HISTORY: ROOTS

 ROOTS | GRAM PARSONS ​| THE END OF A COMMUNE
 

Before the Green Acres Ranch was "Green Acres Ranch", it lived an interesting past.
The structures on the property were built starting back in 1952, and it was a turkey and chicken egg ranch.

**This historical record is changing as we are receive new information from those that lived or wandered here**

TURKEYS in JOSHUA TREE

Along with movie-making, turkey ranching had become a booming new industry in Joshua Tree and in 1949, the area boasted 19 established ranches and a turkey population of 47,600. The six-page Joshua Journal dedicated one page per issue to new items of interest to turkey growers. Ambitious plans were afoot to develop the Sunfair area into Turkey Town, USA. Local real estate agencies, advertising "All's Fair In Sunfair," offered land for sale as well as information on how to become a successful turkey grower.

If you examine the Roadrunner cabin (the green one) closely, you'll see that it had openings from one end to the other. Some now serve as doorways, and some have been partially filled in to make windows. These openings allowed the turkeys to run in and out of this large "coop" as they pleased, to escape the hot Summers and the cold Winters. The Cactus Flower cabin (the red one) was most likely always a cabin, where the turkey rancher family lived.



AKA THOMPSON RANCH



Back then it was called "The Thompson Ranch". An ornery old rascal named Thompson (duh) owned the place, but lived just a little ways off. Mr. Rip Stork approached Thompson with an offer to rent the ranch. Thompson agreed, with the stipulation that what is now the Cactus Flower cabin be off-limits. And so, with his good friend Dean Mackenzie, the era of Thompson Ranch as an unofficial hippie commune was born.

Thompson's Ranch commune was a true desert commune, consisting of a gutted main house (now Cactus Flower cabin), a machine shed (now Roadrunner cabin), a couple of lean-to's and a water tower that had water when it rained, which it never did.

There were some geodesic domes walled with old automobile roofs. There was a backyard sauna (now the goldfish pond behind the Roadrunner). There were huge communal meals every night, often stocked with grocery runs to nearby Palm Springs where they got free food from Safeway and some churches. 

The core population of the ranch was five to fifteen "freaky hippies" who communally shared their money and food. The majority were lanky quiet guys in breechclouts (loincloths a la Native Americans) who lounged in the shadows in the daytime, and ventured out at sundown. A never-ending stream of visitors both expected and unexpected arrived, found a corner to crash in, and did their thing.

 

The main order of business was, from what we've been told, to score gentler drugs like marijuana, lsd, magic mushrooms, liquor, pills and peyote, and get high.

It was the classic communal family with no leader and no criminals, unless you count the AWOL marine from 29 Palms who was a chess master. A woman named Kathy ran the place for a good stretch of time. She paid the rent and did a lot of the cooking. Women were the real engines at the ranch. But if there was a true figurehead, it was always Rip Stork, and Dean Mackenzie after that.

Thompson Ranch community smoked weed, chewed Peyote, experimented with LSD and drank copious amounts of California red wine. Depending on who tells the tale, the commune regulars were either either hedonistic or circumspect.

bear stanley owsley.jpg

The residents were heavily into astrology, auras, meditation, mystic Christianity, yoga, music, and the arts. We think this spirit still permeates the land. It was described as an "almost-biblical reborn Egyptian Mystery School for hippies", with a fantastic library of hard to find books on religion, spirituality and magic.

We can still see some remnants of this time: images on the Roadrunner floors, peace-signs and flowers painted on the big old water tank, and signs of past gardening plots.

MUSICAL ROOTS

Many fine musicians popped in to the ranch. It was nearly famous as a refuge for L.A. musicians who wanted to escape the city for a bit. There were always some good jams happening with guitars and other instruments galore.

One resident, artist and Kabbalist Armando Busick, painted the Iron Butterfly's first LP cover at the ranch.

Iron Butterfly, Heavy

 

The band was among many who sat crosslegged, shared food, music and other things around the giant dining room table in the 1968 "Indian Summer of the Summer of Love". 

 


GRAM PARSONS CONNECTION

The ranch was rumored to be a sometimes-hangout of “Cosmic American Music" inventor Gram Parsons, who played with such groups as The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones hung around with Parsons at what is now known as Green Acres Ranch. 

In 2001, The Gram Parsons Foundation was allowed to take a few interior wall pieces with art from his time at the ranch. Click here for more.

 

Some folks have disputed whether Gram Parsons hung out here, but since those who lived here were constantly flowing and changing, we're gonna continue to think that he did.


 

GREEN ACRES

The ranch was abandoned in the late 70's. Soon, a lovely older couple named Godfrey bought the property and renamed it "Green Acres Ranch". A picture of them rests on the mantle of the Roadrunner cabin. Deciding to move east, they sold it in 2000 to the legendary landscaping and renovation team of Gino Dreese and Troy Williams, who re-imagined and transformed the property into the essence of what you see today.

Albert and Sandra purchased it from their friends Gino and Troy in 2002, and strive to improve Green Acres while keeping it in the spirit of the rugged and beautiful Joshua Tree landscape and culture that surrounds it.

Stanley Owsley visited the commune a few times. He was a key figure in the San Francisco Bay Area 1960's hippie movement and played a pivotal role in the decade’s counterculture. Under the professional name Bear, he was the soundman for the Grateful Dead. As their sound engineer, Stanley frequently recorded live tapes and developed their "Wall of Sound" sound system, one of the largest mobile public address systems ever constructed. Stanley also designed the band's trademark skull logo. Stanley was the first known private individual to manufacture mass quantities of LSD. By his own account, between 1965 and 1967, Stanley produced no less than 500 grams of LSD, amounting to a little more than five million doses at the time.


The residents were heavily into astrology, auras, meditation, mystic Christianity, yoga, music, and the arts. We think this spirit still permeates the land. It was described as an "almost-biblical reborn Egyptian Mystery School for hippies", with a fantastic library of hard to find books on religion, spirituality and magic.

 

Towards the end, biker gangs started to pay visits to the property for liesurely pursuits, and when rivals showed up, some measure of rowdiness often ensued. 

 

The page above is from the Gram Parsons newsletter, featuring Green Acres Ranch. The text reads:

 

"One of the many photos of "The Thompson Ranch 5/2000....This is a piece that was uncovered when remodeling was incepted. There is a lot more. I took it upon myself to convince that it be kept, even though it was in pieces. The wrting below the bird reads 'FEAR KNOCKED AT THE DOOR. FAITH ANSWERED AND NO ONE WAS THERE'".

 

"One side of a post inside The Thompson Ranch. Obviously had been there since the days when Gram and Keith jammed. Who knows what gems were written or at least incepted here. They hung out at this obscure loaction and we have more photos if they are of interest to you--tell us. We also have interviews in the wire with locals from those days..."