Thursday

Belize Survivor, part 49

At the end of March in 1975 they closed the shop, packed up their belongings, and Alexis said goodbye to Key West for the second time. It was still cold as the young couple drove through northern Florida and into the heartland of Georgia. By the calendar, spring was just around the corner, yet the landscape stayed locked under gray skies and icy drizzle. Following the map to Tennessee, Alexis and Max were excited about their arrival at The Farm. Friends in Key West had recommended it as a great place to have their baby, and at last Alexis had overcome her fears. From everything they had read, it sounded like a haven where their child would be born in a true ambience of peace and love. The sign on the gate said,

Welcome to The Farm.

"Hello. Can I help you?" said the gatekeeper.

"Yes, I'm Max Lord and this is my wife, Alexis. We read Stephen's book and came here to take advantage of your midwifery service. We called ahead about a month ago. Our baby is due in two weeks."

The young man seemed confused. He asked them to wait there at the gatehouse while he made a phone call. Alexis looked at Max and he shrugged. Through the glass, they could see the man shaking his head and gesturing emphatically as he spoke on the phone. Finally, he hung up and poked his head out again.

"Okay, you're all set," he said, finally. “See that log cabin up there that says Welcome House? Just go on ahead and park there. You can wait inside and someone will be with you shortly."

"Great. Thanks. By the way, buddy, everyone here will enjoy our visit. We brought an ounce of primo Columbian to share. I understand that ganja is your sacrament so we thought we'd make a contribution," said Max, as he stepped on the accelerator. "See you later." The young man's eyes dilated at the comment, but by then they were already through the gate and on their way to log cabin. "Did you see the look on that guy's face?" asked Alexis. "He looked like he was going to drop over. Honestly, the guy looked visibly upset."

Once inside the Welcome House, they waited for what seemed like an eternity for someone who could explain what would happen next. "Hi, are you the couple who came here to have your baby?"

"Yeah, I'm Max and this is Alexis."

"I'm Christopher," he said gruffly, extending his hand. “Come into my office and have a seat.” Then the questioning began. Christopher grilled them, cross-examining them about where they were from, what they did, who they knew, how they had found out about The Farm, and what their intentions were. After ten minutes, Max finally put his foot down. He wanted to maintain a feeling of serenity, but things weren’t making sense.

"Look, man, I don't know what's going on, but it's really very simple. We read Stephen's book and came here to have our baby. Why are we getting the third degree? You seem like a nice enough guy. Why don't you just level with us and tell us what's going on?"

Christopher looked them straight in the eye, leaned across his desk, and took a deep breath.

“Okay, here's the deal. Apparently, you guys mentioned when you came to the gate that you’d brought some weed with you. That's a real touchy subject on The Farm these days, ever since Stephen was arrested on marijuana charges. He just got out of jail, so there's a lot of paranoia. Everybody's afraid of narcotics agents being planted here by the Feds. If we get caught again, they could close down The Farm, and we could all lose everything."

"Oh, that's terrible," Max said. "We had no idea. Listen, man, I swear we are who we say we are. We don't want to cause any problems. We're just grateful for the midwifery service, and thought we could contribute in a way that would be meaningful. Are you saying that nobody smokes around here anymore?"

"Let's put it this way," Christopher said. "We don't talk about it. Now let's see who you're going to stay with."

"Oh, we don't need to bother anybody. Alexis and I bought a big tent before we left Florida and have a stove and propane heater, everything we need. We're self-contained, self sufficient. If you'll just show us where we can park, get water, and have access to a toilet, we'll be all set."

"Oh no, that's not how it's done here,” he said emphatically. “We like our guests to stay with permanent residents so we can all interact. It's part of the rules." Seeing their expression, Christopher forced a sheepish grin. "Oh yeah, we have plenty of rules. Give me a couple minutes and I'll call the Big House. They take care of all the arrangements."

"The Big House?" Alexis repeated.

"Yep,” said Christopher. “Where Stephen lives with his wives."

As he went over to the phone, Alexis looked at Max and mouthed the words silently. "His wives?"

Converted army tents and ramshackle shelters of wood and tin dotted the rounded hills of Stephen Gaskin's property in Tennessee. Approximately seventy-five feet from each individual dwelling stood a metal water tank. Each tank was mounted on a two-foot tall platform and positioned on the edge of a dirt utility road which ultimately connected the widespread residential areas to the communal center, church, motor pool, clinic, and store. An assortment of cranky-looking rusty vehicles were scattered haphazardly; none of them looked serviceable. It appeared to be a strange combination of indigent hippie and poor white trash. The Big House stood alone on a hill.

0 advocates for peace: