Big Wheels Ranch


Catherine Camp

A memoir of communal living in Northern California

  • Size: 6 x 9
  • No. Pages: 148 with six b/w illustrations
  • Published: 2019
  • ISBN: 2370000623287


BigWheelsWriting about your own life is complicated and a little presumptuous. Writing about people you love and a place you love, people you are living with, people who may be the ones to help when you get even older and weirder, is also an intimidating undertaking. I am writing here about living through interesting and, sometimes, tumultuous times. It is also about a place I love, Big Wheels Ranch, and my own long connection with it. It is a story about family, a specific 40 acres, the times we have lived, about sharing a grand adventure.

This work is also about growing up, or growing old, and growing together. In the times I write most about, we were young and the storms of love and bad decisions and disappointing politics were new and upsetting. Passions often raged, in love and in anger. The ranch and the larger community reflected all the drama. Aging has let me see all that I owe friends and co-conspirators, bringing me to recognize that everyone needs understanding and, sometimes, forgiveness. Our lives individually are not so stormy today, although we are not immune to illness, disability, heartbreak, death. At this distance, it is easier to recognize our interdependence, our mutual indebtedness, and the joy of a long journey taken together.

The stories that follow are not an autobiography, exactly. They are not even a history of tumultuous times, although the political and cultural storms of the last nearly fifty years are characters that we will see in some of the stories. Most of all, the optimism and commitment of our time have something to offer toward meeting today’s challenges, I hope. The stories are also not intended to be a history of Big Wheels Ranch, or a how-to book for communards. Taken together, the stories are closer to a memoir of my connection to this place, those times, and these people.

The first chapter, Growing Up, provides a history of my own relationship with Big Wheels Ranch. I also explore the political tumults of the late twentieth century as I experienced them. Finally, I talk about how those tumults affected my courtship and marriage. The second chapter, Growing Family, tells the story of forming the ranch, learning to live together, and confronting challenges. The Women’s Movement, Gay Pride, and Aging all played, and continue to play, a major role in our time together. Chapter 3, Growing Land, is an effort to talk about the larger neighborhood in all its glories and challenges. At a time when rural parts of this country are changing rapidly, the history and reality of this very specific place have something to tell.

The times have changed, and perhaps we have all made less difference than we thought we might. Indeed, in these newly changing and terrifying times, we are all assessing the state of community. But here in this place and in this time we find ourselves with a beautiful home place, healthy children, strong relationships with each other, and some stories to tell.