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The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
09 Sep 1981, Wed • Page 49
KILLALOE Along the rural concessions of Hagarty Township, you can still hear them called “hippies.” Even after more than 10 years, the newcomers who came here in the late 1960s to escape the cities and the Vietnam War and start new lives still find a gap between themselves and the lifelong residents. The community includes some 200 families who began taking over abandoned farms in this rugged area 150 kilometres west of Ottawa and gradually developed a working if not always harmonious relationship with the natives.
They’re the survivors the families who stayed on through the hard years. Neighboring farmer Jack MacDonald says there are fewer of “them” around than there once were. “It used to be that you couldn’t look up but there were three or four of them on the road.” And he still wonders why they came in the first place. “They thought they could make a go of the farms. But if good men couldn’t do it, how could they?” Phyllis Kirby-Hershoff, from Cleveland, who lives here with husband Lester, a canoe builder, admits that while there’s a nucleus of city people who came here several years ago, and new ones continue to move in, many return to sublime urban living.
“After a while, this no-hydro business gets you down.” That’s part of what Renfrew North MLA Sean Conway, who owns land in the area, calls the “intangible gap” that still exists between the new and old residents. “After all,” he says, “they’re coming at the world from pretty different points of reference.” Retired farmer Gordon Schleen confides, “There are lots of hippies around here,”when asked why his neighbours along the back concessions draw so much police interest around harvest time every year.
Farmer MacDonald claims the smell of marijuana is so powerful during the Killaloe Craft and Community Fair that “you can get drunk on it,” and adds: “I just wish they wouldn’t grow that marijuana. It’s illegal.” While Conway, 30, says the disfranchised city slickers are among his most astute constituents, he wonders about the lifestyle. “Some of what goes on along those back concessions is a little beyond the pale . . . benign neglect.
“Collections of cars which long ago gave up the ghost are a trademark of their homes. Large gardens and livestock feed the families, members of which live largely by their wits. Home decor is self-expressive among the “hippies.” One unpainted frame house has a large exterior mural covering one wall. In contrast, farms of native residents have manicured lawns wrapped around tidy houses. Morning Glory Farm is a collage of battered trucks and weather-worn buildings in these hills. At the end of a rutted track off, a township road, the faded farmhouse looks like it might belong to Ma and Pa Kettle.
Mere mention of the commune-style farm draws a knowing smile from Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Ben Burchat, a lanky Polish-Canadian from nearby Wilno. He admits the police helicopter has dropped down for a close look at activities there. It seems everyone around here knows about Morning Glory Farm. A back-to-the-land stockbroker who now lives in the Killaloe community says its residents are transient, “mystical,” not typical of other hill dwellers who are more.
Every year, a police hunt for grass A policeman’s lot: Sergeant Ben Burchat ‘harvested’ this marijuana spotted by helicopter f KILLALOE The Hagarty Hills “hippies” are churned up about the helicopter buzzing local farms in the annual police hunt for marijuana plots among the jackpines. “If someone was peeking into your backyard, you’d get your back up too,” says woodsman Terry Walsh, 34. “They flew over my place. I just hung a moon at them.” Members of the counter-culture readily admit there’s grass growing in them thar hills. The terrain, climate and cover are ideal, they say. But they claim no large-scale trafficking originates here.
Rather, small amounts of the drug are grown for personal use and distribution among neighbors. “A small amount might be grown with the potatoes and tomatoes,” says Walsh. Some of the hill people many of the natives still call them “hippies” calmly dismiss the regular passes by the police chopper. “It’s a seasonal inconvenience,” says Shelley McCarthy, a former Toronto legal-aid worker who moved to a farmhouse in this rugged area four years ago. But others, like the onetime Toronto stockbroker who came to the hills eight years ago to start a new life of “fresh air, healthy food, and honest work,” feel the sweeps are an invasion of privacy. “The cops are inflating the whole thing to justify the chopper,” says the 36-year-old resident, who wants to remain anonymous for fear of police harassment.
“The value of the marijuana has been grossly overrated.” Some of the more established residents agree. Gilbert Coulas, a lumber planing-mill operator who has lived in the hills for 50 years, can see how a low-flying helicopter detracts from the usual serenity. Residents complain the chopper’s buzz invades their privacy but admit nearly all smoke dope “You couldn’t have a party in your yard without them knowing everything that was going on. So far, says Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Ben Burchat, the chopper has pinpointed nine marijuana plots in Hagarty and surrounding townships, two of which had already been harvested.
Street value of the grass picked and destroyed by police has been estimated at more than $200,000. No charges have been laid. The hill people scoff at the police estimate and claim much of the pot pulled in by police was punch’.css wild weed. The former stockbroker says much of the marijuana growing in the hills is perennial and was used by early settlers to make hemp. He says the police chopper makes his horses and cows skittish, and the machine’s roar scares his two young children. He’s just as angry at the legislation which outlaws marijuana as he is at the police method of enforcing it.
“Almost everybody smokes dope around here it’s part of the lifestyle. We don’t tell the cops not to drink scotch.” If the problem is so acute, residents wonder, why don’t police mount surveillance at the marijuana plots they unearth and nab the culprits? Burchat says such surveillance would be too costly. The former stockbroker suggests the helicopter hunts may be in retribution for criticism the OPP received for enforcement procedures during the Killaloe Craft and Community Fair, an annual celebration staged and attended by members of the counter-culture. Organizers complained of roadblocks, vehicle searches, and over-zealous application of liquor laws. Burchat strongly denies the suggestion of retribution, and other residents point out the helicopter tours have occurred in previous years. In one way, Burchat says, he can sympathize with people who claim the helicopter infringes on their rights.
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
09 Sep 1981, Wed • Page 49