Soul Searching in the House of Riley
By way of introduction to a host of problems the farm is facing, ponder a new requirement for the working folk of California: a video course on the subject of harassment. Yes, the same state that featured Hollywood celebrities paying tearful, Oscar night homage to Harvey Weinstein wants to make sure regular people don’t mistake Meryl Streep for a role model. The course is not optional, nor are its conclusions. For the most part, if you had decent parents who raised you right, it’s all Captain Obvious material. It even warns against predatory homosexual supervisor. Good for them.
But, here and there, it gets more than a little strange. Did you know that if a fellow worker says ‘hello’ to you and you fail to respond, you just engaged in harassment? (Pity the poor supervisor distracted by a call on line 3.) Towards the very end of the course, we are reminded that in the old, backward days a child was born either a boy or a girl, but it’s just not that simple anymore, silly. The course makes it very clear there’s no room for a contrary opinion, or a moral objection. Got that, Mr. Supervisor? You will recognize, applaud, and support any sort of gender identity served up to you by the workplace. If a bearded, 6’7″ dude, wearing a black leather bustier and stiletto boots, wants to use the ladies room, you let him. Capiche? I suppose that means if an employee identifies as a Golden Retriever, we need to let him pee on the hydrants too.
Like the vast majority of my guests, when I ponder this sort of state-imposed insanity, I can’t help thinking of taking up residence in places like Tennessee or Texas or Idaho. Like many of you, I’ve watched literally thousands of friends, customers, and retired teachers pull up stakes and hightail it out of Babylon. We even field requests, here and there, for a Riley’s Farm franchise in some of those states.
For us, a wholesale departure wouldn’t be easy. The sale of this property would likely take years. Finding a buyer who wants to manage a “Dinner Theater/Field Trip/U-Pick” operation might be, uh, daunting to say the least. But it is that serious. If you do see a “for sale” sign around here, it should only be understood as a means to either finding a partner or keeping our options open. We’re not anxious to start over. Creating what we’ve done in a rural state without the 23 million people living in Southern California would present more than a few challenges. For the Revolutionary War Adventure alone, I’m guessing there are easily 300,000 fifth graders within two hours of our farm.
Then too, the second generation Rileys are all native Californians. Our roots run pretty deep here. If I want to socialize, I live right above a tavern full of friends, family, and customers who love our place. Could that be duplicated very quickly elsewhere? A friend of mine moved to Tennessee more than ten years ago and when he gets pulled over, the state troopers still say, “you’re not from around here, are ya?” (I’ve vacationed in Tennessee, twice now — along with Oklahoma and Kentucky. I’ve never met kinder strangers, so I don’t worry about this too much.)
By far, the single greatest reason for staying is just this: we are needed. Sometimes, when I talk to customers, I get the sense they don’t want to leave. A little “old normal” sanity is restorative. At “Revolutionary Evenings” the other night, three different ladies asked if they could give me a hug. We certainly have our detractors, but I get the sense we are loved, in part, because of the sort of people who hate us: Bolsheviks, identity-freak weirdos, Covid Pharisees, and people who worship the state as god. All the wrong people want us dead, and that means God’s people look out for us.
My mother, now departed, once had a dream that some of the founding fathers were walking a distant part of the farm, on their way to some grand, heaven-lit meeting. She took it as a kind of blessing on the place, and I do too, still, even if I know that makes a few of my cynical critics howl with laughter. (A friend let us know a group of local witches on social media take pride in trying to hex us, and they were particularly frustrated when the big fires didn’t take us out completely. Like I say, you are known, sometimes, by the kinds of people who hate you.)
In truth, I love the place. I could sit by the fire and listen to the sound of my son, Gabriel’s singing voice, for hours. Last Saturday, his cousin, Emma, sang “Wild Mountain Thyme,” and I had to walk outside, take in the beautiful Oak Glen moon, and grit my teeth. It was THAT beautiful. Sometimes, in the fall, when I see a handsome couple — a young mother and father — introducing their four year old to apple picking, the beauty of family can take my breath away.
“What’s wrong, Mr. Riley?”
“Nothing,” I say. “Nothing at all.”
The old, cranky man — the guy who picks fights — is crying.
On this front, try to imagine a total stranger so taken with your home, so enchanted by the grounds, that they stop to memorialize that moment of their lives by taking a picture in front of your barn, in front of the poplar trees you planted, or standing next to the young living historians who work for you. It’s a peculiarly touching experience. Along with God, nature, and the rest of your family — you built something worth putting on camera, worth making a family tradition. I can’t fully express how blessed I am by those moments.
The Problem, However..
I honestly believe that our ruling elites don’t want any small, family business to survive. They want us all either working for the government or a huge, fascist conglomerate willing to enforce every environmental and diversity mandate coming down the pike. When I complain about this, a few of our guests remind me that they are here for the apple butter, not the politics. On such occasions, I sense they are feeling a moral conviction they find unpleasant. They voted for the very politicians that made their favorite living history farm struggle, and they don’t like being reminded. I have no patience with customers who want us around, but don’t care how difficult it is to do business in California.
- The other day a monthly propane bill hit us for more than $3500. The jet-set carbon crowd can pay for all the energy in the world, but the rest of us are stuck with the consequences of Joe Biden’s hatred for fossil fuels. Man made climate change is a myth, and we’re paying the price for it. (We have ENORMOUS natural gas reserves and we aren’t using them.)
- We recently endured an increase in fire insurance from about $23,000 a year, to $48,000 the next year, to nearly $65,000 the year after that. We know of one Oak Glen establishment that has been forced to go without insurance entirely. Environmental polices have left the forest un-harvested, the reservoirs decommissioned and the cattle hungry — so firefighting, and beef, are more expensive. Once again, we live in a state that bows to irrational environmentalists, ignoring the science.
- The public health policy response to Covid proves that our “experts” are either amateurs or misanthropes. Millions of people were put out of work and thousands of small businesses were destroyed. The Federal Government — sensing its own incompetence — had to print billions in funny money to bail out, among others, businesses like ours. We took the money to keep our employees working, in an environment where the customers were frightened away by the very government-monster that created the virus in the first place.
- Businesses like ours face a new water-regulation threat that essentially treats small rural resorts with their own wells as though they were full-ledged water districts. Needless to say, it just can’t be done. We have clean, mountain well water, and we’ve been paying $1300 a month to have it monitored and tested, but I’m getting the sense that bill is going to sky-rocket too.
- Back to Covid again: you don’t wipe millions off the books by shutting down the schools, (and field trips), without enduring major financial structural damage. Even though our customers are coming back, we’re still trying to crawl back from two years of reduced income. I honestly — still! — don’t know if we’re going to make it.
- One school district, as a condition of returning to our field trips, wanted our “Gold Rush Adventure” to feature transvestite gold miners, along with loving tributes to the historical contributions of the LGBTQ+ crowd. We told them this was a field trip for 4th graders and they could go to hell, but how long will it be before psychotics of this sort gain real enforcement authority?
Two World Views
Ponder–using Riley’s Farm as a microcosm–the struggle we currently face. Think about the two different messages young people are hearing today..
- Riley’s Farm, (and other institutions that appreciate Biblically informed Western Civilization), teach children a Declaration message: “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” They are taught the noble struggle for the Bill of Rights, the injustice of the Stamp Act and the admiralty courts, the abolitionists’ lament, and the idea that some Americans, on the battle field, have loved liberty enough to give their lives.
- Public schools are telling black students to expect structural racism, to see whites as “oppressors,” and to remember that America was built on slavery, that business owners exploit them, that Protestants oppress all other religions, that men seek to dominate women, that being masculine or feminine isn’t in vogue, and that, as a nation, tragically, we were never “really that great.”
I am not being too dramatic when I say this is a struggle between good and evil, between optimism and pessimism, between life and death..
Solution: A City on A Hill
Picture the entire East Oak Glen valley as a sanctuary against the evil that surrounds us. Figuratively, you could imagine a fort, or a fortress, but, in practice, those of us who can’t leave Gotham all create a kind of joint stock venture to develop what could easily comprise 2,000 or more acres in Southern California. Picture cottages and vineyards and retreat centers and walking trails and trout ponds and cideries and hills terraced with new apple trees. Picture a New England style meeting house with messages from Edwards and Whitefield. Picture dances in the barn and cider caves and a private, charter academy. Picture new films and movies being produced in a huge, historic backlot.
Most of you spend $200 or more to visit Disneyland — a place that was once redemptive but that is now, sadly, a wasteland of sickly, woke, derivative nonsense.
My sense is that the Riley Family will not make it unless we up our game, charge an admission pass and make a day in the country something that might compete, at least a little, with the major corporate attractions.
Picture entering the farm and enjoying..
- three or four live bands, playing traditional music
- miles of walking trails
- two or three different dinner shows, from Los Rios, to Wilshire’s to Riley’s.
- An hour with Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglas, Chesty Puller..
- Seasonal farming demonstrations (pruning apple trees, milking cows, making cheese)
- Man skills (chopping firewood, felling trees, cutting mortise and tenon joints, milling lumber, marksmanship)
- Woman Skills (spinning yarn, plucking chickens, making clothing)..
- Gospel Sings
- Period food classes
- Raise your own cattle..
- Old world skills: glass-blowing, saddle-making, gunsmithing, pottery
We can add a lot more, at a lot of different price points, but I can’t help thinking. It’s now, or never. We either grow up here, or we “git going..”
What say all of you?
..because I actually do need to know. This year’s weather has killed our cash flow. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you stocked up on dinner events and field trips about now. (Even though field trips and dinner theater are way up, we are struggling to pay our bills. We just paid off another $13,000 fire insurance premium, and we’re looking at a $20,000 property tax installment in two weeks.)
The question all the Rileys are asking: Is the Lord telling us to go, or should we stay here, along with all of you — and fight it out as partners and planners? Your thoughts and prayers are coveted. We’re particularly interested in knowing..
- Is Riley’s Farm valuable enough to you, as a guest, to pay an increased admission price for our programs?
- Should we become a “members only” establishment? (Not an expensive membership, but a membership based system nonetheless)
- Would you, or someone you know, entertain investing in a rural resort development entity, of the sort I described above?
- Do you have experience in any of the new capital funding options that have been developed in the last ten years (crowd funding, private equity, etc.)
- Are you a civil engineer or do you know a good one, who can help us conceptualize the physical space and the infrastructure necessary?
- Should I just give up and get a job with the post office? (Wanted to see if you’re still reading)
Thanks for the read. We appreciate you! (Well, the vast majority of you, anyway.)Tags: California, CRT, Idaho, living history, Planning, Riley's Farm, Tennessee, Texas
Categorised in: Farm Journal
This post was written by Jim Riley