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September 22, 1974 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1974-09-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

editors:
laura berman
howie brick
contributing editor:
wary long

Sunday

mclazifle

inside:
page four-books
page five-sculpting
page six-looking
back

Number 3 Page Three Septemb
_ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ _FEAU R

er 22, 1974
ES

Cara van
molds a

of the disenchanted

new,

communal

life

ANN ARBOR VETERANS may re-
member a good-humored, lean
and blonde man from San Francis-
co who came here in November,
1970 and lectured on religious
matters for several nights. One
reason you may remember Steph-
en Gaskin is that he came to town
followed by three hundred people
in fifty-five schoolbuses. He sat
in a lotus position on the stage of
R4ckham Auditorium and talked
about Zen, psychedelics and life
force - and how to get that cara-
van of three hundred hippies
across state lines.
The next summer Stephen led
his caravan back to the land and
certain destruction, many of us
were sure, in the rolling woods and
fields south of Nashville. There
they founded the communal Farm.
Now, three years later, relations
with neighbors are amicable, Ste-
phen and three others are in pri-
son for growing marijuana, and
five hundred acres are under cul-
tivation.
At the beginning of August the
Farm harvested a quarter of a mil-
lion pounds of red and white po-
tatoes, enough to last the winter.
Water towers have been erected, as
have twenty barns and buildings.
THERE'S A SALVAGE crew and a
construction crew as well as a
farm crew; there's an accredited
school with fifty pupils; a store
where people help themselves ac-
cording to a ration system. The
Farm also boasts a printing shop,
a ham radio station and a record-
ing studio where the Farm Band
cuts its own records.
"The difference between these
people and hippies is that these

people
don't

work; those damn
do nothing," said

hippies
Homer

Sanders. Homer was one of the
first of the local people to go in-
spect the 350 hippies who arrived
in an endless stream of schoolbuses
one day in 1971.
Sitting in a lawn chair under-
neath a shade tree, Homer re-
counted the time he once shot two
men trying to rob his house, pick-
ing one off the roof. And how he
helped police turn away a crowd
of armed men who gathered at the
entrance to the Farm one night

came here and they didn't know
the first thing about farming," he
said. "They had three architects
and the prettiest blueprints you
ever did see. But they didn't know
what to do with them."
Prophet Gaskin, who is released
to the Farm on Sundays for relig-
ious services, calls the Farm gig
"voluntary peasanthood." Farm
folk not only work hard, but also
foreswear abortion and all artific-
ial means of birth control. They
don't eat meat and dairy products,
nor do they consume alcohol, ciga-

"These people came here and they didn't know
the first thing about farming. But the difference
between these people and hippies is that these
people work; those damn hippies don't do any-
thing," said a neighbor.
u<.

public of Zaire. Farm folk are also
looking for funds to send the great
white hospital ship, City of Hope,
around the world again, this time
staffed with a voluntary Farm
crew.
"Stephen tells us the truth
straight," a Farm woman told me.
"He doesn't fool around." And nei-
ther do the Farm Folk, many of
whom came to the farm from the
Haight Ashbury of the late Sixties.
"YOU CAN BE so creative with
soybeans," enthused the wo-
man in the Farm soybean plant.
Mayonnaise, whipped cream, milk
and yogurt are manufactured
there, she explained, as well as
soy bean meal. "It's psychedelic,"
said another Farm woman.
In the Park Tent, a wood floor
structure in the woods where elev-
en single men reside, everyone
was content and amicable. "If we
were in the city, we'd just be sit-
ting around getting drunk," said
one resident.
In the canning plant infants
were getting underfoot; outside the
wood and canvas structure, a gang
of eight-year-olds were alternately
shucking corn and throwing it at
each other.
"I feel like I can really be a wo-
man here," said a woman softly as
she cut the corn off a cob with a
circular knife. "I feel safe to be
a woman."
Then I asked the four women
present -- most of the workers in
the canning operations are female
-if they had been criticized by
feminists for bearing children and
being housewifely.
Heads nodded. "I think some of
them are trying so hard to be like

shortly after the group arrived.
But the Farm folks dismiss his
stories as tall-tales. "We're trying
to get him to appreciate non-vio-
lence," one said.
"EYE FOR AN EYE, tooth for a
tooth. That's right," said Ho-
mer. "It's in the Bible. First thing
I found out about these kids was
that they didn't have guns. The
second is that they all work. But
what I like is that they hang to-
gether and do what they say -
they won't tell you a lie."
Like other neighbors, Homer has
been of great technical assistance
to the Farm folk. "These people

rettes or coffee. The only drugs
permitted are marijuana and na-
tural psychedelics, but the Farm
people are abstaining even from
these - ever since Stephen was
imprisoned.
RESIDES PREDICTING imminent
financial collapse (as a result
of the spiritual revolution which is
also sweeping the globe), Farm folk
also make evangelical plans. Ste-
phen is to be sent on a world wide
tour when he gets out of prison, to
Europe if not to Australia as well.
There are plans to send food to
the starving Sahel in someone's
retired DC-7, currently in the Re-

men that they turn macho," said
one Farm woman. _"It's good to go
out and do what men are doing,
but a lady can't forget she's a
woman. Maybe they're confused
about their femnity," she suggest-
ed.
"I don't think a lot of these wo-
men have any idea what a crea-
tive thing giving birth is," added
another woman, "especially if all
they've had are abortions."
All the Farm women have had,
by comparison, is babies - two
hundred of them delivered by na-
tural methods in the last three
years.
Farm women won't abort their
babies because they feel the life
glowing in their bellies.

Farm folk won't eat meat be-
cause they're responsible citizens
of the world who refuse to rip off
the protein chain.
And Farm folk sturdily bottle up
all negativism, whether satire,
cynicism or despair, because such
behavior only amplifies the bad vi-
brations.
"One of these years, about fifty
from now," observed a Farm wo-
man, "all the original people are
going to be stepping off together."
"That will be very sad," I said.
"It will be very beautiful," she
replied.
David Stoll now writes for the Ann
Arbor Sun.

Elizabeth

Cotten: A

rediscovered

master devoted to

the rural

blues

By JOAN BORUS
TO THOSE WHO have heard of
her, Elizabeth Cotten is the
authoress of the well - known
"Freight Train," a song which
over the years has undergone
countless changes at the hands of
countless artists.
That she is only just becoming
known in her own right is a typi-
cal pattern. She was among those
rediscovered in the early sixties,
when professors, folklorists, and
researchers gained new interest in
the culture of the blues. And like
Mississippi John Hurt and other
"discoveries," she is a master of
the rural blues idiom.
The depth of her devotion to her
music was revealed when I spoke
with her at the Ark yesterday. Her
recollections were a testimony to
hard work and sheer perseverance.
A gentle, fragile - looking wo-
man of 81 years, she nevertheless
-is still going strong. Only when
she suffered an occasional memory
lapse or was plagued with "frogs"
in her throat was I aware of her
age. Throughout our interviews she
clung tenaciously to her guitar.
LIBBA COTTEN was born in 1893,
in Chapel Hill, North Caro-
lina. At an early age. she began
experimenting with her older bro-
ther's banjo. Not knowing how to

thing to play, she went door to
door asking for work. After nine
months of hard domestic labor she
bought her first guitar -- a Stella
demonstration model costing $3.50.
"I thought it had more strings
on it than ever I seen in my life,"
she said. To add to her problems,
she was left-handed. Her younger
brother, who played guitar, wasn't
much help.
"All he said was, 'I can't show
you anything; change the strings
or turn it (the guitar) around."' re-
called Libba.
CHANGING THE STRINGS wasn't
to her liking, so she learned
to play by turning the guitar
around, learning to play songs one
string at a time.
"Oh I worked quite hard with
it," she said, "when you're young
you can think of so many things
to do . .. well I began to learn to
play and that was all I wanted to
know and I was as happy as I could
be."
"Then when I got older, I joined
the church," she continued with
a touch of sarcasm. At the age of
14. the church told Libba that a
person either served God or the
devil, and that the blues or the
"whirly" songs that Libba loved to
nlav were definitely symnathetic
to the devil. So she began plaving
church songs and got married. -ut-

Libba had never seen her, she felt
a strange desire to work for her.
The woman turned out to be Mrs.
Seeger, Pete and Michael Seeger's
stepmother, and sure enough, Lib-
ba ended up working for her as a
maid about two days dater. (Libba,
by the way, is the name given to
her by one of the Seeger children).
Once the Seeger family realized
she could play, they began to re-
cord her, although Libba cannot
remember specific dates. Strange-
ly enough, "Freight Train" was the
first song the Seeger Family heard
her play.
"Freight Train," then, has be-
come an inseparable part of Lib-
ba's identity. Not onlyndid it get
her started recording and travel-
ling, but it has been responsible
for several lawsuits, including one
in England brought against artists
that have claimed the song as
their own.
" FREIGHT TRAIN" was written
by Elizabeth at the age of
nine. The Cotten family lived near
the railroad tracks, which fasci-
nated Elizabeth. One day when the
Cotten children were playing, the
conductor gave them a ride on the
train.
"I thought I was in Heaven
when the train moved . . . I al-
ways loved trains: it's something
in me -- I just love the sound of

dicate years of hard work and
thorough knowledge of the blues.
And yet it is the echo of "Freight
Train" that permeates through all
of it -- bits and pieces of its gui-
tar riffs show up regularly
throughout her performances.
IT IS THERE in spirit as well as
in actuality. Just as "Freight
Train" was written out of Libba's
fantasies, so too are her other
compositions. For instance, she
played for me one composition
called the "Graduation March," a
song which begins in a march tem-
po and ends in a blues style. It
was based on her recollections of
the high school band, with their
fancy costumes and brass instru-
ments.
To listen to her recall the memo-
ries of the band is to hear and see
it with the same rapture of the
child.
Libba spends most of her time
traveling these days - she goes
wherever she's asked, often by her-
self. She also plans to make a new
record in conjunction with Mike
Seeger, centering upon church
songs and her own compositions.
Despite her years. she's still going
strong, desnite occasional "frogs"
in the throat or memory lapses.
She loves to play in college towns
and seems to really enjoy being

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