The following is supplemental material for the 9/12/17 episode of the podcast, wherein Jeremy Henggeler and I discuss Jim Stumm’s “Trip to Vonu-Land” in 1971. Specifically, the following is: 1) a letter from Rayo, wherein he mentions Jim specifically, and 2) comments from Jim regarding the letter. Please enjoy and make sure to download a FREE copy of Vonu, Book 2!
LETTER FROM RAYO (NOVEMBER 1971)
Your info concerning us being around Grants Pass [G.P.] a great deal is out of date. A couple of times since we moved to Siskiyou we lived in the camper in or near G.P. for several weeks at a stretch. But we haven’t done that since last January & don’t intend to again.
During periods when I am processing mail (Orion did it during Aug.), I hike & ride on motorbike to G.P. every week to 10 days. This is a fairly long hike/ride totaling about 3 hours one way. During short days of autumn/winter, I barely have time to go, process mail (send out initial copies to new subs on the spot), do half a dozen shopping errands & get back in daylight. If something delays me & I don’t start back until dark, the return trip takes about twice as long, since I must go much slower for part of the way. I dislike laying over at G.P. since this means packing along sleeping gear (in cold weather). (I have intended to scout & set-up an overnight camp stash near G.P. but haven’t got around to it.)
I now find a visit to G.P. (or any town of that society) to be rather unpleasant – it’s the massive impact of values of that society, I think, values I find distasteful. This represents a change for me from a couple years ago when I rather looked forward to occasional visits.
Orion was recently hassled 3 times during one 3-day stay in/around G.P.
When we do meet people in/near G.P., this tends to misrepresent our lifestyle. Recently, we did visit with someone near G.P. – this was a would-be “immigrant” anxious to meet us; to do this we lived in the camper for several days, parking it on relatively unsecluded private land (with permission of “owner”). After a day, the would-be “immigrant” left as precipitously as he came (cold feet, literally, I think; he was tent camping, apparently for the 1st time in his life). In a subsequent letter he said he was rather disappointed with our lifestyle — it didn’t seem very vonu, especially our dependence on “private” land!!!
Also my visits to G.P. are unscheduled, especially in autumn, winter & spring. I don’t relish riding the motorbike in rain & snow.
So these are all reasons why we do not wish to meet somebody around G.P.
Now that we are at our winter base-camp, we are better able to meet with people. We will meet them at a vehicle squat-spot which is several miles from our base-camp. The squat-spot is roughly 50 miles from G.P. on all-weather roads (gravel part of the way). The squat-spot is accessible for the average auto in all but the worst weather. The visitor must bring his own shelter. Upon arriving he hikes to a particular tree about a half mile away from the squat-spot which we use as a signal flag pole. He puts a combination of flags on the rope & runs them up to announce his presence. About once a day we climb to a peak near our camp from where we can see the flags with a telescope. One of us (or more, but only one at a time) then go on foot to visit him at the squat-spot. We do not have visitors at our base-camp.
If we shd [should] be out of the area for more than a day (unlikely in winter), we leave a message at a guest message drop near the squat-spot.
All factors considered, I think that a visit is worthwhile only for someone who is squating [squatting] in the area for other reasons (such as a prospective immigrant who is scouting the area).
Most vonuists & libertarians, I find, are not nearly as interesting in person during a 1st visit as in letters & articles. This is true of myself, I think. First meetings tend to be consumed talking superficially about a lot of things – there is little depth.
I certainly recommend that possibilities for communication by mail be exhausted before considering a visit, including such things as cipher messages & tape recordings.
COMMENTS FROM JIM STUMM REGARDING RAYO’S LETTER
The “would-be immigrant” Rayo mentions here [in the last letter] was me. I visited him, his freemate, & Orion in Sept. 1971, intending to move to that area. But I found the situation there to be not all that appealing to me, so I returned to NY.
Here’s the paragraph from my Oct. 71 ltr [later] to Rayo in which I mention private land:
“Having seen your lifestyle up close, I now have my doubts as to how invulnerable you really are to State coercion. You generally oppose buying land because this makes the buyer subject to property taxes & various restrictions. Yet, you use private land owned by others. Also, if you make a camper your home, you still need a State driver’s license & vehicle registration, & you have to comply with State regulations concerning RV design. It seems to me that if the State takes the easy course of just shearing the sheep, then you won’t need so much seclusion & abandonment of technology to be reasonably free. On the other hand, if the State really tries to root out every resister, even vonuans likely won’t escape their net. The trouble is, you are not a separate & independent society. You have to import food, fuel, & spare parts from the coercive society & export labor to make a living. And your communications are mainly thru the State mail system. This leaves you highly vulnerable thru your supply lines. Long term storage helps with this problem, but the only real solution is to produce everything that you need. I suppose that you hope to progress in this direction, but I don’t see how you can do much w/o more people, & I don’t see how you can attract more people w/o being able to offer more independence of statist servile society, more than a backwoods-man-type standard of living, & more of a real community of vonuans. Each seems to require the other as a pre-requisite – it’s a dilemma.”
As for my camping expertise, I had done some camping before, in the Airondack Mtns, but not much. My camping gear was inadequate, small pup tent, too thin a sleeping bag. I recall one morning out there sitting in the sun for a while, warming my chilled bones. But that’s all minor stuff. I cd [could] easily have bought better gear if I had decided to stay.
Of greater concern: I had been led to expect (by Orion, not by Rayo) that there was an embryonic vonu community in Siskiyou. I found no such thing. Only 3 people. And one of them, Orion, was a butterfly who cd [could] flit off at any moment, and he did, in fact, leave for the East Coast a couple weeks later.
Rayo is also referring to me when he says in VONU LIFE 5, p. 1 “WARM BODIES: One visitor came expecting to count a large number of them & was disappointed because he couldn’t.” Rayo goes on there to say that most contributors to VL are scattered over a wide area & are in contact with each other only by mail.
My judgement then was that wilderness vonu was too rough a lifestyle to ever attract many people to it. So the prospects of a vonu community developing were slim. Time has proved that prediction correct. Since my main reason for moving to Oregon was to live in physical contact (rather than mail-contact) with like-thinking people, when I found that wdnt [wouldn’t] be possible, there was no good reason for me to stay there. Western NY, on the other hand, at least was familiar turf, where I knew my way around, & had relatives & other useful contacts. Reconsidering now, returning east still seems to have been a correct decision, especially considering that wilderness vonu never went anywhere. My only doubt is, I wonder if anything wd [would] have changed if I had stayed? Perhaps Orion wd [would] not have left. Perhaps other people wd [would] have joined us after all. But then, if I had stayed in the West, I wdn’t [wouldn’t] have taken part in founding North Buffalo Food Co-op, & I wd [would] have missed the rewarding experience I call my “summer at Fred’s farm”, & half a dozen fine people I hung out with for a while.
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