The delights of freedom and nonviolent outlawry |

The delights of freedom and nonviolent outlawry

George Stranahan

Bob Craig was the executive director of the Aspen Institute and I knew him professionally as the CEO of the then Physics Division of the Institute. Around 1964 he and Carol bought the George Vagneur place about four miles downstream from my place. He was concerned that Woody Creek was about to fall to real estate developers and proposed that we two “save” Woody Creek though defensive purchases. We bought up parcels as they came up for sale before listing and some say we held off the greedheads for a while.

The old Sanderson place had two houses on it, and Bob and I thought to rent it out. He described, by mail, the new guy from California who lived above the apartment Bob kept in Aspen; “A bright and articulate thirty-year-old with a pretty wife and who shared his pot.” For 122 acres, two houses, $375 a month seemed fair enough; Hunter and Sandy moved to Woody Creek, and I became his landlord. The rent checks came irregularly to my home at the university, yet often with a handwritten letter of humor, observation and savage political comment. I struggled at adequate responsesThat next summer Sandy called Betsy and asked us down for dinner. We drove down and my first face-to-face contact was this: “Good, you’ve got a Jeep. We gotta go down and pull my motorcycle out of the creek.” The rest of the dinner takes awhile to tell, the Dobermans, loud music in the headphones, Hughes Rudd bawling, my wife making some unintelligible but desperate hand signals … the stuff that forms strong bonds.

I bought a Bultaco Matador, just like his, and when it came, Hunter tutored me in ditch-jumping and fence-cutting. A rather uptight but politically radicalized physics professor began to learn the delights of freedom and nonviolent outlawry. Many, many owe him the same debt for such.Hunter cared strongly for his family, home, Woody Creek, Aspen and politics, politics, politics. The Woody Creek Rod and Gun Club became the gathering of like minds around volleyball, guns, surely booze and drugs, and conversation, conversation, conversation. These were the days, you know, when people like us outlawed discrimination in the South, stopped an unjust war and started democratic schools, so that our children would not commit the sins of their fathers. We were seared by these experiences, and you can’t unsear a piece of meat, let alone a soul.

Owl Farm, from its basement war room, kept up the struggle and we’d do it as Hunter told us, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Hunter ran for sheriff, started the Wallposter with Tom Benton, covered the Nixon and Muskie campaigns. He was on the streets in Chicago ’68, in Saigon when it fell. For all of the time I have known him, Hunter struggled for a better and more just world, from his kitchen to wherever. Hebelieved that we do it together and by any just means. My own badge of honor came when he clapped my shoulder and said, “We have shed blood together.” Yes, brother, blood indeed.

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