In my first essay, Home, I explain the mentality of the Base a bit. I said that it’s not just the plot of land where I grew up, not just a plot of land full of deer and june bugs, of hot summers and forts in the junipers. To me, it’s more of a state of mind, one that encompasses a passion for the Wild, for the flora and the fauna, for the dream of settling down with some chickens and campfires. The dream has always been that the Base would be with me wherever I ended up, in my heart and in my actions, in the way I choose to settle down, and in my morals and obligations to my life. But if that concept could be collected into one word, that word would be COMMUNE.
There’s been quite a few stories on communes recently; they don’t have the best reputation. There was that one Tik Tok commune that seemed suspiciously amazing at first… and then one of the residents turned their dead dog into a skirt? It kind of went downhill from there. That’s not what I want the HWB to be, although we do have a Bone Orchard to bury all of our beloved pets and probably my father… but that’s normal, and a story for another time.
When COVID hit hard the second time, during the holidays of 2020, I was living and working in a small mountain town in California. Our job required us all to get tested, and because the company employed most of the town, the line to get tested wrapped around the block and back again. In line, we were able to grab breakfast and a coffee down the street from the testing center, seemingly doomed to never make it to the front of the line.
Masked up and standing a good distance apart, my friends and I discussed where we would go, what we would do if everything shut down again. For me, it was easy. My parents would always welcome me back to the Base. I wouldn’t be happy there for too long, with no friends, no work, and my busy-body siblings, parents, grandma, extended family, and various Wild animals sticking their noses in my business… but it was a readily available sanctuary if and when I needed it. My friends didn’t necessarily have a place like that in their lives, so of course I extended the invitation for them to join me back to the Texas Hill Country.
The discussion progressed quite suddenly with this new invitation to crash on my parent’s property. At first they were uncomfortable with the idea of being squatters in an unknown place, but that wasn’t anything new to our line of work in Outdoor recreation. Someone suggested we build an outdoor shower and bathroom area and pull our own weight on the property in exchange for letting us park our tents in the woods and a hot meal every now and then. They proposed a commune!
At the time, I was like “oh no, if someone offered, I would absolutely drink the punch,” and honestly… with this idea, I absolutely would. Punch is tasty (for those of you who are confused, look up the Jonestown massacre). Communes get a pretty bad reputation, and that isn’t out of line. They have proven to be rather cultish, super religious, or wayyyyyy too hippy for most people, but the essence of the idea isn’t terrible! Usually it’s a rural community that govern themselves through their community and rely on each other for survival. So like, a family, basically, and we can skip the weird sacrifices and cult rituals.
We’d build tiny houses throughout the property, making space for privacy and personal areas. We’d expand my dad’s garden to sustain us better, reintroduce chickens to our Wild, maybe some goats and cows, too. We would renovate the barn so larger projects could take place, from crafts, to maintenance, to for-profit work in the open space using the mass amounts of tools and junk laying around. Some folks could find work in town if they’d like, such as our nurse friend, or seasonal summer work, but for the most part all of the effort is put into sustainable practices and life on the property. Dogs and cats run with the armadillos and chickens, people are growing vegetables and equally as important, flowers. Everyone is overall enjoying a simple, more fulfilling life. Oh, and they decided no children, which I have no complaints against. We want a simple life, after all.
My friends also decided for it to really be a commune, we needed something or someone to lead us, for us to praise and honor. Of course, Mr. Dr. Pastor Dad was the first, and only, contender for that position. Our own personal patron, the leader of Harrison Wilderness Base’s Staycare for Wayward Youth & Lost Causes, equipped with lifetimes of knowledge and the mustache required to properly lead us in this lifestyle. Of course, I called him and relayed this information to him and he loved the idea, cackling mischievously when I mentioned he was to be our leader. As long as he had help around the place, he could care less who was there. We could all gather on his back porch while he smoked his pipe and told us stories of a time gone by.
I truly dream of this, a tiny house in the woods, rocking chairs on every porch, reading books by the dying light from our shared library, working the land with the people I care the most about, with an eclectic, ragtag army of people to help sustain my dad’s dreams for the Base. I think we both would die happy, one of us fulfilled and the other, a commune’s Saint.