Where is D.B. Cooper When You Need Him?

Riffing in a time of Ebola, Agnotology and Death of the Planet

Note: It’s been a long while since I posted. Obvious reasons include massive amounts of work, and, well, really, what do these articles, amassed, do to forward a revolution against the United States of Israel, the Empire of Entropy, the Star Chambers and warped men and women in Brooks Brothers outfits? Really. One fine fellow recently said that all the so-called progressive and lefty liberals writing these days for things like Counterpunch or In These Times, The Nation, what have you, are part of the leisure class, or at least those pleasantly surviving with health insurance, no rental or mortgage payment knee buster repo artists, plenty of food ecstasy and disposable income, with limited but real jet-setting capabilities, and, well, not really in struggle as you and I are, in the main, looking at the highway or the shut-up-your-mouth-and-keep-in-line-silo way, a la corporate-military-retail-toxin-prison-pain-earth scrubbing way. No cops about to kick in the door for repossessions or LFO’s — legal financial obligations, AKA, debts. These people get to write, and find time to write, and posit all sorts of postulations about how we got in this mess and how they think the whole ship is sinking.

But the daily toil is real, all those marginalized, bastardized, disenfranchised, and politicized. That dichotomy around the struggle, those struggling, the daily gasping of breath, all the shitty things we do to try and survived, in bootstrap America, nickle and dimed into submission, that is really tough to get in the main, since the ones truly in the struggle — not some middle class white angst or old person’s good old days perspective — never ever get the microphone, keyboard, center stage, front page, TV-movie limelight.

Not that the reverberating essayists shouldn’t find a home for their angst, or positional posturing, for sure. But, there is an entire scam in American life, tied to consumerism, pop culture, the military state holding us together and internalized, and the tsunami of wrong-headed thinking, stupid ideas, distorted history, lies and more lies, a political state that stinks of mafia, Zionism, inside trading, boys and girls club, and, well, absolutely sick thinking, especially coming form the liberals and Demon-crats. Islamaphobia without Zionist-phobia. Skewed and skewered thinkers, and, well, a shell game tied to our self-absorbed nothingness in a society that has to go, has to go the way of the dodo.

I digress. Here, creative non-fiction. Not fomenting political or traditionally dissident postulates, but, still, the edge of ideas, the vital sharp edge of nuance and emancipating thinking and idealism, I believe, exists in fiction, or creative non-fiction. Maybe you won’t be absorbed by the author — on central character — and the other characters, albeit taken from real history, real experienced life.

Think newspaper reporter, in the 1980s, Arizona, border line, Mexico, and those years, you know, the killing fields in central America, Reagan, the entire experience of 2015, 35 years ago!

As we have seen in stuff by Linh Dinh, Postcard from the End of America, there are real people in this decay, at the edge of the gentrifcation, along the dumpways of America and the One Percent and the 19 Percent, that collective that has 92 percent of USA wealth, but more disastardly, control the narrative (media), the criminal state (law, prisons, courts), the propaganda machines (Madison Avenue, education, politics) and the economics of laying down more sacrifice zones, more EEZ — Exclusive (for the 20 percent) Economic (wealth and gated-thinking/gated-work/gated-leisure) Zones (off-shore, resource channels, anywhere to extract sweet, blood, tears, lives for the 20 percent to move their sociopathic mindsets along).

So think about  context of what you read below — multi-college degree, older guy, working for pennies, with adults with developmental disabilities, the bottom of the rung, really, in society. Catch this one here for more context on the Sacrifice Zones of the 20 Percent’s success:

Alan: When I was on national TV a week ago, I not only talked about what’s wrong with our trade policy, but also about the demented GOP decision to embed in the Rules of the House of Representatives a new provision that may end up cutting off Social Security payments to the disabled.


Thom Hartmann: It took less than a day in the new Congress for Republicans to attack Social Security. They introduced a new rule for the House you’re part of [,Congressman Grayson,] that puts millions of Americans at risk of losing Social Security benefits, specifically the Social Security Disability [benefit]. It seems like that’s where they’re starting, like it’s always easiest to start with the most fragile, the most poor. “Let’s go after welfare!” What’s going on here? How is this going to play out?

Alan: Well, I think we need to examine this from the Republicans’ perspective. The situation you’re describing is that they’re cutting off funds for the Social Security payments that are made to the disabled, as opposed to senior citizens. And, to be fair to the Republicans, I think their rationale can be described this way, Thom: Essentially, they’re saying that if you’re disabled, you shouldn’t have asked to be disabled. It’s your own fault, and if you clicked your heels together three times, your disability would go away. So the Republican basic philosophy of self-reliance suggests to them that the disabled should raise themselves up by their bootstraps, assuming they have any legs.

Thom: Isn’t there also a variation on that? “You know, you really should have been born to richer parents. They can take care of you rather than the state.”

Alan: That’s right, and it shows their contempt, their absolute contempt for anyone in need, anyone in need. And frankly, it’s disgusting. It shows the underside of the right wing. Why would any rational, decent person want to prey on the disabled, of all people? And yet they’re proposing to cut off payments to the disabled. Nine million Americans will go without the Social Security payments that they earned through their paychecks. These are earned benefits; they paid for them. And the Republicans want to take them away.

Thom: Yeah. Speak to how this addresses the larger issue of the entire social safety net. For example, a year ago Christmas, Republicans blocked, in the House of Representatives – John Boehner personally blocked – a bill that was passed in the Senate that would have extended long-term unemployment benefits. You know, in the minute-and-a-half or so that we have left, I’m just curious about your thoughts on (a) where the Republicans are going to go with a whole wide variety of things in the social safety net, and (b) what you and the Democrats are going to try and do to stop that or even expand the social safety net.

Alan: Thom, all you need to do is [to] look at the Ryan budget, which was passed by overwhelming majorities among Republicans, several years now in a row in the House of Representatives – I believe we’re up to four years in a row at this point – to see exactly what the Republican blueprint is. They want to shred the social safety net. They want to destroy it. They want to privatize Social Security, and thereby eliminate it. They want to privatize and voucherize Medicare, and thereby eliminate it . They want to do the same thing to unemployment insurance, to disability payments – essentially to anything that’s any good to ordinary people in this country – so [that] the government consists entirely of defending the borders and corporate welfare.

Thom: Yeah, and even “defending the borders” is really code for something else, it seems.

Alan: The military-industrial complex pays off their [GOP tools in Congress, so] that’s something the Republicans see true value in. But when it comes to helping the disabled, the blind, the halt – they couldn’t care less about that. And these people claim to be Christians.

Thom: Yeah, it’s truly tragic. Alan Grayson, Congressman Alan Grayson, thank you so much for being with us, and for the great work you’re doing in Congress.

Alan: Thank you, too, Thom.


Rep. Alan Grayson

Oh well, so much has frittered through the grapevine of Dissident Voicing, nuancing this or that pogrom of intellectual masturbation, and some decent stuff tied to a revolutionary path. So much, and yet, so-so co-opted by the very essence of the hubris of our technological, info-tainment, demeaning and dumb-downing consumer and corrosive times. Alas, though, keep plugging away fellow dissidents. Funny stuff, sometimes, seeing “climate change” articles touting Google and Amazon are bastions of goodness, green eco-porn goodness. Recommend reading Jose Saramago’s Raised from the Ground.

End Civ, really, simple stuff, Jensen,  if you have the time, recommended, by Sub Media, too!

Now: A little creative non-fiction piece I wrote and got published and won a small little literary press award for. Enjoy.

Where is D.B. Cooper When You Need Him?


Out of the blue, the entire end of the Summer of 1980 comes rushing in me. How does that work, the déjà vu or reclaimed experiences mined 33 years later while working with one of my clients, autistic, photographic memory, a 49-year-old in the adult group home who comes out of his room with these intense synesthesic experiences?

Memorized lines from entire movies. Sports trivia gone viral. Histories and news items unleashed. I’ll call him Freddy, and out of the blue, knowing where I went to high school, the colleges I attended, and where I live now, Freddy comes bursting into the office with these unusual contextual crumbs, clues as to how his regimented mind works, and how play and narrative landscape rush out like a melting glacier pushing boulders as big as semis out into a wheat field in the middle of the scablands of Eastern Washington.

“Paul. Paul. Near where you live. In 1980, a fellow named Brian Ingram, he was eight years old at the time. Now that makes him 41, or maybe 42. He was on a sandbar along the Columbia near Frenchman’s Bar where you take your dogs . . . right where you canoe. That kid discovered three stacks of $20 bills totaling $5,800.”

Moments of monumental absolute human astonishment, these clients of mine can provide me with, and Freddy is a guy with all sorts of blurting facts and intense associations, and his Spatial Sequence Synesthesia is truly mind bending, a completely different set of literary and reportage tools needed to shift through sound-word-number conjoining of senses, memories.

“Oh, okay, okay. Way before I moved here, uh? What was that load of cash all about, back in 1980, what was it tied to, some bank robbery, abandoned ship on the Columbia River?” I ask Freddy. “Was this on the news?”

He grimaces, wrings his hands and lets his body sway from left to right, and then he smiles: “Oh no-no- no. The D.B. Cooper stash. That skyjacker who jumped from a Northwest Orient Airlines jet, a Boeing 727, oh, I can’t remember the flight number, but he had $200,000 in ransom – twenty-dollar bills — somewhere between Seattle and Portland, he took the leap. That was November 24, 1971. He’s never been found. They call it a cold case, but they are still looking for him. They think he’d be 75 years old or thereabouts, maybe 68. You can never tell how old these guys are from police artist sketches.”

It’s amazing the information stream, those caches of memory, the mother lodes of lucidity and captivating facts and stories people have stored up inside, and yet the DSM-V and all the agencies call these people I work with “adults with developmental disabilities.”

What a trying terminology – developmental disabilities: FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome, Fragile X, mild mental intellectual disabilities, on the autism spectrum, Pica, and other issues). My crew is aging, and some of the folk we take care of in this agency have unfortunately “matriculated” from the infamous Fairview State Mental Ward, it’s claim to fame Cuckoo’s Nest. Claim of shame, barbaric treatment of fellow human beings.

Developmental Disability I think of when I see Donald Trump, Michael Vick, Al Gore, Sarah Palin.

“Hey, Freddy, thanks for the update, or, err, background,” I tell him, laughing and showing interest since he’s a human being, a man, a person with intense caring for knowledge, facts, and he is in my life, comes to me for needs and these savant sessions, with an intensity I fail to see in ninety percent of my fellow humans who are considered normally developed. “But why are you bringing this up now, at this point, those stack of twenties found out at old Frenchman’s Bar . . . something in the news?”

He smiles, sort of skips a bit in the office, paces back and forth, and then says, “Oh no-no-no. You said you were in Arizona in 1980. I am going to watch the film, Tombstone, tonight at 9:30. One bag of popcorn, and two sodas, that’s all, maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s the Kevin Jarre version . . . well, he was replaced as director but still has the screenplay credits. The Val Kilmer Doc Holiday one, Tombstone, the one you said you like. The 1993 film directed by George P. Cosmatos, with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp. Filmed at your old workplace, in Bisbee, right there in your part of the world.”

A world-world’s apart, now that I am teetering between Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. Ahh, the mind of the gifted, the child inside the man, the lingering enthusiasms and passions even in a 49-year-old who is pretty independent in the community but still tethered to our group home and in need of some level of supervision and work with professionals covering his ISPs and checking on his medical issues. What a thing it is to get old in America.

“Hey, Freddy, I’m liking the associations to a very long time ago for me. Funny, though, help me out. Old Tombstone and my youth down there in Cochise’s Stronghold, can you help me out and make that connection to D.B. Cooper bailing out over Oregon or Southern Washington. Help out an old guy, will ya, Freddy.” I laugh, and laughter is a curandero’s drug for these aging people, some way past 68, in need of protection, care, and in a couple of cases, death with dignity right in the group home.

“Oh, no-no-no. I’m thinking about 1980. You were in Arizona then, near Tombstone. The same sort of case as D.B. Cooper, right there in Arizona, right when you were there. This one Mister Paul B. Fugate. Disappeared January 13, 1980. Right where you worked. A cold case just like D.B. Cooper. You were right there where the park ranger disappeared and now you kayak right there where D.B. Cooper’s stack of twenties were found by a kid playing Frisbee in 1980 and you hike around the hills right where they think D.B. Cooper jumped out of that Boeing 727 with a bag of cash, $200,000 total, with a parachute in the rain.

There is always a connection. Always a connection, Paul.”

Always . . . a . . . connection. Truism for a writer, for someone pushing 56, someone with a load of memories tucked away in scrapbooks, on digital files, in the cerebrum. “Ahh, the connection, Freddy. Thanks, man.” Always a connection, so vital as I slipstream from memory to mementos to memorializing, the baseline of my life as a writer and teacher, and now, companion and instructor for five adults with developmental disabilities, all rare and unique in their own right, funny as hell, and, like Freddy, amazing comets of energy and fragility, undertows of sense and riptides of locked-in-adolescence.

I had never told Freddy about that Summer of 1980, or all the cold cases I ran into as a reporter, I guess, a cub reporter for all of one week on the job. Never told him about the carnival of night life, the copper mine, the countless stories unwritten, the searching, the unimaginable beauty and violence right there at the thin line between reporting and advocacy, yearning for a book length summer and my daily duties covering city, county, college, planning, rural politics and characters that would make David Lynch flinch.

“Oh, I see, I see, Freddy. Last I heard, D.B. Cooper has never been found, nor identified, and, well, Mister Fugate made the news two years ago, I think, because friends and family planted a tree where he loved to be, outdoors, down in the Chirichahuas.”

Each moment recalled is a linchpin of association and fragrant upheaval of connections, for Freddy. Always a connection, Freddy. I can only say so much about that Summer of 1980, or the years subsequent in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras. The stuff in Juarez and Chihuahua, along the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. Sure, the fodder for novels, the bright colors of a mind always searching for another character, some flood of enigmatic passion, exotic and mundane, and the crushing poverty and violence mixed with the survival of a dog retired from the Palenque, or the former prostitute who runs an outreach center in Las Cruces, or the former Bandito who takes a bible supposedly read by Benito Juarez and preaches tough Jesus love to spooks and teen bandits.

These friends, my clients, can only take my own narrative so far, and, well, if it’s not connected, somehow reaching the pockets of their brains or some floe of family association, then, well, it’s a bit of a waste.

Can they ever understand the bits and pieces of my life tied to writing, the hubbub of working with writers like James Crumley, Winona LaDuke, David Suzuki, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Robert Bly, Denise Levertov, and countless others? Does it matter, other than to me, the memorializing, the moments in time where my path crossed the meteoric paths of those famous and infamous?
The connection, man, Freddy will always remind me wherever I go. Make the connection, and let a tapestry or Oaxaca blanket come to rest in the mind, each thread, each geometric some association, some narrative context, something in my past that ties into the birth of memory, that Summer of 1980.

Starting with . . . . The same mountains Geronimo and his few dozen braves disappeared into. The granite edifices, the pinion pine, and the wails of puma. I was there, hunkered down at a spot with a pup tent lean-to from Vietnam-era requisition. I was looking over old newspaper clippings, with a small stack of new clips of my own, first week into the job, and seven clips, front page stories in five of the seven newspapers my publisher owned in Southern Arizona.

Red coals of iron wood limbs I gathered, a pretty nice piece of venison the deputy sheriff handed me before leaving town, sizzling in the cast iron pan and a bunch of Brussels sprouts and onions smothering the mix.

Bisbee and Cochise County and the few hundred miles of Tortilla Curtain separating part of that 2,000 mile border-line, essentially that was my beat. We’re talking hundreds of square miles on this side of the fence, and many more hundreds more on the Mexico side. Fresh from a year in Europe writing for a travel service out of Edinburgh, traveling through Europe scoping out and writing about the best deals for young travelers to get – hotels, food, booze, general fun — I was now smack back down in Arizona, down by law, 100-hour work weeks, three hundred-plus miles a week clocked on my Toyota Corolla.

I never figured those 18 months working there would be a seminal moment in my life, and how silly it would have been for me to consider then, just 23 years old, that 33 years later I’d be waxing nostalgic about those rough and tumble days as a small-town reporter. Back in college, they called it “community journalism,” and I had already experience with that for a lab class working in Tombstone, Arizona, writing news for the Tombstone Epitaph.

I don’t know what they wanted me to try and conjure up just five short months after the guy disappeared, but the editor of the Bisbee Review, our flagship newspaper, and the two brothers who owned the paper, the one in Sierra Vista and six others around the area, wanted some update on the “missing forest service guy . . . something human . . . just retrace his steps,” she told me with her Tennessee accent. She wanted something five months after Paul Braxton Fugate had just ended up vanished without a trace. Tending to a nature trail, one of his pet projects in the national monument he worked as part of his job as a uniformed member of the U.S. Forest Service.

“You’re from the new school so you should be able to conjure up something to get a story,” she told me as I threw a few notepads and pens from the office repository into an Army rucksack. “Like those method actors, just get into the scene, and make a connection.”

Some sort of method acting ploy to motivate me to pick up, what, the man’s aura, some sense of this fellow who already had made the state and national news, who already had somewhat famous psychics looking for ethereal clues, and some heavy-duty PIs throwing in pro bono their investigative licks?

Did I realize then at the ox-bow of a small canyon these moments alone in the middle of nowhere, news guy that I was, 23, barely, that this would be the conjuring of a lifetime, that the corvids smacking their beaks at the crackling meat and sprouts, that the moment in memory would be the conjuring of a life thirty-some years later? Always trapped inside, waiting for some galvanizing force or synaptic jolt to push out just when I needed something to populate the story, the narrative, the character development?

In the moment of the making of that story about a missing forest ranger, or my own reflecting—perseveration — on what exactly I was doing in Bisbee covering places like Sierra Vista, Douglas, Naco, Wilcox, I thought maybe I was still frustrated with being away from Tucson, or stuck with a small-town(s) newspaper(s) gig while some of my cohorts were already working the big-time sources in big-time cities like Las Vegas, Chicago, LA or Phoenix.

The US Calvary seemed to always be within spitting range, yet Geronimo and his followers were flecks in the shadows. The bitterroot they cached and the corvids (crows) their cloaking and vanishing medicine that kept them away from the US Army killing machine.

What sort of break in a story was I going to get, one week into my job, a story that had all sorts of armchair prognosticators calling it a hoax, or some legend, or a vanishing tied to the “goings on at Roswell and the hocus-pocus the United States government is doing disappearing its citizens.”

I ended up in Bisbee, a punk reporter, and this entire disappearance of the forest service ranger was an ebbing story passed around the county and beyond, part of the hoisting crews late at night in a few of Brewery Gulch’s ratty bars.

What is it that really shapes memory more than thirty-three years after an event, recalling the sky, the ruby-throated hummingbirds, the scat from javelina, and the moaning of a wildcat off in the distance? Sometimes you end up halfway around the world, as I did, sucking in the electric eel air of Vietnam in 1994, retracing my old man’s Vietnam War trail. That night in the middle of nowhere outside Hue, well, something about the smell of rice whiskey and burning rice chafe took me to the mountains of my youth. Alone in the mountains, wondering what the hell I was going to do in Bisbee, but now, fourteen years later, with 80 or so North Vietnamese villagers from all around, my guide-interpreter, a scientist friend who I had just spent two weeks with catching and cataloguing flying mammals in bat caves, reminding me of those early years exploring the landscape of human frailty and resurgence in the small towns I had to cover as part of the daily and weekly beats of a small-town newspaperman.

Missing on January 13, 1980, five months before I ended up on the job, in this arroyo, near where the 42-year-old non-traditional forest ranger and naturalist disappeared. Doing some method reporting thing, pulling out of the air some ion or carbon dioxide exhale from the missing man.

A cold case still, and it’s 2013, and his photo is still burned in my head – the graying long hair, the granny glasses, the look of a biologist just waiting for a monsoon to lift clouds to his heaven and then watch the parade of desert and high desert life scramble in a cool burst of summer air.

It was the only time this fellow went out on his job with full uniform. Still, the long hair, Greg Allman style, in a ponytail. Speculation? Part and parcel being a beat reporter, all ears, there, afterhours, listening, holding hands, placating, listening, and making connections. Drug dealers spooked by his official-looking appearance. Or, the legend of the Chiricahuas — Geronimo’s Stronghold and ghost dancers coming back to fill retribution’s vassal. Or the old dead Massai or even Cochise rampaging through the mountains to mete out retribution after a hundred years of white men murdering Apaches.
I remember writing something like this:

At 2 PM on January 13, 1980, Paul Fugate, the only member of the permanent staff at Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona, on duty that day like he was every other day the two weeks into the New Year, walked out of his office to make a possible spiritual rumination on one of his favorite nature trails. He told the only other person there, a seasonal employee, that if he wasn’t back before 4:30 PM to begin to shut down without him. I told my editor in Bisbee and my girlfriend in Tucson where I was going. Someone in Brewery Gulch told me I should have contacted the Cochise County Sheriff. I am now here, near where Paul Fugate was last seen.

Stars are out, and the sound of two or maybe three cougars, well, the place is eerie when you are alone. Alone with this story, some crime, maybe, unsolved, or, still lurking in the Ponderosa pines.

Here I am in this canyon, near where Fugate disappeared without a trace five months ago. Earlier, I talked with people who knew him and worked with him. I am finding out real quickly he is, or, was like some of the same guys who ended up teaching me botany and ecology at the University of Arizona.

What would my friends’ and family’s lives be like if I had just gone out one day and disappeared, without a trace, like in Ranger Fugate’s case, doing what I love doing best – scuba diving remote reefs along the rocky coast near San Carlos and Guaymas in the Sea of Cortes?

His wife Dody is wrought with worry and reservations about what might have happened to her husband, an avid naturalist who lived at the Monument while she worked in Tucson as a photographer.

One Bisbee resident who wants to remain anonymous told me over a cold 12-ounce can of Coors that Fugate represents a long-line of victims of the violence and drug-smuggling along the border. ‘Things will become, pretty soon, bud, a war zone down here. Too many druggies in our country and too many from down south willing to make a buck. Paul Fugate was taken out by drug dealers.’

And that’s the prevailing story coming from investigators from the US Forest Service, Cochise County Sheriff’s Department and FBI. Five months later, the case is still open, but many friends and a few family members of Fugate worry about how long Paul’s disappearance will soon enter the realm of the ‘cold case.’

Where is Paul Fugate? That bumper sticker jumped out at me the day I drove down from Tucson to Sierra Vista to interview for the job.

I had one of those bumper stickers and uncovered it while moving from Spokane to Seattle two years ago. I then searched for “Paul Fugate” on the internet and find that the family and friends held a memorial near where Fugate disappeared and where I tried to journalistically séance him into some memory fold.

In 2010 the family and his friends dedicated a memorial plaque for Paul Fugate, and then planted a tree nearby. His wife, Dody Fugate, who came out from New Mexico where she resides, said the apple tree they planted brought back almost visceral memories of her disappeared husband.

“Paul had a friend at the park who was a javelina. His name was Lone Pig, and he loved apples. He would lay on Paul’s porch and listen to music, except he didn’t like rock ‘n’ roll,” Dody Fugate told the Arizona Daily Star. “I was wondering why Paul was buying so many vegetables. I thought he was getting healthy.”

Somehow that two days in the Chiricuahuas prepared me slightly for the big story I ended up working on — 13 Salvadorans died in the desert inside the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Some 33 years later, that stretch of desert has taken many hundreds more immigrants seeking asylum and economic prosperity in this country.

Another connection, another Freddy movie night, this one with Lee Marvin. “Richard Brooks the director, The Professionals, with another one of your Arizona friends, Lee Marvin. As gunslinger Fardan. Claudia Cardinale, and, whew, what a cast, with Burt Lancaster and Jack Palance and Robert Ryan. Ralph Bellamy starred. November 2, 1966. I have the DVD and will watch it with my three sodas and two sandwiches at 9:35, after the Seattle Seahawks game.”

Those Freddy connections, that Summer of 1980, countless hours following leads, doing stories on old and young, zoning and planning, big criminal cases and the rose club. Extra time on my hands at night, alone, outcast in a way, but always someone to bend my ear. Their connections to something newsworthy, something for a young newspaperman to follow.

Freddy’s connections sailed me back me back to Lee Marvin, to Tucson, screenplay in hand, Just a Coupla Chancers, based on that story of Salvadorans abandoned in the searing desert. Young cub reporter mixing it up with big-time New York Times and Time Magazine reporters, clamoring to find the hook to the story, news then, 1980, now old news, a trail of tears, muerto, death, for 33 years as thousands have found death in the desert, at the hands of smugglers, or coyotes, and the vagaries of heat, flash floods and rattlesnakes.

Someone recently said Fugate was seen in a pickup truck, slumped over between two guys. At 4:30 P.M. January 13, 1980. The U.S. Forest Service in 1981 declared he walked off the job and tried taking back $6,900 paid to Dody Fugate, with 11 percent interest; then the U.S. Forest Service put a lien on her home. Another person said there had been several large female cougars around where Paul Fugate hiked, and one of them probably got Paul Fugate. No remains ever were found.

Those extra hours at night, the zeal of a 23-year-old, and the quest for a novel, some fame, something, led me to write Lee Marvin’s role as a rancher in Southern Arizona, based loosely on the Salvadorans found bloated and burned in the desert.
Except my script had one lone kid, a survivor, stumbling onto Dupree Landers’ 1,500-acre ranch. Alonso and Dupree, just a coupla chancers. Holed up on his ranch, as both the feds and the smugglers go looking for the kid.

Tucson, 1982, one week after throwing in the towel on Southern Arizona for a gig in El Paso, there I was sipping a beer with Lee Marvin, trying to broach the question, trying to make the connection to those 18 months in Southern Arizona, the Summer of 1980, and Fugate and the Salvadorans, to some glimmer of hope that a screenplay would be developed. The Big Red One and Dirty Dozen and Cat Ballou Marvin would take it from me, the just-turned-25-year-old.

“Son, you tidy it up, and see me in a year. You have something here, and, you get some of that wet behind the ears dried off in that Old El Paso town, and then see me in twelve months.”

Connections, the Summer of 1980, filled with stories written, stories yet to be birthed. Bisbee Bob and his three retired circus chimps, living alone with three wild animals, down a canyon, smuggling chunks of turquoise out of the abandoned and guarded Copper Queen mine. Then Trinie the Undertaker, driving around the entire southwest with his hearse and the remains – embalmed – of his mother and father, side by side, in a double-wide coffin.

Drug tunnels from Naco, Mexico, to Douglas, USA. Heaps of hippies and back-to-earthers in the middle of nowhere eking out a living raising ostriches and almonds.

The connection, again, salve for getting old, remembrances tied to overlapping narratives, roles reversed, an implosion of stories from Pecos to El Paso, from Chihuahua City to Belize. Vietnam. Baja. Stories waiting for a connection, some hatching latent sound or smell, some sightline, or line of repose etched by a mountain’s shadow; something somewhere, tying all back to a “Where is Paul Fugate?” bumper sticker, those people all along the border, rough and wicked and tough and serene, broken and finished, and all types in between.

Yet, still, I sit in the office putting down words in reports, making sure the agency and the state of Oregon know that guys like Freddy, and others with FAS and sorrowful histories of incarceration by psychiatry, I make sure those connections are made. Some turn of a phase, or long lines remembered, but hands down these are people, aging, with memories of different varieties, some shredding, some festooned to blackness, and others resurrected in fugues.

“Yeah, it’s all over in Dodge. Tombstone, too. Cheyenne, Deadwood, all gone, all dead and gone. Why, the last time I came through Tombstone, the big excitement there was about the new roller-skate rink that they had laid out over the OK Corral. I’ll tell you something else, I used to work for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and a Congress of Rough Riders. And I rescued many stagecoach passengers from road agents and drunkard injuns… in the nick of time! Twice a day, three times on Saturday.”

Jesus, all those lines, trapped inside Freddy’s head, and little does he know the connections. Lee Marvin and Pamela Marvin taking me inside for lemonade in 1987, it was May, three months before Lee ended up dead at Tucson Medical Center.

“It’s something I think I can help develop. Dupree is mighty compelling. You have a gift, kid. You got me all tied up into the story, isn’t that so, Pamela? That doesn’t happen too often, kid.”

Yep, lemonade with Mr. Paint Your Wagon, and the name of his agent, and, bam, all those extra hours in the Summer of 1980 balled up into the sixth draft of Just a Coupla Chancers completed in 1987.

Where do those ghosts come from, those connections, all frozen one day and then thawing in your head when just the right turn of a phrase or just the right angle of light hits a memory field? Or when Freddy recites Kid Shelleen, that white-haired Lee Marvin calling me ‘kid’ twice over a five-year period.

More grim reapers and angels of death along the border. More stories deep within, tracing the feet of those Salvadorans, all the way back through the coyotes’ trail. Just like camping out there with pregnant cougars, hoping to see Paul Fugate walk up and tell me he got lost tracking a jaguar back into the Sierra Madres.

Something deep within, locked inside the mind of the normally developed hoping the man with autism, a kid just like you and I deep within, somehow he remembers a line from a screenplay, undeveloped, never seen the light of day on TV or on the silver screen. But held by Lee and his soon-to-be-widow Pamela. There, in Tucson, the sky full of buzzards and dust devils, and the connection made in words, the glint of his eyes, and the smile under all the leathery skin, wrinkles, the stubborn persistence of a man who was a World War Two scout sniper on Pacific Islands, 21 landings, before a bullet hit his back just below the spine.

“You got gumption coming out here and knocking on my door. Hell, kid, this is Arizona, and, well, all the kooks out there, how’d you know I wasn’t behind this door with a loaded 12 gauge pointed at your brains, uh?”

Somehow maybe one day that line will come into the spectrum of Freddy, and he’ll come into my office and blurt it out. Was it from the screenplay, or from the day in Tucson when a kid was hoping for fame, some connection to a story, real and buried people, deserted in the heat, hopes and dreams etched by a 23-year-old kid reporter, trying to make sense of something incomprehensible, all those dreams and beliefs and god-fearing hopes lost to abandonment and the hot slag of desert, of a kid’s memory, galvanized to a future of memories?

“You’ve seen a general inspecting troops before haven’t you? Just walk slow, act dumb and look stupid!”

Movie night with Freddy. Three sodas, a turkey sandwich and a bag of microwave popcorn. “Lee Marvin as Major John Reisman, Dirty Dozen, 1967, Robert Aldrich directed it. Starring Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes.”
Dupree Landers: “So, kid, you think the United States government gives squat about you. Just another mouth to feed, just another bit of evidence of something all messed up down there in your Salvador. Something stinks, and you are expendable. But I don’t take lightly people coming onto my property and pushing me or none of my guests around.”

Maybe in a dream, lines thought, old scenarios lifted from death, a screenplay rewritten, for the dead, or, maybe for Sam Shepard this time before he croaks. Hit him up one of these days. See if he likes Dupree, or if he can recite those lines like Freddy can.

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.