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Domes, Zomes, and Hippies

 LA VETA — The grand finale of the recent series on communes sponsored by Francisco Crossing and the La Veta Library, was the construction of a “Zome” framework at Main and Francisco Streets in La Veta. Additionally, there were several presentations and a panel discussion, featuring past and present residents of area communes. What is the connection between hippies and geodesic domes? That answer can be found, in part, by taking a look at Trinidad’s Drop City commune, the first of several to appear in the mid-1960s. In sync with then prominent designer Buckminster Fuller, “the Droppers” of Drop City wanted to experiment with Fuller’s idea of constructing geodesic domes as living and work spaces. Domes had several advantages. Their shape allowed interior air to circulate naturally without fans, the domes shed snow well, and they could deflect the high winds experienced along the front range of the Rockies. Being poor hippies, the Droppers used whatever building materials they could scrounge for free or at low cost. And as noted in several other recent columns in this paper on Drop City, mushroom shaped domes began popping out of the ground just outside of Trinidad. It soon became evident that geodesic domes had some constraints and limitations. This led to the idea of a “Zome.” A term coined in 1968 by spiritual leader Steve Durkee, combining the words dome and

zonohedron. Zomes proved to be stronger, easier to build, and offered a more efficient use of building materials. On hand during the last weekend of events was Zome developer Steve Baer and Zometool creator Paul Hildebrandt, probably the two most important pioneers interested in the possibilities of building innovative structures using polyhedrons rather than rectangular shapes. Good ideas tend to spread, and the idea of using geodesic concepts in building structures began to take off in the late 60’s. Additionally, members of Drop City went on to create more communes in southern Colorado, bringing with them lessons learned. An early member of Drop City was area artist Dean Fleming, who went on to cofound the Libre commune in northern Huerfano County. Fleming’s dome still stands at Libre, which is one of the few early hippie communes to continue into the 21st century. As part of the final program of the “Communes in Southern Colorado,” Fleming was joined by other current and former residents of Huerfano hippie communes in a panel discussion at Francisco Crossing. Thus, members of Red Rockers, Libre, AAA, and others joined Fleming in a discussion led by David “Izzy” Perkins. Perkins was an early resident of Libre and still has a home there. This former roommate of George W. Bush (while in college at Yale) has gone on to be a writer and UFO specialist/researcher. He deftly orchestrated a lively talk. La Veta resident Pat McMahon told how her time at Libre provided her with a foundation to become a contractor and restaurateur. She gave birth to and raised children at Libre. The talk included how the communes went on to host concerts, theatrical events, and visits from the likes of Beat poet Alan Ginsberg. The panelists arrived at a general consensus about their time in the communes: 1) it was really hard work, 2) the hippies were, in general, welcomed with open arms by area residents, 3) they learned a lot about themselves/nature/others and what it means to live in an intentional community, and 4) it was a lot of fun! With Libre being the only Huerfano commune to continue to this day, one might think that all of the associated ideas and goals are just relics of the past. Not so. These communes helped to further ideas that live on to this day, for example, recycling, living off of and close to the land, promoting creativity and innovative thought, getting back to nature, legalizing marijuana, and perhaps most importantly – living free.

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