More Arrests And Bill Wheeler's Offer
Many Morning Star people lived at Don Orr's all winter. But
others moved back to Morning Star right after the first bust. The
men in jail held out for ten days, refusing to be bailed out or
to be released on their own recognizance. But after a ten-day
fast, they accepted O.R.'s The case of the Morning Star Fifteen
was delayed by the judge until mid-October and then dropped in
It was about that time that Zen Jack arrived, a thin,
ascetic-looking man with a wonderful flair for telling funny
stories when he wasn't meditating.
ZEN JACK: "I first heard about Morning Star on Haight
Street from an old friend who was living there. 'It's a beautiful
place - come on up,' he said. So I hitched up, and this guy
picked me up in Sebastopol and said, 'I'll take you up because
it's getting dark.' He drove me just about sunset and said, 'Here
you are,' and pointed to the Lower and Upper Houses and said,
'That's where the people are.' So I got out. It was quiet, wet
and dreary. I walked into the Upper House, and there was this one
dim forty-watt bulb hanging over all this hair and dirt and funky
clothes - a roomful of mostly big hippie men, Haight Street punks
having dinner. I looked for my friend, walking through the room
with my pack on my back, but I couldn't make out any faces. And
people were saying to me, 'Welcome home, brother! Hi! How are
you? Welcome! Are you hungry? You want something to eat?'
"I didn't know anybody and didn't recognize anybody, but
strangers were coming up to me and hugging me, you know. It was a
mind-blower. I was really mind-blown by it. And everybody was
filthy and beautiful and they were eating this horrible food
under this really dreary lightbulb - this bare lightbulb. Then I
said, 'I'm looking for a friend, Kyle Banks.' And they said, 'Oh
yeah, Kyle's here - hey Kyle!' And Kyle came over and said, 'Hey,
you made it!' It was just like a welcome home party. Everybody
just said, 'You're welcome!' None of this 'Who are you?' You
walked into the place, and immediately they said 'Welcome
Fruits 'n Nuts Nancy made a connection for a number of exotic
psychedelics including MDA. MDA was not a new compound, but it
was only recently that its psychotropic aspects had begun to be
appreciated. Psychiatrists found it very helpful in getting
patients to loosen up and express their feelings. Tomás was one
of the first people at the ranch to try MDA. It was obvious to
anyone who saw him that he was having a wonderful time, although
he was such a beautiful person that it was like giving Tomás a 'Tomás' pill. One day both Lou and Ramón tried it, and Ramón
was totally sold. He thought that at last the pill had arrived
which you could drop into your grandma's teacup, safe in the
knowledge that she would thank you for it with tears in her eyes.
It seemed the safest and most unbummable trip in the world. Later
reports proved this not to be so.
But that Thanksgiving it released all the love that had not
been finding expression. Twenty or thirty people took it and
stood for hours with their arms around each other. It was the
ultimate heart experience. Some ex-speedfreaks claimed it was
just speed, and indeed it was chemically derived from the
amphetamine molecule, although the speed aspect was buffered
somehow. That was MDA November, and the Work Party photo taken by
the Sheriff's Department came from that time.
LOU: "On the afternoon of the group photograph, we had
all taken MDA, some that same day, some a few days before. It was
a true love-in, no bullshit. In the middle of everything, an
Italian TV company showed up. Their minds were absolutely caved
in by the goings-on. Then the police arrived, although by that
time most of the trippers had reentered normal reality. We were
all sitting around in a group on the hill as they passed by on
their way to the orchard to search for structures and turds. So
we asked the building inspector to take a group shot."
There was a lull in county pressure at this time. Ramón moved
into Otto's wooden tipi behind the barn which was being used for
morning chanting sessions. Gina had left the ranch again and he,
along with most of the other men, was in love with Cindy. Cindy
would get up very early and walk down to Orr's kitchen and cook a
huge pot of mush. Ramón would follow her down in his Chevy
truck, load the mush and drive it back to the ranch. It would be
served by the well to whomever wanted breakfast.
There were group meditations and hatha yoga sessions. A number
of young men would always be chanting 'Hare Krishna' or 'Oming.'
Ramón organized morning chanting in the barn accompanied by
readings from Sri Aurobindo or The Warriors Of The Rainbow which
dealt with American Indian prophesies concerning the star that
would rise in the east and the chief who would come bringing with
him the Herb of Understanding. But with Christmas looming, one
day Ramón became very angry and left for the city.
RAMON: "I had begun dreaming almost nightly in a romantic
way about Cindy, and whenever that happened to me, I was a goner.
I'd wake up early and go off to find her and tell her how much I
loved her. I guess she thought I was pretty strange. This went on
for several weeks. Before that started, I had gradually involved
myself in my Sun Yoga once more and was wearing a golden eagle
feather in my hair. Then one day I put up some money to score a
pound of good weed. I decided that this time it wouldn't be
consumed in the normal haphazard fashion. Instead, I would
reserve it for the morning chanting sessions. I was tired of the
unceremonial and immediate consumption of dope on the place and
was determined to play Medicine Man. Well, I returned from
somewhere a day later and was told, 'Hey, your pound of weed was
fantastic!' 'Whaaat?' I yelled. It had arrived while I was gone
and, in the usual fashion, was distributed and smoked up. Well, I
hit the roof. It amazed everyone how strongly I felt about it.
But the combination of my unrequited love and the frustration of
my plans just proved too much. I gave my golden eagle feather to
Crazy Allen and sang him my Eagle Chant, subtly implying he was
to take over my role, and left for the city for the winter.
"I lived in a warehouse in the Oakland Naval Supply Depot
which was rented by my friend Don Buchla, a designer-manufacturer
of electronic synthesizers. He gave me a job wiring circuit
boards, and in my off-hours I played in his electronic music
studio, trying to duplicate the sound of my nervous system on the
equipment. One night I stood up from the control board and
implored God to take away any occult or spiritual power I had
accumulated. I didn't want to play medicine man any more. I just
wanted things to be more or less normal. Then I started spending
a lot of time down the peninsula with a new womanfriend.
FRIAR TUCK: "I was tripping through the woods at Morning
Star late one night and I saw these things shining on the ground.
I couldn't figure out what they were, so I checked them out the
next morning. And here were these Amanita Muscaria mushrooms, and
they were huge, man, the size of a fucking pancake. So I ran down
to Lou's place and said, 'Lou, listen, you got a minute? C'mon
with me a second.' So we walked up there, and there were fifty or
sixty of them growing under the pine trees. When Lou saw them he
just said, 'Aiiiii!' And he got down on his hands and knees and
started eating them. "This is the way it's done," he
said. "Eat them like a cow." Everybody did and - whew!
- we got very high. It came on a lot like acid but without the
COYOTE: "I was walking towards the orchard one night down
where my treehouse was, and I heard these noises behind me. They
sounded like footsteps, so I started walking a little faster and
faster, and then I'd stop and they'd stop, I'd take one step and
they'd take two. I said 'Wow! Far out!' Whhht! I was gone, man,
like a bolt of scarlet lightning. But the footsteps were right
behind me, so I peeled off around the corner, leaped the fence
and climbed into my treehouse. I leaped and grabbed the bottom of
the doorway and swung myself up - that's what I did. Then all of
a sudden there was this 'ch-ch-ch,' footsteps, and I said, 'Guh... there it is again!'
Womp! I threw something over the top
of the door and then peered out this little crack. Something was
walking around the tree, but I couldn't see what it was. Then all
of a sudden I heard the boards creakin', the boards that were
nailed to the tree as a ladder, like they had a heavy weight on 'em. They started
creakin' and I just jumped into my bed and
pulled the blankets over my head. I heard the door open, and all
of a sudden this feelin' just washed over me. I was layin' there,
you know how when you were a kid and you got scared you pulled
the blankets over your head and it was alright. Well, I hid out
under my blankets, and pretty soon my chest got this cold
feeling, and then my whole body started getting ice-cold and the
air around me was electric. I couldn't believe how electric it
was, but I don't know to this day what it was. It wasn't no bush-stomper neither!"
NEAR: "On Christmas Eve, everyone gathered in Don and
Sandy's house. We sat around the woodstove, feeling good just to
be together. Don and Sandy alternated reading the bible to the
gathering. Lou left about eight o'clock to join his wife Dolly
and their kids in Berkeley. Then Don's face lit up.
"'Hey, I have a great idea!' he said. 'Let's go to
Everyone thought it would be a good thing to do, so Ross was
sent out to score rides for everyone to Occidental while Sandy
rummaged through her clothes and found some rags for kerchiefs
for the ladies' heads. About fifteen finally arrived at the
church. They were very early and had to wait for the priest to
arrive and unlock the door. When he showed up, they streamed in
and took seats in several pews. Other sincere folks began
arriving, and soon it was uncomfortably obvious that the seats
next to the freaks were remaining empty. Some latecomers even
chose to stand rather then sit next to them. After the service,
some of the Morning Star folk decided to walk back under the full
"Christmas Day began with the police waking everyone up
before sunrise, taking their names, addresses, birthplaces and
soon. They walked in on Tomás, Judy and Doug who were joyously
balling, but whose pace suddenly slowed to tantric at the sight
of the uniforms and badges. Everyone poured love on the cops, and
the harassment transformed into good vibes. They finally left
without busting anyone.
"By then the sun was shining brightly, and people made
their way to a bulghur wheat breakfast in the Upper House. A
Christmas tree was standing in the living room. Small presents,
ranging from roach clips to used socks, had been placed under the
tree for everyone. Kyle and Cindy had made wreaths and they
crowned each person as he arrived.
"After breakfast, everyone moved out to the meadow to
dance, make music, or just lie on their backs in ecstasy. Fruits
'n Nuts Nancy, who had migrated to a nearby town, arrived with a
large tray of cupcakes and some joints. Both were instantly
consumed. There was no feast that day. Brown rice and pinto beans
were the Christmas fare. No one really minded - they had had
turkey and ham Christmas dinners many times in their parents'
homes. At Morning Star they fed on the love of the tribal family.
It was always warm at Morning Star, even when your sleeping bag
FRIAR TUCK: "How about the Phantom Fucker? Has anyone
talked about the Phantom Fucker? On at least one occasion, almost
everyone I knew at Morning Star was visited in the middle of the
night by the Phantom Fucker. Whether it was the same Phantom
Fucker or not I don't know, but I doubt it. But say you were
extra lonely one night and wished someone really near and dear
was with you. Well, more likely than not, during the night the
Phantom Fucker would make it into your bed and make you! You'd
never know who it was that was arousing you in a positive manner,
nor did you know who it was when they left. I think just about
everybody I knew was the Phantom Fucker or the Phantom Fuckee at
one time or other. I know that Near was for awhile, and I imagine
Lou was the Phantom Fucker more than anybody else I know. No, I
really think so! He won't admit it, and says that during the
Morning Star years he got less pussy than at any other time in
his entire life, but I think he's a damfool liar."
Throughout that winter, Lou continued to be held responsible
for everything that went on at Morning Star. Ultimately he was
fined $500 thirty-seven times for contempt of court each time
someone was found living on the ranch, the grand total reaching
$13,500. If the cost of the improvements he made by order of the
county were added to the fines, the abortive bath house, the
leach lines to the toilets nobody used as well as the value of
the Upper and Lower houses (both of which were finally bulldozed
at his expense), Lou was in the hole about $100,000.
LOU: "Injunctive procedure, as John L. Lewis found out as
well as many others under the Taft-Hartley Law, renders you
powerless once you have come under it. The judge tells you what
you will do and then you do it, or otherwise you are already
guilty. He's both the judge and the jury. He sets the law and
enforces it. Very bad. Injunctive procedure is worse than any
kind of criminal procedure because you don't have any - well,
I've never been on trial, don't you understand? Never once. There
has never been a trial. These are all orders to show cause, to
demonstrate why I should not be found guilty, as if you can prove
a negative. There is no way I could show why I should not. I was
already guilty if I had failed to do what the court thought I
should have done, and there was no crime. It was a real move
against a life style."
In late February, little Pam Reed was arrested for assault on
Deputy 'Rocky' Rockson at Morning Star.
LOU: "Larry Reed had been found guilty of living at
Morning Star Ranch. As a result, he had been put on probation and
told to leave the ranch. However he had returned to live with his
wife Pam and Adam Siddartha. Three days earlier he had appeared
on a TV show and had admitted that he lived at Morning Star, a
clear violation of his probation. The sheriff's department had
seen the show, so they came out specifically to get Larry. Deputy Rockson, who covered this beat, or 'Rocky' as he was called, and
another cop arrived early in the morning.
"The first thing I knew about the bust was that Pam, who
was often moved by the dramatic, was screaming. And Pam could
scream like I've never heard another creature scream. It was
unbelievable. There have been good screamers here, but let's say
her screams were resonant and had a certain vocal opulence. By
the time I got there, the cops were hauling both of them off to
jail. Rocky claimed that Pam had kicked him in the nuts. She was
less than five feet tall and seven months pregnant at the time.
Anyway, they took the whole family off and little Adam Siddartha
went to Juvenile Hall. That was a real bummer, that one, but it
gave us all a visit to Juvenile Hall, which was really terrible.
I think the thing that's bad about it is that there are so many
people there who are absolutely certain they know what is in the
best interests of the children. Oh ho ho, mother! When you know
what's in the best interests of somebody else, it's
Pam opted for a jury trial which was scheduled for April and
returned to the ranch. The police continued to make periodic
checks, increasing their surveillance to almost daily when the
warmer weather began. As the morning star rose in the sky, a cop
car would pull in by Lou's studio and park. Two deputies would
make a circuit of the property, aiming their flashlights in
sleepers' faces and demanding their names. The injunction would
be read aloud while the person stood yawning and rubbing the
sleep out of their eyes. If it was the first time, a warning was
issued. If a week or two went by before the cops found the same
person, they tended just to warn them again. But if they found
him within the next few days, he could be sure of being arrested.
Obviously only hardy souls could survive, the 'brush rabbits' as
Lou named them. At the first sign of the deputies' car, they
hightailed it for the bushes and tall grass.
ZEN JACK: "The cops were welcome, even though they chased
us. Everybody accepted the game. The cops would chase you and
you'd run. Gina and I went running one morning in the misty fog
through the orchard with Katy the Dog. We were naked and it was
really beautiful, running naked, rotten apples squishing under
our feet, the cop right behind us, sliding and slipping on
apples. 'Here he comes! Here he comes!' He wouldn't shoot at us
or anything, but he was running as quietly as possible, hoping
we'd think he wasn't there any more and stop. That's when they'd
tackle you. There was this girl who was running around a bush.
One cop ran around one side and another around the other.
"'Oh! You've caught me!' she said.
"'What's your name?' they asked.
"Come on, what's your real name?' they asked.
"She stamped her foot and said, 'That's it!'
"They laughed and said, 'Okay, Mary Lady, if you're here
tomorrow, we'll take you to jail.' The cops saw it all as a game
too. They'd laugh and be good-humored about it."
Lou and Near had started living together in an on-and-off way.
They certainly made a striking couple; Near, young and very
beautiful with a marvelous head of curls, intelligent but right
out of Zap Comics, and Lou in full beard and hair, the
beleaguered and articulate prophet of the New Age. Their
relationship seemed cosmically destined, although Near liked to
test its elasticity with handsome newcomers, something which put
Lou through the emotional wringer on occasion. Each had much to
offer the other. In the hard months that followed, they set a
strong example for the rest of the ranch inhabitants.
RAMON: "In early March, Pam, Gina and Cindy visited me at
my womanfriend's house in Redwood City. They asked me to come up
and visit Morning Star, implying in a somewhat flattering way
that the place needed my energies. I had been wanting to visit,
and started spending weekends there. In April I moved back. I
parked my old yellow panel truck on the orchard road as a
roadblock in an attempt to keep the orchard free of vehicles. One
tire had a slow leak and went flat, so I flattened its opposite
to keep it level. Lou referred to it as 'Ramón's cave.' So I was
back on the land I loved so much."
GWEN: "One day in early March, Bill and I were on our way
home from shopping when Lou's car, loaded with people, pulled in
front of us. We followed them, everybody honking and waving,
until they stopped at a house on Coleman Valley Road. Lou came up
and invited us to join them in the celebration of Jade's
birthday. That evening we learned that the county courts had
decreed that all Morning Star residents had to leave their homes
or be arrested. The houses were to be destroyed and Lou was to be
fined for every person living there. The powers of the government
stood in opposition to the existence of Morning Star and were
prepared to let neither justice nor humanity stand in the way of
"Because the Morning Star family loved their home, quite
a few were prepared to stay and be arrested, if necessary.
However there were some who could not afford to take the risk
because of previous warrants, either for traffic tickets, dope
charges or draft evasion. Families feared having their peaceful
life interrupted by scenes of arrests, and having their children
placed in foster homes. Much happiness from personal and
spiritual growth was experienced at the ranch but, in the face of
losing their homes, the residents felt confused and depressed.
When Bill and I left that night, we invited Lou and his family to
dinner the following week."
Somewhere during that evening's festivities, Near asked Bill
the question that was on all Morning Star residents' minds.
"Why don't you open up your land, Bill?" she asked,
giving him a sexy Persian kitten look.
He seemed embarrassed by her question. It would be like giving
away his beloved land. But something else took over, as if a
higher consciousness spoke to him. Perhaps the land itself was
calling the people to its groves and meadows.
"I never closed it," Bill responded with a glint of
mischief in his eyes.
BILL: "I wondered whether in the American land-rights
system there could be a radical experiment in which a substantial
number of people lived together on a piece of land and did not
destroy it. Open Land felt like the answer. And the land did
call, opening itself."
Bill's response to Near set all the hearts in the room beating
wildly. Was this young Connecticut Yankee really throwing in his
lot with Morning Star? Suddenly all sorts of new possibilities
seemed to take shape, the most important being the chance to try
out Morning Star's thesis on a piece of land ten times larger and
much more isolated from its neighbors. It would provide a refuge
form police harassment.
BILL: "I was deeply sensitive to the fact that I had more
land than I needed. I began to feel it was my duty to share it.
The Morning Star family were being hassled and arrested daily. It
was a heartbreaking drama. They desperately needed a home. It was
no accident that the police in the sweeps of Morning Star
arrested the most loving and responsible, leaving the winos,
speed freaks and bikers to tear the fragile fabric and drive the
good people away. The ranch's bad reputation and impossible
living conditions stemmed from this. In a speech at that time,
California governor Ronald Reagan said, 'Let there be no more
Morning Stars.' The irony was that in attempting to close down
Morning Star, they opened Sheep Ridge."
On the evening of the first day of mass arrests at Morning
Star, Lou and his friends came to dinner at Bill and Gwen's.
Mostly women, children and those who had hidden to avoid arrest
attended, the majority of the men in jail. Spirits were somber
but mellow, reflecting the pain of the blow to the community.
Gwen had cooked when she thought was a large dinner, but when one
Morning Star brother saw the meal, he offered to help her cook up
all the rest of the food in the house. And it was all eaten.
Conversation was sparse. Lou lay on the floor, commenting on the
pleasantness of the barnlike studio with its handhewn beams and
large windows facing north. Near stood on her head in the corner.
GWEN: "A few days later, Bill told me with his
expression that he had opened the Ridge to anyone who needed a
home. I immediately saw the significance of his decision, which
was his alone, and rightfully so because it was his land to do
with as he pleased. But my initial reaction was one of fear. I
felt a need to hold on tight as if we were about to start
spinning. Then I began to feel excited, for I knew that a seed
had just sprouted."
BILL: "What I would like to say essentially about opening
the Ridge is that it was a real leap of faith, a real leap into
the darkness, or the light - or whatever you want to call it. At
it was an incredible, very revolutionary thing. One of the
reasons why I opened the Ridge was because I wanted a place in
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