letter from Mel Lyman, December 8th, 1971,
sent to his fourth grade teacher, Dixie Duke, in Santa Rosa

(printed as part of the Epilogue to The Lyman Family's Holy Siege of America)

Dear Mrs. Duke:
Received your warm and friendly letter this morning. I thought I'd better write and warn you about the ROLLING STONE article before you got the wrong impression. The first installment just came out and the second installment will be in the next issue. This is the one that will probably contain parts of your conversation with David Felton. The first one is mainly negative, made up mostly of interviews with people who don't like me. They've used me to glorify themselves and completely distorted all the facts, they've even changed history to make me look bad and themselves good. I'm not complaining, mind you, I'm just pointing out that most of the things said about me and my communities are untrue; I'm used to being misinterpreted. I've made a lot of enemies over the last ten years and they get in a dig every chance they get. Still, it's good publicity. I sound like a very exciting character, kind of a modern day John Dillinger. The next issue will hopefully be a little closer to the truth as the people interviewed are not necessarily hostile towards me and also this coming issue will contain a direct interview with me and at least I will be represented by my own words. There are a lot of things you aren't going to be able to understand about me, my religious convictions, etc., but it is all just language anyhow and words are never as important as personal evaluation.
Received your lecture about the merits of profanity. I had to laugh. I, too, wished there weren't so many dirty words in the book but you have to remember that the book is made up entirely of letters I wrote in my youth and I couldn't tidy it up now just because I'm a little older and wiser. It was an accurate history of growing pains. And for my obsession with bodily excrements I can only plead guilty, in some ways I'm afraid I will always be a vulgar little man. But again, to me it's only language, I use the words that best communicate the thought or feeling; can you think of a better way to say, "aw, shit!"
It seems you were put off a little by my trials and tribulations in the book, and the worst parts were left out because I was even too miserable to write letters. But ... that is one of the reasons I put the book out; to show that the human spirit cannot be defeated and that adversity only strengthens a man's character; it grinds out the littleness in him, it deepens him.. . . And that is why so many young people come to me for guidance, because they know I can understand their problems. So rest assured that I haven't lost any of my appreciation for the beauty of the world, spending so much time in the ugliness only served to distinguish beauty by the lack of it.... And the weaker souls among us need encouragement. A lot of people just don't have it in them to get up after they've been knocked down. And those of us who have that kind of strength must share it ... over the years I have learned how to build, I have learned how to start at home with the people around me and that is the basis of my communities. I remember when you made me play baseball against my will because I was afraid I would fail. I remember when I was afraid of a bully and you said if it was you you would go out and lick him. We had a community and you were the leader, and now I am the leader of my own community. Life is really very simple, it is only the attempts to communicate it that make it seem complex. Well I guess I'm giving you a schoolboy lecture but it's nice to know that I've learned something, isn't it. Write me again after you've read the two issues of ROLLING STONE and tell me if you still like me....
Love, Mel

Mel Lyman