Friday, June 05, 2009



Would you rescue this sad lady? ---pictured here flopping along in house slippers 20 miles south of Gold Beach, Oregon on busy highway 101, dragging a shopping cart with all her possessions.
I maneuvered to get this surreptitious picture through my window.
She approached and posed for this shot, flashing the "peace" sign. I had a quick silent debate with myself--- knowing she smells bad----but that she has 20 hard dangerous miles to trudge---And I could have her there in 30 minutes---AND GET THE STORY!
Easy enough to put her stuff in my trailer. But reminding myself that every good deed will be punished. (that is the conclusion of the book: ( Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor Syndrome-----bottom line: As the drama progress these three will shift roles; the victim will become a persecutor; the rescuer a victim) Knowing this to be fact, I still occasionally rescue, and take my punishment. We all have a need to give.
As I was loading, this wierd thing fell out. It is a flattened,dried up, no longer smelly, skunk pelt. She seemed a bit embarassed that she would keep such a thing and seeing my face as it fell, said "we can leave that here." I left it there not making an issue of it but have since thought a bit about it. Imagine as I will, I can get no intuitive grip on why she would want it. Somebody help me understand.
In Gold Beach, shopping cart reloaded, she smiled a toothless goodbye. I watched as she shuffled away in her pink houseslippers. Then unseen and with binoculars I watched her settle for the night in a patch of woods, dragging and jerking her cart till both were out of sight. Then I went inside my cozy rig and cried.

I gathered myself, drove a few miles and settled in a lovely spot beside the Rogue river to consider what I had learned, Here's the Story she told: Her father is a college professor---they've not spoken in 2 years. She gets $600 a month SSI but lives full time on the road, sleeping in the bushes. Her dog died recently and is sorely missed. She still carries his dish (note rear of cart) She is making her way to the Rainbow Family Festival in New Mexico July,1-7. Last night a ranger found her in the woods and gave her a warning ticket for her fire. She was heating beans. Her hands were dirty, the left one badly skinned---said she fell. I estimate the weight of her accumulated stuff at 100 lbs in two bags. I've had some thoughts about this unlovely but heartbreaking lady and the estimated million like her which I will share in another blog.


Anonymous said...

First the "man on the hill" and now this. You made me cry. How to deal with such sadness in the world?

Rob said...

Everybody in this world has a place. Sometimes it's by choice and sometimes it's out of the persons hands, I hesitate to use the word 'fate' but it often fits.

There are so many variables in how a person gets to where they are right now...

There is often no way for 'me' to judge if a person is in a good spot or not, only they can judge where they are.

That's just how it is.

Randy said...

Thank you anonymous for sharing your feelings and those who called with empathetic thoughts and you Rob for your insights. I think I agree and have decided to do another blog on the subject to consider more deeply the larger subject of "wretchedness."

Anonymous said...

good story. would that be a person "to free" ? remember ? greetings from switzerland. Pax In Anima.

Dixxe's Doodles said...

This is a hard one...I always say people who live homeless do it by choice. But it seems she has put herself last in the equation, that's sad. Im sure she had the skunk pelt as a comfort for the missed dog. I lived in NYC for 6 yrs and recently "escaped." I saw & spoke to mannnny homeless there. I worked as a paramedic and heard and saw many things I want to forget....
One man chose to collecte aluminum cans for cash...he said "WHO SAYS YOU CANT LIVE ON $20 A DAY?" HE pushed a mountain of cans around each day to earn his $20 bucks... spending all his time searching through the trash collecting the cans-- he lives on park benches, under bridges, and in subway tunnels. His money goes for food...but not shelter. He is kind and not too bad looking, but very eccentric--living on the outer circle of society.
AND this comment is turning into a blog, but I have to add this man. He was a homeless alcholic who lived on Liberty Ave in Jamaica Queens. He was 35 yrs old when I first met him on my job..and we transported him to the hospital daily...he always smelled of feces and urine, he was always completely delirious & stoned out of his head... and he died at 37 yrs of age. The last time I saw him was December 25, 2005 he was sober-- my partner and I drove to his corner to see if her was there....he said to me, wearing the biggest smile Ive ever seen,... "MERRY CHRISTMAS, MISSY MEDIC...that was the only time I actually felt a warm feeling from those words..he wished me Merry Christmas and really meant it from the heart...that made me cry.
Even tho he was a pain in the butt calling every day from a pay phone to go to the hospital for food and a place to sleep I was a big part of his life on the streets. He was stabbed to death by another homeless alcoholic.

Randy said...

Thanks Dixxe for the story---and for the clue on the skunk pelt--It sounds plausible.

bushrod said...

I picked up a hitchhiker today, and he was heading to the same damn Rainbow meetup, I think. Exit 384 off I-25, he said.
He was packing an 80lb backpack because, in a voice that expressed betral, the wheel to his pull along carrier "spit in half", and now his knee was bothering him.
He had his stuff, tent, clothes, some books; explaining everything was necessary.
When I left him, he asked me for a dollar and I righteously said, I don't like to give money because it's just spend on liquor, usually. Oh, he said, I don't drink. So I gave him two.
Now I don't feel sorry for this traveler; because I feel that every human life is a great, great participatory oportunity.
His material well being may be a little lacking, as mine has been from time to time, but he has the more important life expeience.
And it occurs to me, I have seen some very unconfortable middle class people.
Who gets through life without troubles?
And absolutely nothing stays the same.

Randy said...

Interesting Bushrod. We now have a clue to the big secret: The location of the Rainbow family festival site. Normally they name only the state so the 40,000 attendees can get close, then at the last minute they designate the exact site. The masses then converge all at once to overwhelm any officials. They thus avoid obstructions by the forestry service who try(and fail) every year to make them get a permit and jump through bureaurocratic hoops.
I especially agree with your concluding thought. (P.S. I attended a gathering in Oregon years ago--it was mind boggling)

wisesongbird said...

Your compassion is moving as is the lady's story and caused me to cry as well. Any chance she can make her Rainbow meetup? That is miles to go! Another poignant moment recorded. Bravo.

Randy said...

Yes Wisebirdsong I think she will make it. I failed to report that she was going to Gold Beach to get her monthly check. (Another needless inefficiency--if she had a bank account and a debit card she could access her money anywhere) Once she has her money she could take a bus to New Mexico.

bushrod said...

Just to catch the Rainbow gathering up-to-date: my neighbor's paper today said the place would be in the Santa Fe National Forest about 22 miles Northeast of Cuba, NM.
My hitch hiker wasn't quite right...I wonder how he will get there, now.
5 to 10,000 people meeting from July 1st to the 7th. Lovely panhandlers all; they have turned the phrase "private narcissism and public pragmatism" upside practicing public narcissism and private pragmatism.
That is, they'll give all they have to each other...