Intro to Biographic Landscape Memoirs continued...
A rambling drifter I never set out to be. Nor was it my design to be telling stories of drifting, grifting and rambling. It just turned out that way. In person I’m really not much of a raconteur. However, as unlikely as their source might be, these tales are death-defyingly truth-soaked and were lived in the flesh by me and a smattering of other characters.
The impulse to head west is a strong one. Drifting is just the nature of the western country, the land itself rolls and wells and flows and moves you always further west it seems and… somehow bends you south without warning. It dumps into your lap remarkable pearls of peerless, perilous price that beg to be shared. To head west or south I first had to consume my share of alluvial loam, tame a savage river and blast through a few of the lives most cats like us are afforded at birth and… to learn how to drive a car.
The Plymouth Duster had lots of rust and a three speed gearshift on the steering column. Shifting the black and tan two-door with a rag for a gas cap took a little practice. But it was good for making those tires squeal and pre-driver’s license age was a good time to be drifting around corners in a rear-wheeled wonder like the Duster. I learned to drive on a frozen lake. It was Jayson’s car. He wanted it to go up in a ball of flames to collect the insurance. Jay was a noble dude and a great friend. He was a few years older than I and had a coin collection and a boat and a case of road flares. The nobility came from the boat. The coins and flares were incidental. My first drowning and third or fourth concussion happened with Jay while on the river in the green rowboat, blinded and burned by the sulfur-fury of a raging red flare. We innocently and unexpectedly enraged a band of unschooled ruffians living in a hobo camp across the river. It was about 11 pm, no catfish were on the lines and the moon was a musky-eye yellow. A whiskey bottle hit the warming-fire, flames shot high. Words, bad words echoed in the midnight river valley. A Black-Crowned Night Heron squawked its disapproval. We ran upon his sandbar. The flare had blinded us. Sticks and stones flew. Jay rowed hard. I was hit in the head. I lost my nautical bearing and, a lot of blood.
After a year or two of talking about the potential addition to the coin collection that would be the result of a spectacular accident/disappearance of the Plymouth, we decided something needed to be done. I know I had seen it done a time or two in a movie so I volunteered… to drive the car off a cliff. I have found that most acts of dangerous daring-do require very little thought or planning. Not much time is given for probing analytics. The moxie needed just kind of gorges up through all the viscera at the right time and erupts into memorable deeds. The small bluff overlooking Dead Man’s Curve on the river road at the dam was the perfect spot. The water up next to the dam is really very deep. There’s a lot of foam and trash and it’s all boiling and is the color of black coffee and earthworms. Transfixed, shivering we wanted more than anything to run. I imagined red and blue strobes contrasting our silhouetted forms against the dark night elm trees. Froze in inconvenient horror we were stuck to that warm soil like rooted terror. We stood there like sticks and watched the swirling heave come up over the hood and the gurgling three-minute-death. I guess it was a fitting finale for what the blood-rust sacrifice represented to us.