George Anderson looks much as he did 12 years ago when, after a hitch in Vietnam, he became a hippie. He still sports disheveled clothes, a scraggly beard, and long, blond tresses.
But the heart beating beneath this flower-child exterior is unabashedly that of a capitalist.
"Benevolent capitalist," Anderson corrects with a laugh.
There are a lot of benevolently capitalistic ex-hippies among the 6,000 or so residents of Rappahannock County, 65 miles southwest of metropolitan Washington. In fact, a substantial chunk of this emerald county's middle class is made up of former members of the counterculture movement, some 500 to 1,000 of whom settled here after fleeing the bourgeois world in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Even so, chances are you won't be able to spot many. More and more are, after all, edging past 30, but unlike Anderson, most cut their hair long ago. Many have started businesses. Some have joined the volunteer rescue squad and fire department, while others have begun speaking out at local government meetings.
"A friend of mine has a word for it," says Anderson, 33, who makes jewelry sold all along the East Coast. "He says we've become the 'hip-oisie.' "
There was a time, 10 to 15 years ago, when these wandering children of the middle class weren't welcome in Rappahannock. The lore of those days includes the expected tales of local coldness and a few, quite possibly apocryphal, of violence -- "The 'Easy Rider' stories," one ex-hippie calls them after a famous late '60s movie about a dropout who was gunned down by bigots.
"People thought they were coming here and using drugs," says a former county official who asked not to be named. "And the relationships between men and women, the talk about free love and all, that worried people, too."
"Both sides have moderated," says Newbill Miller, a local real estate salesman and mayor of Washington, the county seat. The ex-hippies "have moderated their life style. When they first came here, I don't think that many were interested in doing much of anything. Now quite a few are contractors and artists. . . They've blended into the rural life.
"I think we have a right healthy community now," he says.
The evolution of attitudes that has made it possible for many ex-hippies here to come to terms with capitalism and involvement in county affairs has not occurred at the expense of the movement's basic premise that one should love his or her fellow men, say those who have made the transition.
"What has evolved is a synthesis of counterculture beliefs and capitalism," says Sam Cliffton, 31, who has started a solar energy design and construction firm with a fellow counterculture alumnus. "I like to think we're exhibiting more sensitivity in how we run our businesses and the kinds of businesses we start."
Cliffton and his partner, for instance, design and build solar energy structures because of environmental concerns, and they also fret about how local schools teach skills, like secretarial courses, that can only result in county children having to move elsewhere to find work.
"They should be teaching computer key punching," says Cliffton's partner Ken Ritvo. "We'd hire one in a minute, and the county's perfect for such computer software kinds of things."
Anderson takes a similar approach. His jewelry business has grown tremendously, and he says he owes a lot of his success to his one hired hand. "I pay him $8 an hour, which is a lot," he says. "I'm going to make him a partner pretty soon, too."
Cliffton, whose tousled brown hair is thinning in a pleasantly bourgeois style, said former hippies are now prominent local contractors, cabinetmakers, designers, teachers and food store owners, in addition to the expected contingent of jewelery makers, potters, painters, writers, and farmers. One is even editor of the county newspaper.
"We basically came out here to get away from the bull----," he says. "It was the Woodstock generation. But, of course, that wore off because it doesn't pay the rent or buy a car."
Anderson, tall and thin, came to Rappahannock from Colorado in the early 1970s after a friend wrote that he had found heaven. Anderson moved into a commune at the edge of the Shenandoah National Park called Spyders.
"The trip up at Spyders wasn't a back-to-the-land one," he says. "It was a la-dee-da, isn't-this-fun, let's-go-skinny-dipping-in-the-pond thing. We'd swing in the trees, paint our faces, put on long shirts and go down to the corner store. Why these people put up with us then, I'll never understand."
But by the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 things began to change.
"People started to have babies," says Anderson, father of two, both of whom were born in the commune. "You can't boogey all night long with babies."
Cliffton, who also came here because of a friend and lived for a while at Spyders, sees the change in economic terms. "In 1975 or 1976, I realized that, unless I got out there and hustled, I was never going to get any money. And I wanted money because I wanted some of what was here for myself."
To Rae Haase, 30, the owner of Nature's Foods & Cafe, a health food store on the main square, who came to Rappahannock from Florida seven years ago after her ex-husband had a dream about it, the explanation for the change in direction is even more basic. "I guess we grew up," she says.
The slow transformation of Haase into businesswoman is also a product of that synthesis: She wanted work that would allow her to stay close to her two children.
"I was looking for something I could do and have my children with me," says Haase. "That's how the store got started. But it didn't do too well until two years ago when I moved into this building. Then the Post Office moved in next to me, and now I'm even starting to get longtime residents coming in."
Even in the spiritual heart of Rappahannock's counterculture community, the Spyders commune, high on the side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, life has changed. Fewer people live there, and most of them have jobs as waiters or waitresses in area cafes, or they work in construction or chop wood for a living. Of the 11 founders, only Donnie Mullan, 30, a Baltimore native, remains.
Mullan lives in glorious isolation in a house he built from scraps of timber and demolished buildings in a clearing he cut by hand. He had to carry each piece to the site because there is no road. The result is a tiny, charmingly eccentric house with endless mountain views.
Yet even here, the bourgeois existence with which his former commune residents have come to terms is creeping up the mountainside. Mullan has planted grass around his house, and in the cool of the morning, miles from paved roads and a generation from suburbia, amidst the deer and wild turkey, the chugging of his gasoline lawn mower echoes across the clearing.
"I don't make a hell of a lot of money," says Mullan, who chops wood much of the year and works on Fridays as a waiter in a Culpeper restaurant. "But then I don't need a lot, either. This is the life I always wanted. I even dreamed about it when I was a kid." He falls silent for a moment, then exclaims suddenly, "Oh, it was so different back then!"
Lean and muscular, with jet black hair, Mullan says most of the commune's founders return from time to time, but they're all busy now, earning money, raising families. None of that is for him, however.
"I'm going to stay here forever," he says.
Down in Washington, there is talk that in the next county supervisors' election in the fall of 1983 the newcomers -- as they are still called by longtime residents -- may unite to exert more influence. "The old boys are still sitting on their thumbs and there are things that should be done," says Cliffton."
But for the time being, life remains country slow and easy, and during the warm afternoons when the sun streams into the mainstreet office of his solar construction company, Sam Cliffton likes to stare out the window at the passersby.
"Sometimes we'll see kids walking down the street with long hair, you know," he says with a smile. "Then I'll say, 'Hey, look at the hippies!' "