4. The Mountain Man, Third Encounter

On  the morning of the day I needed to head back to the Bay Area, I went to see Roy once more.

The only thing he asked me for, a roll of toilet paper, was tucked in to a sack with a few cans of soup and some fruit.  I also took a notebook ring binder and a sheaf of filler paper.

I got out the story he’d given me.  I told him I liked his story, it jumped around a little but the genuine voice of the story teller came through.  I had a couple of questions where the storyline was not clear.  When I asked him the questions, he did not need to refer to the story to make the edits.

Reaching his hand toward the papers, he said,  “I’ll work on it a little more. I do have trouble finding a continuum in my stories.”

“Tell me, Al, how do you keep people from stealing what you write?”

“That is a question I get asked by young writers.  I don’t know anyone who has been stolen from.  As nearly as I can tell, it is so rare that it isn’t worth the worry.  I’d rather see you get your stories out there.  Get a following.  If you get enough people wanting to read what you write, you’ll get published in copyrighted magazines.  If you get a book together, you can get your own copyright.”

“Is it expensive?”

“Cheap.  You can register on line these days.”

He looked off toward the horizon.  “I guess all artists are paranoid.”

“No one can steal what you haven’t created yet.”  I said.

He reached toward his story still in my hand.

“Okay, I’ll work on it,” he said.

“Want to work on it together while I am here?”

“No, I’d like to hang on to it.”

His hand stretched out to me and I knew it wasn’t going any where without the pages in it.  I gave him the story—not at all sure I’d ever see it again—and drifted on to another topic.

“How do you get by, Roy, what do you do for money?”

“I get food stamps,” he said. I don’t have any trouble proving I am poor.  Sometimes I buy a little turquoise and carve it.  Food is expensive.  A pound of meat costs three dollars.  I eat a pound of meat a day when I can.”

“I don’t eat a pound of meat a day.  I couldn’t,” I said.

“You don’t live like I do.”

“Did you ever work for wages?

“Some.  I worked on a ranch for a guy who never paid me.  He kept telling me he’d pay me when he sold some cattle or horses.  But he never did.  Finally, he told me he’d pay me when he sold the ranch.  But when he sold it, he didn’t pay me.”

“I figured out that if you didn’t have much, you didn’t have much to deal with.  If you had anything, someone would take it away from you.”

Much as I wanted more of this conversation, I needed to get my other wheels turning.  I had to get up the road so I could traverse the 70 desolate miles between Parker and 29 Palms before dark.

“Roy, I have to go.  I’ll be back in a few weeks.   You going to be here?”

“I’ll be around somewhere.  I may go over and dry-pan a little for gold.”

“Try to let me know where you are.”

“I will.”

6 Responses to 4. The Mountain Man, Third Encounter

  1. This struck me as a sad, strange story of a man free and not free. Having been poor myself–both voluntarily and involuntarily–I can’t say I felt particularly “free”–either *from* the anxiety that comes with poverty; or free to *to do* what I want, which takes a least some money. We define our freedom ourselves, as individuals, but even those of us furthest off the grid, still need, somewhere, sometime, need to reach out to others.

    Thanks for this AL. It was fascinating.

  2. Alan stowell says:

    Hi again Al,
    Been thinking of doing a little writing myself.”bullfighter, yacht captain, yacht broker” ad nauseum!
    How do I start? With an agent like in the old days when my stepdad wrote?
    Gracias amigo.
    Still hoping you’ll do a sailing blog.

    • allevenson says:

      First of all write for yourself. Whether you want to record the marks you’ve left, live out your fantasies on paper, or simply pass on what you’ve learned, do it for your own enjoyment. Unless you already have one of the remaining jobs in the world of journalism or a gig teaching writing, you are not likely to each beer money.

      For books these days you cant get an agent without a finished book of fiction. For nonfiction you need several finished chapters and good proposal. Today getting an agent is much more difficult that getting a publisher was in stepdad’s day.

      The world has shifted to self-publishing. About 75% of new books are self-published. The average book sells 200 copies.

      Given the above I encourage you to write. Do a blog. A Year on the Road is doing a lot for me. It is helping me to focus on what I want to write and who I want to address it to. And m
      ost of all, I am practicing the craft, learning to be a better writer.

      I don’t know what will come out the other end. If nothing, the blog has been very satisfying thus far, a way to stay in touch, get back in touch, to reach out to new people.

      It seems to me a swashbuckling yacht skipper, victorious matador, and survivor of the yacht brokerage industry would have plenty of blog material and the makings of books, ballads, and beer hall stories. Go for it.

  3. David Bauer says:

    After reading what you have written about Roy and what he revealed about himself to you, I too am left with a feeling of sadness. Without your kind and caring efforts to connect with him, it seems to me that he is unlikely to have made the human contact with you. John Donne seem to have captured the essence in his poem titled No Man is an Island

    No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

    If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
    own were

    Any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

    Thank you for sharing a part of Roy’s life narrative with us, Al. The photos say it all and are worth a thousand words.


  4. “Food Stamps”

    It seems to me that Roy may be free but the working taxpayers that fund the entitlement program called “Food Stamps” are paying for it.

    If there were no “Food Stamps” for the “poor”, would Roy have a job somewhere so he could eat and maybe the working men and women would have less tax to pay and more money to spend when they were “free” to spend it?

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