I had been checking out the mountains east of Tucson, just before Big Cat Mountain, and noticed a geological peculiarity. It looked like one of the small mountains had been quarried. The next day, I visited that mountain and met Mike West.
I parked at the bottom of a hill,
and hiked up the dirt road that led to the declivity. You couldn't see
what was ahead until you crested a hill and I didn't want to drive onto
somebodies mine claim.
Once I popped past the incline, I saw a
flat area a couple of hundred feet to a side, set at the bottom of a
quarry of a black marble looking stone. I later learned the stone was
quarried for a large downtown office building.
There was smoke,
from the lean remnants of a central camp fire. Dotted around the fire
were the coolest huts I had ever seen. They were built of fieldstone,
maybe a foot thick. They were about three feet high and then a tarp over
saplings made up the roof.
I didn't see any movement and so
called "Haloo in camp"! I had never seen any shit so organized before
and didn't want to appear the scoundrel. I might like this crew. I
wanted to see what it was about.
A wizened older fella came out
of the first hooch and squinted at me. The desert sun had eaten a hole
in his nose. He had long whiskers and long hair. Some of the original
color remained, but you'd be hard pressed to name it. He walked over and
I stuck out my hand before I saw him good. "Dave! How the fuck have you
I met Dave in Glenwood Springs Colorado. He was a train
tramp. In that town, was a community of travelers. Dave helped show me
the ropes. He moved on before I did. People got killed riding the trains
back then. Probably a lot more than you know. I had worried about him
in the years since we drank good stouts and smoked good ganja while
hiding in the tall grass at a siding.
What a small, small, world.
He invited me into his hooch, which was remarkably cool, maybe twenty
or thirty degrees, and introduced me to his roomate Mike. Mike had brown
hair styled like that of a scarecrow, tufting out from under a flopped
down boonie hat. We shook hands and he was just a few inches shorter, a
few years older, and a few pounds lighter. He had brown eyes. Of course I
wasn't thinking like that at the time
I bought a sack from
Mike that day, and we talked at length about the Arizona Sonora Desert.
They said they could get me on as a landscaper with their crew, but I
told them I had my own gig. I was glad I parked the Mazda down the hill.
They told me the mountain was owned by an elderly guy in Santa
Barbara. He was in a nursing home, and nobody watched his land. They
said the cops never came, because it was private property.
visited every payday, with a sack of hambourguesas, and scored a sack of
sexy mexy from Mike. Dave got a hat and his nose got better. They
invited me to stay. I blamed my wife for needing an indoor home. A
fugitive can't take chances like that. I was jealous. I wanted to live
there so bad, but eventually I would not be able to stand to the
scrutiny. The mountain was too close to town not to bring prying eyes.
This continued for four or five months. Then one week I finally drove
the Protege all the way up and found a scene of devastation. The
hooches, down to the stone walls, were rubble. Smoke still rose from the
lean remnants of a fire. The pantry was levelled. Canned goods lay
stomped and squished. Nothing remained.
I left in tears, that
something so beautiful had been destroyed. Were my friends safe? There
were children. I had an idea who was behind this. They would pay.