A Landscape Full of Stories > Jerry Tecklin
“Some of the lives that were built here were really kind of outrageous. And you can see it in some of the structures that were built — which are sort of the lives, the structures are the lives of the people.”
An Excerpt from the Interview
Jerry Tecklin: (During the 70s and early 80s), there were people who lived on the Ridge that had businesses in Nevada City or commuted. There were a couple people like myself who were commuters. That became a pattern more and more because there was nothing you could do on the Ridge if you weren’t living off of a trust fund or something. You had to find work. And very few people had the skills to get into logging, which might have been a possibility on the Ridge. There just were no opportunities for employment. I mean zero. Mother Truckers even didn’t get started until maybe the 80s, or something like that.
So if you were truly living on the Ridge, you were really hand-to-mouth then, or developing some kind of craft income and then having to take that into town or someplace else to make a living. For example, it wasn’t long before people living on the Ridge opened up a shop in town – Padma in the City it was called (on Commercial Street) – to sell their crafts. My wife (Marsha Stone) in particular was doing weaving. That became an outlet for the furniture makers like (Robert) Erickson and there were a couple others, some woodworkers, some guys working in clay, potters like Joel Goodkind. Artists had this shop and then also had another shop thereafter into the late 70s right on the corner of Commercial and Pine. A great big store there called Hand Made Goods. And that was pretty much a Ridge venture, Ridge crafts people, an outlet for them. A co-op so that people worked on the maintaining of the store.
What I’m talking about is how people made an income of some sort, if they weren’t going off and giving poetry readings and writing books and getting royalties. Although a couple were making a life of letters, a literary life. Or attempting to. That was the dream of several people up here on the Ridge. But Nevada City was important, much more so than Grass Valley. It was very important in my life because I spent a lot of time working for people doing remodeling, gardening, you name it. Handy man stuff for a sort of elite group of Nevada City-ans.
I don’t know how a lot of other people really lived up on the Ridge, but the living was not easy. It was in a certain sense because the climate was good and we were left alone. You know, a couple people probably grew dope. There was a very small amount of that. Very secretive; very quiet; very dangerous, because there was no cooperation with the authorities, the law. And when the law would come down, it would come down very severely. I think people still figured out how to get off kind of lightly and it was profitable, but it took a lot of guts to get into dope. I would say the vast majority of people did not commercially get involved in marijuana, though I’m sure just about everybody had a little bit for their own use and it was very widespread. But certainly not in a commercial sense and nowhere near like what the Ridge is thought to be – the kind of reputation that it has today.
It was more looked upon in the 70s and even into the 80s as a really remote place for some very strange people who were doing extremely creative, high-level art; but, also looked down upon pretty much by townspeople because anyone who lived on this side of the river was a hippie, regardless. And whatever that meant in the townsfolk’s imagination – it had a lot to do with sex. There was a connotation of some kind of free sexual adventures going on on the Ridge and a lot of dope and art and evil, you know? Because I had a lot to do with the townsfolk, I had a lot of knowledge about what kinds of fantasies they were having about the Ridge. And I always thought it was quite amusing. Keep in mind that the Ridge population was very small then and that could feed the fantasies since there was little interaction between town and the Ridge except maybe an occasional, very rare poetry reading or some kind of an event like that. Later on when Mike Getz started showing movies on Sunday night in Nevada Theatre, that was a place where people would meet, where the Ridge would meet the town for that brief time. But there were no mutual meeting places you might say so that the fantasies could go on.
At the same time, life out here was really very rich. Since there was no town place to do things we amused ourselves here. And we had our cast of artists, poets and clowns and musicians so that there was a lot of opportunity for fairly high-quality performance you might say, and almost any kind of gathering was a performance.
NCSCC: How do you feel now about looking back?
Jerry Tecklin: Oh, I think we were terrible. I mean I think we had a terribly inflated view of what we were about and I certainly did have a too serious – or, maybe inflated – conception of the value of what we were doing. It was taking the personal growth and freedom that you were feeling and trying to inject that into a community and have that be something so worthwhile that it would be important.
NCSCC: Change the world?
Jerry Tecklin: It was revolutionary in that sense, yeah. I think most people came out of the 60s with the idea that revolution was an important thing and that revolutions were possible. And whether you associated yourself with actual revolutionary movements, which some people did on the left, or kind of felt there was another way of doing it through counter-cultural developments, it certainly was an attempt to revolutionize and change the world. I think that gave it a heightened sense of seriousness, though I don’t think you found anybody in their right mind walking around on the street or on the Ridge always spouting something like that. But that was a feeling was that this was worthwhile, that what you were doing for yourself and your family, and the kind of building that was going on was a very worthwhile thing to be doing. And it contrasted with what was going on in the general society.
And like I say, we were young. Well, not so young myself. But people were young and inexperienced enough to take themselves very seriously. Though on the other hand, I think there was also just a lot of frivolous sort of “what else are we going to do if not this?” attitude. And then after we were here for a while, I think on the Ridge it was possible just to enjoy what was going on because it was very, very enjoyable. Sometimes I would tell people – for example, I would tell people who were pretty smart people that I worked for in town that were who curious about what was going on out on the Ridge, I’d say we just live like kings out there. Because it felt like it. It felt like we were really eating well, we were drinking well, and the quality of living was just high. Now I don’t know how long that went on, but it went on for a while.