Jim is a nice guy trying to recover from his most recent nasty divorce by camping out on LA Department of Water and Power land, picking up odd jobs and putting bicycles together out of dump junk and spare parts. Last winter when it was freezing I bought him some propane and gave him an old tent, and he figured he owed me. So he stayed a few days with me in Pleasant Valley campground, fixing lots of stuff on my scrappy old trailer, showing me how to scour the dump (photo) for parts, and being a fun companion.
A buddy of his gave us some venison and he cooked it in the coals of our campfire, telling me rambling stories about great road meals: once he traveled with a woman who pinched an entire prime rib roast from a market, wrapped it up tightly in 25 feet of barbed wire borrowed from a fence, and just tossed it onto a big log in the middle of a campfire -- said it was the best roast beef he has ever eaten. We scrounged for free firewood from the constantly rotting and renewing willow and cottonwood forests in all the pasturelands. He grabs huge half-rotted willow logs and then smashes them up on the roadway to break them into pieces small enough to stuff into my crate. (photos) He has a slingshot and one night chased a racoon around my trailer for awhile until it swam the river. He slept out on riverside grass wrapped in three sleeping bags stuffed inside each other with a thick fuzzy little girl's hat on his balding head.
In the dump we found replacement louvres for the windows, a grill to use cooking on the fire, a broiler pan for my dinky trailer oven, a picture frame, and a huge stash of perfectly OK canned food in one of the trailers -- lots of canned fish especially. He checked out the wrecked bicycles, and found the stripped-out and smashed van of someone he had known on the street: "Cat Lady." He said the civil authorities took her away to an "institution." She was old and had 22 cats in that van. He warned me not to open the doors, but I did anyway and the stench was sickening. I found an 18ft aluminum boat with just one dinged side that I really wanted to take home -- but he said it was beyond his powers to fix. We have a tentative plan to visit the Motherlode RV Dump in Benton out on Hiway 6 and find me a new rock shield--if he doesn't move to Gardnerville in the warming weather.
The river is rising as the Big Snows melt. I now have two of my recent paintings hanging in the Inyo Council for the Arts Gallery on Main Street (395 thru town). I hope to move back into Horton Creek for May, back home to the wind, the rats and the fabulous views.