The view overlooking the side-by-side stages Saturday for the 50th Anniversary Cougar Mountain Farm Tayberry Jam just north of Cottage Grove.
COTTAGE GROVE – A sense of community. A joyful celebration. Lots of laughs. Plenty of tasty food. A feeling of family, where everyone is friends. Several entertaining and inspirational guest speakers. And, of course, marvelous live music to fill the mountain air until 2:45 a.m. Sunday morning.
That, in a nutshell, describes last weekend’s 50th Anniversary Tayberry Jam 8.0 Earth Vision Summit on Cougar Mountain Farm, located just east of the Saginaw Road exit off of I-5.
The weather was wonderful, the music was uplifting and the storytelling was so touching that it surely had to be life-changing for some fans.
Legendary Merry Prankster Ken Babbs talked about the good ol’ days, and Eugene grower Adam Jacques discussed his new CBD strains that have helped make him a leader of the medical marijuana movement.
But it was Betsy Hartzell’s speech that hit close to home with many onlookers. Hartzell, who owns and operates Kalapuya Books in Cottage Grove with her husband Hal, originally purchased the 320-acre Cougar Mountain Farm in 1972. She was 24 years old, a single mom with a toddler, her son Noah.
Hartzell was quite the pioneer, soon joining forces with the Eugene Hoedads, realizing that planting trees could not only become a way of life, it could be a way of sharing love.
Her first husband, Ed Wemple, was instrumental in getting Hoedads incorporated as a full-fledged cooperative.
“Tree planting brought us together,” Hartzell said. “My husband, and all these strong-minded people had a vision to plant trees. There were endorphins – planting trees for me was very empowering and healing. I went back to it in my 40s.”
Her family members have kept Cougar Mountain in pristine condition for 50 years, inviting the public for such festivities as concerts, weddings, spiritual retreats, reforestation, nurseries, orcharding, renewable energies, cooperatives, artisan crafts, forestry, ponds, wildcrafts, farm produce, and mountain bike races.
Hartzell is concerned about what will happen to the land in the future.
“This land, you think it’s so great, what would it be like to have continuity here for 1,000 years?” she asked the audience. “Kalapuya, what would it be like to have ancestors and ceremony, and perpetuating a stewardship that was basically in interdependence with everything here. They were awesome. It would be great if we could think of this whole ecosystem as home.
“If we could grow into that kind of thinking, 50 years is nothing. But it does feel like home. We’re surrounded by timberland and industrial forests and I’m just now aware of this generation’s challenge of when our movement came, non-negotiating, with these humble people, it was about resources, extraction … so let’s change that and help each other, keep going in that direction.
“I was just thinking, here’s another tribute,” Hartzell said.
“When we first came here, there were very, very few blackberries. Now they’re moving in. I’m thinking … a tribute to the blackberries. Because what do we know, they might be just doing something beyond our control. They are protecting the land for many generations. They make it tough for us to do the wrong thing.”
Jerry Rust, who founded the Eugene Reforestation Cooperative in 1971 along with John Sundquist, spoke Saturday after Hartzell. He was county commissioner for 20 years and is still running for office (House District 9).
“I would like to note that cooperative management is a way to put people together. That’s what Cougar Mountain Hoedads have been about,” Rust said. “There are many business forms that are in that venue from food co-ops to housing co-ops to land co-ops and management co-ops that can help a lot of people.”
This was Kevin Hoyt’s first trip to Cougar Mountain. If they gave out an MVV award – Most Valuable Volunteer – he might have been a slam-dunk winner.
Hoyt, 44, a self-taught chef from Eugene, was asked to come and cook. He happily obliged, cooking a fabulous spaghetti dinner for the 200-plus fans, band members, staff and others who were on hand.
“The joy in helping each other out and making people happy and helping out is where it’s at,” Hoyt said. “We need more of this in the world.
“I love making people happy. The joy and happiness you get – all the way from the lime-cucumber-ginger water to everything you see here in the kitchen – more people should do this, we all need to love each other.
“Yesterday I cut up bowls of watermelon and walked around with watermelon slices on a hot day. I was here at 7 a.m. (Saturday) morning, so I went to bed early last night because their joy is worth it to me.”
For most people, traveling around in Elvis Presley’s old bus is one heckuva claim to fame.
For John Swan, it’s no biggie, really.
“We traveled all over the place in Elvis Presley’s bus, a ’59. Now we have a ’79.”
With four top internationally famous reggae groups topping the bill, Swan’s current band, Supertrout, played a refreshing mix of Americana, blues and original music, including a hilarious farming tribute to “all you Oregon hippie chicks” that was warmly received on this brisk evening.
Supertrout has played at about a dozen mountain shows, and Swan is usually in charge of lighting. He says the core of the band has gotten more serious these last few years.
“Some people left, but we added some really good musicians,” Swan said. “Paul Biondi plays sax, and he and I play in the Revelators. We played at the Biggest Toga Party in the 30th Anniversary Animal House with The Kingsmen, who played ‘Louie, Louie.’ I was one of the last guys to live in the Animal House before they tore it down – I have the mirror out of the bathroom.”
Ken Babbs – the Merry Prankster – is Swan’s oldest daughter’s grandfather. They were good friends with the Kesey family.
“I went to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Europe, the British Isles with Ken Kesey. We went all over the place,” Swan said. “In 1986 we had a band called The Thunder Machine Band, we went across the country and we played New York City on Broadway and did a thing called Still Kesey? We were going to San Francisco for Wavy Gravy’s 60th birthday party. Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart were on the bill.”
“I had this Philosophy final – it was actually a Logic test – and I knew I was going to miss it because I was going to play guitar with Jerry at Berkeley Community Theater.
“The guy said if I go, I was going to flunk. So that was the only class I flunked in college, but I did get to share a stage with Jerry Garcia, and we got to hang out for a while. I guess I was being illogical.”
It was getting late. It was after 3 a.m. There was still time to share one more memory, though, before Swan had to pack up all of his lighting gear.
“One time we played cards with Hunter S. Thompson in the back of the bus, and I was so hot, I cleaned everybody’s clock,” Swan said. “It was one of those nights, I was getting all the cards. Finished the night downing a bottle of Wild Turkey with Hunter on Kesey’s porch. I remember waking up the next morning going, ‘Oh (crap), my car is in town. I rode the bus from the Eugene Hilton. How am I gonna get home? (Kesey’s wife) Faye was the only one home and she said yes. But Faye is the quietest person. That morning, riding passenger with her and being hungover, was the ride from hell.
“Then we heard that Hunter ended up in this big LTD cruiser car with some girl and they were out in a pasture and the car was spinning around in circles with the door open and nobody in it.”