2S I CHRONICLESnand.our four small children moved from Massachusetts,nwhere I had been teaching, to a farmhouse on a remotenhillside in northern Vermont. We had a dozen hens, a cow,n$300, and the rent was paid for two years. I did not knownthen and I cannot tell now what we thought we were doing;n”living off the land” may have been part of it (though thatnmovement had not yet begun), but I am not sure, simplynbecause I am uncertain as to whether we had gotten that farnin our thinking.nBecause of the appearance of our situation, as well as thenfact that the place we rented belonged to a locally notoriousnproto-60’s person (in the fullness of time — and ofnbitterness — we called him Mr. Simple Living, after anpamphlet he wrote extolling the virtues thereof), it wasnassumed by all that we belonged to the new breed. So wensaw the 60’s world from inside, while our lack of moneynkept us detached from it.nMoney. The great undiscussed subject of the 60’s.nWithout exception, every 60’s person I knew had money ornready access to it, and they all lied about it, pretendingnalways that they had very modest means and that the littlenbit they had was earned by hard work. Money was the onlynthing that set us apart from the 60’s people; otherwise wenwere indistinguishable from them: young (they were in theirn20’s and 30’s), born and raised in the Bos-Wash suburbs,neducated in the humanities at Eastern liberal arts collegesnand prestige universities, wholly unintellectual, possessing anmental stock consisting not of received ideas but of receivednattitudes. What money meant to them and why they liednabout it were clearly important questions which remainednmysteries to me for some time. The consequences of ournimpecuniousness, on the other hand, were apparent almostnat once.nIt would be a few years before a move like ours would benwidely applauded by all right-thinking citizens; at thenmoment it was regarded by our relatives and former friendsnas an act of almost maniacal stupidity for which we deservednwhatever we got, and then some. In spades. And doublengood riddance. For the first time in our lives, we were on ournown. We could not avoid the results of our own folly; wenhad to see it through to the end. Whatever became of usnwould be entirely our own doing. Although we learned angreat deal, and very quickly, from the practical realism ofnour new life, the most important lesson was a general truthnof character: Forced to do everything for ourselves, nothingncould be shirked or falsified. We suffered a discipline innhonesty. Be assured that I would have chosen wealth andnidleness over honesty any day. The trouble was, we had nonchoice.nNaturally, our experience made us sensitive, perhapsnoversensitive, to behavior that falsified what we were doingnand learning — the behavior, we soon discovered, of 60’snpeople.nThe Woodwrights were a charming couple who owned anpicturesque farm and lived in a pretty little house—bluenand rose stencils on rough-cast plaster walls, brightly polishednold wood stove — which they never tired of showing tonvisitors. In fact, I first began to have doubts about thenWoodwrights when they told me proudly how many viewersnthey had the previous weekend, because it made me thinknabout some scenes I had witnessed there and at our ownnnnplace. While we were no competition for the Woodwrights,nwe got a sprinkling of similar rubbernecks, mainly disciplesnand acquaintances of Mr. Simple Living, just up fromnBoston for a drive to look at the leaves, or flying in fromnNew York to check the locks on the summer place. Whatnthey did, both to us and to the Woodwrights, was to cast usnas stars in a morality play called the Beautiful SimplenCountry Life, while we half-consciously encouraged them:nTo make the play work, both actors and audience havenprescribed lines, specific tasks and actions and gestures,ncollaborating, as I belatedly realized, in the fictionalizationnof our lives (the game of 20 Beautiful, etc. Questions —n”And you raise all your food yourselves?” “You use horsesnfor everything?” “You grind the flour in that little mill?” —nplayed a prominent part in the drama). I liked thenWoodwrights very much, but after that, when I realized thatnthey courted their roles, I felt just a little scornful of them.nPerhaps I was being a prig, but after all, the wholenphonus-balonus was easy enough to stop: Just quit respondingnto cues (“No, we never grind flour in that thing; we buynit in town”). But then, all the admirers go away.nMeanwhile, I met my first hippie homesteaders at thenWoodwrights, appropriately, because they, too, were roleplayers.nThey became the most prominent 60’s people innthe countryside, not just because of their numbers—withinna couple of years they were flooding Vermont, disfiguringnthe landscape with their yurts and A-frames, tepees and treenhouses—but because for a decade or so nearly everynnewspaper and magazine in the nation featured articlesnextolling hippie homesteaders near and far, spotlightingntheir roles as the visitors had done for us and the Woodwrights.nThese were plucky young folks, independent andnself-sufficient, who were living off the land and teaching usnprecious lessons about the environment, love, peace, justice,netc., as they nobly attempted to escape the dreadful ills ofncontemporary America (the “rat race,” pollution, alienation,netc.) in the bosom of Mother Nature. The story is toonwell-known to bear repeating. The point to keep in mind,nhowever, is that those articles, virtually identical assemblagesnof cliches, were all invariably and utterly lies. I doubt if ansingle truthful word was ever published about the hippienhomesteaders; their very breath was falsehood. Theynweren’t independent, they weren’t self-sulficient, theyndidn’t do anything they said they did. But they were verynpopular with the middle class (their rural neighbors more ornless ignored them) for the same reasons that the Woodwrightsnwere: Their Beautiful Simple Country Life dramasnboosted the egos not only of the participants, but also of thenobservers, even the distant readers of a newspaper article.nHow often had I seen visitors’ faces glow with minglednwonder and satisfaction as they asked those absurd rhetoricalnquestions about the grain mill or the workhorses.nI think Country Fakery (as we came to call it) wasnimmediately superficially popular because it set its participantsnapart from and above the masses of yahoos out therenin Consumerland. As the privileged often do, confusingnaesthetics with ethics, they certified their superiority byntaste: the enlightened ones parked their VW microbuses ornLandrovers beneath the elms beside the village green, whilenboorish proles or repressed lower-middle-class clerks drovento their senseless jobs in Detroit behemoths; the illuminatedn