excerpts from

Three Years
on the
Nowhere Road

My first ride in a logging truck

As my Indian host had promised, there was a steady stream of logging trucks passing by and, in no time at all, one of them pulled over. It was an ancient long-nosed model from the early fifties or late forties by the looks of it, with divided grill, divided windscreen and detached headlamps, running without a load. Crawling up into the narrow cab, with bare metal and sharp edges pressing from every side, hard ribbed-leather seats and a dashboard of small round dials, it was a lot like squeezing into the cockpit of a forties-era plane. I settled into my seat, seabag between my knees.

The driver, as lean and angular as his truck and wearing a heavy flannel shirt, looked to be in his late thirties. A small boy, maybe four or five and dressed in bib overalls, stood between the seats with his back against the cab window and his hand on his father's shoulder. He paid me no mind at all but kept his eye on the road ahead, riding each bump and swerve with the practiced ease of a seasoned equestrian. I was reminded of myself at that age, standing on a tractor-axle beside my father as we drove out to the fields.

"Where you headed?" the driver asked. "Due west till I hit the ocean, then north," I answered. "I'm looking for work." "Well, you're headed in the right direction, for sure," he said. "Things are really boomin' up there on the Peninsula."

I settled back and immersed myself in the deeply forested country we were passing through, with stretches of whitewater rivers and dark green interiors glimpsed and gone. We passed through small seedy towns of one or two stoplights, gas stations and grocery stores and pickups parked in yards, and I watched the driver shifting up or down as he accelerated or slowed in and out of the small towns, smoothly working the clutch and two gearsticks in incomprehensible combinations, sometimes using both in a single shift and sometimes just one, in accordance with no logic that I could make out, but with all the finesse of a concert violinist, coaxing or nudging the great gears into place with gently cupped fingers or heel of his palm.

When he learned that I had never seen the Pacific Ocean, he said he would drive me over to the coast himself, though it was somewhat out of his way. And so he did, rolling all the way to Highway 101 where he turned and drove north until he spotted a pull-over on the coastal side of the highway. He and his boy got out with me and stood for a short time watching the waves come in. Then they piled back into the cab of the old truck with a wave and “Good Luck!” and the truck pulled out onto the highway, heading back the way they had come.

I filled my lungs with the clean salt air for a time, looking norhwards at forest as far as I could see, and knew I had arrived in the true north country at last. My spirits were high, and I was eager to keep moving. I walked over to the highway, crossed to the northbound lane, lowered my seabag to the ground and stuck out my thumb.

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