In the weeks after I left Roy in his sandy dry wash in Quartzsite, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to write about him. I know I still have a lot to learn as an interviewer and word- portrait artist. Yet, as best I could, I was determined to share the Mountain Man with my blog’s passengers.
If I didn’t write soon, I might lose the essence of the man. But, if too soon, the questions I had failed to ask would haunt me or cause me to present a picture that was skewed and had gaping holes.
Roy remembers his high school years when he was a skinny, picked-on kid who learned to love the land. He went to college for a while but became disenchanted with the false causes of students and the apathy of teachers and the absence of meaningful study. He chose a life in pastures and on the back of a horse in the middle of nowhere.
Roy expressed memories—about the first and last days of his marriage–too personal to be blared on the Internet’s impersonal megaphone. Our rambling dialogues touched on The Something that inhabits everything and looks after some of us sometimes. We talked of hippies, a label he avoided back in the days he was mistaken for one. He wonders about the day if/when he might have to move indoors. And I never got into his notebooks of mountain wisdom and stories of his life with horses.
After a couple of weeks of reading and re-reading notes, still without a coherent theme for Roy’s story, I called Roy’s daughter. My conscienceless Droid, pocketed her phone number like a common thief. Thankfully, she welcomed the call and was easy to talk to.
“Roy and my mom split up when I was only four. But we would see him often. We’d go to the pasture where he camped with his horses. I remember him as big and strong and as a wonderful story teller.”
“He thinks his family is disappointed in him. Expected more.” I said.
“What is too bad is there is not a place in our society any more for someone like Roy. He is a man of the earth. We may not be able to understand the choices he made, but there is nothing bad about him. He doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. I don’t judge him. I don’t know if anyone judges him. I am always glad to hear from him and to see him. He usually spends most of the year in Montana and I see him then.”
She may see him before I do.
I will head back toward Quartzsite soon. It will look different without thousands of RVs but I will have no trouble finding the spot where Roy was camped. I hope he is still there but I don’t dwell on its likelihood.
I’d like to read more of his stories, help him get them in shape for publication. I think he’d take a lot of satisfaction in seeing them published even in this world where author’s voices are tiny and easily missed.
Whether or not Roy and I ever get to sit on a log together again, he got me to think about personal freedom, trust, and family and what they each mean to different people.
Soon, I will go back to Roy’s dry wash and look for a bottle with a note inside.