Gift of the Season Day 6 — Price Markdown

Aquar Rev faded coverThey were the hippies, the drop-outs, the radicals. They came from New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and bought cheap Arkansas land where they could build lives with meaning. Often the topic of heated rhetoric and armchair analysis, those who went ‘back to the land’ rarely speak in their own voice. Now documented in these personal interviews, their stories reveal the guts, glory, and grief of the 1960s social revolution.

Previously listed at $15.95, now for a limited time the paperback is available for $11.95. A lasting gift! Amazon buy link

“Denele Campbell’s informative ‘Aquarian Revolution: Back to the Land’ fills a much-needed niche in the history of the Counter-Culture movement. Unlike in more crowded Europe, America’s rural expanse offered an escape, a new beginning in the 1960s, from a social cancer spreading through the dominant culture. The dream of finding land to till and an alternative life style had been an American dream since its founding. America’s cities, mired in racism, sexism, poverty, and riots, seemed doomed. The ‘baby boomers’ sought escape by going to the land, many for the first time. Denele Campbell has carefully chronicled the personal stories of thirty-two pioneers who opted to create their utopian vision in the Ozarks. As such, their quest is at times fascinating, amusing, and often painful. Yet, it is a good read for those who lived through this era as well as today’s young.” —-T. Zane Reeves, Regents’ Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico and author of Shoes along the Danube.

Bunyard Road and the Personal Adventures of Denny Luke

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Denny Luke, far right, next to Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe on one of his whistlestop tours of the state. 2006. On left, Ron Johns and in center, Dan Kerlin. At Dan’s store in Winslow.

1972.  A Yankee moves to the Ozarks and lives to tell his tales. Now captured in a tidy little book along with plenty of photographs, these stories track Denny Luke’s life experiences from childhood in Ohio to the backwoods hills of Arkansas.

This man is an adventurer. During his years in the Navy, he built hot rods with money he made with shipboard loansharking. He returned to his native Ohio where he soon tired of the mechanic’s life. Computers had just started to break the surface in 1966, the perfect attraction to a young man with a sharp mind and plenty of ambition.

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Denny with his mom in his Corvette. This photo not included in the book.

Money rolled in as he built databases, a brand new idea in the mid-Sixties. A ‘63 Corvette and soon after a new Triumph dirt bike put him in the fast lane for weekend jaunts to the Playboy Club in Chicago and Enduro racing in Wisconsin’s back country.

Then, like so many of his generation, he stepped out of the fast lane and moved to a primitive life in the country. Among his most important first acquaintances was Ray Brown.

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Ray Brown teaching hog killin’ to Denny. This photo not in the book.

“We rented a little cabin near Devil’s Den from Ray Brown. He was a genuine hillbilly. His family lived in a little old log cabin. He raised a few cows, cut posts, whatever he could do to make a living. He was smart, smartest man I ever knew, had lots of common sense. His cabin had a big old fireplace that barely kept the place warm. He sat in this big chair over in one corner, and he could reach around behind his chair and grab a big handful of snow—that much would blow in through the cracks.”

Denny and his buddy Butch scouted cheap land all over Northwest Arkansas and ended up with an old log cabin on Bunyard Road. They also learned to be stone masons in order to earn their way.

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Denny rustling up some grub at the Bunyard cabin December 1974. This amazing stove had a gas burning side and a wood burning side. Hauled from Wisconsin to the Ozarks.

“There are two or three families out on Bunyard that are cliquish. I wasn’t accepted out there. I was from the north, and I didn’t go to church. The first thing they wanted me to do was go to church. Plus I wasn’t born there. And I owned the old Omie Wood home place and they might have resented that some.”

An avid photographer and storyteller, Denny shares the adventures of his life with Author Denele Campbell as he recalls the outrageous backwoods tales and colorful characters who populate this neck of the woods.

Join us Sunday September 13 in the Connie Wright Gallery of Ozark Folkways at Winslow for live music, refreshments, Author Denele Campbell’s comments on this collaboration, and Denny’s readings from the book. Autographed copies will be available for sale.

Can’t make the event? The book is available at Amazon.com or at your favorite bookstore.

A Moveable Feast

dickson copyDickson Street, 1970. Old rock buildings with narrow profiles and high pressed-tin ceilings. An abandoned railroad depot that trembled when freight trains thundered past. A declining backwash between campus and the downtown square of a town still embracing its provincialism.

The university drew them, intense intellectuals seeking knowledge, misfits seeking community, young men determined not to die in Asian jungles. In between time in class and demonstrating against war, they settled into the street’s cheap real estate to paint murals and make free love. Abandoned warehouses and decrepit brick structures a hundred years old became head shops, bars, and art galleries. Downscale restaurants heaped alfalfa sprouts on whole wheat bread sandwiches—radical. Cooperatives sold tobacco and honey in bulk, locally made tofu—far out.

Sweet smoke hung in the air. Street festivals celebrated music of hope and rebellion. People wore crazy hats and stood on the corners laughing and hugging. Dickson Street crackled with excitement.

All this made it a place people wanted to be. Straight people, women wearing hosiery and high heels, men in suits—they loved the experience of freedom, even if they themselves couldn’t be free. They dared to step out of their establishment lives and feel the beat, smell the smoke they didn’t inhale. Well, maybe they inhaled—who would know? On the street, they became part of a separate world, joined a conspiracy in which all participants shared the secrets.

Not everyone loved the street where long-hairs had carved out a world of their own. What on earth went on down there, they lamented—police, city fathers, wives of husbands who slipped out for a drink at one of the dive bars and ogled the braless young women. Owners of real estate along the street stopped repairing the roof and the plumbing, inflated the prices so that the restaurants couldn’t own it for themselves, so the art galleries couldn’t afford the rent. The hippies needed to go.

By 1990, value created by the alternative culture gave the establishment reason to retake the street. There was money to be made. People wanted to eat there, shop there. The street was cool. Never mind that the coolness had been bestowed by starving artists, by inventive bohemians, by fledgling entrepreneurs selling worn-out blue jeans for respectable profits.

The rich bought the street. They demolished landmark gathering places to put in shops selling diamonds and art from back east. They came dressed in their finery to eat at chain restaurants and watch traveling Broadway shows.

The street is now a shell of its former raunchy self, an extravagant display of fakery in expensive plastic packaging—a back to the land scene where the joyful family piles out of their brand new SUV to view nature, a credit card ad with Beatles music playing in the background. There’s no getting it back. They don’t even understand what’s been lost.

The Difference Between Men and Women

goddessSince 1998, I’ve interviewed over sixty people about their experiences of the 1960s, all them ‘baby boomers’ who shared that particular cultural upheaval. The stories have a lot in common. We wanted to break away from entrenched beliefs and stereotypes to embrace a more tolerant view of the world. We saw a responsibility to work for change. We searched out environments where we had the freedom to reinvent ourselves as citizens of a new age.

But recently I’ve reached a startling realization having to do with a striking difference between the male and female narrative. That is, the men I’ve interviewed rarely if ever mention their sexual activities of those times. Women, on the other hand, describe sexual activity as a key point in their lives.

At first I thought this had to do with the natural reticence of men to discuss emotional and/or personal experiences, and their tendency to focus more on activities and interactions having to do with work and other external matters. But it occurs to me now that the difference more likely is a result of the fact that for men, not much of the tradition of male sex lives changed with the ‘60s. (Unless they were gay, of course.)

Not so for women! The Sixties and the Seventies were times of major change in women’s sex lives, and from there, a change in just about everything else as well. Birth control pills meant that for the first time, women could enjoy sex without the overwhelming risk of pregnancy. On the heels of widely-available birth control, the U S Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade meant that even if raped or confronted with the failure of birth control, a woman could obtain a safe medical abortion.

Suddenly women were masters of their own lives. Without the unnatural expectation to wait until marriage to engage in sexual activity, women could focus on education, political action, and career building. For the first time, women could approach men as an equal in the sexual arena, pick and choose sex partners, and be just as promiscuous as men had always been. Not that all women were. The liberation of women had to do with gaining options.

So of course women who came of age in those years would include stories of how those changes affected them. Raised in the mindset of earlier times, women of the ‘boomer’ generation suddenly could set aside the old threats of illegitimate children and the social stigma that inevitably followed such public evidence of out-of-wedlock sex. A female’s identity no longer centered around her role as wife and mother, but rather what she could offer her community in any of multiple roles.

Maybe women are more likely to discuss private emotional experiences than are men. But I think that women of my generation are rightfully proud to be the ground upon which a revolution took place. From this has flowed a wealth of new ideas in the workplace, changes in the arts including erotic literature in a manner never before imagined, and exciting relationship options inconceivable fifty years ago. I encourage all of us to tell our stories so that our daughters and all women coming after us never lose sight of what we have won.