Published: Nov 5, 2021 12:00:00 PM



Eriem Flint, daughter of Rain and Fio Flint, was born in a northern California town called Rauchfort in 1988. The younger of the two Flint children, Eriem experienced an atypical upbringing at the Rauchfort Ranch, a communal village near the Pacific coast. Six families lived together at the Rauchfort Ranch, counting the Flints, sharing all responsibilities of property maintenance, subsistence farming, and child education and rearing.

Eriem’s parents, Rain and Fio, had arrived in California in the summer of 1969 after completing their undergraduate study at Colorado’s Shackleburg University. Rain, her father, studied physiology, and Fio, her mother, studied oral history. Graduating together in the same class, they were awarded the distinction of ‘Most Likely to Invent a New WMD’ by the school’s yearbook. The award was an annual tongue-in-cheek honor and would later be renamed ‘Class Power Couple’ in later years.

The Flints gassed up their van and traveled west after graduation. They listened to the July 20 moon landing broadcast together on the radio while in the Utah desert. They discussed cosmology and ontology while eating mushrooms.

Southern California proved unwelcoming. While well-educated, the young couple remained in debt. They lingered in the Los Angeles basin for the first year, living together in their van, sometimes searching for work, but not always. The film industry rejected them, as they were unwilling to accept entry-level work. Fio worked briefly as a script girl on the set of the TV spy-comedy Get Smart, but was fired for undocumented reasons. Rain was an ambulance driver for 14 months and while the money was enough to keep them fed, he hated every moment of the job.

On August 8, 1969, the Manson Family followers carried out their home invasion murders in the hills above LA.

In late summer 1970, Rain and Fio traveled north to San Francisco with friends. The Zodiac killer had first made his presence known the year prior and with the serial murderer still at large, tension remained high in the bay area. Police cars were seen escorting school buses en route to and from elementary schools. Copycat Zodiac letters often made it into the local papers, heightening the city’s anxiety, if only for a day. Discussion, rumor, and theory perpetuated and morphed among the Flints’ friends and communities, especially while on LSD.

“Our lives—they’re so short on this planet,” Rain said one night while they lay out on the roof of their van. “In that time, we are so often nervous. And fearful. Struck with paralysis and indecision about what we think oughta be done with that time. That minimal time. We look to our communities. To our friends, family, loved ones, fathers and mothers. You think. You hope their wisdom and experience might guide us through dark days. I want to celebrate the trust and care we hold in one another. I want a world where it’s not blind stupidity to care.

“I think we’ve arrived at a crux. Young minds. Our young minds are being trained—forced to imagine such drastic alterations to the fabric of existence. Not of its potential for love and life, but for the possible horrors. We were trained to imagine and identify fear. Never taught us the ways to combat threats against human existence.

“World Wars. Atomic weapons. Systemic racism. The denial thereof. What is the result, a generation later? The people in this city. Came here with hopes and ideas that ancient institutions back east carried no love toward. How have we changed the world? That’s a rhetorical question—we haven’t. We inherited a debt of slavery, and murder, and death. Anything is possible now, even nothingness. We were sent through the guarded corridors of a storied university, not because we were the perfect vanguard for improving this world, but because the men signing our admission slips believed we were the safest possible bet. To not alter history’s intended course.

“Circular, insular trust and logic begets entropy. When the power and wealth we in this country enjoy lies within the same nerve cluster for too many generations, the system decays. They—we won’t let things die. We’ll never be free of the debt we owe the dead. We’ll never be alone in a world of ghosts.”

By 1975, Rain and Fio moved out of San Francisco further north to Rauchfort, California. They established their Rauchfort Ranch community there.

In the first year, Fio designed and composed the articles of the Ranch. Rain provided input, but was gripped by depression for several years.

He led meditation circles with other wayward souls and like-minded men passing through the area. He occasionally lectured and discussed the state of America. These began as familiar hippies on the road from here to there. Small gatherings. Often capped with a meal and an offer to put a roof over the traveler’s head for the night as a token of generosity befitting such a lovely series of conversations. Rain even entertained a bike gang chapter on the road north to Oregon. Their philosophies were quite similar—self-possession, living through positive action, avoiding negative influences, helping those in need. The evening ended up noisy but the bikers left in the morning and even left a thank you note on the picnic table outside the barn where they’d slept.

Rain’s reputation grew gradually. Former big-money industry men learned of the Ranch. Men from back east. The validity of Rain’s hippie-tinged messages were heightened by his traditional education. This wasn’t some black-soled bindle-toter. Rain was a smart dude. He had studied physiology. So when Wall Street investors and Madison Avenue advertising executives found their way to Rauchfort to study specifically with Rain, a small cult of personality formed. Here was a man that could converse on multiple levels. He wasn’t born in the dirt. He lived there on purpose. Rain and the far-traveling money-men talked on topics like the death of the soul at the hands of consumerism. These Ranch visitors came to recognize the destruction a golf course caused on a local ecosystem. The emptiness of money. The inability to actually own anything when life could be snatched from your chest in a second by the Zodiac, wandering home after a bad day. They were all one bad day from realizing it was all one big cosmic joke, man.

Goodness, Rain explained, was impossible within the confines of this evil system. No matter the effort you take to better your life, your day, your mood, it was meaningless in the face of death’s omnipresence.

“I experienced my hands, well past my wristwatch into another man’s open chest, awash in blood,” Rain said, almost delirious in a deep-night discussion. “In the back of an ambulance. Trying to save one life for one moment more. Why? So we could send him home without a dollar in his pocket? So he could pimp his daughter’s body for a ride on the white horse? There’s no saving the world. If it were good, better men than us would save it.” The Wall Street and Madison Avenue guys nodded, faces sweating with from the campfire’s Hell-glow. “There are no more heroes in this world. Any imagination we shed is just fairy tales for childlike amusement. Distractions from a death march.”

“What do then?” the Madison Avenue guy asked. He was sitting cross-legged and his white linen pants were starting to get awfully gray around the cuffs.

“Remove yourself from the cyclical destruction,” Rain informed him. “Return to nature. You can’t halt the flow of time. Nobody can. One man can’t stop a war. Throw a stone in a stream, the waters flow around it. Your only escape is knowledge. It’s removal. Let them destroy themselves. It’d be a crime to steer them from their destiny, be their death by the bullet or by the needle.”

“What about the money?” the Wall Street guy asked. He had misplaced his shirt days ago now.

“Money is meaningless. It’s not a sin to be rich. It’s not a crime to be poor. Money does not define a person.”

“Damn right.”

“As long as you do no harm to others and live truthfully to yourself, it does not matter if you’ve hoarded a mountain of money or just a pouch of coins for a traveler on the road of life.”

“I’m gonna buy a cabin somewhere upstate,” the Madison Avenue guy said. “Around Albany.”

“Me to!” the Wall Street guy said. “Further north than Albany, probably. Thanks, Rain.”

Momentary relief from existential peril, all thanks to a beefy burger with cheese, served on a hearty bun. Even with these myriad conversations, Rain’s will to combat history’s negative flow dwindled.

While Rain continued to slip, Fio carried on running the Ranch. She interviewed and accepted families into the community. Each year some came and some went. All the arrivals and departures were amicable. She kept a loaded sawed-off shotgun under her desk on a swivel mount. She had never fired the weapon.

Fio conducted the growth of the community as an enterprising business, because that’s what it was. They required kind, unique individuals with flexible, unique world-skills. A hunter. Two farmers. A machinist. A woodworker. An educator for the children. Some came and went. More came and stayed.

The Rauchfort Ranch community shared all things. They pooled money. They helped each other at times of crisis. They were warm in the winter. They had plenty to eat in the summer. While they were not identically-minded in their beliefs, they recognized the grace of complimentary thinking discovered through open conversation.

Truly, only Rain succumbed to obvious depression. To this, there appeared to be no cure. When Eriem was born in 1988, the young man serving as the birthing attendant, because he was the most experienced in physician skills, asked Rain what he was going to name the new baby girl.

Rain mumbled something in reply. The young man wrote down, “Eriem,” believing this was what Rain had said. So it was that Eriem Flint was mumbled into existence.

“I think the experiment has failed,” Rain said a month later. He was sitting opposite Fio at the end of the community dining table. It was almost September and the weather was growing chillier. Eriem lay in the wheelie crib beside Fio. Fio set down her fork. The conversation from the others at the table provided the noise to dull the silence between Rain’s first thought and the next. She waited for her man to talk. “I think—I think we just deserve to die at this point. Someday the sun will go supernova. If all life on this planet isn’t just radioactive squid by then, a solar flare will devastate the atmosphere and the tectonic plates will be tossed off their magma mantles. Known creation will be tossed into the vacuum of space. We aren’t built to live. To know we’re living things. To be burdened with the knowledge we’re going to be returned to stardust.”

Fio set her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her upturned knuckles. “Mmm hmm?” She rolled Eriem’s wheelie crib back and forth a little to keep her asleep.

“I don’t think we’ve done anything to deserve these lives,” Rain said quietly. “So it’s just—death. That’s all we really deserve. What else can we do?”

“You dumb motherfucker,” Fio answered, just as quietly. Her voice spiked now and then as she talked but she remained steady, never rising above a conversational volume. “What else can you do? You can be a man and admit the mistakes men have made! This. This is a man’s world. You made people make it like this. You made the world shitty because it was a good return on an investment down the path of least resistance! It’d be so easy! So easy! To fix it. But to do that would be to confess to the infinity of spacetime—the only thing more powerful than a human man—by the way, that you—messed—up. And your daddy—messed—up. That greater men than you were wrong. And now it’s up to you to suffer that humiliation that you didn’t earn. It’s the debt you were stuck with. It is tragic how this weight smothers you. You are right to be afraid. And I love you. For the sake of that love, of not wishing to hand your daughter your least favorite life, the only way to fix things is to pull out a knife and stab your world in the heart.”

-- Alex Crumb
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