Ron Coffey recently published an article about building a tin-can cook stove from plans he found in the magazine, Mother Earth News. Throughout most of the 1970s I was an avid fan and adherent to the Mother Earth message about, ecology, tree-hugging, self-sufficiency, respecting the earth and making a minimal foot print. I designed our home with ideas from the pages of the magazine. We burnt wood for twelve years from a cast iron stove we purchased from one of Mother’s advertisers. We drank all-natural root beer, brewed our own beer, grew and ate bean sprout sandwiches, cooked with cast iron ware, etc. Mother Earth was my bible and to my disappointment it was only published every other month. That was a long time before fixes for a ME junkie.
In 1979, Janet and I took a trip to visit my brothers in North Carolina. Coming back we noticed we weren’t too far from Hendersonville, NC, the home of Mother Earth. So, we decided to extend the vacation a day and pay mom a visit.
As we pulled into Hendersonville I’m sure we expected to see an entire community of long haired, hippy, creatures with beards and smelling of sweat, wood smoke and dried wild huckleberries. I know we expected Mother Earth to be a collection of hand-built structures made from slab wood and recycled tires and pop bottles and totally supplied by natural and sustainable sources of energy. Mom’s complex would be surrounded by fields of organic veggies and all its residents would be pooping in compost toilets and fertilizing their gardens with the leftovers.
Well boy did our bubble get stabbed! Mother Earth was housed in a large multi-floor industrial looking building with huge power lines coming in from the commercial grid. There wasn’t a plume of wood smoke and everyone we could see through the walk-up window appeared normal. All the men were clean-shaven and the women all smelled of whatever Avon’s scent of the month was.
Instead of finding the welcoming arms of mother we encountered a receptionist who expressed difficulty understanding why we would want to visit and who curtly informed us that mom wasn’t seeing visitors and tours were not an option.
With hearts and spirits broken we departed Mother Earth and retreated to the only hippy looking place we could find, an organic restaurant, and drowned our disappointment in a salad of mixed greens, organic alfalfa sprouts, and cubes of plain tofu. All washed down with large cups of Oriental green tea sweetened with local honey.
I couldn’t wait to get back home and fall into the arms of my real mother and be comforted. As I told her of my hurt, she just laughed. Damn, a guy just can’t catch a break.