Wednesday, March 5, 2014


There are patches of Slab City occupied by full-time residents. They’ve marked the perimeters of what they consider their plot with lines of rocks, fences, walls, barricades, razor wire, vehicles, piles of junk. With signs that say keep out, no trespassing, private property.

However, they’re squatters. They don’t own the land. California does. The state just hasn’t done anything about it. Yet.

What is ownership, anyway? Is something yours because you say it is? Is it yours if no one takes it away? If I can take from you something you took from someone else is it then mine?

What if someone tries to take my slab? Since neither of us hold title, does the argument go to the one who can defend his claim? By force? That’s how Europeans took possession of the New World. “This land is ours because we believe our God gave it to us. And because we have gunpowder.”

It’s one thing for California to say, “Okay, everyone get out of Slab City.”  It’s another for me to say, “Hey, you, get off of my slab!” I have no documents to back me up. Maybe indigenous Americans should have waved paperwork and attorneys at invading Europeans.

Slab City is an anarchy. No one is in charge. Yet people’s claims to a bit of land are honored by other Slab residents and visitors. Everyone here wants to be left alone and to be free from rules, so they grant each other the same consideration. 


“The spot was empty when I got here, man.”

“But it’s my spot. I just left for the summer.”

“Finders keepers, man.”


  1. Fascinating look into the hippie days. Mutually agreed rules from the bottom up....not top down. Democracy at its best.

  2. RVers at Quartzsite, in my experience, are not quite as territorial but we do tend to go to the same spot each year so it can be disconcerting to find it already occupied. I always wondered how the people in the travel trailer felt to find themselves surrounded by a bunch of people in a single brand of Class C's.

  3. My, you're getting philosophical. Love it!!! May I suggest reading some of Daniel Quinn's works? His description - Takers vs. Leavers. I'm thinking it might be his Civilization book that best describes it. Tribes wanting what other tribes have = invasion/genocide, etc. After being immersed in the American culture of property rights I suppose it is a hard shackle for some to break free from. ~Sassafras