A Word On The Word Hippie.

One of my favorite film clips from the 1960’s shows a local NorCal logger being asked by a reporter about the influx of back-to-landers into Mendocino County. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially, here’s how this gigantic bearded lumberjack responds when asked how he feels about all the hippies running around: “They’re fine,” he says with a smile. “They’re friendly. And the women work shirtless.”

Politically incorrect? Sure. But his heart’s in the right place.

Swallowtail writes:

“A community is a container which hopefully has room for all.”

With a wonderful turn-of-phrase like this one, is it any wonder LARABEE is one of my favorite blogs?

Swallowtail is referencing my recent post on the Fourth of July Parade in Mendocino, and how amazed and inspired I was by the collision-turned-embrace between the back-to-landers and the residents of the county who preceded them. She correctly points out that the back-to-landers were able to successfully integrate into the community up here without losing their identity, and brought with them their unique perspective on the world - much of which was embraced by the locals.

She’s right, of course. And of course, the back-to-landers couldn’t have made it up here without locals who were willing to teach them some pretty non-hippie skills like hunting and fishing and clearing land to farm. Philosophically speaking, the locals taught the hippies that sometimes you have to bend your ideals a little in favor of practicality, and that hard work and perseverance can be its own reward.

This is not to suggest that the back-to-landers didn’t meet up with their fair share of hostility. Nor do I mean to imply that there’s no lingering conflicts. For instance, I still get really bent out of shape over the fact that some local businesses are in denial about how much of their income comes from the local cannabis industry. Cannabis is another thing the back-to-landers brought with them, and while there are those who frown on it, with the loss of logging and fishing up here, growing is now the main driver of the local economy. In fact, the legalization and taxation of cannabis could single-handedly save the entire state from its current financial crisis. Hippies to the rescue!!

Yet there are those community leaders up here who get heart palpations at the thought of a Marijuana Museum or a Bud And Breakfast opening up in town. And if growers want to sponsor local schools, churches, or charitable organizations, they have to do so in a clandestine manner because they will often be met with resistance otherwise. And if there’s any doubt about the growers feeding tons of money into the local coffers, check out this post at Redheaded Blackbelt.

For the most part, however, people do a good job up here of finding common ground and pulling together. Sticking with the cannabis example - while there are exceptions - most local businesses realize that a large percentage of the money in this area is spent by the local growers. Many will extend credit to farmers, and lots of them help the local growers in times of crisis - like providing generators and fuel during power outages, for example.

What I want to emphasize most is that each of these groups has had a positive and lasting impact on the other - for generations now. That’s why it’s possible today to use the word hippie lovingly, and why the gift shop in Mendocino Village can sell a sign like this one:

Because like that lumberjack, we have learned that having a sense of humor about one another is essential to our survival. If we can’t laugh at our differences, after all, we might start yelling. And frankly, enough of this country is engaged in the yelling business. I’m glad we’re more invested in the laughing up here.


  1. Jen, what a great post. You made me love this place even more! I hope you've had a chance to read Ernie's blog--he writes from the perspective of an oldtimer, reminds me of when I was growing up here.

  2. Hello Kym! Thank you for pointing me in the direction of Ernie's blog. He's fantastic! I'll have to add him to my links. I'm really glad you liked this post. Honestly, I think NorCal could serve as an example to the whole country on how people with radically different ideas can still manage to get along. I feel so lucky to live here, and to be making new friends like you! Have a beautiful day!!

  3. Hi Jen,

    Just wanted to let you know that I was recently introduced to your blog and I love it. From all perspectives, it's awesome, and it's funny, but I am reading through this, while writing an entry about Life in Mendocino... I really appreciated alot of what you had to say about some people's attitudes around here towards the cannabis industry... It's not that I think that they should have to like it, but by now you'd think people would realize... It's a reality...

  4. Hello Ramble On... Rave!
    Thank you for the sweet words! Just visited your blog, too, and it looks like you're doing fantastic yourself! The whole cannabis thing really is funny, isn't it? I mean, I'm right there with you - people don't have to like it to acknowledge that it's the current reality. One of my favorite stories is about the gangster museum they opened in Chicago. The people who opened it met with tons of resistance because locals didn't want to acknowledge the criminal activity element of their history. However, the museum opened anyway, and now is one of the biggest money-makers in the city of Chicago! Funny, right? Thanks again, and keep up the good work!