Friday, May 25, 2012

Dugout Dick

Oh, Salmon River moon, I miss her so tonight.
Tell her to return, shine down with her light.
Oh, Salmon River moon, if I should hear her feet
When she comes close to me, my heart would skip a beat.
With my guitar I croon, Oh, Salmon River moon,
My sweet love melody, bring her back to me.
Oh, now the shadows fall on my windowsill.
Salmon River moon, I am waiting still.
Oh, Salmon River moon, down the trail, I'll be there.
On a cool summer night, I'll know you still care.
Oh, Salmon River moon, there're tears in my eyes.
Does she wait for me still, just on the other side?
Now my love I assume, Oh, Salmon River moon,
You're coming back to me, I'm your destiny.
Now the moon's going down along the winding hill.
Salmon River moon, I am waiting still.

"Idaho Loners" Cort Conley
 1994 (ISBN 0-9603566-5-7)
Photo by Roger Plothow  © 2009
"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."  (Tim Woodward © "The Idaho Statesman", April 23, 2010)

"He half jokingly says he'll live a thousand years, then admits to worrying about what will happen to his caves after he's gone. The BLM owns the land, and some of the locals have complained that a hillside honeycombed with caves and strewn with junk is an eyesore in need of bulldozing. Others--including its occupant--say the site should be preserved as an Idaho landmark. "The road should be named Dugout Road," he said. "And the caves should be made into a memorial. As it is now, the only memorial around here is me."  (Tim Woodward © "The Idaho Statesman", August 18, 2002)

" Thoreau, he often must have smiled at how much he didn't need. What gave him uncommon grace and dignity for me were his spiritual life, his musical artistry, his unperturbed acceptance of life as it is..." Cort Conley, as quoted by Tim Woodward © "The Idaho Statesman", April 23, 2010)

The video above was made from footage recorded in 1985, back when Dugout Dick was about 67 years of age and in the prime of his life, more or less. He died at the age of 94.

In a span of more than sixty years, Dugout Dick (AKA: Richard E. Zimmerman) carved out caves and a larger-than-life image alongside The Salmon River. It's possible Dugout Dick received more state and national media coverage than any other resident in Idaho's history (except our elected politicians, of course). He was perhaps better known and respected among circles much farther and wider than Salmon and Lemhi County. You can find many stories about him by searching Google.

No one knows how many articles, videos, stories, poems and words have been produced to describe the unique, eccentric, singular lifestyle Dugout Dick savored. No one knows how many people came to visit or stay in those hand hewn holes he clawed out of the talus rubble. Now, unfortunately, no one will ever even know what Dick's Dugouts looked like. They are all gone. Not long after Dugout Dick died April 21, 2010, the federal Bureau of Land Management obliterated all traces of Dugout Dick's handiwork, saving not a one for posterity.

 Roger Plothow, Publisher of "The Post-Register" newspaper in Idaho Falls conducted perhaps the last known major media interview of Dugout Dick in July 2009. (You can click here to read the article.)
When he learned a few weeks ago that everything was gone, Mr. Plothow wrote: "I won't go on the verbal rampage that I feel is warranted, other than to say that some bureaucrat somewhere has mindlessly, ignorantly and needlessly obliterated a piece of Idaho history. It makes me sad and angry. Kathleen and I have vowed to do something, starting with talking to some of the people we know who had met and admired Dick. At the very least, there needs to be a memorial to the man at his place by the river."  (Click here to read Mr. Plothow's blog about his recent visit to the site as it sits today.)

Upon his return from The Salmon River to Idaho Falls, Mr Plothow began a campaign to learn the facts behind the demolition of Dugout Dick's legacy. First, he wrote a letter to the BLM State Director, Steve Ellis.  (Click here to read the letter.)  One of the newspaper's reporters followed up by interviewing a BLM Staffer in Salmon.  The results of that interview were published in a column entitled "You Asked For it."  (Click here to read the column.)

Mr. Plothow has continued his investigation about the demise of Dugout Dick's legacy in a phone conversation and subsequent correspondence with Joe Kraayenbrink, the BLM Idaho Falls District Office Manager.  Click here for a summary of Mr. Plothow's initial phone conversation.  Following the verbal discussion, Mr. Kraayenbrink sent along a letter detailing factors involved in the BLM's decisions regarding Dugout Dick's legacy.  You can click here to read that letter.

Mr. Plothow hopes to meet soon with various BLM officials at Dugout Dick's former residence area to discuss various perspectives about past circumstances, present efforts and future opportunities regarding Dugout Dick's legacy.

We appreciate Mr. Plothow's willingness to allow us to summarize his involvement with the BLM in this matter. We will continue to report on this evolving story as we learn new information.
Photo by Roger Plothow © 2009

Dugout Dick (February 26, 1916 - April 21, 2010) is buried in Godfrey, Illinois


Wayne Ranney said...

Wow John - you hit a Grand Slam with this posting. Excellent.

Watching the video made me think that Dugout Dick was a breed from the 19th century and I could almost hear John Hance in that piece. what a wonderful piece of history. Thank you for sharing with us!

Ring3141 said...

Quite q guy!!
I once met a fellow like him, up in the
Sierra. He didn't play the guitar, though.

Dave E.