Court Tefft

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Court Tefft

Oct. 6th, 1951 - Feb. 7th 2017

I was from N.Y. and my stereotypical image of Ca. which consisted of surfers, Disneyland, hippies and open minded people began to crack when I was hitchhiking alone up north around snow capped Mt. Shasta in the middle of nowhere and nothingness. I was standing on traffic-less freeway entrance ramp, baking in the sun, backpack by my side with no water in my canteen, when I caught a glimpse of an old pickup truck heading my way. Alright I thought, finally I’m going to get out of here. As the pickup truck slowed to a crawl and I reached for my pack, the epithets and empty beer bottles started flying. “Fuck You Hippie”, “Get a haircut Asshole! Away they went leaving me in a cloud of dust and exhaust fumes.
I wasn’t hurt and hurriedly headed for the freeway itself where it was illegal to hitchhike. Luckily I got a ride just as the “good old boys” were coming up the ramp to have another go at me. Eventually I ended up at my friend Rip’s house in Menlo Park.

New Kid in Town – 1973

Rip and I had grown up together in the suburbs of New York and had been roommates at college in Boston. Rip had been renting a room from a friend of his sisters in a nice upper middle class neighborhood off of Santa Cruz Ave. when I showed up.
I’d just been there a few days and was home alone watching Watergate unfold and Nixon unravel on the evening news with Walter Cronkite, when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to a semi-circle of 6 unhappy, pissed off, middle-aged straight people. A spokesperson asked if Rip was around. I said no. The spokesperson introduced himself and explained that the “ladies and gentlemen” with him were concerned citizens He handed me a petition signed by all the neighbors and asked me to give it to Rip.
It seems the neighbors had problems with Rip’s 1959 Chevy pickup truck. Rips_truck.jpgThey didn’t like the paint job. An older truck with a light blue, grey primer paint job and a dark blue front fender parked on the street or even in his driveway, was not acceptable. The spokesperson was upfront and honest, “Frankly we’ve all worked very hard to afford our homes in this neighborhood and that truck is hurting our property values. Rip needs to deal with it. “Okay” I said, I’ll let him know”. Despite her awesome natural beauty and even though I was from New York, Calif. was beginning to strike me as rather bizarre.
The magnitude of the fissure between Rip and his neighbors hadn’t been as terrifying to us as the jolt we had experienced a couple of days earlier. After dining by the pool at the Menlo Circus Club with Rip’s older sister Ann, we were invited back to her home in Menlo Park for a gathering with a smaller group of “reborn” as the evangelicals or fundamentalists were known back in the early 70’s. The guest of honor was Hal Lindsey author of “The Late Great Planet Earth”.
It was a small and serious gathering of successful people. These folks were not rock concert acid drenched hippie types with big smiles who had heard the word and wanted to share it. No, the word these folks heard and the song they sang was that of a monotonous dirge at a military funeral. Their message was as dark as Edgar Alan Poe, and if one were to ingest it and become infected it was probably as lethal as the bubonic plaque itself.
Hal Lindsey confirmed my intuitive sense that planet earth was a pretty primitive place when he lovingly explained in a hateful passive aggressive way the hows and whys of the end times. The message was clear…get ready; “the stars were aligned.” This was not the dawning of “The Age of Aquarius.” Jesus was armed and dangerous and coming to take us dead or alive.
I asked Hal what would happen to all the uneducated Chinese peasants with love in their hearts who had never heard of Jesus. His response was grim. “They will be given the opportunity to accept Jesus or perish” The choice was as simple as Hal, Jesus and Heaven or burn in Hell. You were either on the bus or off it. Rip and I deiced it was time to get off “their bus” and head for the hills.


The Plan

I would go to Santa Cruz and stay with a friend of ours Babette. Babs was great. We had grown up together. Her Mom lived in Greenwich Village. We used to go the village “cop pot” and watch the hippies. The first time Rip got stoned he became disorientated and got caught in a subway door. As the train left the platform he ran with the train, one leg on board, one leg on the platform. Luckily Babs noticed, pried open the door and Rip hopped on board before the platform ended and the wall began.
We were 2nd wave baby boomers born in the early 50’s to young for the civil rights movement but deeply impacted by the War in Vietnam. Hell No we didn’t go!
Anyway, while I was sunning myself in Santa Cruz enjoying Mexican food for the first time and hanging out at the Catalyst and Cooper House, Rip was busily making the rounds of the communes in the hills above Palo Alto. He went to Star Hill, The Land, and Black Mt. hoping to find a place to pitch a tent, rent a cabin or whatever.
At the time Rip was going to Canada College and working with John Jevons (the bioneer) at Common Ground (Ecology Action) in Palo Alto. John was working on his first book, How to Grow more Vegetables, than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine, which Rip was helping to illustrate.
Black Mt. it turned out needed help with their community garden. At the time Bio-dynamic French Intensive Organic Vegetable Gardening, raised beds, companion planting, ‘Alan Chadwick, Rudolf Steiner and Finhorn gardening techniques were not at all mainstream approaches. Rip offered Black Mt. our metaphysical gardening services in exchange for a place to pitch a tent on a month long trial basis.


Rip and Court in the Black Mountain garden.

Digging In:

Rip and I arrived on Black Mt. on a cold damp foggy night sometime in May 1973. Black Mt. was not an open land commune like “The Land” where people in the early days could just show up and pitch a tent; it was a bit more structured in the sense that we had to pay rent. It was located on the corner of Page Mill Rd. and Skyline Blvd on 23 acres formerly known as Pinkeys Perfect Picnic Park. We had no electricity but we did have a good water system.
Just getting to Black Mt. from Santa Cruz was an adventure. Driving up Highway 9 thru the redwoods in thick fog on a dark night guided only by the center line and yellow reflectors in an old Chevy van driven by Barbettes boyfriend Alex, and full of all our worldly possessions, took forever.
Our possessions consisted of a couple of backpacks, a small two man tent, some sleeping bags, canteens, cooking gear, a Coleman stove, flashlights, lanterns, some clothing some cash, some hash and a portable radio.
Eventually we came to rest in a big open field at the end of a rutted dirt road. It was to late, and to dark to set up camp so we just stumbled out of the van with our sleeping bags and crashed.
The next morning I woke up in a big field surrounded by tall pine trees dripping with moisture from the fog that was beginning to recede. The air was damp and clean. The place smelled like a mix between an alfalfa field and a pine forest mixed with wood smoke from one of the two cabins nearby. The sounds of silence were interrupted only occasionally by some blue jays.
In time a woman with a big smile (Barbara Martel) came out of one of the cabins with her 4 year old son Spencer, said hi to Rip, introduced herself and invited us in for some Folgers instant coffee.
Later that morning we pitched our tent next to Barbara and Spencer’s cabin on what was known as “The South End.” We dug a hole in the ground placed our food in it, to keep it cool, and covered it with a small piece of plywood. We dug a fire pit, found some firewood, and some rounds that were good for sitting on, We were all set. Rip and I lived here for the next several months. A week or so later another friend, Brad Hockmeyer showed up and stayed for a while.
Babs and Brad at the tent site: Black Mt. summer of 1973

Getting to Know You:

I was doing yoga on a mat by my tent when Poncho pulled up in his smoky old loud beater of a car which he parked right next to my head. He left the car running, got out and went to Barbara’s cabin without even acknowledging me. I moved my mat and resumed my yoga but after about 7 minutes I turned off his car. Ten minutes later he came out and yelled at me “Hey man…whatcha do that for… I got a dead battery…it needs to keep running” “You parked it right next to my head while I was doing yoga, asshole.” “You didn’t have to do that,” I said
Poncho “It better start man... that’s all I can say…it better start.” It did and away he went.
Having overheard our loud conversation Barb came out and said “That’s Poncho…he was one of the Merry Pranksters but they threw him off the bus for being an asshole”. Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test explained Poncho this way “One kid, known as Poncho Pillow, was a ball breaker freak. He had to break your balls by coming on obnoxious in any way he could drum up, after which you were suppose to reject him, after which he could feel hurt and blame you for…all. That was his movie.”
Home Births were a big deal in those days. a community event where people gathered round, chanted, socialized, offered blessings, support, snapped photographs, and took turns watching the birth.
I remember it was a warm summer night and Patty was about to give birth to Felix. The path to Patty’s was off the main house road across from the blue dome where Vicki lived with her two children Jennifer and Dido. Vicki is Mary Balin of Jefferson Airplanes ex-wife. Marty is Jennifer’s father. I don’t know who Dido’s Dad was.
I don’t remember who I was with but on our way to the birth we couldn’t help but notice a Highway Patrol car or maybe two, with police radio’s blaring in the parking lot by the Main House. The air was thick with tension and fear. Someone told us that Dido had been kidnapped by his estranged father and the cops were checking the place out but they were okay. Never a big fan of the police, I headed down the path to Patty’s walking past the main house shitter, through the oak forest and into a calm and peaceful clearing where her solitary cabin sat on a flat.
At Patty’s a group of 10 or maybe 15 people had gathered to participate energetically in the miracle of birth. The front door of her cabin was open and a large window had been taken out so people could get a better view of the kerosene lamp candle lit birth. We had no electricity.
All went well and a couple of day’s later people gathered again to cook and eat the placenta. I went to town.
Later on the night of Felix's birth the Highway Patrol laid out a spiked strip which flattened Dido’s Dads tires and he was arrested. Not long after that Vicki moved away and Chris Story and I moved into the Blue Dome.
When I moved to Black Mt. it was in transition, not an uncommon community phenomenon. Medicine Storey had a house but was rarely around. Hale was building his house on weekends. Mary split her time between Black Mt. and Half Moon Bay. Chuck, Melody, Spare, Earl, and Barb and Spencer were around a lot. Juan and Audrey were busy with school. People were always coming and going. A core group would form for a while, make it happen and then dissolve.
Not long after we’d pitched our tents another friend from back east (Chris Story) showed up in his blue VW bus and decided to stay. To us ‘Black Mt. was a rare gem in need of polishing and that’s what we set out to do.