- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - You can take your Facebook page and your Twitter account and your streaming Netflix videos and whatever modern, Earth-polluting contraption you are driving and do whatever you want with all of that.

After all, it’s your life.

But there is a couple living a much more simple way, the way many lived 150 years ago, south of Eugene, not far from Lorane Highway, on a piece of property owned by a retired doctor from California.

Eli and Cheryl Cutler say they were “married” on Sept. 10, 2010, in Coquille, simply by deciding they were committed to each other.

“We just pronounced we are ‘married’ and let everyone know,” Eli says.

A couple of years ago, they landed in Lane County and became caretakers for the doctor’s property off Summerville Road.

It’s here that they live outdoors, through wind and rain and whatever else comes. They make their own clothes and cook their own food over an outdoor stove, despite the fact they are right next door to a home with a satellite dish and a hot tub and a fancy-looking pickup in the driveway.

“She’s actually offered it to us,” Eli says of the doctor, who wishes to remain anonymous and is often gone, traveling the world.

“I’d be afraid to live in there,” Eli says, breaking into his habitual, honking laughter. “And she has a fear of enclosed structures,” he adds of Cheryl.

The couple, however, do have a cellphone, which they use to stay in touch with family.

But when they need to go into Eugene, they don’t drive a car. They ride the bicycles that Cheryl builds from various parts she finds, or take their horse and buggy.

“We’re trying to be an example and live the way we believe and hope it does some good for somebody somewhere. Everybody should do that,” says Eli, 60, who was born in Michigan and raised in the Tampa, Florida area, where he began at age 13 to read and learn about the Amish way of life.

That would take him back to Michigan as a young man, and then to Pennsylvania and Indiana and other places, teaching Amish school and working all sorts of jobs over the years, including as a newspaper reporter for the Elkhart (Ind.) Truth in the mid-1980s.

It’s a lifestyle rooted in “voluntary simplicity,” Eli says.

Cheryl, 53, was born in Coos Bay and raised there, as well as in the communities of Reedsport, Yoncalla and Silverton, where she was once a part of a “Hebrew re-enactment” community, in which people live as they did in biblical times, she says.

Today, she describes her faith and lifestyle not as Amish or Quaker or “anything but what the Lord God has revealed to me over the years. I couldn’t nail it down to a man-made church group.”

The couple makes their own clothes and their own living structures. They use an outhouse on the property when nature calls.

“If everyone in the world lived like this, there wouldn’t be any homeless people,” Cheryl says.

For money, Eli feeds cows at the Spencer Creek Grange and does chores for neighbors, while Cheryl makes and sells walking sticks and Amish dolls.

Both previously have been married or in long-term relationships. Eli has five children, 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, most of whom live out of state. Cheryl has two children and a couple of grandchildren in Southern Oregon.

Eli’s second partner died of cancer six years ago, and he remembered the “Stick Lady” when he saw Cheryl again in Coquille a few years ago.

That’s what they called Cheryl in Coos County. She says she even sold a pair of her walking sticks in Coos Bay to husband-and-wife actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Eli met Cheryl one day, maybe seven or eight years ago, when she was selling her sticks on the Cape Arago Highway, just south of the community of Empire.

After they saw each other again in Coquille, “We hit it off really well,” Eli says.

Now they sleep in an “eco-hut” they built themselves from the shell of an old camper, repurposed lumber and items found in “freebie boxes around town,” Cheryl says.

They have no electricity, of course, but use solar power to recharge the batteries on their bicycles’ headlights.

They ride the bikes into Eugene, to go to Capella Market in south Eugene, the New Frontier Market in west Eugene, or their favorite restaurant, Laughing Planet in the Whiteaker district.

Cheryl builds the bicycles out of old bike frames, adding parts of everything from mobile home siding to lids from pots and pans; a 1949 Chevy headlight powered by rechargable batteries from cellphone parts; and a headlight rim from a BMW Mini-Cooper, found on the side of a road after the car hit a deer.

Their handmade, ankle-length cassocks - long coats made of painter’s cloth found at thrift stores - hang on racks under outdoor shelters and are sewn by Cheryl on a 1950s era sewing machine.

Eli built the buggy out of spokes and hubs and rubber ordered from speciality shops in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. It’s pulled by a 14-year-old horse named Whiskey.

Some are fascinated when they encounter the couple on Lorane Highway and other local roads, while others are annoyed to have to pull around them, or by the horse droppings, Eli says.

“But what about them passing us and I wind up with a face full of exhaust? Which is more harmful? I don’t really care if they blow smoke in my face, if they don’t complain about my horse manure!” he says, breaking into that laugh again.

The Cutlers do not want to change any of us, not really, they say.

“We aren’t here to proselytize to people,” Eli says, although he does hand out some literature about the “Monks of the Mystic Path,” which talks about how lifestyle “will do more for the cause of Truth than anything we can say, preach or write.”

Continuing, he says: “We aren’t here to make people do things our way. It’s just the idea of trying to walk the talk, and hope it has some influence on someone, some way.”

___

Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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