American Nomads (2011) Movie Script

This film contains
some strong language.
'Wanderlust. Restlessness.
'The urge to get out on the road
and ride off into the sunset.
'It's something deep and elemental
in the American spirit.'
Someone once asked Gertrude Stein
to define America in a sentence.
And, er... conceive a space
filled with moving.
That's very much
how I think of America today.
'This is a journey in search of American nomads.
People who live a life of constant travel.
'Who are they and why do they choose
to live this way?
'Why are there so many of them,
especially in the American West?
'I first got to know them
as a fellow traveller.
'I lived on the road for years
'and wrote a book about the nomadic
tribes and cultures I met along the way.
'Now I have a rented house
in Tucson, Arizona,
'but I can't seem to spend
more than three weeks there,
'or anywhere else,
without wanting leave. '
Every time I come home...
to, you know, the electricity bill
and the gas bill
and the internet bill
and the phone bill
and the cellphone bill and
the water bill and the sewage bill
and the credit card bill
and the truck payment
and the truck insurance
and the renter's insurance,
I kind of remember about, er...
all those years
I spent without an address.
Without any bills,
without any financial obligations,
um... living in my truck,
um... staying with friends,
spending a lot of time
just sleeping on the ground.
That was my big ambition
when I was a young man,
to spend as many nights as possible
sleeping in the dirt.
'So let's get back out there.
'These south-western states
are the best place to find nomads
'during the winter months, but there are no
guarantees. You can't plan a journey like this.
'We're looking for nomads, and by
definition, they're all on the move.
'So we're going to drift around on the
highways and hope to cross paths with them.
'I have faith in the serendipity
of the road,
'but bad things
can definitely happen.
'Some of these nomads
live outside the law.
'Some of them will be armed,
some of them will be crazy.
'Some of them, I hope, will be
sweet, lovely and inspiring.
'But it's not an easy life
out there.
'You have a lot of freedom on the road, but there's
a much higher level of danger and hardship. '
You get a little snapshot
of roadside America here.
TTT Truck Stop.
And, um... a good place
to find hitch-hikers.
You get motorhomes
stopping through here.
Truckers stop to take a shower.
Take a rest.
And when the weather's a bit warmer,
you find...
..well, girls working these trucks,
selling blowjobs and what have you.
'I've spent a lot of time in truck stops like this.
And most of the time, it's perfectly calm and safe.
'But things can happen so suddenly
and unexpectedly.
'Moments ago, this hitch-hiker
just had a brush with death. '
Give me a minute. All right.
First he pulled out a knife,
started hitting me with it
when it was collapsed.
Then he pulled out a gun.
At one point, I'm screaming,
"Help! Help!" out the window.
I thought I was going to be dead.
I'll never make the same mistake.
You carry a gun when you travel.
What sort of gun would be ideal?
A big one. A big gun?
A big one so nobody fucks with you.
You don't have to hit nothing
with it. Just start running.
Or pull out a bazooka.
I don't... I'm a Buddhist.
I've taken a vow of non-violence.
And the guy was scary.
I'm bigger than him.
Why was he scary?
Agitation, you know.
I'm going to find my dad,
tell him I love him.
Tell him I'm stupid.
Go to church.
I'm going to go to church.
First time in 20 years, probably.
I have to thank God I'm alive.
'So he was hitch-hiking and he got
picked up by a crackhead woman
'and her jealous
crackhead boyfriend.
'Out came the knife and the gun.
'And our Buddhist friend
is lucky to be alive.
'Not really the American road
at its best,
'but certainly a raw slice of it.
'Man, oh, man, even the Buddhists
want guns out here.
'They want bazookas.
'Do I or don't I?
'Is he armed and dangerous?
'He looks old and tired,
so probably not.
'His name is Shelton Parker and he
apologises for the way he smells.
'He's 60 years old.
'A gentleman of the road
with some missing fingers
'and some skeletons in his closet.'
I don't put out my thumb,
I just walk.
Sometimes somebody will pull up
and I'll say,
"No, I'm just walking, thanks. I don't need
a ride". It depends what they look like.
I get stopped by police officers all the time
to check to make sure I'm not wanted nowhere.
I've been married five times
and got two daughters
and wasn't a good husband
and a worse father, so...
Tell me why you travel.
Um... I'm just looking for a place
I want to stay.
And, er... I haven't found it yet.
I guess I'm coming of age
to where I-I-I-I should,
I should really start looking for
something where I'm permanent, but... Yeah.
So, did your travelling have anything to
do with your five marriages not working?
Oh, I'm sure of that.
What did your wives think of it?
Well, all but one of them
asked me to get married.
Four out of the five.
I told every one of them, I said,
"If you like me now,
you'll like me later.
"But if you don't like me now,
you're not going to like me later."
Cos I'm not changing,
I'm just the way I am.
A couple of years down the line,
"Oh, no, you can't do that".
I said, "Whoa-whoa.
Let's go back to day one".
I guess stubbornness
probably has a lot to do with it.
I do a lot of travelling.
I've been all over the United States.
Over the years, you know.
In between marriages.
And, er... if I can't have a good day,
and I haven't had a bad day
out here on the road.
No matter whether it's raining on me,
I'm soaking wet or freezing
or hot and sweating, I've never
had a bad day out on the road.
'I rode with Shelton for 400 miles.
'He took a nap in the back
'and woke up when we arrived
in El Paso, Texas. '
Go down...
OK. See them towers...?
Is that church steeples on the left
over there?
No. No. No.
Yeah. That way,
we won't be in front.
Come on out.
'He's here to collect
a government cheque,
'and then he's going 300 miles
across Texas
'because there might be
temporary work there.
'He's a drifter, essentially.
'A loner with chronic wanderlust.
'I'll give you my definition
of a nomad
'which I stole from
a French philosopher.
'A nomad is someone who doesn't feel
stable when stationary.
'A nomad feels stable
when experiencing velocity.
'Some of them go alone,
like Shelton,
'others move around in tribes.
'And the biggest
tribe of nomads in America today,
'perhaps unexpectedly,
are elderly and affluent.
'They travel around
in huge motorhomes,
'also known as
recreational vehicles or RVs.
'Every winter,
tens of thousands of RV-ers
'converge on the small town
of Quartzsite, Arizona.
'There are RV parks in town
with plug-in electricity,
'water and cable television,
'and a huge expanse of surrounding
desert where the more intrepid
'can camp for free. '
OK, we're looking for the desert
encampment of RV clubs.
They tend to all camp together
and live quite a regimented life
while they're out here
in the desert.
In particular, we're looking
for those club members
that do this full-time.
People who've sold their houses,
said goodbye to their children
and grandchildren and are now living
this nomadic retirement.
It is an odd thing,
if you think about it.
I'm getting a bit of a glint
on the roofs here.
I think they should be down here
to the left somewhere.
There's a lot of desert here and
they spread themselves far and wide.
Scapee's RV Club Boondockers. That
sounds like a good place to start.
Boondocking is the RV-ing term
for camping without being hooked up
to electricity,
water and sewage lines.
The guys who are full-timers
tend to do more boondocking
than the part-timers.
Hi there. Hi. Are you
all the boondockers?
Are you the boondockers?
Yeah, this is the fire circle.
We're just over here
visiting for the night.
OK, this is their fire circle. Yeah.
'It's cocktail hour
and it has the feel
'of a suburban garden party
transplanted into the desert.
'These people come squarely out of
the mainstream of American society.
'They worked hard, paid their taxes
and raised their families.
'Then they reached retirement
and they did something radical
'and unprecedented -
they sold their houses,
'sunk the money into the most
luxurious RVs they could afford,
'said goodbye to their families
and hit the road.
'Doug and Sharon Henry are intending
to spend everything
'they have on a wonderful,
freewheeling retirement
'and they joke about leaving zero
to their children.
'Their RV cost
a quarter of a million dollars. '
Wow. Recessed lighting.
What is this?
That's like a granite counter-top.
It's a faux-granite counter-top.
And it extends out
so you can seat four people.
Got your comfortable chairs. Very
comfortable. This makes into a bed.
Four slides, two in the front
and two in the bedroom.
It slides out into about
400 square feet in here.
You've got the refrigerator with the
freezer below with icemaker. Oh, wow.
All runs off of battery
if you want it to.
Got an 8000W generator in it
to keep the batteries up,
so it's just like home.
It certainly is. Very nice.
Four televisions in it -
three inside and one outside.
Got a nice queen-sized bed
and I have an option for a king
if you want to.
Big wardrobe, closet, washer-dryer.
Wow. Closets. The bed lifts up.
For storage,
a huge storage area down here.
That was to be the wine cellar
at the moment but...
Got central air conditioning,
two zones - one for the bedroom,
one for the living area.
It's got hydronic heating
so it's continuous hot water.
It's roughing it.
Roughing it out here in the desert.
Quartzsite style.
'Nomads are always hard to count
'but the best estimate is that
3 million Americans are now
'roaming around permanently in RVs
'and that 90% of them
are over the age of 55.
'These RVs are parked in a big circle
around the campfire in the same way
'that the pioneers crossing the plains
would circle their wagons at night.'
We just wanted to go adventuring.
We can't explain it.
What happened to the house
you lived in? We sold it.
We wanted to start RV-ing and
we kept our house for about a year
and a half just to make sure
we liked the lifestyle.
After about a year and a half,
we decided we would like
to continue doing this.
It was convenient to sell
the house at that time.
So that freed us of that connection.
It's been really good for us.
It's made us a lot closer.
We spend 24 hours a day together
and we still like each other.
'The RV-ers are also
known as snowbirds.
'They're white-haired and
they migrate south in winter
'to these warm, dry deserts and they
make their way slowly north again
'when the deserts get too hot.
'They drop in on their grandchildren
once or twice a year.
'They've really untethered
'from family, responsibility,
any obligations at all. '
I feel a bit envious
of these snowbirds.
It seems so damn pleasant,
sitting on your lawn chair.
In that winter sun,
nothing much to do all day.
See your friends,
look forward to cocktail hour.
They seem extraordinarily content.
'I've heard that a travelling
preacher has just arrived.
'I've never met one before, but I've read
about them in novels and history books
'and they always sounded like
strange and intriguing characters.
'He's pitched his tent on the edge
of town and agreed to meet me
'in his motorhome.
His name is Joe Ferguson. '
Hello, inside. Come in. All right.
Come right on in. All right.
I'm 71 years old. I got saved at 37.
God taught me for eight years
before I done anything.
Praise the Lord. And at 44 years old,
I started in the tent ministry.
Praise the Lord.
My wife went home to be with
the Lord in January of 2010.
The 13th of January.
So I've been alone just over a year,
but I've never backed off.
I just keep on trucking.
This right here is a mansion,
compared to what we started out in.
When my wife and I went on the road,
we had a 21-foot trailer.
We lived in that trailer...
..with a wife and a young boy,
home-schooling him
and we lived in that
for seven and a half years.
What you see is what I am.
The most gorgeous
white and purple tent,
and it's beautiful, it's gorgeous.
But everything you see
has been given to us.
It's by the hand of God.
We do probably 250-300 meetings
a year for the past 20 years
and I am still as on fire,
even maybe more so,
than I was in the beginning.
Because the Lord said,
the latter house will be
greater than the former.
You know what's good?
For brethren to dwell together.
And I am so glad that the Lord
drew you here tonight.
Reach over and tell somebody,
you're not here by chance.
You're here by opportunity.
Praise the Lord. Glory be to Him.
'The travelling tent ministry
is an American institution that
'arose in the 19th century in
response to a transient population
'on the frontiers.
'It made no sense for a preacher
to build himself a church
'when the souls he wanted
to save were on the move.
'When the next boomtown
might spring up anywhere
'and go bust just as quickly.
'So preachers started
travelling with tents.
'Some of them were hucksters,
dispensing snake oils
'and using shills in the audience
'to demonstrate their
miraculous healing powers.
'Others were staunchly devout
men of God, like Joe Ferguson here. '
I always say it like this.
If you don't have Jesus
in your life, try Him.
We're going to open up. You come
up here and line up across here.
Those of you that have a need.
Those of you that need healing,
If you need a jumpstart
in your life, come up.
Come up and receive prayer.
You'll be amazed at the change
that the laying-on of hands
will do in your life.
Thank you, Jesus.
Take a deep breath.
Jesus, I thank you.
Glory be to God. Say, me too!
'I look at Preacher Joe and see some
sort of deep American wellspring.
'He's part Scotch-Irish
and part Osage Indian.
'A throwback to those
frontier preachers,
'but in a motorhome
rather than a covered wagon.
'He'll be here for a few weeks
'and then he'll pack up the tent
and move on.
'He goes to Indian reservations
to preach to the alcoholics.
'He used to be
a bad alcoholic himself.
'He was an underground hard rock
miner, a boozer and a brawler,
'and you can see that same tough,
belligerent quality about him now.
'He stands there in his snakeskin
boots as if daring Satan to try him. '
Say yes, Lord. I have come
to receive.
In the name of Jesus.
Take a deep breath.
'Later that night,
an RV caught fire.
'I don't know how it started -
a mixture of cruel fate
'and complicated electrical systems.
'No-one was hurt or killed, but it was
the end of the road for this snowbird. '
And here is the charred remains
of a book about the joys of RV-ing.
It's about grilling up. Grilling up
a meal outside your RV in Alaska.
Your propane heat, your microwave
oven, your refrigerator-freezer.
Very sad. It's funny
what the fire has spared.
Everything is almost unrecognisable
but it's spared
this story about living a free and
easy carefree life, in this book.
'Desert nomads used to keep moving
to find water and grazing.
'Now people wander these deserts
to find happiness or escape,
'or to look for themselves.
'And for the sheer pleasure of
moving through these landscapes.
'There's another big tribe
in America that travels
'basically as an act of rebellion.
'Half-punk, half-tramp -
'they call themselves
travelling kids.
'Others call them gutter punks
or oogles,
'and an oogle's dog
is called a doogle.
'Meet Elizabeth, Kevin and Bill,
'emerging from the shade of
a railroad bridge in Arizona.
'It's late morning and they're already
well into their stash of beer and vodka.
'The dog's name is Dude.
Sure, why not?
'Two in the back, one in the passenger
seat. This could be interesting.
'They want a ride to Yuma, Arizona,
down on the Mexican border,
'where they intend to hop
a freight train going east.
'Why east? No particular reason.
The destination doesn't matter.
'The important thing
is to keep moving,
'away from responsibilities,
low-wage jobs
'and family life so bad, in the case
of Bill and Elizabeth,
'that the whole idea of home
is a sick joke to them. '
How was it you started travelling in
the first place? When I was young...
I'm going to say it because
that's really what happened.
My BLEEP molested me
when I was a kid.
So I pretty much grew up
and I was like, woah, that's wrong.
This shouldn't be happening.
Then I told my mom
and my mom told my dad
and my dad kicked my BLEEP out.
And so for some reason, my dad
always holds a grudge over him
kicking BLEEP out
but it's not my fault.
My dad's weird
so he thinks it is my fault.
I left when I was 16 and the first
thing I got on was a freight train.
Anybody for coffee? Anybody for
beer? Beer! Cerveza! All right.
'Bill is a self-harmer and a runaway
and his mother, he says,
'tried to get him locked up
in a mental institution.
'Elizabeth and Kevin are a couple. '
I've been on the road
for two and a half years,
she's been on the road for five.
Five years. I'm 30, I'm old.
I'm only 22.
When was the last time you
saw your mom? Last year? Last year.
My dad's really against my lifestyle,
but my mom, she's used to it already.
Like, every time I see her, I tell her
about my travels and stuff.
My mom is a fat piece of shit.
I hate her. Actually, I really do.
She sucks. Like, her house,
it's just garbage everywhere.
It goes up the walls.
It's so horrible.
I'll go there and I'll be like,
woah, Mom! What the hell?
It's horrible.
You get grossed out by the hygiene
that your mom displays.
Yes. She's disgusting.
I would run away when I was 13
and take off,
and they would come get me in
Kentucky and shit and bring me back.
And then I would run away again,
they'd come get me.
I ran away a bunch.
My parents, I hate my parents.
They screwed me over, man.
I like my life more now.
Like, these people are my family.
I meet these people on the road,
I'm like, they're my family.
You hate your life,
so you go places. Yeah.
Does it work? It does.
'They sleep rough and scrounge
for their food in dumpsters.
'They work odd jobs
and beg for money
'and spend most of it on alcohol,
tobacco and dog food.
'You can see similar types
in any city in Britain.
'The big difference here is
that they're fully nomadic.
'They travel hundreds of miles
a week by hitch-hiking
'and illegally hopping
the freight trains.
'It's not a life that most of us
would envy or recommend
'but it's one they've chosen.
'A kind of reckless, debauched
adventure, leading who knows where. '
Come here, Bill. Come here, Bill.
Get over here, buddy. Billy!
Come on, come on.
'I dropped them off by
the train tracks in Yuma, Arizona.
'I wished them well and they told me
about a big gathering
'of travelling anarchists,
hippies and misfits
'a few hours away
in the California desert.
'It's some kind of abandoned
Marine base, they said,
'and its name is Slab City.
'This is the Mojave desert, one of
the hottest and driest in the world.
'Hell on Earth in summer,
but pleasant and warm now in winter.
'When this was a Marine base,
there were buildings here.
'Now the buildings have been torn
down but the concrete slabs remain.
'Hence Slab City.
It's pretty ratty and squalid.
'A straggle of trailers
and caravans and RVs. '
Looks like some RV encampment
on an alien crash site.
If it was in a city,
it would be a block of squats,
but instead it's sprawled out
over the desert in trailers.
And wrecked school buses.
'The two great advantages of this place are that
it's free to live here, and it's virtually lawless.
'There are plenty of
guns and drugs around.
'But the police stay away
most of the time,
'and the ownership of this ground is tied
up in some seemingly endless legal dispute.
'In the meantime,
what you have here is a TAZ,
'a Temporary Autonomous Zone,
'that exists outside the rules
of society and the law.
'It's right next to
a military gunnery range,
'a patch of ground
that no-one else wants.
'It's lit up by tracer fire
and missiles at night,
'and subject to regular
explosions during the day. '
Hi, there. I'm just looking
for a place to camp. Any rules here?
Well, no, huh?
Just don't aggravate your neighbours,
raise hell after nine
or ten o'clock at night,
we can't encourage that.
There's not really any rules as such.
If a place is occupied,
don't try to push 'em out.
You might get hurt.
Yeah, yeah.
How you doing? Hi, there.
Just thought I'd bring you up some
flyers from our talent show here.
Talent show, Saturday night,
Slab City.
Yeah, we got the talent show there.
All right?
That's freakin' chillin', man.
'Slab city is a mish-mash, a messy
experiment in American anarchy
'that forms every winter
and dissolves every summer
'when this desert turns into a
furnace and everyone heads north.
'It's not a place
I want to spend the winter,
'but I find it strangely reassuring
that such a place is able to exist.'
Sun's rising, came to me
and said head off.
You don't want a bunch of
dead people following you around.
You see, I'm gone. Cool,
that means they're not in my head.
'After six hours at the talent
show, I head back to my campsite
'and fall into a conversation
with the guy camped next to me.
'His name is Ted Koons.
'He is a full-time nomad who dropped
out of the mainstream
'and now roams America
and Latin America in his jeep.
'Like me, it was mainly curiosity
that brought him to Slab City. '
Well, like a lot of American kids,
when I was in my late teens
and early 20s,
I had a lot of ambition disease.
So I went to work
in that corporate game
and went to New York City
and went to work on Wall Street.
The truth is, I don't tell people
"Wall Street" any more,
I use the term institutional finance.
Because that doesn't sound
nearly as disgusting as Wall Street.
Ain't that true?
So I kind of hide behind that,
but I spent about 12 years
in that business.
And like many of my colleagues,
I knew the end would come someday,
so I was banking away the cash,
like a caveman hiding as much meat as
possible before the winter sets in.
I knew the winter
would set in sooner or later,
so, when my friends were buying
Porsches, I was taking the subway.
And managed to save up enough money
to buy nice things,
and be free, and not be depending
on anyone or anything.
So from Wall Street to the slabs.
The slabs. Yeah, that's quite a path.
Rather zig-zaggy.
You know, you leave Wall Street
and it's kind of like
leaving a beautiful woman.
You kind of think you'd like to get
back into that, if you can,
because that's some pretty
good stuff, right?
But the fact is,
I never belonged there
in the first place,
and I was always a pretender.
Secretly, I'm an Idaho redneck.
But I actually got through that game
and since then,
the last three years, I've wandered
around, I haven't spent much time anywhere.
I've done all kinds of silly jobs,
purely for fun, mostly.
The income is nice,
not to spend the money I saved.
But during that time, I've lived in five or
six states and visited 10 or 15 countries.
So, you just rolled into Slab City
today? First impressions?
I'm impressed.
A lot of guys living in trailers,
it's kind of a weird idea,
and there's certainly
a lot of ugly people!
# Wild thing
# You make my heart sing... #
When you see these people
living in dilapidated trailers,
some people might see that as a sign
of some sort of sad experience,
but I see it as a sign of
an open expression of freedom.
When you live in a trailer,
you're not paying property taxes,
and you can move on
any time you want.
That is the idea of freedom that
so many people don't truly grasp.
It's this freedom of the Wild West.
'The freedom of the Wild West.
'All those nomadic horsemen
used to roam around here.
'Cowboys and Indians.
'Fur-trappers and frontiersmen.
'Those pioneering families who kept packing
up everything into a wagon and moving on.
'It wasn't that long ago, and it
left behind a powerful legacy. '
You don't meet many families
out on the road,
but I ran into this couple,
Derek and Amy.
They're out on the road with
their kids, living in a school bus.
I'm eager to hear what it's like.
So, this is your home on wheels?
Our home on wheels.
It's a decommissioned school bus.
And how long have you had it?
We've only had it for four months
now. We had a motorhome before.
We're in the middle of converting.
This is a work in progress? Yes.
Very much a work in progress.
We basically got a motorhome instead
of having a big wedding. So...
But yeah,
we just travelled for a long time,
he was young enough where he didn't
have to start school for a few years,
and just recently
traded in for the bus.
And how will the education work?
He's getting so much
of an education, being out here,
and he's learning the basics,
so far.
Learning so much about the outside
and outdoors and plants
and animals, the same kind of stuff you would
be doing reading a book, except it's first hand.
Do you find that a lot of people
have wrong ideas
and misconceptions about
being a family on the road?
Yes, definitely.
Depending on where you go,
they vary, from good ones,
where people are,
"Wow, that's awesome,
"we're so intrigued
that you guys are doing this,
"it's such an inspiring thing."
And then, you go other places,
and people are more closed-minded
and they think it's weird,
that there is no way to give
a child a well-balanced education
when you're doing this.
There's no way.
And not even just that,
but how could you do it?
How could you possibly be happy?
Living on a bus.
That's the main one, usually.
Wondering, you know,
thinking he's missing out,
because he doesn't get movies
and doing all the stuff that we did
when we were living in a house.
Do you ever think back
to covered wagons, and...?
Yes! The whole drive out here,
it just seems so... Whoever told you
that you had to stay in
the same place your whole life?
Why were we taught, since we were
young, that we go to school,
we settle down, we get a job,
we have a family, and we stay put?
What might you want to do
when you grow up?
I want to...
Be a truck driver?
Want to be a policeman.
'Derek and Amy seem
so happy and fulfilled
'as a family on the road.
You don't see that much.
'I remember a truck driver who drove
around with his wife and kid in a truck.
'He wasn't a dropout
or a dream chaser.
'He had to keep moving
to make a living.
'That's a whole other category
of nomads. The working nomads.
'Fruit pickers
and itinerant carpenters.
'Circus and fairground people.
'The ones I know best
are rodeo cowboys,
'and they travel harder
than anybody.
'Rodeo is a kind of
travelling carnival.
'And right now, they're setting up an event
in the small gambling town of Laughlin, Nevada,
'a day's drive north of Slab City.
'The cowboys are
in a tent behind the arena.
'They're taping themselves up,
'so their arm muscles don't
get ripped in two when they ride.
'It's a life of constant travel and
serious amounts of physical pain.
'Getting on the back of an angry horse or an
enraged bull is a terrible thing to do to your body.
'Serious injuries are commonplace,
and cowboys do get killed
'occasionally, right there
in the arena, like gladiators.
'Tommy McFarlane rides
the bucking broncos.
'He's one of the toughest
and one of the best.
'He drove 820 miles
straight through to get here,
'and he doesn't consider this
hard driving. '
When did you get into here?
About half an hour ago,
45 minutes ago.
That's about, what?
11 hours on the road, to get here?
We didn't drive very fast.
About 12 hours, I guess.
How did you get into rodeo?
Is it a ranch family?
Yeah, I was just raised on a ranch,
I guess,
I mean, that don't necessarily
make a rodeo guy,
but I was raised on a ranch, so I was
always riding horses and cowboying
and stuff, so when we got a little
older, we started junior rodeo.
Mom and Dad took us to junior rodeo
and we just
kind of got into it that way.
It's a fun way to live.
What are some of the injuries
you've had?
Shit! See, '08,
I dislocated my elbow,
right out the back of my arm,
at Calgary.
I come back from that, rode for
another while, went to Pecos.
I was getting ready,
and the horse flipped over on me.
That raised two bones up into my hand
and then they went back down.
Long story short, flipped over again,
this guy came up,
sitting on his butt, and just went
on it and broke it in 28 places.
They fixed that all that up,
that was quite a while before
I was able to come back,
I come back from that, went to Houston, I
broke my finger and all my bones across my foot.
And I come back from that,
things were going pretty good,
and I tore my bicep off my arm
and rolled it up.
They sewed that back down,
and I've been rodeoing ever since.
It's all in the game.
That's two wild cowboys there.
'They're coming in from other
rodeos in Texas and Oklahoma
'and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
'Tobacco-chewing Wade Sundell
is a young, hard-drinking,
'up-and-coming star in the small,
closed world of saddle bronc riding. '
So, how did it go in Atlantic City?
A case of beer
and six bottles of wine!
I feel good today, though.
Now I've taken the day off.
You had a day off drinkin'!
I drank wine, freakin' kicked me
in the butt, now!
'There's a definite tribal identity
to these cowboys.
'Look at their body language, the
way they talk and greet each other.
'They travel all the time, but they never
leave the world of rodeo and cattle ranching.
'Everyone in this world
wears the same uniform,
'and the media can't get
into a rodeo,
'without putting on
cowboy hats and boots.
'Rodeo is a multi-million dollar
televised sport in America now,
'rising in popularity, and the
television rights are strictly controlled.
'For this event, they keep
our cameras behind the scenes,
'but we'll catch Tommy
and Wade in action at the next rodeo
'down the road in Logandale,
Nevada. '
'I once spent six weeks
driving around America
'with three rodeo cowboys.
'They were young and wild,
drinking like crazy,
'taking a lot of drugs,
hardly ever sleeping.
'It nearly killed me, and I wasn't
riding bulls or bucking horses.
'One of those cowboys is dead now.
'He got gored in the chest
by a bull in the arena.
'Another one is in prison
for assault.
'No-one seems to know what happened
to the third guy,
'but I seriously doubt
there was a happy ending.
'All right, action time.
'This is the Clark County Summer
Fair and Rodeo in Logandale, Nevada.
'There's wine-drinkin' Wade Sundell,
with a feather in his hat.
'And there's Tommy McFarlane.
'They've all just arrived half
an hour before their events start.
#... Does that banner yet wave?
# O'er the land of the free
# And the home of the brave? #
All right!
Put your hands on the beat,
come on, put your hands up.
'These are unbroken horses,
bred to buck.
'Riding them is a kind of dance
that gets scored out of 100.
'The horse gets marked out of 50
for the way it bucks.
'It's supposed to try
everything it knows
'to get that cowboy off its back.
'The cowboy tries to stay
on the horse for eight seconds
'while spurring it
and holding one arm aloft.
'Tom's got no saddle or stirrups,
'just a handle tied onto
the horse's back with a strap. '
Let's hear it for Wade, great guy,
great football player.
Right now, we got
Tommy MacFarlane.
He's goin' hell for leather!
Gee! Never had a spread so buckin'
enormous. What an amazing cowboy!
After breaking his arm in 26 places, he
put out his knee in Houston a year ago,
but when that guy stays healthy,
he's well for riding
a buckin' horse.
Riding a very high...
...Puttin' in a score of 80 points!
'A good ride from Tommy.
80 points might win him some money.
'Next up is Will Lowe,
Tommy's travelling partner,
'and a three-time world champion. '
Horse is called Ladies' Man.
'They travel around in a white
Chevy van with two other cowboys,
'and they call themselves
The Wolf Pack. '
Get your hands going
to the beat of the music.
Go on, Willy!
Folks, there he is. Three-time world
champion, three-time Calgary champ.
'It's America's
original extreme sport,
'invented by working cowboys
in the 1880s
'to make a contest out of their
skill at breaking wild horses. '
His name is Will Lowe!
How many days a year
are you on the road?
Over 200.
It varies, there was a couple years where
I was hurt and stuff for a couple months,
so quite a few less rodeos, but I would say
on average, probably 220 to 240 days a year.
My office is where I make it!
What did you think would happen
to you
if you tried
to work a 9 to 5 type job?
I wouldn't enjoy it very much. I
could do it, but I wouldn't like it.
But you wouldn't blow a gasket?
No, I wouldn't blow a gasket,
But I wouldn't enjoy it very much.
It'd actually be work!
This is fun.
Check out the horse!
How many of y'all
like that bucking horse?
This guy won the World Championship.
'Next out of the bucking shoots
comes wine-drinking Wade. '
Wade Sundell...
That guy can play into the back
of the saddle. Come on, everybody!
Wade Sundell!
Second in the national finals,
second twice in Houston.
I tell you,
you can bet on this kid.
Score comes up out of 90
for Wade Sundell.
87 points.
Everybody told me that horse is
a pretty nice horse, and everything.
But she was strong
and I just kept on gassing on,
trying to get to the front
and hopefully it all worked out.
I probably did!
How many points?
What sort of money
are you looking at?
Well, shoot, I don't know.
I suppose if I win it
this rodeo'd pay about 4,000 or so.
And then I'm winning Pocatello,
and they'll probably pay that too.
You're on a streak.
I had a good weekend. Hopefully
they'll both hold out for me.
Then I'm just going to drink beer in
Arizona and chase wild cows. For a week.
If I can afford the cash,
I'm ready to do so!
Where y'all from? England.
That's just like America
but different, ain't it? Exactly.
They're having a ball. 27 years old,
riding from rodeo to rodeo.
Drive for nine hours at 70 mph,
buck for eight seconds
at a million mph,
win some money,
get on down the road.
They're just loving it.
They love the life, it's written
all over their faces, isn't it?
'The first Europeans in the American West
were the Spanish conquistadors and settlers.
'They came up from Mexico on horses
'and these were the first horses
that American Indians had ever seen.
'In time, horses got away
from the Spaniards,
'and established wild herds.
'In the early 1700s, Indians learned
to catch horses and ride them.
'And a golden age of nomadism began.
'Here in Nevada, there are still
herds of wild horses.
'Their ancestors got away
'from Indian tribes, cowboys,
cattle ranches and the US Cavalry.
'They're a living symbol
of the Wild West and some of them
'are directly descended from
the horses that the Spanish brought.
'Normally you see wild horses
at a distance, if at all.
'But here in the Joshua Tree Forest
outside Cold Creek, Nevada, I get lucky.
'Horses revolutionised life
for the Indian tribes in the West,
'changing their whole conception
of speed and distance.
'Lacking a word
for these new animals,
'the Sioux called them holy dogs.
'Mounted on horseback,
they could travel 100 miles per day,
'and gallop alongside
a running buffalo
'instead of watching it recede
into the distance.
'Before the horse arrived, most of the Western
tribes had practised farming and lived in huts.
'Now they began
a nomadic life on horseback
'following the buffalo herds around
and living in tepees.
'"For bringing us the horse", said
John Fire Lame Deer of the Sioux tribe,
'"we could almost forgive the
white man for bringing us whisky."'
It's going to be cold tonight.
It looks like Afghanistan, or...
There's more mountains in Nevada
than any other state.
More wild horses and my contention
is more lunatics as well,
but we're well away from them,
we keep them down in Vegas.
The rest of Nevada is just
a big, wild, wide-open place.
This elevation can hit
85 or 90 degrees during the day,
and then at night,
it'll get below freezing.
'When I first came
to the American West,
'I saw this beautiful thing
outside my car window.
'I called it scenery and sometimes
I stopped to take a photograph of it.
'Then I started walking out into it,
'scared at first to be
in such a big, wild place. '
That's good enough.
'Slowly I became more comfortable
'and started going out there for
days and sometimes weeks at a time.
'I slept under the stars
and bathed in the rivers,
'and paid very close attention
to the animals and birds and plants.
'This wasn't scenery anymore,
but a living, breathing place,
'full of mystery and wonder.
'I still can't
get it out of my system.
'So I was having a quiet moment,
savouring a beer at sunset
'in that perfect silence
you sometimes get in the desert.
'Then I heard an engine
coming towards me across country.
'It was a guy
on some kind of dirt bike,
'a moment of totally random
American weirdness.
'He said his name was Ray
and he told a long, garbled story.
'It seems his family
are polygamist Mormons from Mexico
'and they dumped him
out here in the desert.'
So how long have you been here?
Here? Yeah. Two days. No, three days.
My dad came from the US.
He went down there on a search
for the religion, to find God.
He did that for a while,
and he moved around the United States
and preached about the downfall
of the United States for a long time.
'He seems lonely, confused, jumpy.
'And his stories get more and more
agitated and incomprehensible. '
That's what I figured until somebody
walked up a little while ago,
wondering where the fuck his bike
was, with a big metal pipe on him.
"Where's my bike?"
Dude, I have no fucking idea!
I helped the fucking guy out.
At a gas station,
I helped him pick up his bike
and put it on his truck
and I have no idea.
He got off the truck
with a big old pipe like that.
"Where's my bike?"
I don't know!
"I might have to get violent
with you!"
I didn't tell him nothing.
But he looked at me...
I guess you're not the person.
I guess there's trouble everywhere.
So, I feel really bad
for Ray last night.
I was kind of trying to get away
from him because he was crazy.
And I didn't know whether he was
going to flip over into violence.
He seemed poised on the edge there.
But the poor guy just doesn't stand
a chance. He's crazy, he's lonely.
He doesn't have any money.
I just feel really bad for him.
He doesn't have anything.
Didn't look like he's eaten much.
That's just about
as hard as it gets.
'Someone asked Johnny Depp
to sum up America.
'He said, "All appetite, no taste."
'Las Vegas is only 30 miles away
'from the wild horses. And a more
extreme contrast is hard to imagine.
'The first casinos were built here
by a gangster with big dreams
'in the 1940s. And he borrowed
so much money to build them
'that the Mob put a bullet
in his eye.
'The mafia ran Vegas for decades,
but now it's all corporate.
'Two million people
live here permanently
'and this city in the desert
'is expected to run out of water
in less than 30 years.
'For me, Las Vegas is a place
to get through.
'I'm heading east
into the highlands of Utah,
'up above the snow line,
hoping to find some buffalo. '
Almost hit a golden eagle.
Just literally flew
inches over the windshield.
I'm extremely glad
I did not hit that golden eagle.
Somewhere up this road, there's
supposed to be a herd of buffalo.
'The American buffalo,
also known as the American bison,
'is the largest mammal
on this continent.
'It's a symbol of the American West,
'and of American roaming.
'The herds were always moving,
migrating with the seasons,
'and this why the tribes
that hunted them became nomadic.
'Bison are now restricted
to a few national parks
'and a growing number
of private ranches like this one. '
60 million is the accepted number
for how many bison
used to roam the West.
And they were wiped out in less
than 20 years by hide hunters,
thereby depriving the Plains
Indians of their livelihood.
And then those 60 million bison,
which were reduced to, I think,
less than 2,000 animals,
were replaced by 50 million cattle.
And some people in the West
now think that the whole thing
was basically a mistake, that
cattle are not nearly as well suited
to this environment as the bison.
These guys can give birth
without the assistance of vets,
they have good immunity
to the various diseases
that are endemic here,
they can make it through the winter
without supplemental feed, they
can survive the 40-below storms.
You see, they have these
big head and shoulders,
and when the blizzards come, they
face them straight on like this,
whereas cows kind of turn tail and
it gets too cold, the cattle die.
They are perfectly adapted
to this environment.
They've evolved out here.
Now we're starting
to see them come back,
mainly because the meat is so good.
It's low-fat, high protein,
tasty, red meat.
In the three weeks
since I last saw him,
Ted the Wall Street refugee
has driven down to Mexico and back.
He's been to New York and all
over Idaho, Wyoming and Utah.
He's had transitory relationships
with a number of different women.
Now he's come to meet me
at a remote campground
in the high desert
of Western Colorado,
and he's brought
some buffalo steaks.
Oh, man.
This is good living, huh?
Oh, man. These are really good.
What do your family think
of your wandering ways,
your appearance
and what have you?
Have you got brothers and sisters?
I don't.
I had a brother but he died
about 11 years ago and my parents,
that onus falls on me,
you know, the legacy,
the next generation.
And if I had one wish,
I wish I could make my parents happy,
you know, the only thing I know how
to tell them is I'm pretty happy,
and that's the only answer,
at the end of the day.
But if I could flip a switch and
somehow have the life I have now
and the picket fence
and the children,
raising up the next generation,
I would do it, I really would.
Just only for
my parents, for their...
You being happy is not going to
cut it compared to grandkids?
For my mother,
I just haven't delivered.
I'm telling her it's not her fault.
She did a great job. She did a great
job. How old are you? I'm 37.
I'm 37, just turned a couple of
months ago. Plenty of time, really.
I got it figured I got 20 years,
at my pace. That could still happen.
But yeah, as a nomad,
if I had one wish,
I wish I could make my parents
as pleased as they deserve to be.
Man, we've got weather coming in.
(SOUTHERN U.S. ACCENT) When the wind blows,
the desert just stands up on its hind legs.
Goddamn! Goddamn!
So Ted came over a bit
maudlin in his cups last night.
I know how he feels, but
pull yourself together, man!
This wandering life is supposed
to be the pursuit of happiness,
not a lifelong
commitment to the road.
When you meet the right woman
and want to settle down
and start cranking out kids,
just buck up and do it.
That's my plan, anyway.
All in good time.
You don't always have to be that John Wayne figure,
riding away from the picket fence into the sunset.
People have the idea that the
West was won by heroic cowboys
and that kind of thing.
They get this idea from
movies and mythology,
but the key factor in the taming of
the West were, number one, disease.
Microbes, smallpox, that's what
really wiped out the nomadic tribes
on the plains, was these diseases
they had no resistance to.
And another really important factor
was the invention
of barbed wire fences.
Fences restricted the free
movement of animals and people
and enforced the new
idea of private property.
The nomadic Indian
tribes hated fences.
So did the nomadic trail cowboys
who had grazed their herds
up and down the plains.
Now the damn things are everywhere.
get me started on Goddamn fences!
This whole country
has been divided up,
it's had its spirit torn up,
brutalised by fences.
You've got your five-strand
barbed wire fence,
seven-strand barbed wire fence,
you got your round topped fences,
picket fences, Goddamn
round top split rail fences,
I'm talking about galvanised
tube or steel fences.
Don't get me started on the fence.
So the era of horseback
nomads came to an end.
The tribes were corralled
on reservations,
railroads came, bringing
the iron horse, and in time,
the railroads produced a new and
distinct American form of nomadism.
Transient labourers started
riding the freight trains
as a way to get from
one harvest to the next.
They were called hobos,
and their hungry heyday was
the Great Depression of the 1930s.
After the Great Depression,
America forgot about the hobos
and tramps on its freight trains
but they never went away.
At best guess, 20,000 people
are still riding around
on America's freight trains.
I used to do it myself.
Most train hoppers today
are under the age of 30.
I've found one hitchhiking
by the side of the road
in Western Colorado,
a young kid out on his own.
Well, howdy, there. I'm Comfrey.
I've never met a Comfrey before.
Yeah, neither have I.
It's a bit of a unique name.
I'm glad to call it my birth name.
So how come you're out on the road?
I travel off and on.
For years, I've been doing
travelling off and on.
Really hard the last
three years but before that,
I've been homeless off and on since
I was about 13. I'm currently 18 now.
But I just like... I don't know, it's
absolute freedom in a lot of ways.
Within limitations of the law.
The only problems I ever have
is someone trying to take my stuff
or take advantage of me
or the cops harassing me.
Other than that,
it's complete freedom.
Freedom from what?
Um, life in a box. Life in a box?
Sitting in an office,
9-to-5, in front of a computer,
letting my brain rot and listening
to the humming. Zzz-zz-zz-zz.
In some ways, I'm addicted to
travelling and being on the road.
I'm always looking for that next
great adventure to replace
that last one that just passed by.
At the next lake, you're
going to want to take a right.
Do you feel connected to any
kind of historical tradition
of transient America?
I mean, a little bit,
due to the current days
and ages of where we are.
We are in the second Great Depression
that this country's faced,
and in the first Great Depression,
that was the golden era of hobos,
I guess you'd call it. This is a
squat that people actually use.
They cut a hole in the fence and they
go way back there in that patio area
for the train, to go west.
So they sit out here
and just wait for it,
kind of hiding in the back,
just wait for a train.
We are in the gritty Western
town of Grand Junction, Colorado,
right by the side
of the train tracks.
So usually if people are
going to be hopping this area,
they'll be coming
in late, after dark,
probably coming to spend a couple
hours just sitting and waiting.
There's still actually some hopper
tags up here. Let's have a look.
Good old Luc Puc.
What's going on with this tag?
This is some travelling kid's tag.
You've got your train tracks
and then you have some
kind of severed leg.
Hopefully they didn't
lose their leg getting on.
How do you stop your leg getting
severed like that?
The trick I use getting on a train,
I count the lug nuts on the wheel.
If I can count every nut and
actually see every nut on the train
then I personally feel
it's not moving that fast,
it's moving at a speed that I
feel comfortable getting on at.
Anything after that is where you're
going to lose a leg or an arm.
And how is it that it happens
exactly, the severing?
You get caught under the wheels, man.
You're trying to hop up,
climb up or whatever,
you just kind of get sucked in because of this
momentum, and the wind builds down and out,
so you're getting pulled down
and under so you get sucked in.
And they'll just cut it off
and cauterise it right there,
grinding metal on metal. That trick
with the lug nuts is a hobo trick
that was passed on
to me by oral tradition
when I first started riding. Any
other tips for riding the trains?
Keep a knife and something blunt.
I mean, the knife's more
an intimidation thing.
If I start to get a sketchy vibe
from somebody if I'm hitchhiking
or something, I'll just start
cleaning my fingernails and so forth.
Smiley's an improvised weapon
that's blunt and kinda scary.
But you have a full wrap on it.
I don't know, it's definitely
kept me out of some situations.
I'd rather scare somebody than
hurt them, more than anything.
If I can scare someone
out of a sketchy situation,
then that's better than actually
having to come to blows.
You don't rape, you don't steal,
otherwise you will end up
floating down the river
or duct taped to a train.
You're not welcome in this
if you break these small ethic...
It's morals, I mean,
that's all travelling rules are,
is a best set of morals.
I mean, we all have them. Yeah.
It'll be a sad day when you
don't see anyone trying to make it
from place to place with their
thumb or hopping a train.
That was something I remember as a
kid, just sitting by the riverbank
and watching the train roll by,
and seeing a couple of kids
or old guys just sitting
on the back of the train
or in a boxcar or whatever,
and just wave on.
That'll be a sad day when I'm 60, 70,
if I make it through my tramping
days, and don't see that any more.
I rode freight trains because
I wanted to see what it was like.
I wanted to enter that other world.
It really is a tough way to travel.
I nearly froze to death
in Montana in a boxcar once.
I was riding with a bunch
of Vietnam vet hobos
and they all had dogs stuffed down
in their sleeping bags
to keep them warm. I didn't.
That was the last time
I got on a freight train
and I can't say that I miss it.
Let's order some breakfast.
I'm hungry.
I'd like two eggs over easy
with hash browns,
uh, toast and a side
of green chilli.
OK. How would you like your eggs?
Over easy.
And I'll have the sausage, please.
So your dad abandoned you
at a greyhound when you were 12?
What's the deal with your dad?
I don't know, too busy getting high.
He's an old hippie stoner
who's been dealing drugs
as long as I can remember.
It's kind of why my mom left him.
He's an old travelling deadhead.
I guess it's kind of in my genetics,
like my mom was an old punk rocker
that ran away from home
when she was about 17, 18.
I mean, she's always been there
but working 60 hours a week
trying to support me,
so it was always really difficult.
So you were left alone a lot.
Yeah, pretty much between
the age of seven and five,
I had to learn how to take care
of myself, learn to start cooking,
wake up every morning, go to school,
come home, there's nobody home,
make myself dinner, do my homework,
go to bed, till I got kicked out.
Right, that should feed you up -
you been getting square meals?
Cans of ravioli, apple sauce,
whatever I can dumpster...
Whatever soup kitchen
feeds up for the day.
You could stand to put on
a little weight there. Yeah.
I'm definitely
nothing but skin and bones.
That's why I have to wear suspenders
and a belt. Skinny white boy disease.
Thank you.
You seem pretty tough emotionally.
Is that a facade?
Or is that real?
A little bit of both.
I'd like to think I have a very
strong personality in a lot of ways.
I've seen people break
at a lot of less stress,
but a lot of times, I just got to keep
going until I can lay down and sleep,
and then I might cry myself to sleep
or whatever else happens,
but, I mean, my dreams
get crushed on a regular basis.
A month or two ago, I thought I was moving
to Durango to go live with my girlfriend,
and about two weeks ago, I found out
this isn't going to happen,
so that was my plan for the last...
six months, eventually, was to go.
So now... Were you in love with her?
I'd like to think so, but I'm 18,
I don't know what love is.
This is the first time I've felt this way
about anyone, so I'd like to think it's love.
I mean... The train leaves out of here
every night, there's at least one train.
At this point, it doesn't matter
where I go, East or West.
Once again, my life's
completely open to me.
I just met Comfrey
the day before yesterday,
but I find myself worrying about him
in kind of a fatherly way.
I know what it's like out on the rails,
it's dangerous and illegal and rough as hell.
There are knife fights, different gangs
of tramps and hobos who fight each other.
People get thrown off moving trains,
people get duct-taped
to moving trains,
so the tape gradually works loose
as the train picks up speed.
I told Comfrey to be careful,
and he said, "Yeah, right."
I tried to give him money,
and he said, "No, thanks."
He went east.
I went west to the Sierra Nevada
mountains in California.
They go 400 miles north to south,
and they're about 75 miles wide.
They've got glaciers and bears,
and the peaks are
well above 4,000 metres.
I love mountains, but I always
feel slightly uneasy here,
mainly because I have
a fear of heights.
I'm here to meet a legend.
Richard Bear, nicknamed Yogi, has been
wandering these mountains for 25 years.
He's climbed nearly all the peaks.
He lives by himself in a tent and he
never camps in the same place for long.
To get a message to Yogi, someone had go
20 miles up into the mountains on snowshoes,
and then come 20 miles
back down with the answer.
The answer was yes.
Yogi has agreed to meet me.
I was expecting some kind of
shaggy, grizzly wild man,
but Yogi is smooth, clean, polished.
Clearly no stranger to shampoo,
razors or toothpaste.
All the climbers and park rangers who spend
time in these mountains have stories about him.
He's the king of the backcountry,
a true modern-day mountain man
and the first thing he says is,
"Let's go. Follow me."
The story goes that he first
came here to commit suicide.
He spent the night intending to jump
off a mile-high cliff in the morning,
but woke up awestruck by the beauty
and grandeur of the mountains.
You were seriously thinking
about walking off a cliff?
Ah, well. Yeah, that was in my head.
That's for sure.
I can eliminate my 400 in debt!
And my lack of being married
and having all those kids,
by just stepping off El Capitan,
you know...
I got dropped off here.
The car drove away, I had
something like 20 in my wallet,
and my tent, and in
about half a day's time,
I hadn't felt so content in years,
maybe ever in my adult life
at that point. I just loved it.
'He's never looked back. He's
lived out of a backpack ever since.
'What does he do for money?
'He works seasonal jobs
in and around the mountains. '
But a job is something
to quit in order to...
Yeah, it's an end to a means for sure. It makes
me enough money so I can take off for a few months.
But I have never had
any monetary goals,
I don't want to save enough money to
buy a brand-new car, that kind of thing.
As soon as I've got 1,000, I
don't have to work for three months.
What does he do for love?
He has short-term relationships with the young
women who come here to work in the summers.
These seasonal relationships...
There have been quite a few.
There have been some I would've
loved to have continued for ever,
but I'm not willing to give this up
and move to LA. Yeah.
At least in my life, it turns out
that love doesn't conquer all,
not even close.
But these relationships start really
quickly, because you don't have much time.
All those feelings, all the stuff,
it happens fast, and then...
it's gone.
And then comes heartbreak, maybe.
You must have had a few of them?
Quite a few of them.
So how do you deal with heartbreak?
I guess, just kind of embrace it.
I know when I get into something like that, it's
going to be gone soon, and that helps a lot too.
And anyone that I may be with
is fully aware
that I'm going to be here in my
tent, regardless of what may develop.
If they wanted to stay,
that'd be just fine sometimes.
Other times I'm glad the three
months is over, to be honest with you!
Yogi wants to take me through
this forest of giant Sequoia trees,
and up to the nearest peak.
So you've got lost up here before?
I like to say that I'm not lost, I just
don't always know where the trail is.
I know which canyon I'm in,
and it does get tricky sometimes.
'Out of nowhere,
a heavy mist comes in.
'If I was on my own, I'd be turning
around now, going back down towards safety,
'but Yogi seems
completely unconcerned.
'Then the mist
clears as suddenly as it came in,
'and we're standing on a very high,
exposed fin of rock,
'looking down at the clouds and the
valley floor, a vertical mile beneath us.
'If I fall off here, Yogi tells me,
'it will take a full minute
to reach the ground.
'This is the very last thing
I want to hear. '
I can't make it.
I get vertigo in places like this.
This is as far as I'm going to...
I start to wobble,
and... kind of clench up.
So this is as far
as I'm going to go.
This is still the front country
for me. Kind of the front yard.
I'm heading out to the
back yard, out that way.
I would love to join you,
I just don't have it in me.
That's home for me. I actually count on
most people feeling the same way you do.
Keeps it good for me.
Keep the riffraff out!
I wouldn't call it
riffraff, but...
That's where I'm going.
How long would you go up there for?
How long are you going up there for?
Two weeks, usually.
First day is here, third day
I go over the great Western divide,
that wall out there, then the
bigger peaks are out beyond that.
So that's kind of
your front entrance?
Mm-hm. I've climbed all the higher
of the named peaks,
in this Great Western Divide,
up north, a long way,
and I've been working my way out
toward the far eastern side of the park.
So I've got about five days out,
five days back,
and two days to bag a peak or two
out there along the way.
Well, I wish you a fine adventure,
but you're on your own, partner.
I count on that. I count on that.
Thank you, Richard.
All right. Adios. Bye!
And he's gone.
Back into the frozen wilderness,
and absolutely delighted about it.
He's passionately in love
with these mountains.
A man at peace with himself,
a happy nomad.
And that's all, folks.
We've rambled around the
American Southwest for 6,000 miles,
and if you trace the journey on a
map, it looks like a daddy longlegs,
smashed up against a wall.
Conclusions? Don't jump to one.
People with bad upbringings
sometimes become wanderers,
and so do people
from good upbringings.
Loners wander, and so do couples.
Weak people take to the road,
and so do the strong.
People wander to find beauty, or because
God told them to travel with a tent,
or because tomorrow's rodeo
is in a different town.
But ultimately, people
wander in America because they can.
The space and possibility exists.
That nice young couple Derek and Amy
split up soon after we left them.
He went to Tennessee. She kept the
child, the dog and the school bus,
and found herself a new boyfriend
at the slabs.
Preacher Joe went on from Quartzsite,
Arizona to Lake Isabella, California,
where he caught himself
a 10-pound trout.
Right there.
That's a number one bait!
Praise the Lord!
Now he's moving north into Canada,
a fisher of men
and a fisher of fish.
Hi. Baby.
Oh hey, what's going on?
Will and Tom the rodeo cowboys are still
driving 2-3,000 miles a week in Will's van.
So far this year they've won
42,000 between them.
Hey, darlin'.
Oh, we're pulling into
a gas station.
Ted is travelling harder than ever.
The longest road in North America
is the one to Panama,
and he's given himself two months
to drive down there and back.
Yogi is back up in the high Sierras,
communing with the wilderness,
reading a book
about Siberian tigers,
and listening to baseball
every night on a pocket radio.
Last I heard from Comfrey,
he was out on the rails.
I check his Facebook page
from time to time,
and it's been more than a month
since he updated it.
And me?
'Hi, this is Richard,
I'm not around right now.
'Leave a message and
I'll get back to you when I can. '
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