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Hippies of Today Keep 1960s Ideals Burning

February 29, 1996

OSCEOLA NATIONAL FOREST, Fla. (AP) _ Take a scene from the 1960s: the pungent odor of burning marijuana, youngsters with flowers in their hair, beads, feathers, tattoos, nudity, the no-bra look, peace and love solving the world’s problems.

Now, fast-forward three decades, and you have the Rainbow Family, finishing up a month-long encampment under a fresh canopy of pines and palmettos deep in Osceola National Forest.

Scorned and scoffed at by society and unable to save the world, many of the hippies from three decades ago wander the United States like lost souls, living out of beat-up trucks and rusting cars.

``This is the free lifestyle,″ said a 47-year-old man known only as Brother Ray. ``We live simply so that others may simply live.″

The Rainbow Family evolved from the back-to-nature movement of the 1960s counterculture. The old and new hippies roam from gathering to gathering, often in national parks and forests.

Breaking camp this week, they were looking forward to the next conclave, in mid-March somewhere in Alabama. Only a few dozen stayed behind to clean up.

The Rainbow Family shun violence. And while some smoke marijuana, the Rainbows say they frown on hard drugs. In others’ eyes, they feel, their biggest crime is that they don’t strive to have a four-bedroom house with a pool.

Still, they have frequent contact with the police.

Florida police made 91 arrests at the encampment, 58 for alleged possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, others on accusations of public nudity or drunken driving.

Some of the Rainbow members are originals who left the concrete and steel of the cities, which they refer to as Babylon, years ago. Many adopt new names _ Tree Frog, Two Bears, Brother Ray, Gypsy, Peaceful.

But many Rainbows are youngsters, pulled on one side by the lure of consumerism and on the other by the suspicion of Big Brother society.

``We are society’s throwbacks, people who have not found peace in the culture,″ said Jessica, 24. ``This is a healing place, a place for worship, where everyone is accepted.″

``It’s not just a bunch of aging hippies trying to recapture the ’60s,″ says Joseff Greenfeather, 47. ``We are here to promote peace and healing among ourselves and the planet.″

The federal government doesn’t accept them.

The Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service to force the Rainbow Family out of the woods. Authorities said the Rainbows did not have a permit as required for a gathering of over 75 people.

``It’s the people’s forest. It doesn’t belong to the government,″ said James T. Trimmier, 41.

Besides, the Rainbows say, they leave forest sites in better shape than they found them, reseeding and even removing trash they find on arrival. But they were leaving Florida anyway.

As the hot sun beat down through the pines, a nude young woman walked along the sandy path, a folded towel on her head. Several people greeted her with hugs along the trail, seemingly oblivious to her nakedness. She was headed to the creek to bathe in the tea-colored water than flows into the Osceola from the Okefenokee Swamp.

``What I like is all the love,″ said Rachel Whigham of Melbourne, Fla., who goes by the name Pooh Bear.

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