posted: January 30th, 2008 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: The desert has always attracted unusual characters, but perhaps the strangest of all were Marshall and Tanya South.
South lived at the end of the steep, rocky trail Janie and I were now climbing, and when we reached it, we hoped to find the abandoned ruins of a weathered homestead that has come to represent one of the most remarkable lifestyle experiments America has known.
Viewed in these contemporary fast-paced times some would call the Souths and their three children forerunners of the Hippy movement. But the Souths were different, they were searching for a way of life that would allow them to work as writers, poets and artists, and do so without relying on handouts. More significantly, they simply loved nature and for 16 years (between 1930-1946) they lived here, attempting to make their style of life work for them.
The South’s almost succeeded and under slightly different circumstances their way might have worked. Janie and I, who had once lived in a 20×24 size cabin in the Arctic, both believed we could understand–at least in part–their motives.
We hiked on, awed by yet another magnificent desert scene…
Fifty years ago, had Janie and I been hiking this trail, we would have encountered before reaching the old homestead a sign that read as followed:
In the Name Of The GREAT SPIRIT, PEACE.
This is Yaquitepec-Our Home
And in Accordance With the Ideals Of Peace,
Sunshine, Health, Simplicity, Bodily Freedom
And The Simple Faith In The Great Spirit
For Which This Desert Mountain Retreat
NO CLOTHING IS WORN HERE
If you Cannot Accept And Conform To,
In Clean-minded Simplicity,
The Natural Condition Of Life,
We Ask In All Friendship,
That You Come No Further,
But Return By The Path You Came.
The Peace OF THE GREAT SPIRIT
Be With You Always
Marshal & Tanya South
As Janie and I proceeded toward the mountain’s crest, we half expected to see such a sign, but nothing barred our way–and we continued on, passing through magnificent boulder fields, cresting to overlooks that gazed over some of the world’s most spectacular scenery.
VIEW FROM GHOST MOUNTAIN
We were engulfed by the Carizzo Badlands, as well as the Vallecito, In-Ko-Pah and the Laguna Mountains–all nestled in the shadow of Ghost Mountain, the actual peak on which they lived.
Why in the shadow of such overwhelming beauty where Marshal and Tanya produced countless numbers of magazines articles and well received novels did the couple ultimately fail? Those are concerns we wanted to learn more about, but are thoughts we’ll defer for another day or two, giving us time for yet further reflection.
Janie and I hiked on anxious to see what Yaquitepec, the old homestead, might reveal.