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00:00:00 - The Running Water Collective

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Partial Transcript: So we were talking about how we- Ron and I met at Running Water, where we ended up being part of a collective together in a Back to Land movement in 1979.

Ron: Right. And we did form a collective. What was interesting is since we didn't have equal funds to buy it ourselves or to- even John came in on it, but he had almost nothing. So we decided to have stock, and he had a lawyer to help us draw that up. That is a funny story, remind me to tell it. But that's how I got to the inauguration.

Peter: The name of the corporation was Stepping Stones Incorporation, and we used it to just keep track of our investment in this land that we bought together, which was 16 acres on the side of Roan Mountain in Mitchell County. And the name of the property was already Running Water, given to it by Michael Wilson, the gay man who owned it and sold it to us, and who had started the gatherings there the previous year, 1978. Which came out of a meeting of the 00:02:00Southeastern Gay and Lesbian Conference, which was in Atlanta the previous year.

Segment Synopsis: Peter and Ron buy 16 acres in Mitchell County, NC to create the Running Water Collective.

Keywords: Back to Land; Collective; Mitchell County; Mother Earth news; Running Water; Safe Space; Transformative Experience; gay men; lgbtq gathering

00:07:35 - RFD Magazine, Rural Free Delivery

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Partial Transcript: Oh yeah, RFD. Yeah.

Peter: Which is a country journal for gay men everywhere, a magazine that's reader-written. And often the actual publication of it, putting it together, is done by groups and passed off from one place to another or one group to another. When we first set up-

Ron: Here's the first issue from Running Water.

Horace: Oh my gosh, thank you.

Peter: And that is a picture that King Daxton drew for us. He's an artist in Atlanta, and this is Running Water made into a picture of its own world. And that is fairly accurate about the way the house looked, and the property and everything. It was very well done.

Horace: That's awesome.

Ron: Yeah. If you open up the back it has the moon.

Peter: And the magazine itself, RFD, which stands for Rural Free Delivery in normal usage, stood for something new every issue.

Ron: They still do that.

Peter: And the issue that we put out, that first came from Running Water, was called Rhododendron Fire District. That was written everywhere around the property, because that's what that area was.

Ron: Well, we were rooted in the Flower District. So we didn't have to have a fire. But it was...

Peter: King Daxton did art that had a lot of mandalas in it, and they went for high price. He was a really good artist. And I have some pictures here. This is a picture of the four of us who owned it, on the swing in front of the house.

Segment Synopsis: The community generates some income by producing the RFD, a "country journal for gay men everywhere."

Keywords: Country journal; Fundraising; RFD Magazine; gay men; rural Free Delivery

00:19:27 - Radical Faeries and Neighborly Relationships

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Partial Transcript: Ron: All right. It's a good story. So we had a Gathering, and we had a lot of commerce with Asheville, and there's a pretty strong women's community in Asheville, and they wanted to come up to Running Water. And we said, "Sure." So right after one of the Gatherings we packed up and we went down to Asheville to go dancing, and we stayed at Michael Wilson's. And said, "The place is yours." And I think it was right after the Gathering that we did that. I don't think it was the next weekend. I think they came down during the week. Anyways, so they were there. And we went back probably Friday or something, I don't know. And I asked their organizer, I said, "How did things go?" And she said they changed my tire on the Jeep. Leave it to the women.

Ron: She said, "Everything is fine, but do you have teenagers come through with sidearms?" I said, "No. We have hunters that come through occasionally." And she said, "Well, we were playing baseball bare-chested, and the boys, they didn't know what to do. We said, 'Do you know where you are?'" I don't know what she said. They said, "Yes, ma'am." Or, "No, ma'am," or whatever it was. They respectfully left. We never had any more problems. They got so confused. They were gunning for us, but the women saved us.

Peter: And then after the tenth year reunion, I reconnected with Ravenwolf Dancer at the ten year reunion Gathering. And then we closed up Running Water soon after that. And Raven came to visit me, who live in Atlanta. He came to Fork Dividing Mars Hill where I live. And he said, "We should be checking in with this group. We still have work to do. We still need to continue to the next level of what we're doing with the Circles and meeting with the guys." And he challenged us all to come up with the next thing.

Peter: so Ron and I drove all over the mountains here looking for a place where we could hold bigger gatherings. We figured there were all these camps that have- we would be at the end of their season, to do it at the beginning of the fall, which was- the fall equinox was our major date for having the Gatherings. So we figured we should be able to do that. And we drove to several of the camps, Tuxedo and other places. And they were interested until they found out who we were, and then they were booked or some problem.

Segment Synopsis: Ron and Peter describe the neighbors and how they were rather open until a black man joined a gathering.

Keywords: Gathering; Gay Liberation; Gay men; Gay spirit vision; Racism; Rural neighbors; Vegetarian

00:24:12 - First Gay Spirit Vision Conference in Highlands, NC

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Partial Transcript: Peter: No one wanted us until- the last place we went to was the Unitarian Universalist Retreat Center in Highlands, North Carolina called "The Mountain." And when we told them who we were they said, "We've been trying to figure out how to do this for years!"

Horace: Really?

Ron: Oh, we were welcomed with both arms.

Peter: So they hosted it, and so we created the first GSV conference there. Gay Spirit Vision. Gay Spirit Vision was a name that Ravenwolf Dancer came up with for these conferences, because he thought we should have our own spirit vision as gay men: where we're going and what we're doing with our own spirituality.

Ron: We sort of had that at Running Water Gatherings. But it wasn't organized, that part.

Peter: Right. And the fact that we could do it at a place with facility that provided food, would enable us to totally concentrate-

Ron: He and Rocky would cook for 50 people at a wood stove. It was amazing. One thing we did get was a freezer. We could freeze nut loaves and things like that. But they would cook all day. Because you never finished.

Peter: So we were doing that. And then we wanted to really start this off with a bang, and Raven wanted us to invite Harry Hay to come to the first Gathering.

Ron: I'll go catch this.

Peter: He had a connection with-

Ron: That's actually- I think that's about the time I got- there's...

Peter: There's that first Gathering, which we set up. That was something John did. It worked really well. We wrote about our corporation. And then Michael Mason did a poem for us. And then Rocco put a recipe. And then Ron and Michael wrote a blessing, and then I put something in the end. So that was in 1979.

Horace: Wow. That's really cool. Do you remember what you all cooked?

Peter: Rocco and I were vegetarians, so we did a lot of nut loaves and stuff like that. So we needed to- we wanted to get Harry Hay here. Harry Hay lives in Los Angeles. Everything we've ever done has been on a shoestring, and we didn't have the money to fly him out here. But I came across my desk at UNCA, because I was working by then as the director of the mathematics assistance center at UNCA, that they had special programs that they would fund, university activities. And we thought, "Well Harry Hay is well known enough we could invite him as a speaker." So I had David Hopes and someone else- Keith Bramlet- help me write a proposal in order to get Harry Hay there.

Ron: Cultural.

Peter: Yes. We had a cultural event. And this is a picture of Harry Hay in the Carmichael Humanities lecture hall. At the time-

Segment Synopsis: Ron and Peter discuss the first Gay Spirit Vision Conference and the process of locating a gathering space.

Keywords: 1979; Harry Hay; Highlands, NC; Running Water Gatherings; Spirituality; The Mountain; UNC Asheville; Unitarian Universalist; gay liberation

00:33:42 - Southern Appalachian and Gay Alliance (SALGA) and Religious Communities in WNC

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Partial Transcript: And we were also highly involved in SALGA. Do you know what SALGA is?

Horace: I don't.

Ron: It's Appalachian.

Peter: Southern Appalachian Lesbian and Gay Alliance.

Ron: And what was remarkable about that, it was gay and lesbian.

Peter: Very, very mixed group. Not always peaceful.

Ron: No. No. This is a dynamic group.

Peter: I brought you this, so you could have it for your collection. This was a SALGA t-shirt that I had.

Ron: Oh you drew it on.

Horace: That's awesome! They will love to have that in postal production.

Ron: Oh yeah.

Horace: Wow.

Peter: This was, I remember when I made all these wooden triangles, which would be highly illegal now, because they were like weapons. Thought we might need them

Ron: I remember the first day they tried to march. Peter and I were preparing the way. We tied purple balloons on all the lamps to mark the way. Someone came right behind us and cut all that- so all these balloons were flying.

Peter: This was not well-received in Asheville at first.

Ron: Oh God, no.

Peter: Asheville was not as open as it is now.

Ron: Well, I would take a little nuance with that. Asheville was all right. It was the damn- pardon my French.

Horace: It's all right.

Ron: It was the Baptist preachers. They couldn't stand it, and they- when we had our march, they were literally rolling on the sidewalks screaming and hollering. And I had a city councilwoman there. Her mouth fell open. She said, "I can't believe they're acting that way." The other big thing we had in Asheville was a nondiscrimination ordinance. Remember that? They had so many people they had to move to the civic center. And they had two lines and speakers. There was this cherubic Lutheran minister, I said, "We put him first."

Segment Synopsis: Ron and Peter describe their work with SALGA and the movement of LGBTQ+ from / to rural spaces.

Keywords: Asheville, NC; Baptists; Gays; Marshall, NC; Rural migration; SALGA; Southern Appalachian and Gay Alliance; abomination; homophobia; organized religion; preachers

00:37:49 - Partner Benefits and Immigration Laws

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Partial Transcript: Peter: Yeah, so it's been- Asheville has its history. So do UNCA.

Horace: Do you want to talk about that?

Peter: Well, my whole career there I tried to get benefits for my partner, and I never got a single one.

Horace: Really?

Peter: No. Because it's a state university, it's a state institution. And the state was not going to give anything and were very clear about that, for everything I tried to do.

Ron: But if you stayed there-

Peter: And on top of that, in the 90s every time I turned around Campus Crusade was running some kind of seminar on "What Does the Bible Have to Say About Homosexuality?"

Horace: Oh, really?

Ron: Nothing!

Peter: It was- I just found it too much.

Ron: But it's just discouraging. So we had to have safe spaces to recharge our batteries somewhere.

Peter: On of the things that Rocco and I did was we were aerobic cloggers in the health promotion program.

Keywords: Bible; Homophobia; Immigrant; Immigration; Sweat Lodges; UNC Asheville

00:45:59 - Turning over Running Water

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, we would visit. One of the things that we had to bring closure to, Running Water, was it was so painful because of the projects I didn't quite finish. I had turned RFD over to somebody. I also turned Running Water over to someone. He was like the proverbial turd in the punch bowl. He was a damn Yankee.

Peter: Oh my God!

Ron: Well, you met him.

Peter: Oh, I know.

Ron: And he came out fine and all that. He had been to a Gathering and all that.

Peter: But he wasn't a "damn Yankee," he was from Arkansas.

Ron: But he went around insulting the neighbors. And that just-

Horace: You don't do that.

Peter: No.

Ron: So there was no way we could keep the property, we had to sell it. And I went to- when we bought the property we had chairs in our Stepping Stone. And I ended up being- I don't know, whatever.

Keywords: Arkansas; Gathering space; Running Water; Selling Property

00:49:23 - Peter and Ving Get Married

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Partial Transcript: Peter: So Ving and I have had an actual wedding. This was on April 9, 2016. We didn't exchange rings, we exchanged scarves because we're tropical and love to be warm.

Horace: I love that.

Ron: Rings are so cold.

Peter: This is my friend Bruce, he officiated for us and we had it at our house. And we set up the living room as a chapel to do it.

Ron: And it was quite a bunch of people.

Peter: My friend Micheal Head, who is in that picture way back with Harry Hay, he sang at the wedding for us.

Ron: What ever happened to Michael?

Peter: He's not communicating with me right now. It worries me, because he always goes into silence when things are going terrible in his life. So I'm afraid they are.

Ron: Too bad.

Peter: So this was the first gay wedding that almost everybody who was there had ever been to.

Horace: Really?

Peter: Because it had just become legal like several months before in North Carolina. There's a lot of places in the world where things had been going on. But not here.

Ron: Oh no. Gay in the Supreme Court was astounding.

Segment Synopsis: Peter discusses getting married, legally, to Ving. It was the first gay wedding many in their audience had ever attended.

Keywords: Ceremony; Gay marriage; Marriage Traditions

00:51:41 - How Ron Got Involved with Masonic Temple, Don't Ask Don't Tell Situations

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Partial Transcript: There was one Grand Lodge that- I think it was South Carolina- that expelled some Masons because they were gay. And that caused a storm, because then some other Grand Lodges said, "No, that's not a reason. There is no reason." And so all of the Grand Lodges are in communication to the other Grand Lodges. But something bruised or broke the tie with them. And I think that sort of calmed down, now. But for a while they were persona non grata for a lot of Grand Lodges. The Grand Lodge of North Carolina is open to it, but not officially. And I want to get it official someday.

Segment Synopsis: Ron describes how he joined the Masonic Temple and some of their LGBTQ+ inclusion practices.

Keywords: Asheville masonic temple; Don't Ask Don't Tell; Gay Masons; Homophobia; Masons; grand master