Eight Years at Round Mountain Ranch Cooperative
By King Collins
From notes, winter 2012)
The author: King Collins has lived in the Mendocino County since the mid-eighties. He raised a family in Ukiah, and lived and worked around the county as an electrician, a desktop publisher, a teacher at Mendocino College, and sometimes as a journalist. He has been involved in community and cooperative living for a long time. Elsewhere (KZYZ radio) he described himself as an “unapologetic agitator for public disclosure and free speech.”
Most people outside of Round Mountain know little about it and even those like Kristi Meadows and Pat who have lived here for many years only know part of it. And so far there is no comprehensive history of Round Mountain Ranch Coop.
I came to the ranch in 2004 and left December, 2011. I had been there for almost eight years. The place interested me for years before because RM was one of the few existing places that could be called a community. The name RMCC was meant to be a least some kind of a renters coop and perhaps even a community.
I loved the place and its potential. While there, I paid attention to what was going on and put energy into finding out how the place came to be and what the original visions were. Who were the founders? What happened to them and what happened to the vision?
I feel some responsibility to write about my experience and what I’ve learned and I hope to keep in touch with what happens at this “bold experiment in shared living.”
In my eight years at Round Mountain Ranch, the high point was 2009. We had begun meeting twice a month as a “Visioning” committee, the meetings were open to any resident, and at the time I thought, the meetings were getting somewhere. They came about because a number of us, residents or residents-in-waiting wanted to have a clearer idea of what the future would hold for the group and for the “ranch.” What if Claude was incapacitated or for whatever reason chose to give up the reins? Starting toward the end of 2008, we met about six times, once a month for about six months. We discussed a lot of things, but the emphasis was on whether the renters could feel more security and perhaps even take over the maintenance of the buildings, which was seen as a way of relieving Claude of that responsibility.
The discussion of Visioning meeting culminating in a “Proposal for Restructuring” written by Kristi Meadows. (See Round Mountain Gazette, #2) Kristi was reaching a place in her life where she, like others of the group, really wanted to get some kind of resolution on the future of the Round Mountain community. Claude seemed interested, too, and of course without his participation, the whole thing would be a waste of time.
Claude said, whenever asked, that he had expressed informally to his heirs that he would like the renters, the “community” to be allowed to stay after his passing, provided the rent was paid, etc. But he would not guarantee anything like that or put it in writing. So in the atmosphere some of us wanted clarification because we hoped to live at the ranch for a long time and were making or planning to investments
At that moment Claude was feeling good about what was happening on the ranch. It was around 2008. Gaby Welford, my partner, had moved in and become an official member of the ranch. She and I and a few others had finally managed to clean up the Duplex and we were holding regular pot-lucks. At that time Claude liked what he saw and in his more positive moment he said he felt the place was going as well as he had ever seen. So in that more positive atmosphere the Visioning Meetings began.
But it was difficult going. Claude was extremely sensitive about his own power and was threatened by any critical comments about his repairs. He really wanted us to believe that whatever he did was exactly what needed to be done. This was unfortunately not the way most of the “community” felt. I was quite aware of the limitations of his electrical repairs, and at times felt impelled to express my concerns about how the electrical work was done, and the lack of documentation. Whenever I expressed these concerns Claude rebuffed them as “ridiculous.”
Shortly after Kristie proposal was presented to Claude, he backtracked and expressed more and more distaste for the idea of changing anything about the arrangement. Not long after that, Kristie left and the visioning process came to an end.
To be continued…