Saturday, June 29, 2013


MODERN TECHNOLOGY CONNECTS US ELECTRONICALLY---making it easy to connect ourselves physically.  And so we have---  For 2 weeks ---20 or so of us have responded to Bob's (  ) invitation to join him in the forest near Flagstaff.  We roll in---find our personal place to park near the group and begin doing what connected campers can do:

WE GIVE STUFF AWAY----this is the free tarp after 2 weeks of  give away.
Sometimes we trade stuff----here Laurie trades me two overripe bananas for one ripe one, (She knows I prefer the overripe) A ridiculous  illustration of real trades we make.  Like a haircut for mechanical work.  Sometimes we pay for the services of our fellow campers.
But more importantly, we trade ideas.  Here Laurie leads us in a discussion on dealing with  fear. 
Sometimes we eat together.  I invited Laurie and Kendall over for a breakfast of decadent oatmeal.  (decadent because it is  enriched with pecans, brown sugar, raisins, whipped cream and cherries)  I photographed the cherry moment.
Those who want to--- walk at 9Am and 6 Pm.
Today I led a group wisdom discussion. 
We write out (anonymously) questions we would like the group to address---put them in a hat  and I draw them out one by one
for the group to comment on. Collectively we are much wiser than individually.
Yesterday, our host Bob Wells led us in a favorite show and tell----cooking styles and secrets.  He began with a demonstration of a solar oven that really bakes well.  It reached 350 degrees in short order---ready to bake anything. 
James then showed us the wonders of a weber grill----operating off a propane bottle. 
 Kendall touted a breakthrough skillet surfaced with---- CERAMIC.  Much better and longer lasting than Teflon.
David  spreads the good word about his stovetop Coleman oven .
Laurie demonstrated a no-clean-up cooking technique with water and a special paper. 
 CB showed us the latest thing in cooking ---magnetic induction.  Takes one half the power of conventional cooking.
Brad touted the enduring quality of the classical iron skillet---that in time develops
its own non stick surface.
I'm no great chef---but these ladies came to share dinner with me anyway.

Sometimes we discuss what kind of sign would best ward off unwelcome visitors. This was a prizewinner I suggested-----and surprise---CB  had one made--says it's doing it's work.
This afternoon Bob treated everyone to Pizza and ice cream.  Thank you Bob.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Camp alone if you wish----no doubt it does good things for you.  BUT CAMPING WITH FRIENDS IS 100 TIMES MORE ENJOYABLE.  I love the way Bob has tweaked this style of camping to remove any trace of coercion or even expectation----folks connect only when they want to.

Oh yes---I haven't forgotten my Sondheimer stories---will continue them soon.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The view out my door this morning,  The blue thing is a water can. Experienced boondockers like myself have several so we can "water up" when we go to town without taking our whole rig.  The temperature is 80 as I write (3:15 pm Tuesday).

 Meet Cruiser---Brad's dashing little dog---at a very proud moment---he just caught mouse---on our morning walk.  (most of us walk an hour together at 8 AM.
 At 10 AM we have "tea and topic" ----Those who wish---gather with our coffee (or tea) to focus on a topic.  Today we discussed FEAR.  Laurie led our discussion.

Then favored us with a song from her album: "Let go ego."

 A few steps away is this view of Mt. Humphrey---Arizona's highest point. (12,600 ft)
I show this to remind you where we are. 


#7 GERMAN SOLDIERS----Prisoners of war---thousands of them interned just 10 miles south of us in Tallulah.  I remember them as a friendly bunch.  Local farmers and businessmen could go and get truckloads of them to work on whatever.  I suppose these were the trustees.  I got the impression they were happy to wait out the war over here.  My father once got two truckloads of them to retrieve a tractor that fell off a barge into the Mississippi River.  I recall seeing them scattered across cotton fields.  Their pay was minimal---but they seemed happy to be out doing something.

#8 THE VILLAGE IDIOT---RAYMONDELL BLACK---As unkind as this appellation is---it is accurate.  He was obviously mentally ill--- wandered all over town---half naked---yelling strange sounds when he felt like it---he knew my name and would scream it at me.  Sometimes late at night we could hear his unearthly screech.  His family cared for him as best they could and he had a life of sorts.  It pains me to tell how his story ended.  We kids were once teasing him and in anger he threw a small metal rod that just skinned my sister's head. The authorities came and took him to the insane asylum in Pineville, La.  AND HE NEVER CAME BACK------dying there many years later.  To this day I feel a bit guilty about it.  I personally feel that everybody who can manage to live outside an institution should be allowed to. 

#9 SHORTY----His name was Robert Wooley---he was a good natured alcoholic who
for mysterious reasons attached himself to our town.  It had a bar--a liquor source and no one objected to his sleeping in the abandoned cars,  People would hire him for assorted jobs  and he was a good worker if you let him drink on the job.  He told everyone that he lived in the Packard hotel---his favorite abandoned car.  He must have had a small pension because he did not earn enough to stay drunk.  He lived for many years in this haphazard fashion.  Once when the bar was closed for a day---I saw with horror the terrible need he had for alcohol.  Shorty bought a big bottle of listerene from our store----AND DRANK IT.  I went away to college and was told the end of his story:  Sympathetic friends dragged an old school bus shell to a vacant lot and he made it livable.  One night folks heard him screaming and dismissed it as another drunk episode.  They found his body next morning---he had died of the DT's----a hard way to go---was buried in the paupers cemetery.

#10 THE DOG MAN----We never knew his name.  He appeared in the late 40's and cobbled together scrap pieces of roofing tin into a makeshift shanty in a patch of weeds
in an area of dubious ownership.  He was an established character in town when I came to consciousness.  He had about 5 dogs for company---was bearded and grizzled----hardly spoke to anyone.  Every day he pushed a two wheeled handcart into the woods and came back with some firewood.  My father engaged him once---said he was intelligent but spoke with a foreign accent---said he played a decent game of checkers.
Then one winter morning word spread that the dog man was dead---had somehow burned himself up.  I remember  vividly being the tour guide that morning to  all the curious.  I guided them down the trail through the tall grass to his shack and showed them the crack where they could see the body---still smoldering and black as coal.  I've forgotten what happened to his dogs.  Rumors said he was an escaped Nazi.  

#11 EELS----We never knew they were living among us in the ditches that drained our town-----until my father won the contract to clean them out.  His dragline worked for days digging and dumping mud.  Strange long slithery creatures were being dredged up.  They scrambled back toward the water---any convenient water---even a puddle had one squirming in it.  My sister, fishing for crawfish  battled one from a ditch  behind our house----it would not let go and neither would she.  Hundreds of these creatures were "outed" for a day---then vanished. Only now has the mystery been solved to my satisfaction.  They were freshwater eels and little did we suspect their incredible secret:   From our tiny town these alien creatures travel downstream through many tributaries----out the mouth of the Mississippi----across the Gulf of Mexico----around Florida----through the heart of the Bermuda triangle----to a whirlpool of dead water and  detritus in the middle of the Atlantic ocean known as the SARGASSO SEA.  Here, in a never witnessed mating ritual, they spawn and die.  Their offspring make their way back, back, back---like salmon to the ditches of Sondheimer. 

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  I hope you are beginning to see the larger points I'm trying to make with these stories.  I will continue till I tire of telling them---more to come.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Before I tell the stories---I want to introduce more of my family and friends. And I remind you that these stories collectively make a larger point.  Tomorrow still more Sondheimer stories.

Meet my niece Vicky--Lawyer--assistant District attorney for the whole region---all three towns of my childhood. She helped me put the pieces of history together---hosted me, toured me,  fed me and gave me insights into the current mentality and character of my home towns. (Tallulah, Sondheimer, Lake Providence, La.) 

I admired her I-Pad  ----and bless my soul ---My family BOUGHT ME ONE! Thank you sweet people---I love it and I'm slowly getting the hang of it.
Meet Vicky's husband John Edward who sat still for an interview on local dynamics.
He owns a security company and Farms on the side.
Meet two of my cousins--Rusty-- left and Marty right.  I was astounded that Rusty knew all about my doings since I went West---HE READS MY BLOG.
He lives in Tallulah and I was able to consult him by telephone regarding the current state of affairs.
Two boyhood buddies---Bud and Bobby Foster.  My hosts went to some considerable trouble to find them for me---on the far side of town in a secluded bungalow.  We reminisced about old times.  Bud was a bartender for my dad---He was famous for his badminton skills---no one in town could beat him.
The emblem of my grade school---Transylvania VAMPIRES.
Historically notable for it's cluster of large--pyramid shaped mounds. 
Meet John House---the most feared lawman of my times.  A legendary enforcer who is famous for once filling up his car with lawbreakers and en route to jail stopped and arrested one more wrongdoer.  HE PUT THIS ONE ON THE HOOD OF HIS CAR AND CARRIED HIS CARLOAD OF MISCREANTS TO LAKE PROVIDENCE JAIL.
He and his family treated me to one of the great southern-fried meals of my lifetime.
Sondheimer had no full time lawman---but on weekends it sorely needed one.  So a deputy was sent down from Lake Providence---18 miles away---to maintain order every Saturday---it was usually Carl Brown---a fierce man with hair-trigger emotions. I once saw a drunken black man bump into him and receive a brutal beating with a blackjack.  Carl then dragged him to the edge of the porch and handcuff him around a steel sign pole. There he sat all afternoon and into the night---suffering from his aching head and the humiliation of being a spectacle.  Often there would be two folks handcuffed there---and on one occasion I saw three.
Only one white person was ever humiliated in this manner---HUBCAP HOLMES.  Yes that was his name in our town.  He got into an argument with Carl--that was his crime.  I can still see his incredulous sadness as he sat between two blacks. In late evening Carl would load the prisoners in his car and take them to jail. 
 Once, Carl killed a black man with his pistol and was surrounded by an angry black mob intent on killing him.  He was saved by several armed whites.
looked something like this
I was a boy of twelve when I first lusted for her.  She was a spinster who's work put her in the public eye.  She was curvaceous and friendly---had no notion of my feelings.
Six long years went by and I went away to college ----came home for a weekend and FINALLY had the courage to ask her out.  She was perhaps 36---twice my age---but still I lusted.  And just this once my courage did not fail me----told her I had to go to Vicksburg--would she like to ride along.  Amazingly, she said yes.  Off we went to tour the old battlefield---climb one of its confederate observation towers---eat a bite and return home.  I parked and made my move---she responded and we became lovers.
I went back to college---she continued her work.  It never happened again.
Fast forward 30 years---we both attended the wake of a local citizen.  Our eyes met and she smiled a knowing smile.  I sent the same smile back---We had a secret that would have shocked the town. I feel free to tell the story because she has passed on.
The father set it all in motion.  Jeff Marsh---father of 7or 8--lots of mouths to feed--no inheritance from his father to set him in motion.  But he had a friend--Mr King--who let him farm a piece of land.  It was all the help that  Jeff needed---for Jeff had two rare qualities: a VISION and the WILL to set it in motion. His vision was to have his 5 boys combine their energies in the same endeavor---farming.  Renting modest acreage they began to work together while still in high school.  They divided the profits and each was made to feel a full partner.  Six minds focused on one enterprise is a formidable force.  A synergistic feedback loop that builds a whole that is greater than the sum of it's parts.  It was efficient ---requiring no duplication of equipment.  The farming operation grew rapidly----more and more acreage was bought and leased. In time they created a corporation that dwarfed anything in the region.  Each of the sons became rich--married--- built large homes and had families of their own. The corporation is still intact though each son now has separate enterprises. I recently chatted with one of them---Cooter---yes that's what everyone calls him--who refreshed my memory.
Kudos to Jeff Marsh for his vision and will--to Lucille, his wife ---and a family with the wit and will to work together for the common good.   

Saturday, June 22, 2013



Before I tell these three stories I will try to give you a sense of what the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous looks and feels like.

Also I show you a pict I just found of myself and my siblings.

left to right Randy(me) Darlene, Charles, Bobby Jean.  Only 5 years separate youngest from oldest.  At the time of this photo, we were all in college together.

The cool forest where the Rubber Tramps are now assembled---perfect.
Assembled is hardly the right word--we are scattered widely--like this---barely within sight of each other.
Twice daily--those who choose---walk together.  Bob leads us in assorted directions--dogs have a great time. 

2.  MURDER BY DYNAMITE---The J.D, Dowdy case.
     Late one night our house briefly trembled.  Next day we were told that one of our fringe citizens---JD-- had accidentally blown himself and his cabin to smithereens.
Investigating authorities---including the FBI found only  bits of human parts---but two feet intact.  BUT WAIT A MINUTE----these feet seem to be the feet of a much older man.  Old man Dowdy arrived on scene---said it was his son---explained away the aged feet as childhood frostbite damage. Days went by---we had the old man over for dinner to comfort him.  He said the dynamite was used for illegal fishing---said he had warned JD to be more careful.
     Then the FBI lab report showed that the feet WERE DEAD BEFORE THE EXPLOSION.  Insurance company reported a recent policy on JD's Life for $80,000.
Then a phone call from JD's sister----SAID JD WAS ALIVE AND HIDING OUT IN HER HOUSE.  He was quickly arrested---returned---placed on trial-- (My mother testified in the trial) ---found guilty--sentenced to death---and executed in Tallulah, La in a "portable" electric chair.  It was a scam by father and son to lure a passing stranger home--kill him, blow him up, collect and share the insurance. The story made all the murder mystery magazines. read about it here:

    Two houses away from us a bored housewife yielded to the seductions of her husbands buddy----a one-armed logger named Stanley.  When the affair was discovered the enraged husband beat Stanley unmercifully.  Just a few days later the distraught housewife left a note declaring her undying love for Stanley and DRANK AN UNGODLY AMOUNT OF LYE---Dying an agonizing death.  The best cosmetic work by the undertaker could not conceal the gray face we all looked upon in the open casket funeral.  What I will never forget is the raging uncontrollable grief of the husband that I witnessed in the churchyard outside as the casket was carried to the hearse.

He had made a terrible terrible mistake---he had handled the situation in the very worst way possible.  He loved his wife---it need not have come to this. Now  It couldn't be fixed-- and he couldn't forgive himself.  ON AND ON HE YELLED AND RAN ABOUT.
Several men finally pinned him to the ground and the funeral director came over and shouted to him:  "GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF".  Eventually the burial proceeded.

To this day---I am warned against uncontrollable rage and its consequences--by the uncontrollable grief of that poor man.


Mary was beautiful and vivacious.  Her husband----less so.  Nevertheless, they had a seemingly stable marriage---two children---my playmates.  They operated the grocery store across the street. 
A charming salesman who made regular calls at the store---became smitten with Mary.
One day he could contain his love no longer---and he declared himself.  Mary no doubt pondered the matter.
And then one day word flashed through town:  MARY HAD RUN AWAY WITH A TRAVELING SALESMAN.     SHE NEVER CAME BACK-----though she made appropriate arrangements for sharing the children.
The early moral consensus of the town was that she had done her husband wrong---broken her vows---(till death do us part??).  Divorce and re marriage to the salesman followed and Mary seemingly found true happiness---(it lasted into old age and the death of her salesman.)
The sad husband soldiered on---opening, tending and closing the store.  He had no charm.  From time to time he would make tentative approaches to single ladies but get rejected.
(last week, I managed to contact one of the children---who seemed to agree with me)

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Absolute ethics is cruel and unreasoning.  I salute Mary's courage in rejecting it.
 Perhaps you can guess where I'm headed with these stories.  I hope to show that Sondheimer is relevant to you.  Tomorrow: More stories!

Friday, June 21, 2013


I'M NOW SETTLED IN THE COOL FOREST NEAR FLAGSTAFF SHIFTING LOCATION TODAY TO THE COOL COMPANY OF THE RUBBER TRAMPS---an informal association of mobile friends created by a charismatic champion of freedom---Bob Wells. Read about him here:

I now have time to complete my Sondheimer stories---one a day--till I think I've made my point.

Sondheimer, La--- about 1945----My first 17 years in this tiny town of 300 souls. That tiny white dot--middle left was my home.  Mostly a company town with lots of company houses, a company store and two mills---a lumber mill (top) and a stave mill (middle right)---(staves: curved strips of wood to make barrels).
operational from the 20's to the 90's ---when they ran out of trees.  The owner was a Jewish guy named Conn---whom I never saw---lived far away----tried to print his own money in the form of "chits"---spendable only at the company store.  The federal government straightened him out.  White managers oversaw black laborers.

My mother ran a private grocery near our house. My father owned the two bars in town---a colored and a white.
 Mother got religion---I saw her baptized in the Mississippi river---came to hate alcohol and its effects.
quietly initiated a petition to outlaw the sale of alcohol in our town.  Solicited the support of the Southern Baptist Convention anti-alcohol team.  They sent representatives who came--held meetings---passed out literature.

My father sent for the Brewery association team---they sent handsome young men who held meetings making the case for alcohol: (freedom of choice---tax revenue)

I remember my parents coming home from a long day campaigning for their respective cause---and then going to bed together.

Election day was dramatic---feelings high on both sides---town filled with people---very tense as the vote was counted.   MY FATHER WON by 9 votes.  Liquor stayed in Sondheimer.

The next parish-wide election---MY MOTHER RAN FOR SHERIFF.  (SHE LOST)

My mother was considered the village saint---but she was married to the village atheist--my father.
She did not believe in divorce--so they stayed married---till I was 17.  She moved away--became a nurse
achieved local fame in Monroe, La for energizing an old folks home. She later remarried---lived a happy life with many friends---died at age 82. (I was with her)  Her last words: "Aww Pop (her name for me) don't look so sad----I'M ON MY WAY TO GLORY".

                                            My Mother: Bobby Jean

Sunday, June 16, 2013


(Note to my readers---I have returned to the West--but I'm not done posting about my journey home.  I'm most anxious to share some incredible-but-true stories from Sondheimer --about murder--suicides--rags to riches and empire building)

The story of my return crossing is worth telling---will do so in a future blog.
I stopped to visit my longest friendship---Bushrod---in Santa Fe---perhaps I've showed you his  solar array ---more than enough to power his house and pay about $150 cash besides.
Payback time is about 7 yrs. (panels are much cheaper now)

Stopped in Albuquerque to record my poem DON'T SELL YOUR RIG for  youtube
That's Jeanne who has camped with us before.
 Then I drove on to Flagstaff--- Mt Humphrey ahead---highest point in Az (12,635 ft)  Oh I am ready for the cool.
And here it is--- at 7000 ft  We agree to meet in this secret place.  Kay cooks up a salmon dinner for us.  Delicious.
 Laurie drives in from her singing tour in Sedona.  We are all glad to see her.
Meet Kay---a real Alaskan---with all the intrepid qualities we've come to expect from "those people"----like carrying around a freezer full of salmon.  She treated us to a wonderful fish fry.  The range of her interests is amazing---books are dedicated to her.
Meet Stan---a new friend---The most self contained boondocker perhaps in the world--hope to show you. A very happy resourceful guy.

 Here's his rig---he has been perfecting it for 32 years---it's a wonder of engineering.  For example: When he chooses he can carry 800 gallons of water---can endure an entire season without needing to re supply.  He has enough solar power to supply a suburban home.
He knows a big secret that can save you $100,000.00.  More on him later.
Here's evidence that we support one another. Laurie is short of electricity--I have a surplus----soooo..... 
Meet Carol--a hair stylist of many years---she enhances her freedom by styling wherever she goes.  Two days after this haircut She's in the Colorado River rafting through the grand canyon.
 Afternoon snacks and laurie shares her new songs with us.

One day she invites us into her famous "Casbah" for a flute lesson.

Furnishes the real thing---expensive native American flutes.
Teaches us the fundamentals.
Laurie is teaching us how to express our 'heartsong' by giving us a class on how to play a 'High Spirits' native american flute.

All of us enter knowing nothing of how to create a song with our breath.

After an hour of playful instruction by Laurie, we each leave after playing a solo of our own!
I invite the ladies over for a decadent oatmeal breakfast---enriched with pecans, raisins, brown sugar, kool whip and maraschino cherries.
One day Laurie cooked breakfast for me----I ate it anyway. The black things are sausages--orange thing is an egg. I think she was making a point.
Looked like a bag of trash---Laurie investigated---surprise it was filled with money--
NOT----she was playing a trick on us.
One day Laurie takes the gang on a mystery tour---not telling us where we are going.
She takes us here---a super--NEW AGE shop.  Dear friends--it is all here and fascinating---books, crystals, incense, angels, fairies, prayer flags etc. 
And another day she lured us to the poetry slam.  This young poet was smitten--can you tell?
That's Alaska Kay to the left.D

You can watch me surprisingly win the poetry slam here:

Round 1 Dance of Testosterone: click here

Round 2: Dance of Estrogen: click here

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Truthfully now, sweet people, can you imagine a better way to spend the summer:----camped in the cool forest around Flagstaff, Az---free of charge---- with your good friends close by----city amenities only minutes away---internet, cell phone, tv access.  You can join us if you wish---we will shift camp Monday to the summer RTR (rubber tramp rendezvous)---for directions click here Monday. (Bob wisely keeps the location secret till then.