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Paradise Lost
Ron West's Queer Chicken Dinner, pages 93-95
© 2018 James LaFond
Kerouac does not know what a ‘hairpin turn’ is, calling it a ‘u-turn.’ There no more mention of stealing to eat, and no mention of going hungry and so we are back to essentials multiplying like ‘fishes and loaves’ by a man who whines if he misses a meal, on the other hand, people strung out on amphetamines typically lose any inclination to eat after awhile. They’d taken the Tehachapi route going north, the one I’d mentioned made more sense to take south if he’d not lied about the circumstance of hustling Bea Franco on the bus to LA. Having made it to Oakland, Cassady dumps Kerouac and Henderson on the street (so he can run off to fuck Robinson, ASAP) with a vague promise to find them in the morning, and Henderson is slowly figuring some things out as she states: “You see what a bastard he is? Dean [Cassady] will leave you out in the cold any time it is in his interest.” Kerouac agrees with Henderson in his bald-faced lying way, his modus is no different. He’s been aching to get Henderson away from Cassady so he can screw her as much as he’d like to and then discard, just like he has screwed other women he’d made a conscious decision to fuck and dump (e.g. Bea Franco.)
I’d been hiking with friends across the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, we’d entered the area at Spotted Bear River, near where it meets the South Fork of the Flathead River, above Hungry Horse reservoir. We’d hiked the Wall Creek trail across the Spotted Bear headwaters country, into the North Fork of the White River on the west side of the Chinese Wall. I woke up one morning to the sound of a shotgun blast and the slug had whistled right over me as Mike T. had hollered “Venison today boys!” On the other side of me from Mike was a small deer, it had been knocked down by the slug. Mike ran around me and over to her, having reloaded with birdshot and while saying “Take it easy girl” to the deer (struggling to get up) had finished her off with a second shot at point black range to the back of her head.
We cut her up and built a makeshift soak-tub from a plastic ground cloth, filled with the deer cut into strips and topped off with water, sea salt and cayenne pepper.
I’d gathered some wild onions from the sandy river-bed and we had fried venison liver and onions for a late breakfast, went fishing, had trout for dinner. At dusk we’d woven a thin green willow-branch drying rack that had been suspended by supports, forked branches stuck into the ground, about a foot above our campfire.
Through the night we’d taken shifts, feeding a fire deliberately kept in a low state of combustion, with a mix of dry and green wood fed in a small but steady stream, to keep the fire going under cover of dark with low light, low heat and high smoke, the rack covered in pre-soaked venison strips. At daybreak the fire was snuffed and the entire valley, full of smoke, soon cleared off. We each had a decent supply of preserved (semi-dried, salted, and smoked) Robin Hood’s ‘king’s deer’ added to our packs and moved on. That was our first few days hiking an incredible paradise, but only one among many interspersed journeys in various local company, a taste of what had been, prior to the environmental devastation attending the social devastation visited upon wild peoples in what had been a wild land, a Paradise lost and a Paradise that would remain unknown to most that would come after. We were the Indians, the people we’d grown up with. What was the point to respect convention? This will never substitute for self-respect.
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