

As the Pile Turns

Words from daily commune life:  Goats… Shit… Protein (or lack thereof)… Zu-Zus… Bugler… Brewers Yeast… Powdered Milk… Power Wagon… “the trail”… Marigolds… American Pie… God’s Hand… Harold and Sylvia…

Let’s take shit…

black bears communal pooper

Human Waste disposal was one of the energy areas at the Ranch.  Black Bear Ranch was founded on the premise that everything was turning to shit so we’d better get our shit together.

We all came to love Redwood’s methane digester.  A world class hole done the old fashion way… by hand.  It was a lovely hole.  Not quite to China; not quite ever used.

The first years of the current human occupation, people spread out, with notable exceptions, usually with some distance between dwellings.  Thus necessitating a number of small shitter sites.  Quality varied to reflect the personality of the “digger”.

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How to Make Chimichangas

March 30th, 2010

BBR Geba and Kids 1970's

by Malcolm Terence

(Malcolm Terence, a river resident since the start of the Black Bear Commune in 1968, published this story in the anthology Free Land, Free Love four years ago. Terence is now a high school teacher in central California. The story, he notes with some chagrin, uses a little coarse language that he would never allow nowadays in his classroom. He apologizes for the way he used to talk. –editor)

Different people brought many things to Black Bear. Michael Tierra, who had seemed crazy in LA, brought incredible music. Myeba Mindlin and Susan Keese, awash in patchouli and tie-dye,  brought the links to the earlier Digger family with all its Byzantine and poetic grace. Calvin Donelly and the other Black militants brought Chairman Mao. Kathy Nolan, who understood sin as only those with Catholic upbringing can manage, taught me that you could do anything.  Most of us brought great notions of freedom and fantasy. I never brought much but I brought the recipe for Chimichangas.

Some would say the essence of those early commune years were about art or style, about politics or spiritual growth, but I was there the winters of ‘68, ‘69 and more. We all knew that Black Bear was about food. We would sit there in the wintry evenings fingering a copy of Julia Childs’ first French cookbook, lusting over dishes that took ingredients we knew we would never see. “Divide ten eggs and set aside the whites,” they’d all begin. “Add a gill of thick cream,” we’d continue, reading  to our companions, with the breathy hushed voices of people reading good pornography aloud.

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Redwood Snowshoes

November 10th, 2009

by Malcolm Terence

Redwood and I got cabin fever bad by January of ’69. Black Bear, the commune, was buried in snow, at least three feet deep and had been that way for many weeks. The summit into the ranch was blanketed six feet. The county road crew had their hands full even managing the main Salmon River Road. We were forgotten. Cabin fever, they say, comes in waves like malaria. In its throes, the commune seemed crowded and chaotic. We needed a cure, the get-out-of-here-for-anywhere-else cure.

“Let’s go down to the city,” Redwood said to me one evening in the teeming commune mainhouse.

“Right,” I said. “I suggest we fly.”

“Roselee has a couple pairs of snow shoes. It’d be easy. We walk to Sawyers. It’s only eight miles. Then hitch to San Francisco,” said Redwood. He was from Los Angeles, a graduate of Santa Monica High where first period classes were always half empty on days when the surf was good.

“A great idea. I’ll hit up Rose for the snow shoes,” I said. I was also from Los Angeles.

Two mornings later, just before light, we departed with food and people’s letters in our packs to the cheers of our comrades. It was just three miles uphill, five down and you were on the road in Sawyers Bar. The uphill went well except that along the way we crossed a stream that wet our snowshoes. After that, they started to cake with snow so we had to kick the ice off every few steps. Finally we tired of the kicking and just packed ten pounds of packed snow with every step. Redwood told me a story about surfing in Santa Monica. Then he told another. Finally we made the summit and our time seemed good. The sun broke through the overcast. We sat on our snowshoes during lunch and dangled our feet into the snow that was probably deeper than we were tall.

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