by The Founder
Everything started during the last days of 1964 when I was taking a walk just before the school holidays. The new engineering building at the University of Alabama had burned down several weeks earlier, and a backhoe was already hauling the debris out of the hole. A roundish blob of black of plastic a little bigger than my fist fell out of the bucket and rolled towards me. Almost instinctively, I picked it up. There were wires sticking out of it; it looked like it might be a melted part of the new mainframe computer which had been destroyed in the fire. Someone yelled at me because I had wandered into the construction area, so I hurried on. Then I thought about the chunk in my hand. I didn't want to just throw it down anywhere, so I decided to just carry it with me and drop it in the first trash can. If I had passed a trash can, the future of two worlds would have been altered, but since I didn't, that bit of plastic ended up in my dorm room. After looking at it under a bright light for a couple of minutes, I decided it was too interesting to thrown away, so I cleaned it up and put it on my desk.
A couple of weeks after the holidays, I needed to complete a paper that I really didn't want to do. Even though it was the middle of the day on a Saturday, I forced myself to sit at my desk and not go anywhere, but I was really stuck for ideas for the paper. I kept picking up the chunk of plastic and playing with it. My roommate was interested in electronics, and his tools, wires, a tester, and a variable power supply were on his desk. So, in my boredom and without any purpose, I started fooling around on my desk with the power supply, the wires, and the chunk, using alligator clips to hook everything together. I was randomly trying different connections and voltages and testing the output when an oval hole six inches in diameter suddenly appeared in the table. Through the hole, I could see some bare tree branches a few inches away and the ground many feet below. I was not only looking through the table but through my knees, legs, and feet under the table as well.
I don't know how other people act with such a sudden shock. If asked in advance how I would behave, I would have predicted different behavior of myself. Rather than freaking out, I just sat there and looked through the hole, studying what I was seeing carefully. Then I picked up a small eraser sitting next to the hole and dropped it through, and it disappeared below. I didn't hear it hit. I then took a pencil and tried to touch the nearest twigs, down near my knees, but before touching them, my hand and wrist went into the hole. I pulled them back as if I had been stung, but they weren't hurt. Then I got out of my chair and looked up under the table. Looking up, there was no hole. Looking at the top of the desk from the edge, I saw that the hole in the desk followed a loop of wire I had clipped into the hunk of plastic for some reason. Using a pencil, I pushed at the edge of wire, and the hole changed shape. I felt a need for a walk. When I opened the door, I felt air rushing into the room; glancing back, I saw some scraps of paper sucked down the hole; I quickly stepped out and shut the door. Then I locked it (my roommate had gone home for the weekend), walked down the stairs to the first floor, and left the dorm for a walk.
I had read a lot of science fiction, so I was familiar with the concepts of alternate worlds, other dimensions, parallel universes, time travel, and doors to other planets. I had never really believed in any of those things, but it was not hard to do so now. I figured I had one of them here, but which? And what should I do about it?
I thought out how I could somehow convince one of the physics professors to come by my room, probably by making up some monstrous lie, and then he would become famous, and my discovery would be out of my control forever.
I suppose my decision of what to do had really been made many years earlier. My mother had died in a car wreck when I was twelve. My father had never liked me. Part of the reason was that I was sensitive, a reader, and a lover of flowers and Nature while my father and my brothers were crude, half-illiterate drinkers and smokers who dumped their trash in the woods on other people's land. Another part of the reason was that I really wasn't his son; he had married my mother when she was pregnant and desperate, and he didn't mind rubbing the fact in whenever he was angry at me, which was fairly often. My brothers weren't really brothers either, as they were his children by his first wife. According to my mother, my biological father had gone off to fight in World War II without either of them realizing that she was pregnant and then had been killed in a training accident.
My mother and I used to go on weekend trips to Northeast Alabama when I was a boy. Her folks had lived there on a small farm before their deaths. We would camp out near the foundations of their home, and I would play among the rocks or in the water down at the lake or go on hikes with her. After mother's death, I used to spend a lot of time out in the woods behind my father's trailer just to stay away from him, and gradually the woods became almost an obsession. I got books from the library that taught me everything about flowering plants, trees, shrubs, animals, fishes, and birds. I also read Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Mysterious Island, and other similar books. I dreamed about living in the woods someday, away from other people.
I knew my future hopes in life were small. Even though I was a senior in college, I had only a "C" average, had never made friends at school, and didn't look forward to working with others. In addition, I had no real goals. I had drifted from one degree program to another without any enthusiasm. My current major was in history, but I had no interest in teaching and no clue as to what kind of job I could find. Nor could I count on any help from my father. My going to college had only been possible due to a small insurance policy my mother had thoughtfully made out to me alone, and the money would be mostly gone by the time I finished.
This chance discovery, then, was a perfect opportunity for me. I didn't want fame or fortune; I wanted escape from this "world I never made." But I had to be careful; for all I knew, those woods held Tyrannosaurus Rexes, psychic alien beings, man-eating plants, or other unpleasant realities. If the world on the other side was too unpleasant, I would try to sell my discovery; however, if I liked it, I might just leave this reality for that one. That is, I might walk (or crawl) through the loop and never come back. The prospect of living a life alone may have bothered Robinson Crusoe, but it was exciting to me at that time.
So, as I walked, I started imagining all the possibilities. I knew that I needed to examine that world before setting foot into it. I figured that I would have to move the loop from place to place. Fortunately, the voltage required was 4.5 which meant I could use three flashlight batteries. How long would they last? That paper sucked into the hole suggested that I would probably need to also take precautions because of differences in air pressures; I certainly wouldn't want any small creatures flying through the loop anyway. That thought sent me walking back to the room at a higher speed (what if something had already entered my room?). As I walked, I also realized that when moving the loop from place to place, I would have to cut off the power since I could easily run into something in that other world without knowing it; I would only cut the power on when the loop was stationary. What if I attached the loop to the front of one of the lenses of my binoculars and covered the loop with the lens cap? Then I would have to tape a battery holder, a switch, and the chunk of plastic to the binoculars. The whole thing would have to look fairly normal -- hard to do with the plastic attached -- because I might want to use the binoculars in public places sometimes.
When I got back to the room, my imagination made me afraid to open the door. What if some small but deadly monster had crept into the room? What if I had just imagined the whole thing?
I opened the door, the hole was there, and nothing else had changed. I looked everywhere to see if anything had flown in, but I didn't find anything. I thought, well it looks like March there too, and I doubt if many flying things would be in the air in March. Just then a bird flew into the room. It scared me to death. When I looked at the bird, sitting on the edge of the bookshelf, I saw it was a Carolina Wren. Hardly a dangerous bird, unless they came with fangs in that world. Sabertooth Wrens -- the thought had me laughing. The bird panicked and started flying around the room and finally landed at the top of the drapes. I stood up on the chair and stretched to put my finger under the bird's belly. He hopped up on my finger. As I slowly got back down, I realized I had been leaning over the hole. It was not big enough for me to fall though, but if I felt part-way? When I got the bird near the hole, he suddenly exploded out of my hand and down the hole. I went over and cut off the power supply. The hole vanished. Worried, I cut the power back on. The hole reappeared. Then I cut the power off and went out for another walk and to get something to eat.
That night, instead of sleeping, I tossed and turned. Finally, I got up to fix up the binoculars the way I had pictured them. My roommate had electrical tape, wire, a battery holder, and even a small switch. I flipped on the switch and looked up through the binoculars. The night sky through the one eyepiece was so bright with stars that it hurt my eye; in Tuscaloosa, on the other hand, it is unusual to see any stars at all because of haze and the lights of the city. The sky looked normal for that time of night and winter. I looked around and found Jupiter and studied its moons. Then I went to the window. By some miracle, I could see Jupiter and its moons in the Tuscaloosa sky as well. In both eyepieces of the binoculars, the moons were in the same position exactly!
So, I went back to bed, having ruled out the possibilities of the other side of the loop being another time or another planet. I really hadn't seen anything to indicate another dimension either, although I wasn't sure what I would see in that case. And so I tossed and turned before falling asleep, already imagining great possibilities, many of which I would be embarrassed to recount now (they were rather immature) and many of which I have forgotten. Many of them had me living in the other world as a new Robinson Crusoe. Falling asleep was even worse because my dreams were full of crazy and horrible outcomes. In one dream, I was living in my grandparents' house (which I had never seen; it burned before I was born) in the other world, and my mother was looking for me, and some kind of monster was chasing her, and it was all my fault.
The next day, I walked all over the campus and Tuscaloosa, looking at everything through my binoculars. Whenever I looked, I made sure I was sitting down and holding the binoculars very steady because the effect was so disconcerting. Many times I was well above the ground level on the other side. Sometimes I saw nothing, which I later decided was an indication of being inside a tree or other solid object. Besides the differences in elevation, the terrain and river were very similar on the other side, but there was no sign of people or human habitation. I saw some animals, but noticed nothing unusual about them. The trees, on the other hand, took my breath away. They were huge! I felt I was in a redwood forest or at least a forest of giant firs, and yet the trees had the bark of the familiar oaks, maples, walnuts, beeches, and hickories. A trip to the library for a description of the area when first visited indicated to me that I was seeing a virgin forest, just like the forests the first pioneers must have found, cut down, and burned on the site of Tuscaloosa.
All that day, I was in a seventh heaven of excitement. But I was still too excited to make any worthwhile plans; everything suggested itself, but nothing seemed quite certain. That night, I finally slept soundly and woke up to a cold, rainy, depressing day that finally calmed me down. Having my roommate chew me out for messing with his stuff helped cool me down too. It was probably fortunate that I had fallen asleep before he arrived and hadn't talked to him while I was so excited because I might have told him too much; but with his scolding me -- for nothing -- that possibility ended. Monday morning also reminded me that I hadn't finished the paper that was now due, and I had no possibility of finishing it. I felt guilty, defensive, defiant, depressed, and determined. So, I cut classes that day to read in the library about pioneering, but I felt more uncomfortable than happy.
I felt pretty trapped in my own world, and I saw this new world as an avenue of escape. But practical problems still remained. Was this world safe to live in, or did dangerous animals occur that I hadn't yet seen? Were there people living somewhere else in this world? Perhaps the area on the other side might just be a large nature park. Where would I get the money for all the supplies that I would need? Indeed, what supplies would I need? Should I continue to work towards a degree, or should I forget about school? If I went to live in this other world, should I try to find some young woman to go with me?
The answer to the last question was the first one that I resolved. Although I dreamed about women all the time and felt guilty about my thoughts about sex, I knew that I would never have the bravery to ask any girl to join me, and if I did, I would end up regretting it badly, because I would never find anyone who shared my attitudes.
The problem of school was only important because I needed a job to earn money for a place to live and for food to eat. In the new world -- if it was uninhabited -- I would have everywhere to live, and I would have plenty of materials to build my home. I should be able to hunt enough food, if I could kill anything. Anyway, there would be lots of nuts and fruits. Really, I didn't look forward towards getting any kind of job after college. Working with people was a distasteful prospect. I could use the little remaining money from mom's insurance to fund me for the supplies I needed. But would that be enough?
I decided the first question to answer was, Could I get into the new world and come back? The second question was, Is the new world empty of people or not? If other people were there, I could forget it. The third most important question was, Does the new world have dangerous wild animals? Of course, I could buy a rifle or shotgun to protect myself from them. The fourth question was that of money, How much would I need and how would I get it? Part of the decision in that was in deciding what standard of living I wanted. I already had enough money from my mother for better supplies than poor Robinson Crusoe had had. But then, would that be enough for me? The final question was, Where would I want to settle? Tuscaloosa was too flat and bland an area in spite of the remarkable trees; anyway, I needed a remote site and not the middle of a city, so I could travel back and forth freely between the two worlds without anyone seeing me.
But first I needed to make an immediate excursion into the new world, partially to prove I could enter it and return, partially to prove to myself that it was real. I had noticed that my dorm was built well above the land level in the new world, so I started prowling around in the basement, and I found an unlocked closet in a room that had not been used for years. I went and got everything, taped my loop to the wall of the closet, and turned on the power. A hole appeared; the bottom of the loop was only a foot or two above ground level. I started to crawl through -- I had both hands on the ground outside -- when the thought of what would happen if the batteries died disturbed me. I was really shaken, but I was determined. I removed everything from the closet, went into town to get some new batteries, returned to my room and packed my knapsack with all the survival gear and everything else I could quickly think of, and returned to the closet and reinstalled the loop. If crawling through that hole meant never returning, I was willing to take the chance.
After I crawled on through the hole, I looked back. There was the dark inside of the closet hanging in the air a foot off the ground. I got up and walked around the opening; the hole looked smaller and finally disappeared. From the back side, there was no hole, but there was a round section of the closet wall, hanging in space.
Although I was pretty nervous, I managed to stay on the other side for half an hour, afraid to get far from the hole. I guess I was less brave than I had thought. Also, since the area around the opening was featureless, except for similar-looking trees, there was a real danger of getting lost. I should have taken some bright rags to use as markers.
A short hike downhill was the river with high banks covered with thick brush. Rain was falling, but most of the drops were hitting in the bare limbs far above; the day was dreary and a little foggy. I couldn't see any details on the other side of the river -- a narrower stream than in Tuscaloosa (no dam downstream on this side, evidently). Something big started swimming by in the water below me. Then a violent splash, and another one, and another one. I wasn't sure, but I think the animal was a beaver, splashing its tail.
But, a little shaken by the experience, I returned to the hole, only to discover it missing. Perhaps, I was in the wrong place. But no, there was the lightning scar I had noticed on a tree just in front of the loop. I was really upset then, and I began to panic. Maybe the batteries had failed or the loop had been discovered. Inside my head, I could hear my father screaming at me for being careless, and I despaired of returning. I threw myself on the leaf-covered ground, wet as it was, and began to berate my stupidity. Then I recalled how Robinson Crusoe had done the same thing -- something I had said I would never do if I were him -- and I was chagrined. Getting up, I resolved to be a man; I told myself that if I was trapped on the other side, I would just have to begin a new life on different terms; then, I walked towards the scarred tree with the thought of needing to be absolutely certain. When I was just a few feet from the tree, the dark oval of my loop suddenly appeared in front of me. I had only misjudged the distance and the difficulty of seeing the loop. So, I crawled back into my closet without further delay.
After recovering from my trip, I decided my next step was to make some bus trips to determine if the new world was inhabited or not (it was quite clear from using the binoculars in Tuscaloosa that moving any distance in the one world meant moving a similar or the same distance in the other). I could not use the binoculars while traveling -- otherwise I could get hit by a tree at 60 mph -- but I could travel from city to city and look around at every stop.
So, I packed some things and took off on a bus tour of the South. As I traveled from city to city, I saw nothing on the other side indicating any people had ever been in the New World (I was starting to think in capital letters by now). I also found that everywhere things were practically the same. The New World was just as ours would have been without humans. In fact, it was our world; even some natural rock outcropping and bluffs existed in both worlds. I did see some animals that I wouldn't have found in pioneer days: a sloth, a couple of elephant-like creatures, and a herd of ponies. The ponies looked rather odd too, but they were too far away to see clearly. However, we know that the early Indians had wiped out whole species when they entered America. Although I didn't see them anywhere, I suspected that dire wolves also inhabited this world.
Sleeping on the bus or in bus stations, I became dirtier and dirtier, and I wasn't getting proper sleep either. Finally, I almost had my binoculars stolen -- only the strap prevented the theft while I was dozing -- so I decided it was time to return to the University.
My roommate treated me rather coldly when I returned. He also told me the dorm mother and people from the dean of students office were looking for me. I went in the room, lay down on the bed fully dressed and dirty and fell asleep. A couple of times, I heard someone talking, almost through my dreams. When I woke up, it was very early in the morning on the next day. I showered, put on clean clothes, and wrote a quick note to my sleeping roommate, apologizing for any trouble I had caused him, informing him that I was leaving school, and asking him to pass the note along to my dorm mother and the dean's office. Then I quietly packed my few most important belongings and left. When I reached the post office, I wrote a note to my father telling him just that I had dropped out of school and would be hunting for a job. Then I walked to the bus station and bought a ticket to California.
I went to California to search for gold because I was a little uncertain about how independent I could be of the civilized world. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, I could not depend on lucky shipwrecks on the other side to provide the goods I couldn't make for myself. I would either need to take a lot of supplies with me or cross over to get supplies as I needed them; either solution would require money. I also thought of several other sources of quick wealth, with Nevada silver coming second.
The forty-niners found locating the gold deposits to be their most difficult task. Mine was much easier; I only had to decide which location would produce the most gold for the least effort. With gold worth just $10 an ounce, some prospectors had made $800 a day while others made nothing. Locating the best site to prospect was not as difficult as you would think because the library in Sacramento had many books telling the details of the gold rush, showing me exactly the kind of gold (nuggets, flakes, or dust), the abundance of gold, and the method of working used in each area, plus giving me detailed maps and even photos of the forty-niners at their claims. I also was able to buy topographic maps locally; however, since they showed the modern topography, they were not entirely correct. More helpful were the drawings and plans of the mining sluices which enabled me to build my own sluice to help with the project.
Within a week, I felt I was sufficiently knowledgeable to begin work. I found a motel room near the site I had chosen and mounted the loop inside the closet. I lined both the door of the room and the door of the closet with rubber to avoid drafts. I purchased tools, lumber, and camping gear. I was ready to begin work.
The task was more difficult than I first imagined. The stream did not look at all the same on the other side. Of course, that was to be expected; with all the mining that had taken place, everything about the terrain had been altered. Plus, much leveling must have taken place for the town that grew up. The area around the stream was heavily overgrown, making walking difficult. I also found I had the major task of working in a stream bed that didn't want to cooperate. Most of the time, the stream was wide and shallow, running in rivulets. However, when I first arrived, and afterwards during every heavy rain, the streambed was impassable, my work was stopped, and I had to make trails to get through the undergrowth. My sluice, and everything else that I had left in the streambed, would be moved downstream in the downpours. However, the rain showers ensured that the stream would not completely run dry, and the little floods would wash away the processed dirt tailings below the sluice.
My sluice was a long trough made of wood with baffles in the bottom to catch the nuggets and flakes of gold (which were heavier than any rocks, dirt, or debris). I would create a temporary shallow dam of rocks and dirt across the stream, placing the sluice in the narrow outlet and forcing the water to flow through at a good speed. Then I would dump in rocks, dirt, and sand from the surrounding dry stream bed, using the shovel to push the larger rocks out the lower end. When I felt I had dug up as much as I could, I would start a new dam a few feet upstream and move the sluice up to it. Each time, it was important for me to dig as deeply as I could into the bed, otherwise I could be passing over buried deposits.
The job I thought would take a few weeks stretched out into months. Nonetheless, I wasn't discouraged because every day I would have from several ounces to several pounds of nuggets and flakes. Back then, an ounce of gold was worth $35, more than the average person earned in a day at that time. Each morning, I would start out, and each evening I would come back, shower, go eat, and watch TV in my room. Besides my room, I also had a stand-up tent at the worksite with some food in a large metal tin, my tools, my bags of nuggets and flakes, and a pack with my camping equipment in it, including my sleeping bag.
However, I was running out of money. Although I now had gold, I couldn't just walk into a grocery store and hand over some nuggets. First, the store owner wouldn't know what to do with them, and second, ownership of gold was actually illegal at that time.
However, I figured that there were plenty of people around who would be willing to buy and sell gold anyway. I only needed to sell a pound or so of gold to have plenty of money, even if I didn't get a good price. So, I asked around, including at a rock shop and a pawn shop.
The owner of the rock shop said he couldn't help me, but he would make some inquiries. The owner of the pawn shop was more interested. He asked me how much gold I had, and I asked him how much I would need to give him to get $500. He suggested that three pounds would be enough, not troy pounds, but pounds measured on a baby scale. The next day, I carried a bag full of nuggets to him, and we concluded our deal.
A few days later after I left my work site in the evening to return to my room, and as I started to enter the loop, I heard the noise of a door slamming in my motel room. I stopped halfway into the closet, trying to avoid even breathing hard. I heard two strange voices through the closet door. One voice said, "I wonder how long we'll have to wait until he gets back." The other voice said, "It doesn't matter when he gets back, just as long as we surprise him."
I thought, any second now, they might discover the loop! So I turned on my light and located the loop box (containing the batteries and the chunk of plastic) on the closet floor. Just then I heard, "He might have stashed some of his nuggets in the room. You check under the bed, and I'll look in the closet." Knowing that I had just seconds before the door would open, I picked up the box and pulled it through the loop as I ducked back into the new world. A strong tug and the cable followed. The opening disappeared.
Suddenly, I realized the seriousness of what I had done. Yes, I had saved myself from the two men, although there was no proof that they were going to kill me or anything. Probably, they were just going to rob me. But now I had possibly placed myself in a world I couldn't return from. You see, if this really was an alternate world, going through the loop again would not return me to my world but to some other world even more different than the one I was in. Nonetheless, I decided to return to camp and to wait for daylight to find out.
In the morning, I rigged up my binoculars again (I had brought them across with me to look at birds). Fortunately, I kept extra wires, tape, and supplies in the loop box. The binoculars convinced me that the world on the other side was so similar to the one I had left that I couldn't tell the difference. I continued working a few more days until my food ran out, and then I packed up everything for one last trip. I used the binoculars to locate a small overgrown spot on the other side to return to. I decided to take myself, all my nuggets and flakes (about five hundred pounds, which I had placed in cloth bags), and gear through in one trip. I moved everything that I was going to take to that location. At dusk, I rigged the loop in some branches, turned it on, and started tossing stuff through. There was a pretty stout wind blowing through the opening. Then I stepped through with the piece of plastic in my hand and then cut the power. The loop collapsed to the ground. Then, leaving everything there, I worked my way through the brush in the twilight to the road and walked into town and hired a taxi.
The cab driver was very curious at having to stop while I loaded everything into his trunk, especially when the rear end of his taxi was sagging under the weight. But fortunately, he was also very honest and considered it to be his job to please the customer. I had him carry me to the bus station in the next town, and after I paid him, I hauled everything across the street to another motel. After I got a room and put everything inside, I went down to a used car lot, bought the worst car on the lot with the last of my money, and the same day, I loaded the car and drove a couple of hundred miles to an assay office in another city. There, I pawned my binoculars and some other stuff, and I got another room with the money, carried my gold to the assay office, filled out their forms, sold the car, and waited in the motel room for the assay office to contact me.
I had run out of money before they did, but the motel clerk seemed to trust me (they had a lot of empty rooms anyway), and I was able to give him a good tip before I left. After getting a rather large check from the assay office (with a large deduction for the IRS), I opened a local bank account, paid off my debts, bought a plane ticket, and headed back to Alabama. I was anxious to get out of town because the story had gotten out, and I didn't want either attention or trouble.
I certainly wasn't a millionaire. Gold was officially worth only $35 an ounce or $420 a pound (troy weight -- 12 ounces to the pound) and my gold had been mixed with some rock. Plus, taxes took over half of my earnings. However, at that time, a year's salary for many people was less than $5,000, so if I was careful, my money would last for many years. I could buy a plot of land with some of the money and use the rest for whatever supplies I needed.
I knew exactly what place I wanted to buy -- my grandparents' farm.
The farm -- even though it wasn't large and didn't have any buildings left -- was more expensive than I expected. However, I would have a safe place to visit the New World from, or so I thought.
I bought a mobile home, fully equipped, and paid to have it installed with plumbing on the farm, just up the hill from the foundation of my grandparent's home. I thought that I would live a conventional life on this side and a primitive life on the other.
Not far up the hill was a cave which made an interesting route to the New World. The passageway inside the cave circled back on itself, so by my installing the loop there, I created an invisible gateway. In both worlds, the entrance was small, and the amount of blowing air seemed normal for a cave. One decision I made was to move the loop box (with some extra batteries) to whichever side I was on before shutting it off; I didn't want to be trapped.
I really enjoyed hiking, fishing, and hunting on the other side. The trees were all huge, the soil rich, the fish and game plentiful. However, I quickly found I was not much talented with hunting with a bow (I never did hit anything). And after I bought a gun and did finally kill a deer, I found myself more nauseated by the corpse than joyful. My plans for building my own cabin were ruined by the size of the trees. I did find a large hollow Cucumber Tree, to which I added a door, a window, and a false ceiling after much hard work (the ceiling stopped small debris and dirt which kept falling from within the tree above). The tree gave me a safe place to sleep and to store emergency equipment that must stay dry (I had other stuff stored in the cave).
For a long time, my only source of unhappiness was on this side. It seemed there was always some problem to take care of. Every few weeks, I would find some trash dumped on my land, another abandoned dog starving at my door for me to take to the pound, or something missing that I had left outside. To help solve these problems, I had a fence and a large gate installed. I had trouble finding someone to do the work, difficulty with getting him started and getting the work completed, and additional grief from the workmen while they were installing everything. Plus, I kept getting letters in the mail that caused additional grief. I had to hire an attorney to deal with the tax issues, and then I had to keep after him. In addition, my father had acquired the idea that I was wealthy and now expected me to send money to him.
In addition to these problems, I found myself bored and restless all the time, going into town when I didn't need to, reading really dumb books and watching stupid TV programs (the set had come with the trailer). When the cold weather and heavy rains came (on both sides), I stayed in the trailer for days at a time, feeling really depressed. I found myself watching I Dream of Jeannie every time it came on. I also noticed that I was very interested in the Dick Van Dyke Show or any other shows with women. Maybe I did need to find someone to marry. But where would I do so? I was one in a million. Who could I trust my great secret with?
When spring came, my spirits revived, and I spent day after day hiking in my new kingdom, sometimes boldly getting as far as ten miles from the cave. I also found a few more hollow trees and stored supplies in them. However, I had also come to the conclusion that I wasn't really cut out to live completely alone and away from other people. Nor did I want to live half in one world and half in another; I wanted to live entirely within the New World. The idea of finding someone or even more than one person to share my new world started to grow on me. As a result, I began exploring my world with the idea of making it more useful to me, and I purchased many books about pioneering and local history. However, I could think of no practical way to find others to join me.
During the summer, I caught a brief news article about a group of young people who were living on a farm in Tennessee, trying to do things the old-fashioned way. Because the information was pretty incomplete, I phoned the TV station to get additional information. After a few more calls, I was able to contact the original reporter. He refused to help me find the people he had interviewed, as they wished to be left alone, but he did tell me that they were part of a new trend; lots of young people were headed back to the woods; in fact, he was writing a book on the subject. I then offered to help fund his book if he would share his data with me. Our agreement was that he would send me the basic information about each of the groups he had knowledge of, provided they did not mind this information being public, and I would send him $50 for every large and well-established group and $10 for each of the others. I also signed an agreement not to release any of the information. With that kind of encouragement, he soon was sending me information on a regular basis.
Most of the groups were in the West, mainly West Coast and New Mexico, the rest mainly in the North. These groups seem to come from several different basic impulses. One impulse was the beatnik movement, pushed by leaders such as Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, and Timothy Leary, and fueled by sex and drugs. Another was new age religion. Another was religious revival, both Christian and Eastern religions. Another was philosophical, following the ideas of B. F. Skinner. Another was based on psychological-group dynamics. A small number were primarily Nature-oriented. From the information I received, one of these communes really stood out. While most of the groups were fairly new and small, with only a few leaders, and had unclear goals with uncertain means, this community was older, large, democratic, well-motivated, and profitable. Furthermore, it seemed to be Nature-oriented. It was located in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania.
After reading his material, I thought once again about forming my own commune. While the idea of being a charismatic Moses who could lead a floundering group to prosperity really appealed to me, it didn't take much thought to realize that such an attempt would be doomed to failure. In fact, Moses himself was pretty much of a failure; he had to let a whole generation die out and the future history of the Jews was very rocky. I doubted that I had Moses' abilities or patience.
On the other hand, I could observe the long-established community to understand their goals, abilities, and likelihood for success. If I thought they could carry out my goals, I would let them inhabit the New World. On the other hand, if I noticed serious problems, I could either try the next most likely group or go back to living alone.
This community had many other commendable features, besides the ones mentioned. They were financially independent, they grew most of their own food, ground their own flour, spun and wove their own cloth, sewed their own clothes, cobbled their own shoes, designed and built their own houses, generated their own electricity, and even operated a trolley car. The first members of this community had settled there in the early twenties, and there were now about a thousand members. Therefore, I planned to visit them at the beginning of fall.