excerpts from

Three Years
on the
Nowhere Road

Robert Lee, the old logger who lived in a box

We drove some fifteen or twenty miles south of Forks on 101 until, with no warning, Mitch pulled off on the east side of the highway, immediately north of the Hoh River bridge. We got out of the pickup and were greeted by a large, long-haired, amiable dog who looked as if he might be half St Bernard and half something else. He just walked up to us and stood there grinning, with his tongue lolling out and his long plume of a tail slowly sweeping from side to side. But no sign of Robert Lee.

We walked over toward a great rectangular plywood box as big as a semi-trailer with one closed door, no windows and a capped stovepipe, out of which a thin stream of white smoke slowly trickled. While still about thirty feet away we stopped and Mitch emitted a long, loud "Robert Lee!" Nothing happened. "R-o-b-e-r-t -- L-e-e-!!!” From inside the big box came a muffled roar followed by slow deep grumbling like distant thunder, a heavy deliberate tread that shook the trailer with each step, and then the door swung open, revealing a shabby mountain of a man who filled the doorway and stood so tall that he had to crook his neck to get his big skull beneath the door header. He regarded us sleepily, squinting against the sun and rumbled once more by way of greeting. He was dressed in heavy caulked boots, stagged logger's pants, faded red suspenders and what looked to be a long-sleeved gray woolen undershirt that had long-since darkened to black beneath his arms and around his neck. His rough gray hair looked as though it had been hacked off with a kitchen knife and he was wearing several days worth of gray stubble. I guessed him to be in his mid-60s, but he was so thoroughly disheveled it was impossible to tell.

The purpose of our visit, of course, was that we needed a woodstove, and Mitch figured Robert Lee might just have something lying around among all his derelict vehicles and heaps of junk that would fit the bill. As it turned out, he had a hideous old barrel stove that he had sometime earlier knocked together from a 55-gallon drum. It stood upright on end, a little crumpled on one side, and splotched with rust. The stovepipe emerged from the top, situated just inside the rim. The larger remaining section of the top was removable, which is where the stove was loaded. The drain hole, which was on the side near the bottom, served as the only draft and, as we later discovered, was much too small to do an adequate job. To keep a low fire alive, you had to lie flat in the ground and blow into the drain hole until you were red in the face. Robert Lee said we could have the stove for nothing. I'm sure he was glad to see the back of it.

Mitch and Robert Lee exchanged a few pleasantries as I heaved the barrel into the back of the truck, and then we were on our way.

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