excerpts from

Three Years
on the
Nowhere Road

Alone at last

Before December was half over, it was clear that neither Mitch nor John intended to stay. Mitch had taken up with a young woman named Liz and her infant child, and together they had rented a small trailer in a trailer park north of Forks. With the advent of unbroken cold rain, Mitch had had his fill of wilderness life and determined he would see his way through the next four months of winter nights with the warm solace of a shared bed and propane heat. John, for his part, was eschewing winter altogether and hitchhiking straight through to New Mexico,. "I'll be back in April or May," he assured me.

When I announced I wasn't going anywhere, but intended to see out the winter alone, right there in that shelter on the Calawah, they both wagered I wouldn't last a month. Mitch did his level best to talk me out of it, while John, who knew me better and knew how pig-headed I was, just shrugged and said I was nuts.

Mitch pointed out that I was six miles from town and the nearest phone and had no way to get help if I injured myself or got sick. That I would have to get up at four or earlier every morning to get to the mill on time. He even went so far as to claim that stronger men than I had despaired and shot themselves rather than face one more winter of unending rain in those woods--- and on and on and on. Mitch had spent four years in the Marines, with a tour in Vietnam, and as my older, more experienced and worldly cousin, he apparently felt a responsibility for me.

Both John and Mitch knew of the rare minor successes and more notable failures so far in my life--- of the multiple times I had run away as an adolescent--- of the multiple times I had been expelled from high school, until I finally dropped out--- of the many jobs I had walked away from--- of my run-ins with the police--- and of the two weeks spent in a locked psychiatric ward after a bungled suicide attempt. Their skepticism that I was cut out for a winter alone in the woods was understandable.

But somehow I knew that if everyone would just go away and leave me alone, I would be fine. It wasn't bravado. It was a certainty in my bones that most of the problems in my life up to that time had come from well-meaning individuals who knew better than I did what was best for me and had stepped in to straighten me out for my own good. I'd gotten a belly-full of it years before, but only now, for the first time, would I have a chance to live my life on my own terms, without interference.

That was how I saw it at the time, but my assessment was neither fair nor accurate. No one was to blame for my foul-ups but myself, and those who had intervened along the way were just trying to help me out.

But in that bleak rainy November in the woods in my twenty-second year, I was moving toward a place where no one could reach me. I had never had to rely entirely on myself before, and now that was exactly what I wanted. I was secretly delighted that everyone was leaving. My marriage was coming apart, I was estranged from most of my family and all but three or four of my friends had drifted away. I was finding it more and more difficult to be around people at all, and I felt as though I were suffocating.

I needed space. And time. A few miles of space, and at least a winter's worth of time . . . alone.

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 almost losing 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