The mountain man’s gift

Last night right before sunset the coyotes start to howl. 

I step outside to hear where their howls are coming from and see the clouds are turning pink against the blue sky.  I run to grab the camera and manage to snap a few photos before darkness comes.  As I turn to go inside I glimpse the big, white rump of an elk or deer among the junipers that line the creek bed down below our camp.

This morning the crew and I set out for the creek bed.

It’s a sunny day and the air is uncommonly fresh. We cross the creek bed and find hoof tracks on the other side.  Up on the ridge we discover bones of a large animal, bleached white.  I look back at the tiny speck that’s home.  Rusty’s camouflaged home is nearby.

Bridget likes to be the leader.

On the way back to camp I tie her leash to Spike’s harness and I keep holding Spike’s leash.  This makes a procession of three with Bridget choosing the path through clumps of grass, rocks, and small prickly pear plants.  Spike and I trail behind.  It’s an easy walk, a good start of the day.

Later Rusty comes by.

“Hello, Sue!” he calls from the road.  I see out the window that he has something in his hand.

“Just a minute!  I’ll be right out!”

He hands me an “Oregon Road and Recreation Atlas” (Benchmark Maps).  One glance and I can see it’s a quality road atlas.

“Oh no, Rusty.  I can’t take this.  It’s too nice.  You might need this.”

“I’m not going to need this,” he counters.  “I’ve walked all over Oregon on all its roads.  I know where everything is.  You keep it.”  I continue to protest but he insists.

He spreads out the atlas on the hood of the PTV.  

He shows me the best way to go to the town of Sisters, Oregon, one of his favorite places, from a starting point of northern Arizona.  He explains what the roads are like and what I can expect in the towns and cities along the way.  I jot notes in the margin of the atlas.  How did he know I was wondering what’s the best way to drive to Oregon?

“This is a really nice atlas, Rusty,” I say as I turn the pages.  “Thank you so much.  I know I’ll use it a lot and I’ll think of you when I do.”

Then I tell him I looked him up on the internet.

“I read the story about you in the newspaper.”  He’s interested and soon we’re inside the BLT  and he’s peering into the laptop.  He studies the photo of himself closely.  Rusty reads, but slowly.

“Would you read it out loud to me?”

“Sure, Rusty.  It’s a really good article.”  I read the article and he chuckles remembering the interview.  As he stands up to leave, I see the unopened jar of peanut butter and box of saltines I had brought in from the PTV earlier, sitting on the counter.

“Can you eat peanut butter and saltines?”  I ask.

“Sure!”  I hand him the jar and box of crackers.  He’s delighted.  “And it’s creamy.  That’s good. The crunchy is hard on my teeth.  Thank you, Sue.”

The crew and I go into Ash Fork to do laundry. 

In the late afternoon, I hear Rusty calling.

“Is it all right if I come over?”

I pull out two camp chairs, and we sit on the sunset side of the BLT with Timber, Spike and Bridget.  We talk until the cool air of dusk drives us back to the warmth of our homes.

“Good night, Rusty!  Talk to you tomorrow!”

Rusty walks away with Timber at his side.  Then he stops and turns.

“Sue?  Thank you for being my friend and a sister in Christ.  May God bless you through the night.”

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P.S.  The newspaper article about Rusty when he lived as a mountain man named Three Feathers may be seen at this link:


About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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61 Responses to The mountain man’s gift

  1. Chuck says:

    Wish I could meet him, sounds like he’s an old fashioned gentleman.
    Great pix…as always! And Sisters, OR is a pretty town, just don’t take the road over to Eugene…..

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      His grandparents taught him values. Chuck, you’ve been to a lot of places!

    • Sue says:

      He sounds like such a sweetheart. I enjoyed the article about him too. Now I am going to be concerned about him when you leave that area, but I know God will take care of him. So glad I found your blog.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        I’m glad you found my blog, too. I know what you mean. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye and leave. He’s staying here until May 1st. I’ll leave before then.

    • Lee Worsham says:

      I knew Rusty as Three Feathers, he camped out in my yard one night. He was still walking with his burros back then. He truly was a nice guy, great stories. Would love to find him and talk to him today.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Hi, Lee,

        Rusty aka Three Feathers is a remarkable guy. It wouldn’t be right for me to post his contact information. The next time I talk to him I’ll mention your name and ask him if he wants me to give you his phone number. Will he remember who you are? Maybe a location of where he camped would jog his memory.

  2. kellyceallaigh says:

    I got choked up just reading your post. He must be enjoying it so much to have someone as nice as you to talk to him, listen to him, and treat him as a valued fellow human being. What a wonderful experience for you, too. You are a true treasure, Sue.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Makes you wonder why we meet the people we do, why our paths cross when they easily might not. You know, Kelly, I got choked up when he handed me that atlas. It was like he was handing me his past travels. I didn’t put it in the post because I thought it would seem like I was trying to milk the experience for emotion. You are perceptive to feel what I was feeling.

  3. bearwise2010 says:

    Wow, you know I have come to realize that people judge all the time, what you drive, wear, how you speak, even your facial expressions all are judged, and of course it is by their own interpretation. I have always tried to give people the benefit of the doubt in my life, and i have most of the time been happy with it. To hear Rusty’s story through you, and to give this soul a chance of friendship is awesome.. Very nice story Sue, I am sure your path has been made of gold, as you journey and meet incredible people in your life. I hope and pray that we are so lucky. The crew look like they are enjoying the adventure to. Animals are a great judge of character. Take care, and thank you again for sharing and to Rusty what an amazing person also. Stay in the sunshine, your nothern ontario reader ..

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      What you say is so true! We judge each other all the time. I catch myself thinking certain things about strangers I see and then I have to remind myself that I don’t have a clue what that person is like! You sound like a good person.

      Yeah, Bridget and Spike love our little expeditions. I really like the photo of Bridget leading the way and the one where both of them are looking in the same direction. Timber is quite a rambunctious guy. He’s young. Spike loves meeting a new friend.

      You take care, too.

  4. Elizabeth in NC says:

    When I read of Rusty giving you that atlas, I thought, “oh, the widow’s mite”…the times in my life when I am given gifts by those who have so much less than I do, means such a lot to me!!

    Oregon is a beautiful place. We have mostly lived in the West during our lives and traveled through many places. One spot we really enjoyed is around Crater Lake, but a friend told me that they were there one 4th of July and it SNOWED!! It was indeed quite chilly when we were there in August. John Day, Le Grande, Baker are all very interesting small towns too. Near John Day we used to get our organic turkeys and chickens. BEST turkey you will ever eat!! If you want to know more about Washington State…we lived there many years, email me.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thanks for the offer, Elizabeth. I hope you are still reading my blog when I make the trip to the Northwest. Then you can tell me (and everyone) the good places. I’ve seen such beautiful photos of Crater Lake. There are so many lakes in Oregon!

      • Elizabeth in NC says:

        Sure, Sue. Heh…at this point I am not sure where I will be or what kind of internet connection we will have by this summer…we are down-sizing and paring down big time…and the next step is not quite apparent yet…still investigating quite a few options.

  5. Ernie says:

    Love Your Dog Tandem!!!! You sure get a ways off from home on your walks. I was just thinking how much more enjoyable it probably is holding their leashes and walking in the low humidity as opposed to pushing that loud, hot mower in the humidity back in the South!!! Sure wish my house in Arkansas would sell so I could head out West!!! I see Car Ads on TV with them driving in the wide open spaces and long for the Road!!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I remember doing the same thing, Ernie! I’d look at those car ads and my heart would ache for the open road and for open spaces. There’s something about a meadow. It may not make an interesting photo, but I love to walk across a meadow!

      And why was I ever happy to get a MOWER? Yuck.

      I hope your house sells soon. Best wishes to you.

  6. Renee says:

    Such a “tender” day you have had Sue…brought tears to my eyes…in a good way!…and Rusty,
    what a beautiful spirit! As for Oregon…love, love , love it! Don’t forget to spend some time on its magnificent coast…the cliffs, the long white beaches where doggies can run for miles!, the dunes, the sunsets, glorious!
    Cheers, Renee

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Renee . . . and cheers to you!

      A “tender day” — That’s an accurate way to describe it. Some days are rough and some are tender.

      Your description of Oregon makes me want to go there this summer, but there are a lot of places I want to see this first year that are closer, so I’ll have to wait for that. It must be absolutely beautiful.

  7. Wow, great experrience Sue, to meet such an interresting fellow traveler . Wonderful !!! The sunset looks pretty wonderful too !!!

  8. hobopals says:

    I’m pretty sure the man we saw up around Angel Fire was not Rusty. I think he was older, he was riding a mule, had long hair and a mustache and wore an old floppy hat. That was back in 1999. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rusty knows or knew him, though.

    I think you have given each other a gift.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      From what Rusty has told me about the mountain men rendezvous, there are a lot more “Three Feathers” than we realize. He knows a lot of these people. (I was going to say guys, but there are mountain women, too!)

      Yes, Rusty is a gift.

  9. julieinoregon says:

    Wow Sue! What an interesting situation. I think it is a great learning experience. He sounds so interesting. I’m curious as to how he gets money to live on? Anyway, if you are going to Sisters, please stop in Klamath Falls. I would love to meet you and the crew! You have to see Crater Lake. It’s beautiful.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Rusty is 62 and has a disability from being shot by friendly fire years ago when in the service, and also from being hit by a truck while walking along a road with his donkeys. These injuries give him back and leg pain. He probably gets a check from the VA and Soc. Sec.

      Thanks for the invitation! I hope you stay with my blog and invite me again when I’m in Oregon.

  10. Patricia Kitchen says:

    Sue, I’m wondering if he ever got that horse 🙂 Guess not or he would have mentioned it. Thanks for sharing your encounter with this interesting soul. Take care. Pat K

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome, Patricia.

      I don’t think he got that horse. The newspaper article wasn’t a long time ago and he was injured pretty badly since then (truck-pedestrian accident). After that accident his back wouldn’t allow him to ride around on a horse, my guess..

  11. Lorogirl says:

    I thought that your blog entry yesterday was special, but reading your thoughts from today and your experience with beautiful, wise Rusty is something that I will carry in my heart. He is a true treasure and he should be respected as such. Thank you Sue!

  12. hikersaran says:

    Isn’t it days like this that let you know ‘why’ you’re ‘here’! Little things DO count. Safe journeys to both you and Rusty.

  13. cathieok says:

    Just goes to show you how much the simple things in life (peanut butter and crackers) can be enjoyed and cherished!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I was wondering if readers think I’m cheap to give him such a paltry gift in response to his very generous one (It’s a $22 atlas!). To defend my actions (which I probably don’t need to do!), it was something I could give him gracefully without making a big, embarassing deal out of it. I’m still planning on putting together a parting gift.

      • Teri says:

        I think it was a nice way to give him something without making a big deal out of it… it was sitting out and it seemed very natural to ask him if he could eat it. You seem to try to be very thoughtful in the way you approach things. You’re a “good egg” Sue. 🙂

      • cathieok says:

        Don’t think you being “cheap” entered anyone’s minds. Just such a spontaneous act of friendship!

      • earthdancerimages says:

        A gift given from the heart could/would/should never be considered cheap!

      • bearwise2010 says:

        You are amazing – you do something really nice and you feel you have to defend it. Cheap you never, you are awesome and his was a gift yours was I am sure a “treat” which to him meant the world…. Don’t be so hard on yourself.. ps forgot to mention i love how you put their leads together, that was just so cute.

  14. Susie says:

    What a great friendship you guys are experiencing. You are a reminder that life doesn’t have to be so complicated and the small things can be so rewarding. Have a great Tuesday! Susie

  15. Geri says:

    Back in the day….. I read a book titled “The Only Dance There Is” and somewhere in that book it was said that teachers come to us in the most unexpected ways , the most unexpected times and these teachers are the most special of all because they are given to us by the Loving Spirit ! Rusty seems to fit this lesson. Look how many of us he has affected, just because you took the time to say hello! Thank you for sharing him!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome, Geri. Our conversation last night included, among many other things, the way “Three Feathers” became a Christian believer without forsaking the teachings and beliefs of his Native American grandparents and his heritage. I tell you, there’s a lot I haven’t written about Rusty. I’d have to rename the blog: rvsue and her canine crew meet Three Feathers!

  16. azpatriciao says:

    Hi Sue! I have been following your blog for a while and I now feel compelled to add my comment.
    It is my belief that nothing happens by accident. Somehow, your journey took you to set up camp next to Rusty and develop a friendship that will enrich each others life. And by sharing Rusty’s story on your blog, you are touching many more people.
    I appreciated all the details of his story, but what especially resonated with me are the values he taught young people “respect, honor, honesty, responsibility and to care”. It puts my feelings into words. Unfortunately, I do not find these values in my surroundings today. I cannot change people, I tried to accept who they are but I can’t, and this is why I am getting ready to leave.
    Thank you so much for sharing this powerful message!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Dear azpatriciao . . .

      I know how you feel about the lack of values so apparent today. I taught middle school so you can imagine the absolute horror I experienced some days when confronted with young people and their parents who have little or no respect, honor, honesty, responsibility, or caring for others. It was disheartening and sometimes frightening to me personally and in terms of the future of our society.

      I hope by saying you are “getting ready to leave” that you mean you are changing your life so you come in contact with some of the many wonderful people who DO have the values we cherish. Just look at the fine people who comment here!

      I found when I was around people with a lack of values and was forced to interact with them, I started to lose a grip on my own. Stronger people than I may be able to change people. Some of us need to find a gentler path.

      God bless you and keep you! Thank you for writing such a sincere comment.

      • azpatriciao says:

        Dear Sue, thank you very much for your kind reply. I realize that what I said about leaving might have been ambiguous… English is not my first language (French) and sometimes (well, let’s be honest… often!) I use the wrong words.

        Our neighborhood was used to be lovely. Then people moved away, new people came and it is not lovely anymore. It has become suburbia in its most pejorative meaning and we feel like 2 fishes out of their tank ;(
        For a while, we were thinking about selling and buying elsewhere. Then, we came to the realization that the same scenario was most likely going to repeat itself.
        Until we met someone living full time in a RV (did I say that I believe nothing happen by accident?) and that was it. We found the “ze” solution that was going to give us back our freedom!

        Last month, we attended the Good Sam Rally in Phoenix to find out that RV people are a bunch of happy and friendly people. Since, I have also found blogs like yours that gave me back my faith in people’s goodness. And we took the leap. Broke our piggy bank, bought a 5th wheel, a truck and are now on our way to freedom! Still lots of things to manage before being ready to sell our house and watch suburbia disappear in our rear view mirror, but every morning I wake up like a kid on Christmas day knowing that what I will accomplish today will bring me a step closer to where I want to be.

        Bless you Sue (and your crew) to be such an inspiration!

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Patricia . . . I am so grateful you replied as I was a bit worried about you. Your English is very good, better than a lot of people who have English as their first language.

          I choked up reading about your discovery of the fulltime RV lifestyle, especially after revealing the angst you felt seeing your home neighborhood change for the worse. I’m very happy for you!

          Take your time to make the preparations. Your house will sell and you’ll be living the way you want in places you want to be. How thrilling!

        • Elizabeth in NC says:

          Very encouraging comment, Patricia!! We live in what USED to be called ” the Mayberry area” in this smallish area we live in (there are no small towns in a sense here in NC, but somewhat…) when we moved in 9 years ago. Today, even though we pay almost $1,000 a month rent, we live 2 doors from a thief, who began stealing from his parents before branching out. And on the other side, both those houses have people who have no regard whatsoever for anyone else in any way, be it with kids or animals, loud parties past midnight. One of our friends who lived a lot of years in a travel trailer told me that the best part of living in the RV way is being able to move when your neighbors bug you!! TIS APPEALING!! One reason we are considering the RV life in soon approaching retirement!! We appreciate peace and quiet and good neighbors!!

  17. Steve and Bridgett Kaeseman says:

    Thank You Sue and Crew for letting me live vicariously through you. Love the articale about Rusty Three Feathers. One day the wife and I hope to live full time in our version of a PTV and BLT like you and your crew. Until then I will continue to keep track of ya’lls adventure vie the net.
    Be safe, take care, have fun always and continue to be the free, kind and helpful spirit you are.
    God Bless and Respectfully,
    S and B. Kaeseman

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Steve and Bridgett . . .

      What a lovely comment. I’m happy to hear you have plans to fulltime and that my blog is a part of your vision for your future. I especially like your phrase “our version of a PTV and BLT.” Whatever form your dream takes, I wish you the best of travels and life experiences. Thanks for reading my blog.

  18. Jim Melvin says:

    It sure was nice of Rusty to give you the Oregon atlas. I collect an atlas from each state I spend time in. They are great for marking up where things are such as dump sites, state parks I have stayed in. They also give good little tips on neat things to do and places to go within the state. Enjoy.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Yes! This atlas is fantastic! It shows a broad area, then the next page zooms in a bit, the next page even more . . . The detailed topography is so well done. And it has info on public lands, state parks (what amenities are there), attractions, parks, etc. Not just symbols, but information. It’s a great gift I am enjoying already.

      Now I’m greedy for one of every state. I can see why you collect them! There’s something about having an atlas to spread out and dream over. Internet maps just aren’t the same experience. And they’re handier when you pull off the road to figure out where to turn!

      Always great to hear from you, Jim.

      • earthdancerimages says:

        Be sure to thank Rusty from Geri and Chuck! We just ordered the Atlas for Utah!!! Would have never thought of it, if Rusty hadn’t given you the Oregon atlas!

  19. geogypsy2u says:

    I don’t believe in coincidence. We meet others for a reason, whether we perceive it or not. This is a very special crossing of paths for you both. You’re going to love Oregon.

    I thought of you as I drove along 89 towards Ashfork. Part of me wanted to pull off the highway and stop in the desert for a while. Then I remembered I’m heading back to the canyon and continued on with a smile and silent hello.

    • geogypsy2u says:

      I sure like Three Feather’s story.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I didn’t expect you to turn off the road to come into the NF where I’m camped. We will see each other again. Right now you’ve got goals to meet . .. RV service, getting to your job .. . Thanks for the smile and the silent hello as you rolled by the cattle guard that is my front door.

  20. Sherry says:

    Such a lovely post Sue. It’s always an education and a breath of fresh air to read your blog. Thanks for the link to the article on Three Feathers. He seems to be doing an excellent job of finding his own niche in life and not allowing the prevailing culture to impact him in too many ways. Guess that’s something you two have in common. I thought the PB & crackers was an excellent gift for a friend who travels VERY lightly. A wonderful barter on both parts. It’s not how much either cost but rather who can use them at this point.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Sherry,

      Your last line . . . very well put!

      The credit for the link goes to reader Ron who found it and let me know about it. I wanted the link, searched for it and couldn’t find it. As usual, my blog came to the rescue! It is such an interesting article and the woman who wrote it did an excellent job compressing a lot of info into it. That’s journalism at its best. Rusty was pleased with it.

  21. Ron says:

    I am a nam vet and work with a lot of vets.
    I know some of the guys just couldnt go back to the main stream life style just like Rusty. I have friends living in Mexico ,Canada, Northwoods of Mich ,Colo , the list could go on. They live a very simple out of the mainstream lifestyle and seem to be very happy doing it.
    There is a very strong parall with FT rvers especially the boondockers such as yourself. They want peace , solitude, and there privacy. You showed the respect of Rustys feeling and still became his friend , thumbs up to you girl ,that isnt easily accomplished , and shows what a good person you are..You will have a friend for life.
    The atlas and the peanut butter have nothing to do with money ,it was giving a gift from the heart and there is no price tag on that.
    I stlll love your blog and it gets better each day.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Ron,

      Thank you. Your compliment is very much appreciated.

      You’ve got me wondering . . . Maybe the reason I’ve always felt a kinship with Vietnam vets (which is a pretty long stretch considering my tame and easy life) is because I know what it feels like to not fit in with the crowd. You’re right. There is a parallel with boondockers who want to enjoy a peaceful life, away from the rat race, the criticisms, and expectations of others. God bless all our veterans!

      Oh, BTW, as I write this, the link you provided me and the readers has received over 360 clicks.

  22. Francy says:

    You are such a nice human!

  23. JeffinIlinois says:

    I believe the real gift was what Rusty said to you when he was leaving.

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