The Times-Independent

Passing time thinking about folks who passed through

A Page Out of the Book Cliffs — Page 157, Part 3


My last two columns have been devoted to folks who landed in Thompson Springs for a period of a few months or a couple of years.

AJ Rogers

When they pulled up stakes for parts unknown, they generally left nothing to remember them by or to show they had ever been here. Nothing, that is, except a few memories in the minds of some of us who knew them for a while.

I’ve been here in our quaint little burg longer than anyone still kicking and since I have this outlet with which to share my memories of some of those people I will continue to do so with the following:

Kentucky Jim — This blond-haired young man of about 21 years with a decided Southern twang was another who dropped in off the freeway broke and destitute with nothing but the junk he had in a sack.

He asked for work in a polite manner, saying he was willing to do anything. My dad hired him on and he soon found himself washing dishes in our Cook Tent Café, which was open around the clock back in that year of our nation’s bicentennial.

Jim was a fairly good worker for the first two weeks until he got paid the first time. After that, things went downhill fast because he spent every dime on beer and none on food. It became quickly apparent that he was a certified alcoholic and could not be trusted.

One day I found him limping down the road from our town swimming hole a mile up the canyon. Someone had thumped him good. His eyes were going black and his nose had drained blood all down the front of him. He also had a couple lacerations that needed cleaning up pretty badly. He was blubbering and seemed to be almost too drunk to do much more than careen back and forth between the fences either side of the road.

It turns out Jim had gone up to our town swimming hole, which passed for a city park, where he had pulled some kind of stupid act after a stern warning from one of our other temporary employees. This other employee was a no-nonsense but fun-loving tough guy from Florida who called himself Bushrod and was the fry cook on the night shift at the café.

Jim was apparently too soused to pay attention to the warning, so he kept doing whatever it was he was warned not to do. Bushrod then proceeded to clean his plow in a no-nonsense fashion and kicked his butt back towards town. I gathered Jim up a half mile later and took him to one of the kindly waitress gals who washed off the blood and bandaged him.

I decided Jim needed to dry up, so I closed him up in the back of a tarped over homemade trash trailer I’d hurriedly turned in to sort of a camper. I made him hold onto a 15-gallon water container to keep it from spilling. This chore was designed to make it impossible for him to see where we were going. I drove us up into the hills to a spot that was quite remote and set the camp up for him.

I then proceeded to show him how to turn dead pinon trees into firewood using a heavy pipe and a sledgehammer. I didn’t trust him with a chainsaw. The deal was that I would pay him a reasonable fee for each pickup load of firewood he piled up that I would sell come winter for a little profit if things turned out right.

I left him with a pair of gloves, a canteen, a box of canned food, three packs of smokes, some matches and a coffeepot. I told Jim I’d be back to check on him in three or four days as I waved goodbye and drove the eight miles home. I was counting on him being too scared of the country to venture far from camp.

When I returned as promised I couldn’t locate Kentucky Jim anywhere. I searched the vicinity thoroughly and found two small piles of firewood he had processed. His camp looked as if it had been used for a couple days. Some of his precious cigarettes were still there which seemed odd, but he had apparently gotten lonely and walked away.

I’m sure he could hear the train whistles at times and that must have given him a clue about where civilization was located. He apparently showed more spunk than I thought he had and walked out of the hills to the highway. He must have stuck out his thumb, getting a ride to some other town and another case of beer. I never heard hide nor hair of him again.

I was planning to only use half the room in this particular column to tell you about Kentucky Jim and save the other half to tell you about a couple who also made a little splash here back in the 1970s.

They called themselves Stump Jumper and Peanuts. I am, however, no good at keeping my stories short and the editor chops them off with a big cleaver anymore, even if the last paragraph holds the punchline to the entire story. That very thing happened a few weeks ago when my truck and two trailers were sliding downhill backwards on the ice headed for a cliff and disaster up in the Book Cliffs.

You readers got left hanging on the precipice with no idea of how I survived to write these stories. I am only allowed 1,000 words and I am now at 992. So, I better stop. Right damn now at 1,001.

Comments, questions or ideas are welcome at ajrogers270@gmail.com or 435-259-9543.