excerpts from

Three Years
on the
Nowhere Road

Calling at the country estate of Robert Lee, Esq.

The best thing about living on that Hoh tributary was that it was only about three miles from Robert Lee’s place, so I got in the habit of walking over to see him every few days, just to drop in and pass the time and listen to his stories.

For drivers heading north on 101, there was no way to miss Robert Lee's "estate." Along the entire fifty-mile stretch of highway from Queets to Forks, and all the way up to Port Angeles, for that matter, there was no other eyesore that even came close. With his forty-foot plywood cheesebox of a trailer--- with stovepipe, door and not one window--- Robert Lee's dead-basic abode was just one architectural step above a root cellar.

At the back of his property loomed an ancient sea-going fishing boat, propped up on concrete blocks, that looked as if it hadn't tasted salt water in decades--- for in some earlier phase of his long colorful career that stretched from being a bull-whacker in North Carolina logging camps before the war to driving log trucks from one end of the Peninsula to the other throughout the fifties and sixties, Robert Lee had also put in a stint as an independent salmon fisherman.

Elsewhere on the property, wherever one cared to look, gathering rust and vines and disquieting pools of black oily water, set among scrub pines and cascara shrubs, was a host of broken-down automobiles and pickups from earlier eras, and all in various states of decay and dismemberment.

And if this wasn't enough, there was the unavoidable prominence of the property itself. Just as the overloaded northbound campers and Winnebagos packed with tourists from places like Davenport or Kankakee crossed the only place on the Peninsula where 101 bridges the Hoh River, they were confronted with a ten-foot-high promontory of land in the shape of a ship's prow heaving up before them and momentarily blocking their view--- until, as the highway swept around the long ship's-hull curve of his property, the whole disgraceful panoply of Robert Lee's junkyard was laid out before them in all its overgrown, run-down glory.

The poor put-upon woman down the highway struggling to ply an honest trade selling gas and oil and bait and renting out boats to respectable tourists had been been pressuring state and county officials and anybody who would listen for years to get Robert Lee's property condemned, or somehow compel him to clean it up, for there was no doubt in her mind whatsoever that he was bad for business.

But all her efforts had come to nought. There wasn't a lot of sympathy on the Peninsula for interfering with how any man, or woman, might choose to live out their lives on their own land. That private property was an especially sacred right in these parts was due in large measure to the fact that the culture of the Peninsula was still essentially a frontier homesteading culture, with many children and grandchildren of the original homesteaders still alive and still living on those same homesteads. Another exacerbating factor was that, during the 1930s, with not much warning and even less compensation, the government had peremptorily bulled its way in and kicked homesteaders off their land to make room for the national park, an occasion that was still in living memory for many, and which still rankled mightily.

And so it was that Robert Lee, despite all efforts to the contrary, would be left to go right on living exactly as he wished on his own land, sitting atop a mountain of junk in plain view of the world, and all the tourists from Peoria and Waukasha and Terra Haute would just have to swallow their indignation, avert their eyes, and keep on driving.

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