Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Life In the Creek - Part 3: Tim #2

Tim's tent in the background with the river raging. He lived hidden in the shrubs for close to year before I knew he was there. This photo was taken after he trimmed the shrubs a bit.

Tim #2 or Good Tim was actually Mabel's friend for quite some time. In January 2005, the creek had a massive flood and the water flowed pretty high all that year and didn't dry up until mid-summer 2006. Which meant that the Creekhikers couldn't really hike the north wall of the canyon because the water was so high. But that doesn't stop part-Labrador dogs from crossing over and exploring on their own.

I had noticed Mabel kept disappearing into a clump of bushes and never really gave it much thought. She did this for close to a year before I noticed a tent in there! I yelled at her to get her out of there assuming someone had just moved in. A voice came back from the tent, "It's OK! She's my friend. She visits almost everyday and I save a bite of my dinner for her!"

That just ripped at my heart. A homeless guy is saving food for my well-fed, super spoiled pup? Wow!

As the waters receded, many of us Creekhikers got to know Tim. I had already guessed from the neat and orderly manner that Tim kept his camp and the American flag perpetually flying that he was a vet. From the work boots, I ventured he was in construction. I was wrong on the vet thing. He was 4F during the Vietnam war and like several other men I know from that era, he felt his own body had betrayed him and his country.

Tim always flies his flag.... a very proud American.

Tim had a good life and work was plentiful once. But he took in his sister when she became ill and her husband left her to raise her two small boys alone. Tim raised her boys and nursed her and kept a roof over all their heads. But as the youngest graduated, Tim lost his job and his sister's medical bills were piling up and I seriously think he had a bit of wanderlust. He moved his sick sister in with another sister that he doesn't get along with and hit the road looking for work. He lived in run down motels or "camped" his way through the great west before finally settling in our creek to be closer to his sisters. (They live 30 miles away. In LA and on foot, that might as well be 100 miles.)

Tim has a job. He works construction most days. And he drinks beer but I've never smelled liquor on him on a work day and I've never seen him drunk. But I do have to wonder if he couldn't afford to live in one of the cheap motels around here if he gave up beer and cigarettes. But he loves our creek...

He takes the bus to see his sisters and will stay away over a holiday weekend. Once back home in the creek, he admits to "being spoiled" by sleeping in a bed. But he and his older sister just can't get along for long.

While I consider Tim one of the brightest of the homeless at the creek, I also wonder about the logic of his tent placement. He is essentially on an island. When the Big Tujunga has water there is another branch that flows at the base of the north mountain. I've seen it from the eastern road or when I'm hiking to the west, I've spotted where this high stream falls into the main channel. When it's really flooded, it's dangerous going in and out. I know from my film-making days and dealing the LA river management that it only takes six inches of fast moving water to knock a grown man off his feet. I've raced out to the creek at 6 in the morning and sometimes late at night to give Tim a weather report and implore him to move camp. He never does.

When the river rages, all muddy and brown, there is no way out. He simply waits until he's comfortable enough to cross. But it's often thigh deep and still muddy. He keeps a pair of "river boots" (boots too old to work in but good enough to cross the rocky river) and rolls up his pants or carries a second pair around his neck, where he also ties a dry pair of boots and socks. Once on the levy side, he changes for work and leaves his river boots there, blending in with the rocks. Many Creekhikers check in on him during the wet months by simply observing his boot placement. "Tim's boots haven't moved in days. Have you seen him?"

After the last big flood, he had to get out to get supplies but slipped into the river. I know it frightened him because he wouldn't go back home. That was the time I've seen him drink the most, especially after work. I know someone took him in for a bit but he would come to the creek every night before sundown and stare wistfully at his tent. I'm certain he was also sleeping in the brush during this time. He seemed absolutely frantic. When I asked what was wrong, Tim admitted he was terrified someone would steal his stuff.

I pointed out that if he couldn't get across the creek, other people wouldn't work that hard to cross the creek just to see if he had something to steal. That calmed him a bit.

Tim is kind, helpful and hardworking. He loves all our dogs and saves balls for them and often engages them in a game of toss. He is the one I have the most hope for. The heat, exhaustion and the stress of living in the open may not have taken him over yet. I pray that someday, he will have a solid roof to call home.

Mabel slinking away from her friend's tent after a visit.


Anonymous said...

That's such a sad story. I hope his luck changes soon, and he finds happiness.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Janet, Tim is actually a very happy person. He's happier than me most days! He's always got a kind word and usually a bit of news about other goings-on in the creek. Many of us are quite fond of him.

Linda@VS said...

It's so interesting that Tim has made a life for himself that doesn't include what we consider all the comforts of home, yet it's obvious he's very attached to the home he's made for himself. A small part of me envies his lack of need for material things. A larger part of me can't imagine a home without lots of books.