Grover Thomas Crosslin was born Nov. 10, 1954 in Manchester, Tennessee, the
third of Grover and Ruby Crosslin’s four children. The family moved north soon afterward,
settling in Elkhart, where Grover Crosslin worked in a trailer factory; almost half
of America’s recreational vehicles and motor homes are made there. "He was a
hard-working man," says Shirley Deweese.
Tom Crosslin also was a hard-working man, say family members. "He did a lot better than the rest of us. He worked for it," says Deweese, 44, a disabled former amplifier-factory worker. A cousin, Elkhart trucker Jim Spry, describes him as "always a goal-seeker," but also as a "free-spirit person. He didn’t like being confined. He wasn’t the type to work in a factory every day."
Crosslin worked as a trucker too, then ran a company providing property maintenance and security services. In the late ’80s, he hooked up with Doug Leinbach, who was managing foreclosed properties for an Elkhart bank. The two had known each other since eighth grade–"I was a pothead and Tom was into motorcycles," Leinbach recalls–but now became close friends, partying after work with Crosslin’s crew.
On the crew was an attractive young longhair named Rolland Rohm. He and Crosslin were soon an item.
Rohm, born Dec. 27, 1972 in South Bend, had a chaotic childhood. His biological mother lost custody of all four of her children, and Gerry, his father’s new wife, adopted him when he was five. She married John Livermore, then a metal fabricator, in 1987, giving Rohm two stepbrothers his age.
Friends and family remember Rohm as happy-go-lucky; as a teenager, he liked playing soccer and chasing girls. He got a little too lucky at the latter, and became a father before he was 16. The marriage was short-lived. After he and Crosslin got together, he won custody of his son.
One day Leinbach told Crosslin about a piece of property he’d seen for sale in Vandalia, just over the Michigan border. "It was our dream, and we were competing with each other to see who could get the money to buy it first," he remembers. Crosslin, who had made some money in real estate, won. He bought Rainbow Farm in 1993.
Southwest Michigan might seem an unlikely place for a counterculture mecca, although Vandalia, a town of about 350 people about 175 miles from Detroit, was once a key junction of the Underground Railroad, guiding escaped slaves to freedom. It’s traditionally Republican country, full of pig farms, churches, and fields of genetically modified corn and soybeans. But when he first moved in, friends say, Crosslin just wanted to kick back and live with Rohm in semiretired peace.
That changed when dozens of police raided the farm in 1995, looking for pot. Crosslin was also jailed for assault that year, for hitting a woman with a pipe in a local bar. John Livermore says he was fending off a gay-bashing by a biker and his girlfriend with a plastic PVC pipe, but didn’t fight the charges because he didn’t want to out himself and Rohm. He served eight months.
When he got out, he was determined to protest. Summerfest, the first festival at Rainbow Farm, was held Labor Day weekend in 1996. The MC got sick, and Derrik DeCraene, a zine publisher and former Indiana hempfest organizer, took the mic. "I got the crowd pretty fired up, so Tom and Rollie asked me if I wanted a full-time job," DeCraene, now 31, recalls. "When I found Rainbow Farm, it was like we all saw eye to eye."
The first festival only drew about 200 people, but by 1998 Hemp Aid and Roach Roast were pulling in close to 3,000, some from as far as Detroit, Chicago and Ohio. They drew waitresses and truckers, Dead tour veterans and pot activists, fresh-faced young women hugging strangers and snaggle-toothed hillbillies in "There’s a Lot More Than Corn in Indiana" T-shirts, all united by pot, music and peaceful partying.
"It became people’s way of not having to plan their holidays," says DeCraene. Crosslin described the crowd at Hemp Aid in 1999 as "working-class people who have never experienced anything like this–and they love it."
One institution was the Hippie Slide, a wet plastic tarp laid down on the hillside. People would take off their clothes and slide down, winning T-shirts if they made it to the bottom. A Kalamazoo ska band called the Mad Butchers stepped into folklore at Roach Roast 1997, when the power got cut off due to rain and their horn section played naked.
"There was nothing sad or unhappy about that place," says Omar Alham. "I fell in love there. I met the girl I’m going to marry there." "There was never any violence," adds his fiancee, Vanessa Hunckler, 18. "I felt safe up here."
In running festivals that celebrated pot-smoking, they inevitably ran afoul of Cass County Prosecutor Scott Teter–who Crosslin called "a right-wing Christian fanatic." An antiabortion Republican elected in 1996, Teter earned a reputation as a hardliner on drug busts and put up billboards warning, "If your sex partner isunder 16, they won’t be when you get out of prison." He won an award for his work on child-support cases, but also drew criticism as ineffective. A Kalamazoo lawyer describes him as politically ambitious and extremely rigid, someone "who won’t back off until you get him in the courtroom," but "more bluster than ability."
To Scott Teter, 3,000 people smoking marijuana in his county, openly, proudly and defiantly, must have been the equivalent of 3,000 people giving him the finger. "It was," says Derrik DeCraene.
Teter tried to shut down Hemp Aid in 1999 on permit technicalities, but failed. But police frequently stopped people driving to the festivals. And undercover agents camped out, looking to buy drugs.
Doug Leinbach says that harassment kept the farm from being profitable. The farm broke even drawing 2,500 paid admissions at festivals and would have made a comfortable living at 3,000, but never quite reached that point. "There’s no reason we shouldn’t have been doing that, except the cops kept turning people away," he contends. "That was what drove Tom nuts, that they wouldn’t let him make a living."
Hemp Aid 2000 was their biggest show ever, selling 2,800 tickets, but they lost money on a Merle Haggard show and the WHEE festival that summer, recouping enough on Roach Roast to break even for the year. That wasn’t enough to cover Leinbach’s bills, and he quit to work as a housepainter. They all stayed friends, he says, but tensions were high and they needed some time apart.
Rainbow Farm opened the 2001 season on April 20 with a 4/20 party for about 800 people. Bob Glidden, 36, a Green Party activist from White Pigeon, came for the first time and was disappointed. "People were supposed to be having a sense of community and freedom, and the place just got trashed," he says. He was also dismayed by the amount of underage drinking and that few people were signing the PRA petition.
The next morning, 17-year-old Konrad Joseph Hornack was killed when his car crashed into a bus carrying a high school girls’ softball team in a nearby town. Police said he had marijuana in his bloodstream and a Rainbow Farm admission bracelet on his wrist.
Early on the morning of May 9, police raided the farm, ostensibly looking for tax records. A former employee, who police now say was an undercover informant, had complained that Crosslin was paying Rainbow Farm workers off the books, in cash. They came in with 30 to 40 men in black masks, says Travis Hopkins, and went for the house, not the office.