Literary Arts

This is a piece I wrote about times in the 70's. Seems like ancient history and fond memories now.

Big Ted Farm

Spring 1970, age 22, I started a commune, which meant… I was the guy who called the realtor. We rented a tiny farm house with a caved-in roof. There was pile of beer cans outside the back door the size of a car. The idea came from Bob, who’d showed up to live with us at Greg’s house three months before. He was an artist and drew up fantasy plans for a community. He hauled home a three foot section of railroad track to use as an anvil to start his jewelry career and the idea of community percolated for months to the ring of his hammering copper, then silver wire.

Two days after my fateful phone call, we moved into the corn fields for 50 bucks a month rent. We were all radical vegetarians. We named the place “Big Ted Farm”, after a song by The Incredible String Band, a song for a pig sent off to slaughter—a lament, “Big Ted is dead and gone.” We painted his name on the mailbox.

There were eleven outbuildings, and a huge barn on that farm. We cleaned up and fanned out to make living spaces and studios. Saber-saws made windows for the summer winds. Huge spiders, flies, tiny beetles cohabited— Ahimsa, do no harm… we didn’t kill them.

Visitors slept in the barn. To join, you needed to carve your own wooden bowl and learn to cook. Most moved on, after all we didn’t know if you could keep living, eating vegetables, rice, sweet potatoes.

Corn fields stretched to the horizon. Thunder storms shot huge bolts to the ground. John looked at me in the pelting rain and said, “We might die out here.”

“Yup.”

I meditated Zen hours per day. I weighed 110 pounds at my draft physical, way too skinny, but they changed my height to cover it. I got out for Asthma anyway. My friends cut themselves, inflicted terrible burns, locked themselves in chains, to get away from the war— acted demented, declared insane. Local boys roared by to see the girls gardening without their shirts, yelled misogyny out the windows.

The hardware store owner said, “I reckon most you boys been in here by now, but I ain’t seen no one who looks like Big Ted.”

We said, “Big Ted is a Pig.”

“A Pig?” He was confused. Pig was the going word for Cops, but animal or police, it made no sense. We left.

Right then we knew why all the murderous conversations at the local bar in town came to nothing. We’d heard about them: “Let’s go beat the shit out of those hippies up the road.” A great idea! But, then someone said, “What about Big Ted?”

“Oh, right, forgot about Big Ted.”

Big Ted kept us alive. We never said he was dead.