There isn’t much left for me these days. I have seven dollars in my pocket. Five are left over from the two six packs of Black Butte Porter I bought, the other two from a friend who bought one of the beers from me. Seven dollars in my pocket, and about ten in the bank. Ten is a rough estimate, of course. I don’t keep track of my checking account. Such slavery to receipts and paper and math seem disgusting to me, a vile filthy chore not meant for myself, a free American. Not much sustains me these days, and that is a good thing, a genuine thing, an authentic thing. I am reminded of a backpacking trip my friend David and I took last summer. We knew we would be living on a prayer, so to speak, (neither of us were dedicated Christians) and as it turned out, the only thing we spent money on was gas, beer, and huckleberry ice cream. A noble trip, naturally.
We spent the nights where we could: a young oriental boy named Micah Jam’s back yard, the public beach in Whitefish, a campground deep in Glacier, David’s cousin’s front yard, a party spot in the Beartooths. We ate sandwiches and corn fritters and pizza from Moose’s Saloon. We drank every micro-brew we came across. We donned our Kelty and Mountain Smith backpacks and headed into the congested trees of west Glacier, munching on wild huckleberries and raspberries still wet from the rain. We didn’t change clothes and bathed in every body of water we came across, standing or otherwise. After our treks, we slunk into the back doors of Kalispell hotels and enjoyed ourselves in their hot tubs. On the way up and back, we drove shirtless in a 1999 Buick LeSabre, smoking Black’N Mild’s, drinking Coors, and listening to Mozart. Never had I felt so free, but more importantly, never had I been so free. We stopped where we wanted: Butte, Avon, Swan Lake, Big Fork.
We dived into picturesque lakes clogged with screaming family reunions and whining jet-skis. We chatted up the man that gave us permission to do anything we wanted once we paid a fee of three dollars (a small fee for such ludicrous lack of responsibility). We observed Stobert, the retarded guy who stood in the same spot in Lake McDonald so long he got sunburned from his nipples up. We tried to deter Chun Chilla, the determined Canadian bicyclist who, after riding all the way up The Highway To the Sun, decided he needed to make laps around the parking lot at the top. We encountered an intrepid, stupid group of hikers wearing only T-shirts and nothing else, on their way (through the rain) to Quartz Lake, which was miles away. We stopped at Polebridge Mercantile, the home of the funky-freshest tunes I have ever heard. We ate huckleberry ice cream, drank Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager, and cruised around in the graceful Buick LeSabre. We checked our checking accounts: “I got nothing” was what David said. “I got 97.76” I said. “Solid” we said together. We plugged a Louis L’Amour cassette tape into the Buick and laughed as the hero free soloed a 1000 foot cliff with a rifle slung over his shoulder. We went back to Moose’s Saloon and drank more beer and ate more pizza. We cruised back down the interstate, Black’N Mild’s dangling from our lips, Kokanee clutched in our paws, and talked about The Great Things.
We jumped off twenty foot cliffs into the clearest, bluest, most god-given water we had ever seen. We suffered on a twelve mile tramp through dust and burned tree with no water. We passed out from fatigue on the shuttle back to the top of the pass. We drank more beer and ate more huckleberry ice cream. We watched Casanova Carl, booze cruiser extraordinaire, extract his boat from Whitefish Lake with a truck that had a “fucked up tranny.” We packed two cans of bear spray and a Springfield 1911 with us no matter where we went. When we finally rolled back into Cody, back into “home,” we had $3.43 between the both of us. We were the richest bastards on earth.
There isn’t much left for me these days. I have seven dollars in my pocket and about ten dollars in the bank. I don’t worry about it too much. I have rent and college tuition to pay, but I have more important things to consider. Thoreau said a man could survive off of six months of work a year, and I am inclined to believe him. I will run out of money soon and won’t be able to pay my obligations. Any fool with a library card can get a decent education, and once the lease is up, I am truly free. No more contracts, no more rent, no more cell phone, no more obligations, no more expectations, just downright, honest living. I’ll float from place to place, making money and spending it, (what else would you do with it?) working on not working at all. Maybe punch out some measly manuscripts to get rejected by publishers, maybe move into the Thoroughfare and build a cabin and poach elk and deer the rest of my life, keeping myself alive with flesh and fur and whittling. This life is transient anyway, why place value in the automobile, the shoe, the cell phone? The smell of pine, the sound of an elk bugle, the cold creek on bare skin, those are the truly transcending things. A fresh, bloody backstrap cooked on an open pine fire, a run-off chilled brew, now those are the things of worth, the things we need to value. The yawning, uninhabited valley stretching into oblivion, wild with elk, deer, badger, muskrat, hawk, trout, thrush, pine, juniper, that is what we need, what I need.
I’m not too worried about things. Things are things, and what I need, what I have readily available to me, in every crevice of the mountain, every trickle of the stream, every call of the loon, is all I, a red-blooded American, will ever need.