Poster: Mr. Television
(see this users gallery)
SMELL OF SUCCESS
Former actor discovers tranquility selling ceder fragrance in Placitos
Joshua Peine has gone from Hollywood to happy wood.
Romping with the cedar elves in Placitas is a long, long way from appearing on "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet." Peine, known to the villagers of Placitas as "the cedar man," has made the transition from Hollywood actor to New Mexico treetop tycoon.
Peine, who admits to being in his 4Os, is the only person in Placitas to have appeared in "Highway Patrol," "Father Knows Best" and "My Three Sons." Nobody else in the village played Jimmy Stewart's son-in-law in "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation."
And there are few other New Mexicans who have discovered that money really does grow on trees.
The dough comes from boughs- little green buds from Rocky Mountain junipers that grow on Peine's property. Juniperus virginia and juniperus scopulorum are commonly called cedars because of their fleshy, berry-like fruit and their unmistakable fragrance. The junipers, a.k.a. cedar, make chests, posts, pencils, baskets and, for Joshua Peine, sachets that are the pith of his Clear Light Cedar Co.
Peine likes to say Clear Light Cedar products are used from Taos to Tahiti; Peter Fonda keeps the forest fragrance in bags stowed about the yacht he regularly sails to Tahiti.
A ton is regularly exported to Crabtree & Evelyn Ltd, the London perfumers who distribute the fronds for potpourris. Mail order catalogs such as Early Winters and Orvis sell Peine's arboreal bags. Business, which Peine says has doubled in each of the last four years, is so good that he believes himself to be the largest employer in Placitas. Sales are by mail only (Box 551, Church Road in Placitas 87043).
Some people keep the sachets under their pillows. Others use them to repel insects, perfume hope chests, odorize closets and deodorize car trunks. More than anything, the sachets remind me of a cabin at the Piney Trail Tourist Court in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Whether you call it pine or cedar or juniper, the branches have brought Peine happiness, plus a comfortable home and a new Audi with a license plate reading CEDAR.
"When I first told friends what I was doing, they thought I was stark raving mad," Peine says. "They would ask, 'Well, what else do you do?'"
At 17, Peine was an actor, under contract to Warner Brothers. He had appeared in some 110 television episodes, including a desperado role on "Death Valley Days," when he fled Hollywood in 1969. Peine left a starring role on an NBC situation comedy, "Don't Call Me Charlie," to sell bouquets at Paul Howard's Flowerland in Santa Monica. "I think I'm basically a farmer," Peine says. "I like to grow things. I like getting up in the morning and going to work."
He didn't like working for two months and then waiting for the next call from his agent. He didn't care for the pressurized lifestyle of Hollywood. He bought a pickup truck, threw some rakes in the back and started a landscaping business.
Then one day on the way to Bel Air, he just kept driving.
Peine found himself in New Mexico, selling posters from the back of a motorcycle. He found a livlihood by commuting to Saskatchewan and trading Indian jewelry to the Crees for moose hides.
He found himself living for months with the Hopis in Arizona and the Navajos in New Mexico. They taught Peine the therapeutic values of cedar- how it cleansed the mind and soothed the soul, preparing the body for more cosmic things.
In 1971, Peine found the clear light. It was in "The Tibetan Book of the Dead." The first bardo, or after-death state, is called chikai, or Transitional State of the Movement of Death. In this primordial purity, "The conscious recognition of the Clear Light induces an ecstatic condition of consciousness such as saints and mystics of the West have called ILLUMINATION."
Fortified with his new knowledge, anointed with the Clear Light, Peine opened his business on San Francisco Street, in Santa Fe. It was fitting that the building was once called Chapel of the Clear Light.
At first, friends who lived near the San Juan and Pecos Rivers obtained cedar for Peine. He sold the little muslin bags for $9 a dozen. In 1973, he bought acreage in Placitas and moved the business into the mountains.
Mail comes addressed to The Cedar Man, to Cedar Heaven, to My Cedar Friends. Cedar is so common in America that there are towns such as Cedar Key, Fla., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and two Cedar Groves in West Virginia. There is a Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio, and a Colorado village called Cedaredge. Cedar Crest, N.M., is just over the mountain from Placitas, which has become Cedar Kingdom to Joshua Peine.
"I am amazed and continue to be amazed," Peine says. "If you are willing to be evoked, there is nothing like the joy of cedar. Bugs hate it. People love it. It absorbs humidity. It smells great, and, you know, it stays green forever."