Skip to comments.Death of "Caveman" ends an era in Idaho
Posted on 04/23/2010 2:06:25 PM PDT by maine-iac7
Richard Zimmerman, known to all as Dugout Dick, succumbs at 94
Known as the "Salmon River Caveman," Richard Zimmerman lived an essentially 19th century lifestyle, a digital-age anachronism who never owned a telephone or a television and lived almost entirely off the land.
"He was in his home at the caves at the end, and it was his wish to die there," said Connie Fitte, who lived across the river. "He was the epitome of the free spirit."
Richard Zimmerman had been in declining health when he died Wednesday.
Few knew him by his given name. To friends and visitors to his jumble of cave-like homes scrabbled from a rocky shoulder of the Salmon River, he was Dugout Dick.
He was the last of Idaho's river-canyon loners that date back to Territorial days. They are a unique group that until the 1980s included canyon contemporaries with names like Beaver Dick, Cougar Dave and Wheelbarrow Annie, "Buckskin Bill" (real name Sylvan Hart) and "Free Press Frances" Wisner. Fiercely independent loners, they lived eccentric lives on their own terms and made the state more interesting just by being here....
(Excerpt) Read more at idahostatesman.com ...
I think a lot of us have a little dream of such a simple, independent life. Had I no family, I'd be tempted to a similar situation.
I once knew such a man - lived off in the woods by himself with his 2 Shepherds. People knew him only a "Oh Be Joyful" and thought of him as an old coot a bit touched in the head.
Truth was, he - O.B.Tyler - had been a brilliant engineer for GE. Following a personal tragedy, he retired from 'civilization' and moved into a small shanty in the forest...far from "the Madding Crowd."
Few knew that, were they to to call on him, they might find him in conversation with one or many engineers who sought him out for advice.
Civilization eventually caught up with him and built near his home - and then complained because he was want to sunbath in the all together.
Eventually, the town moved him to a nursing home 'for his own good." (He had lived into is 90's fit as a fiddle, on his own. After the move, he died within 3 weeks.)
I love the part about this 'caveman', Dugout Dick, where he walked out of the care facility and hitchhiked 'home.' (As a portrait artist, who studies character in the face, I see a man who would have been a companionable person to visit.)
...I wonder if it’s still possible to build your own shelter in the woods in America anymore?...too damn many zoning codes/building codes/safety codes/health codes.
The question is “where”?
You’d have to own the property to do so.
Dugout Dick was harrassed by the BLM jerks early on, but there was so much outrage from the local Salmonites they decided to leave him alone. If he died on Wednesday, my guess his digs are gone by today.
I really dislike 'lived OFF the land."
I grew up on a farm in the forests of northern Maine with my grandparents - in the 30'40's...no telephone, no electricity (TV hadn't even been thought of) and we grew, raised, fished, hunted and traded for 95% of everything we needed.
Grampa was a Maine Guide and had been a blacksmith and, with a gas lathe, made tennis racket frames and snowshoes and such endeavors that allowed him a totally independent life - never having to work for anyone else. We lived ON the land, and WITH the land.(That was not unusual at the time. The greater percentage of Americans produced most of their own needs, particularly food. We have become far to dependent on outside sources for our needs. Precarious way to live.)
Asked repeatedly to appear on the "Tonight Show" , he "...spurned repeated invitations to appear... "I ride Greyhounds, not airplanes," he said in a 1993 Statesman interview. "Besides, the show isn't in California. The show is here."
So true. Smarter than those city folk.
"People said he was the only person they'd ever known who was absolutely self-sufficient. He didn't work for anybody. He worked for himself."
Like so many of us used to.
I know some places where no one would bother you with that - but it's only for people without family - not with a gang like mine ;o)
Probably in Alaska(?)...in the lower 48, the Forest Service thugs and the BLM jerks have vewy strick rules about camping on “public land”. You have to move every 14-days and the move has to be some designated distance...can’t just move 5-feet.
this is true. But if you had a bit of Social Security - to pay the taxes - it could still be done.
Anywhere isolated enough would have a pot farm neearby and you’d get shot.
He depended largely on the generosity of the locals...he couldn’t grow enough to feed a packrat on the little sliver of land that he squatted on. Hippie-type “tourists” would often stay a few days in one of his caves and pay him a few bucks. I’m wondering what happened to his Martin guitar??
I could try to homestead in the north woods of Maine, but I don’t think the timber companies would like that.
True for most every where you head to - but like I say - I know a place
LOL! Good Neighbors...One of my favorite BritComs
the timber companies don't control near what they did a few short years ago
35 years ago, on a Snake River float trip, we stopped there. And like a good tourist, I bought some trinkets from him.
You can do a lot of things provided you don’t get caught.
There’s a park in town where I’ve found evidence of someone living naturally in the wooded part. Not saying which park :p
In a few years people like this guy will be required to earn enough money to buy into Obamacare.
Au contraire...He'd be given a pill ;o)
Just shows how dangerous it is to live without the material blessings of civilization and modern medicine. Obamacare would have enabled him to live a full life. (/sarc)
Does the reporter think we wouldn't have figured that out on our own?
BTW - been meaning for some time to tell you that I really like your ID name - great take-off
However, given to-days level of independent thinking - he probably thought it prudent.
Other than that, I was thinking he did a much better job than what we usually read today.
The Good Life. One of my favorites too.
No one owns their property anymore. Try not paying the governments property rental tax and see what happens.
Governments hate that.
Read the biography of Sylvan Hart, “Last of the Mountain Men” by Harold Peterson, years ago. Interesting group of people. Fascinating lifestyle, if you could do it. We will find out after a few more years of what is going on!
THANK you! I may just paint him
More power to this guy, but living alone, no telephone, no TV, no internet, I don’t see any books. What did he DO all day? I’d be bored stiff.
Are you female?
A sculptor, using mainly California serpentine, he found a mountainside of it way off the beaten track and just went in and built a really great house - heated with a iron stove made from an ocean buoy - that burns huge logs.
To visit him requires going as far as you can with a 4-wheel drive then hiking 4 hours over mountain trails and streams to a meadow where he picks you up in an 8-wheel drive Italian truck and off you go to again.
They grow their own food, of course. He makes his own carving tools.
With his shoulder length blond hair, his muscled frame resulting from his rugged lifestyle - particularly carving out and hauling great chunks of stone back to his place - he looks like the Hollywood idea of a Mountain Man.
He kept losing his dogs to mountain lions - until he got a Rhodesian Ridgeback. No more problems.
He did, however, become a very successful sculptor - so was no longer financially imperiled. It was rather strange to go to an opening of one of his shows, like in Los Angeles, and see him in that setting - knowing where and how he lived.
I didn’t mean anything by it, but as you know a lot of men just like to think and don’t need to be doing anything that shows, it can drive women crazy.