Dixie J-Elder’s family moved forty-eight times before Dixie turned thirteen, due to her father’s job as a cartographer and explorer. She lived in America’s deserts, swamps and mountains. Sometimes in motels, tents or boarding houses for two weeks, when her father was “checking points” for topo maps. Other times (rarely) for a whole school year. Like in her Mom’s hometown, Douglas Wyoming. That was Dixie’s fourth grade, while her father explored/mapped Antarctica. (A mountain peak & glacier there are named for William C. Elder. He was the first person to summit each location).
Dixie and her brother, sister, Mom & Dad lived for a whole school year in Waycross/Hoboken Georgia, while her Dad mapped the Okeefenokee Swamp–a brutal job. Her father took a “desk job” to provide a “stable home” for the kids in 1966 in Washington D.C. That’s where Dixie began marching non-violently against the Vietnam war & for civil rights. Not a very stable era!!
Dixie attended Langley High in McLean, Virginia. She is still in touch with pals from LHS via the magic of FB. She then went to NOVA community college, where she met friends for life, enjoyed theatre classes/shows. She played Miss Furnival in “Black Comedy,” receiving notice in the Washington Post. The set had fallen down with her standing onstage, a window passing over her head (shades of Buster Keaton!) This was an Accident but the Post writer thought it was planned and wrote, “Miss Furnival (Dixie Elder) stood stock-still as the back wall of the cleverly designed set fell over her head. She missed not a beat as she drawled in a Deep South accent, “Oh, Daddy! It’s Awful!” Dixie’s English teacher took up contributions from other teachers and donated money to fund her bus trip, apartment for three months and food money–if she would quit school and move to New York City to pursue a career in the Theatre. Sadly Dixie was on probation for her work hiding AWOL soldiers and draft dodgers. She was part of an Amish, Jewish, Catholic “underground railroad.” She’d pick guys up in the D.C. area, drive them to a country singer’s farm in West Virginia and drop them off. They stayed in former slave shacks, being fed by local farmers. They were then picked up by other volunteers and eventually ended up in Canada. Dixie beau got six months in prison for his part in this felony (! we had no idea it was a Felony!) Dixie’s father appeared in court to argue her right to fight against a war she did not believe in. So she got probation instead of a prison sentence.
During probation, going to NOVA, Dixie became part of the Jesus Movement. She is still a devout lover of Jesus and believes (as Pope Francis says) that God loves Everyone. GLBT+, whatever race, Our Creator loves us all. We are here to be care-takers of Mother Earth and each other. And to enjoy Life.
Dixie wanders often with her husband Peter (who majored in Anthropology at Wm & Mary College where he also studied Drama. He performed in “The Sea Gull” with Glenn Close at Wm & Mary). Peter & Dixie love hiking and investigating archaeological sites & Pubs. They’ve trekked around Iceland, Austria, Skara Brae, and Ireland together and explored many other places on their own, before they finally met doing a play at Nomads Theatre in Boulder, Colorado. They always visit their “fictive kin” family in Germany during every month-long trip. Due to financial constraints, Peter & Dixie save up for a vacation every 5-8 years. Not yearly, ever.
Dixie helped her then brother-in-law, Lars-Eric Lindblad set up his travel company’s photographic safaris in Africa in 1979. She met with experts on Silverback gorillas & determined that a photographic tent camp near Tanzania would bother those great creatures. So Lars moved the camp & paid Dixie’s expenses to stay in Kenya for a glorious summer. There, she swam through coral reefs off the coast of Waa, had close-up encounters with hippos (which she Later read are the most dangerous creatures in Africa!) and many other adventures.
She returned to her teaching job in a severely impoverished part of the American south. She won a Jimmy Carter grant to teach for at least two years in a poverty stricken area. She left that job after three years of numerous confrontations with the KKK. The leader (a shop teacher!) did not like her teaching about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; or her Drama club’s performance for state competition in Forensics. The play, written by her students, most of whom were African-American, was directed by Dixie. The dance/play showed how people from Africa were kidnapped, enslaved, then experienced horrors of poverty & prejudice, lynchings and other evil treatment. The show ended with students of all races dancing in an embrace-circle. The cruelties of the KKK after this show increased terrifyingly.
So Dixie reluctantly quit her beloved teaching career. She and three of her students wrote each other for six years. She was overjoyed that some students went to college, a rarity for that area–they received full scholarships. One was accepted into the American Ballet Theatre. Others lost their hate for African-Americans, ditched the KKK and changed that town.
Dixie then worked for Lars, typing up his autobiography and helping him and friends John & Liz Fuller on the book’s research. John & Liz’ wrote books like “The Ghost of Flight 401,” and “The Day of Saint Anthony’s Fire.” Dixie met Andy Warhol at a party given by Diane von Furstenberg during her life in Connecticut. Andy drew her a sketch with a banana and a broken heart after hearing her story about her sister’s heroin addicted boyfriend stealing The Banana LP from her. Dancing in NYC with Lars’s and his wife’s (Cary) friends (The King of Sweden, Gustav, the Queen of the Netherlands, Erica Jong and many other wild people.) Dixie often feels she has lived ten life-times in her (now) nearly 70 years!
Dixie is a social activist, ever since her father took her to hear Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” Her Dad was in D.C. for a job interview & was enthused about King’s work. That speech changed Dixie’s life, inspiring her to work for the rights of people of color. She has marched against war and for civil rights in Washington, D.C. and many other locations, including a childrens’ ICE detention center in the Denver area.
Dixie’s poetry has been published in literary magazines such as Inklings anthologies and true crime collection Off the Cuffs. Off the Cuffs was on the NY Times “Best of the Small Presses” for 8 weeks.
Dixie lives in Colorado with her husband and their beloved cats, Dulce & Ginger. They (by choice) have no children. But they love all their nieces, nephews, three grand-nephews & a grand-niece.
2020-21 has been hellish for Dixie & Peter (as it has for everyone on this planet). Since June of 2020 Dixie is recovering from an ankle broken in three places, cancer of the appendix (a rare cancer which can be ‘cured’–not put into remission but cured, according to her doctors) and covid.
Dixie will not allow these curses to hex her life. She & Peter are planning a September/October 2022 trip to the Shetland Islands, down Western Scotland’s islands/coastlines to York, Southern England. They will stay in Peter’s Mum’s home village (Hamble.) Then go to Dixie’s ancestral home–her mother’s family–Isle of Wight, Cornwall & vast vast ocean time!