2. The Mountain Man

Next morning I awoke. Not with a snap, rather I crossed a gentle line between barely asleep and barely awake.  I don’t wear a watch, haven’t for years.  My cell phone is my watch.  I reached for the Droid, It blinked five a.m. at me.  It also told me it was 45 degrees outside of my toasty sleeping bag.

Thoughts of Roy, the mountain man, flooded my brain and pushed me into consciousness even as my body protested the yank from my eiderdown womb. I got up for my morning whiz.

I fired up the furnace and donned my fleece jacket and wool watch cap. I reached for my laptop, its metal shell was a block of ice on my lap.  I slipped my legs back into the sleeping bag.

Questions tumbled in my mind.  The very look of the man had promised a story.  I asked myself how to get to it, how to get to a level of trust.

Is he the freest man I’ve ever met?  Am I less free than he?  What is freedom?  His?  Mine?

A few months before, in a binge-purge of simplification aimed at keeping me in the ring after a near-TKO by the national economic dive, I had divested myself of two condos, a lot of debt, a ton of personal possessions, and moved aboard my motorhome.  I gave myself a sabbatical in which to inhale fresh air.  The breeze wafted in from a doorway that had opened in my mind: a forgotten craving to wander the continent.  It was nearly thirty years since I last indulged my Inner Gypsy.

I decided to wait a day, give Roy time to manage his life and write for a while.  Today I would make notes of answers I wanted and the questions that might draw out his story.

The following day I rode my bike down the road he’d pointed to.  The paved road ended a mile from my parking spot.  I rode several miles further over the eyeball-rattling washboard without seeing anything that looked like a camp.   Several ATVs, carrying shovels and buckets passed me.

Back and forth down the road

Finally, at one of the dry washes I noticed the single track of a bicycle tire amid the braided furrows of ATV tracks.  I followed the track, fifty yards later I came upon a camp.

“Hello, AL.”

Roy, hatless and barefoot, squatted amid an orderly camp.  A few bushes backstopped his camp.   All that he possessed was arranged in a row on the ground: his household goods, a few utensils, canned goods, several gallon water jugs, a box of wooden matches as well as a disposable lighter.  There was a canvas saddlebag and a leather pouch and a pair of serious hiking shoes.  Adjacent to this closet/pantry an Indian blanket was stretched out with two more folded at the end.  Atop them was a paperback book and a notebook that lay open with a pencil at the spine.

At the foot of his bed was a small campfire.  Two rocks supported a grate and the black iron frying containing something sizzling away beneath the aluminum lid.

“I had to cook up all my meat before it went bad.  I scraped off the mushy green stuff. “   He opened a bottle of some sort of barbeque sauce and poured it onto the meat.

We talked, light and polite, for as long as I could resist asking him.

“So, Roy, what makes you a free man?”

“It’s hard to be free anymore.  They took all the land.  No place a man can run a few horses.  They could have left us a little something.  Utah, Nevada, Colorado, somewhere.  There is not a valley left that doesn’t have people in it.  There are too many of us.

They outlawed all hunting for food, afraid all the animals would go extinct.  You can’t even shoot a deer for meat any more.  Hell, the whole country is eating cow now.  They could leave us have a few deer.

I should have gone to Brazil when I had the chance.”

“When was that?

“When I was young, my twenties.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I met a woman who was too sweet to take to Brazil.”

I believe Roy has a sense of freedom different from most of us.  Different from people whose lives unfolded in a more conventional way.  Is freedom nothing left to lose?  Or ridding yourself of the things that own you?


13 Responses to 2. The Mountain Man

  1. karen wittgraf says:

    I am pondering that question of freedom- can’t help but think the latter has to be it. We are so programmed, it would be hard to be “free”, but somehow, I’m thinking Roy might have found it. This is so cool- keep writing. Roy is in my thoughts daily. Love the photos! Love your writing!

  2. Histscape says:

    Certainly you are on to something AL. Can’t wait to hear if you ate that meat. If you did was it what you expected? The conversation moves along well. The Freedom slant on the story was great. I don’t agree after travelling the last 3 years in his statements. Empty, to many people? You need to Travel Al like I have in the view the last 3 years and see there are a lot of empty places.

  3. Dave says:

    I wonder if Roy isn’t as confined by his life style, beliefs and observations as I am by mine – or you by yours. Might be an interesting line to pursue.

  4. karen says:

    The pictures of the dry wash brought back many memories of years gone by. Oregon is beautiful, but maybe a bit too wet. I miss the desert.

    Ah, freedom. I think it is different things to different people. I know I don’t have it, but I’m hopeful I’ll get there some day. I also know that if I set out for Roy’s brand of freedom I would probably not feel any more free than I do in my current life…and I would feel a whole lot of guilt. Right now I’d settle for about 10 less hours a week at work, which would take me to a standard 40. Someday….

    • allevenson says:


      Oregon is beautiful because it is wet. It is a nice place to be in you can pick your months.

      Interesting the different takes on freedom that the Roy series is prompting.

      Thanks for your observations.


  5. AL PEDERSEN says:


  6. Elaine says:

    Your story has made me wonder exactly what freedom is/obviously it means something different for each of us/for your mountain man it appears to be dropping out, disengaging completely,not needing anything or anyone. Does being happy play a part? Does being happy make you free or are you happy because you’re free?

    BTW, It’s fun to see familiar names,Hi to Tony Bacon and Big Al Pederson

  7. Colleen Rae says:

    Al, you seem to have discovered one of the original pioneer men! I do love your writing…you have grown…matured in your prose. Thanks for sharing.
    Keep us posted on your Mountain Man. You know, a few more days around Roy and you could write a novel about him, the desert, his philosophy on freedom, yours, the wonders and glories of riding free and alone. Some say we are always alone, no matter the number of people or loved ones surrounding us.
    I like the visual of the line in Chris’ K. song, ‘freedom is nothing left to lose.’ To get there, you have to rid yourself of most material things.
    I sensed you did not agree that he was more free than you.

  8. kristi johnson says:

    I was with a friend of yours yesterday, someone I used to teach with. My husband and I are leaving in June in our newly purchased RV. We will be out there a while and it is our first adventure like this. Our mutual friend suggested I create a blog. But wow, you are a writer and I have never done that except as a teacher. Yet I am surprisingly interested in doing this. Either way, I shall enjoy yours and use your wonderful leads. Kristi

  9. Sheri M. Cohen says:

    Like the concept “successful,” I think “freedom” takes on multiple meanings depending on the experience, goals and mindset of the individual. But one thing is for sure – – your eloquent prose has really got a lot of people trying to define it for themselves. Thanks again, Al, for your insight and inspiration.
    Take care!

  10. I believe freedom is different for each person. It seems Roy may have found his minus the land the government took and the fact that he cannot shoot a deer for meat and from what I’ve read, there are more than enough deer to feed a “Roy”.

    Laughed twice reading this entry.

    And he met a woman keeping him from going to Brazil. How many of us men have met women that kept us from moving on? I can raise my hand.

  11. I have a friend who has lived without money for over ten years. That’s a very interesting sort of freedom.

    For me, I really enjoyed the freedom of being able to love whom I chose, marry when I chose, and start a family when the time was right for me. In other words, I got to choose the things that would be “contouring” my freedom for the rest of my days.

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