excerpts from

Three Years
on the
Nowhere Road

When a barrel stove becomes a cannon

Building a fire in a vertical barrel stove meant you had to bend at the waist and literally stick your head and shoulders into the barrel in order to arrange the kindling and sticks at the bottom, after which you held the match just so until the flame took hold. John and I were just tall enough that we could manage it, but Mitch was shorter and a lot less patient. The next day he picked up a can of kerosene at the gas station in Forks and, when it was his turn to build the fire, he just threw in a great double-handful of kindling, doused it in kerosene and tossed in a lit match. The result was effective, but alarming. After that, John and I tried to build all the fires ourselves, when Mitch wasn't around. We used the kerosene as well, but only a little of it at a time, and we still leaned down into the barrel to arrange the kindling properly and hold a lit match to it. Kerosene isn't explosive when used in small amounts, and can usually be lit safely with a match, if done with care.

Unfortunately, Mitch also kept a can of white gas in the shelter, which he placed on the ground next to the kerosene. It was for the rare occasions when he used his little one-burner backpacker's stove. Sometime after that I walked into the shelter just after sunset, when Mitch and John were both in town. As it was quite cold, and growing dark, the first thing I did was to arrange some kindling in the stove, pour in a little kerosene, and then lean down into the barrel with a lit match. For an instant I noticed the kerosene didn't smell like kerosene, and then everything went white hot. I might as well have stuck my head into a cannon. It blew me straight up off my feet and I crashed onto my back on the ground. My face felt like it was on fire. I lit a lamp and pawed through John's and Mitch's camping gear till I came up with a little shaving mirror. My mustache and eyebrows and the front half of my beard were all gone and I looked as if I'd fallen asleep under a heat lamp. It hurt like hell. I ran down to the river and doused my face with icy water for a long time, until it was completely numb.

When Mitch moved out a few days after that, I made sure he took his white gas with him.

More excerpts from
Three Years on the Nowhere Road
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Off to the wilderness

A bus from the Twilight Zone

I am picked up, then dumped

On a dark, deserted highway,
the kindness of a stranger

My first ride in a logging truck

Forks, logging capitol of the world

To a camp on the Calawah

Job Interview

Up before dawn, a logger’s breakfast

My first day at the mill

A dip in the river

Working deck at the mill,
and I almost lose a hand

To a new camp, further downriver

Robert Lee:
the old logger who lived in a box

The Dickey River People

When a barrel stove becomes a cannon

Alone at last

At the outfitters

On Christmas Day, I am flooded out

At the mill, I am promoted to splitter

Encounter with a sasquatch?

A scene out of Dr. Zhivago

I settle in for a solitary winter

Hanshan, the mad hermit poet

Hiking the coastline with a tomcat

A night on a seastack

I join an encampment of friends
on a tributary of the Hoh

Calling at the country estate
of Robert Lee, Esq.

Visiting around the Peninsula
in Robert Lee's 2-gear sedan

A visit to a Makah family on Neah Bay

These opening chapters represent
about 20% of the entire book,
which I hope to release
later this winter.

BJ Omanson
Nov 2021