The Reject Army of Poetry
The Reject Army of Poetry

The Reject Army of Poetry

In 1994, when I was still a senior at Old Paiute High, Wilbur County experienced an initiative measure which would oblige the county government to become an advocate for appropriate technology and organic agriculture. Spearheaded by Harlan McCoy, and invoking the mythical words of little Germaine Van Bibber, the political campaign captured the imagination of many folks in the area.

 Due to the success of Measure 49-16, and the financial largesse of Harlan McCoy, there has been a small renaissance in the Tamarack Valley which has had the effect of drawing a lot of new folk to the county, including an assortment of kooks, charlatans and environmental activists from the city. Many Germaine old-timers can see no difference among the lot of them.

One group which has recently taken up residence calls itself EcoSurvival Village Ostensibly, it is a kind of retreat for environmental activists, but they have achieved a certain noteriety by engaging in guerilla actions, such as infiltrating community events in order to spring surprise poetry attacks. 

Now, some of us find this all fairly amusing, but there are others who might be more inclined toward a lynching. The same folks who were alarmed by the coming of the Newagers, and convinced that the Cherokee Nation of Wilbur County was another Rajneeshpuram, are now totally freaked by the “eco-terrorists” in our midst. According to Deputy Hintertiel, the Sheriff receives two or three calls a week regarding “those wackos up on Dead Mule Butte.”

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With all of the controversy, and all of the fidgeting fogies festering in their stew, Dad decided it was time to send his only daughter into the mouth of the volcano –the mysterious terrorist compound. Thanks, Pop! (In truth, I thought it would be a fun and interesting assignment, and I wasn’t disappointed.)

 EcoSurvival Village is about two-and-a-half miles up the old Van Bibber Logging Road #2 from North Plains Junction. It is erected on the remains of an old Civilian Conservation Corp camp built during The Depression. The CCC workers forged trails and constructed a few campsites further up into the Ochocos, so the American people would have the opportunity to appreciate the great forest they owned. Then, after WWII the government traded the land to the Van Bibber Timber Company, which used it as a logging camp from which they then turned the great forest into a stump farm. When the VBs were through with the woods, they put it on the market, where it languished for thirty years, until it was purchased by a Portland land trust.

 Beyond the Village, a little further up the road on Dead Mule Butte, is The Compound. This is a couple of old trapper cabins, where several permanent members of the Village are rumored to live. At EcoSurvival Village I was to meet with someone named Subject Minus, who would take me to The Compound for an interview.

 When I arrived, it was just before 2 pm, my scheduled appointment time. The Village hummed with activity. Porches and rooves were under repair, railings being fortified, earth turned. It was great to see so many young people creating, and I wished that I had arrived a little earlier so that I could talk to a few of them. But promptly at two a young woman approached, wearing a low, floppy hat and a scarf around her face like some wild west outlaw. 

“Susie Applegate,” she said, “I am Subject Minus.” She said this without the slightest hint of humor, although I thought I detected the faintest sparkle in her eye. We shook hands.

“Here are the rules,” she went on sternly with almost no pause, “One: nothing is as it seems. Two: the enigma is the true answer. Three: take nothing seriously. Four: take everything seriously.”

 She paused and added, “And five: poetry is the highest form of language.” 

I smiled and she laughed. “We call it The Five Rules of the Reject Army of Poetry,” she said.