Friday, April 23, 2010

Farewell, Dugout Dick

I never knew Dugout Dick.

I knew he was up there in Salmon, living in the caves he carved with a hammer and chisel into the side of a mountain. He started that back in 1948, when nonconformity in building was still allowed. Try that today, and you'd have all kinds of nonsense down on your head.

If I were a single guy, I'd be tempted to do this. But I might want a cave with wi-fi access, and I think that kind of takes the He-Man out of it. But I have had these little fantasies. I get it from my Dad -- he always admired that kind of pioneer life. He actually built a pioneer house -- that's what he called it -- in the back yard, converting a chicken coop and an old shed into a house, complete with a four-poster bed, home-made, a wood stove that didn't technically have a chimney but he meant to build one eventually, and windows salvaged from an old church he remodeled. We spent many night sleeping out in the pioneer house, lighting campfires outside the door because of the nonexistent chimney. Having fun.

It's the kind of thing I like to do occasionally when we go camping: Leave the camper behind and just haul out the tent. One of these days, I am going to camp out in 17-Mile Cave with my kids. That would be fun. Or maybe not, since the drunks and the punks also come to 17-Mile Cave.

But back to Dugout Dick. He died (or was found dead) today, age they think 94. He'd lived in his hand-made caves for 60 years, charging folks $5 a night to stay with him. Evidently, he never tipped out into the loco bin and ended up a cutout Scooby Doo villain: crazy old coot living in a cave in the mountain, menacing the gang and guest star Don Knotts. Though maybe he would have done some harmless spooking and tormenting for a few extra dollars.

You don't get individualism like this much any more. It's a lonely life. I know my wife and I are pretty much hermits, but I'm not sure we could do this. I couldn't live without my computer, and she insists on flush toilets.

Now I wonder who takes over Dugout Dick's dugout. He's got a few acolytes living there already, I think. SOme punk environmentalist or luddite might try to horn in on his territory, but I'd like to think that his caves end up doing what he let them do when he was alive: Provide a place for fellows like himself a place to camp for $5 a night so they can experience, for a day or two, the life of someone named Dugout Dick.

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