The Mountain’s Human Inhabitants
By David Schooley
Dwight lived on the mountain for 11 years and he was friends with Besh and me. He had been a music teacher in South City and had some trouble with the school. So he quit his job and he was troubled.
Dwight discovered the mountain himself. I saw him one early morning leaping around in his bare feet on the rocks. And he always avoided people. Eventually I met him and he actually said hello. And every now and then we’d see each other and so I finally sat down and talked to him. He was working in a garage in Brisbane and I asked him if I could bring all the kids by to see him. He didn’t seem too happy about that at the time. But I started doing it and it seemed to get better and better as time went by, both for him and the kids. It was good.
His first encampment was up in the woods above the shellmound in Buckeye Canyon. It was elaborate, he had part of an old car on top of him, a tightly assembled rock floor and a thatched hut with a little fire place. Dwight is a good builder. His camp was very intricately put together. He’s an American Indian in spirit and a nice guy.
Then Fred Smith wrote a letter and sent a photograph to the Park and Rec and said to get that guy out of there. He’s disturbing nature. And Freddy-poo was trying to get elected to the Brisbane City Council so he was wanted to make everyone think he cared about the environment. And that’s when Fred was really going off the edge. He was really into power, he was kookoo. All those HCP kooks were into power games.
Dwight went out one day and the park rangers dismantled his camp and when he came back to Buckeye Canyon all his stuff had been confiscated. So he stayed at my apartment in Brisbane for a few days. And the Park and Rec people called and told me his stuff was up at the park entrance. So I had to find somebody with a truck to pick his stuff up. Then he started wandering around in Owl Canyon and tried a few places that didn’t work so well. And he finally found the big oak tree where Besh and Thelma are now. It was perfect, no one could see in from the quarry road.
Dwight dug a burrow under that oak tree. And a couple of years after he moved away he came back and helped Besh and Thelma build their home. Besh found the materials in a dumpster in Crocker Park and Dwight, who’s a natural carpenter, did the construction. That home he built for Besh and Thelma has withstood 120 mile per hour winter storm gusts and torrential rain. It’s got a basement Dwight lived in when he was stayin in Owl Canyon and a fire place and there’s a creek.
I had to look out for Besh and Thelma too. Somebody wrote a letter to the Park and Rec and said somebody was living in the canyon. Get rid of them, get em out of there, they’re disturbing nature. So I wrote a letter to the Park and Rec asking, “Is there a chance you could just forget this?” And the rangers left Besh and Thelma alone. Several months later the rangers dropped in on Besh and Thelma and asked if they could take a photograph of their house. They were so impressed by it.
Dwight went away after he met a dear friend of mine. A teacher I’d brought for hikes, Barbara Kelly. He got cold feet a few times and came back to stay with Besh and Thelma one Christmas. But Barbara came after him and they finally got married and moved to Pacifica. So now he does the cooking and takes care of 76 cats.
Besh was living in San Francisco and visited Dwight frequently. It was after Dwight went off with Barbara, that Besh, who had met Thelma in a soup line at Martin Deporis, a few years earlier, married Thelma. They got married on 7-11-90 and moved into Owl Canyon. What do you want to know about this stuff for? Because you wrote letters to protect them.
I went to a convention with Dwight and Barbara; The California Indian Basket Weaving Group in the foothills of Orroville. These were good indian people. I was trying to get them aware and interested in the shellmound. So I was busy talking to all these indian people and Dwight and Barbara wanted to leave. They got mad at me and went storming off to the hotel. But that was the reason I went there. I went to talk to these indian people but they were not interested. And that was kind of unpleasant on my part. I stayed there with the indian folks till midnight or later and some nice guy gave me a ride to the motel about 10 miles away. Otherwise I would have spent the night inside a hogan, a round mud and wood hut with low ceilings. I could have stayed there and hitched a ride home the next day.
They went away on vacation one time and I was catsitting. I had a seizure in their house. I felt it coming and I called my brother. I said, “The seizures coming, the seizures coming...” and I went mad right there on the telephone so he called the ambulance. I’d probably be dead if he hadn’t. They broke the door down and there I was with blood all over the floor. I almost bit my tongue completely off. And after that Dwight and Barbara have never called me.