A year to the day from the time the mysterious van pulled in and parked, I found myself back at Bear Canyon. This time I was camped to the west of Forest Road 89, tucked way back in a little used part of the forest at the end of a fire road. This made for a longer hike to the lake, but also hid me from the prying eyes of the Feds.
This year, I had no forest closures to blame for staying in one region beyond the fourteen day limit. I had to avoid the scrutiny of not only the Law Enforcement Officers (LEO's) but of the Rangers, Toilet Rangers, Game and Fish Wardens, and Wildlife Rangers.
I maintained contact with the Fire Rangers, known as Hot Shots, because they didn't care how long I stayed in the forest. They said they saw a difference between recreating and residing in the forest and even though I overstayed the regulations, I was obviously recreating and that was cool with them. I fished and explored and always had adventures to share with them. They often told me they wished they could do what I was doing. They had become friends and often provided me with useful information on the state of the forests, fire bans, and forest fires. I met these guys the previous year. They were all in their twenties and expressed appreciation for my continued journeys.
So I was cutting through the main camp area toward my hiding spot with a stringer of fish when I saw a maroon Dodge van pull up behind the shitter. The driver got out, opened the hood, and checked the radiator. This couldn't be Shattsworth, could it? I thought maybe it was just the color of the van and the location he pulled into that reminded me of him. I circled along the ridge and came up from the other side for a better look. It was him. I stole out from the cover of the trees and silently moved up behind him without being noticed.
From about a foot away, I said “Don't tell me you have a hole in your Radiator!” loud enough to startle him. He turned and smiled and said he was hoping to find me here. He suggested we go to my camp and talk. Having learned my lesson from previous experiences, I told him I was camped a few miles away, in a spot where he probably couldn't get his van. There were some fallen logs nearby where the Forest Service had recently downed some trees that were victim to the Bark Beetles. We could sit and talk there. I hung my fish in a tree and he brought out his bong.
As we smoked, his story unfolded.
Shattsworth had a girlfriend once, and a house and a job. He lost them all. The girlfriend got hooked on Meth and hooked up with a friend of his. His birthday was approaching and he got an idea from watching a movie. That movie was “The Life of David Gale”. He was always talking about Kevin Spacey movies. The David Gale film, and “American Beauty”. I had not seen either. Apparently, in the movie, Somebody kills themselves by taping a bag over their head and handcuffing themselves behind their back after swallowing the handcuff key.
He said he came to the woods to do this, once his supplies ran out, but then he met me. He said he wanted to thank me and invited me to stay with him, should I find myself in Phoenix. He gave me his extension number at work and said he had a present for me in the van. I felt bad for having judged him so harshly. Still, I found it hard not to do so.
His bong had a huge bowl, and after he would load it and each of us would take a hit, he would dump the rest out. The first three times he did this, I kept quiet. It was killing me to see such waste. It was just regular Mexican, but still. I jonesed on the rim. Grass is hard to come by up in Mormon Country. It's not like the river, where pot is plentiful.
Finally I said something to him. It was along the lines of “What the hell are you doing, grinding good buds in the dirt?” He replied that he had plenty, and only wanted the green hits. I was flabbergasted. I had never seen such behavior. I told him so in vivid and voluminous detail. I entreated with him to at least dump the bowls on a plate or a rock as I could smoke a week or more on what he had wasted. He said nah, if he was going to smoke green hits, he wasn't going to make me smoke the remainder. “Remember” he stated, “I told you I was sorry I didn't share with you before, and promised to take care of you if I ever saw you again”.
I thanked him as humbly as I could, but damn! He didn't have to throw Marijuana away right in front of me! He demanded that we change the subject, which is quite assertive for that guy, and asked me if I liked creamer in my coffee. “Sure” I said, “but I'm out of coffee right now”. He went to his van and returned with a number 10 can of Creamora and asked if I wanted it. Sure, I said. I was thinking I might use it like I did powdered milk and add water and sugar and pour it over greens. “If you don't want it”, he teased, “you don't have to take it”.
“I want it.” I replied, “Thank you”. He tossed it to me and I pulled back the lid to check the seal and left it at that. I wasn't about to accept food from Shattsworth that wasn't sealed for my safety. I thanked him again and sat it down on my right side. With a sly look, he asked “Aren't you going to open it?” “Why?” I queried in return, “Is this a joke? Are snakes going to jump out when I open it?” “It's no joke”, he said, “Maybe you should give it back if you don't like it.” “I like it! I thanked you twice.”
He appeared not to be convinced and said I'd better just give it back. He said he was sorry he didn't have anything better for me. I handed it back to him, wondering what kind of sick Shattsworth game he was playing. First he was throwing away grass that he KNEW I was dying for, now he was making a weird issue of my not opening the Cremora.
He stood there examining the canister, removed the plastic lid and showed me the unbroken foil seal. He put the lid back on and turned the can over and over in his hands, muttering things like “mmm, let me see...how does this work”. Finally he unscrewed the bottom a quarter turn and tossed it back to me. As he did so he said “I'll need the empty can back.”
I opened it and inside was a quarter pound of the Mexican buds we'd been smoking. That magnificent twisted bastard! “Did you really think I'd drive all the way up here to bring you four pounds of creamer? How weird do you think I am?” “Pretty weird, Jeff, but wow! Man, thanks!”
We chatted a while about my adventures since he had last seen me. He told me he still carried the Bear shit (dog crap) he found in his camp. I asked if the ranger had arrested him or threw him out and he said “No, I left because you said I poisoned you. I didn't know what you might do.” I still think he poisoned me, just to see what would happen. I'd love to get my hands on his juvenile records.
We didn't discuss the poisoning much further than for me to express my conclusion that he fed me something that made me sick. In the end, We thanked each other, and before he headed back to the city, he extracted my promise that if I needed to come to town for any reason, I'd look him up.
God help me, a year later I did just that.