• Following the geese

    by Erika Fiske

    David hopes to be living on a farm someday, growing food, chickens at his feet, an old dog lying in the sun. But that’s a few years down the road.

    Right now, the 54 year-old homeless man from federal Way, WA continues his annal trips south to Santa Barbara in September and heading back to Washington in February. This will be his ninth year of “following the geese,” he says, looking out on the bay as he speaks.

    On this beautiful March day, he’s riding his bike in the wharf area, checking what fishermen are catching and stopping to talk. The thin man has a thick head of white hair and matching beard. He pulls  one of those carts behind his bike that children usually ride in. Only his “child” is a 12 year-old black shepherd mix with sad brown eyes, named Jasper. She’s been with David for three years.

    Jasper is lucky to be alive. She went through a few families and was brought back each time to the shelter in Kent, WA.  “They were going to put her to sleep,” he says. “I asked them to let me try, since it would be a misfit with a misfit.”

    The misfits have been together ever since. David was a carpenter for some 30 years and has been homeless for 10 years now. He’s staying in this area only about a week, where he appreciates the daily food provided to people like him. He’s building his strength for the trip ahead, he says.

    David can’t give one specific reason for his homelessness. Maybe it was the divorces, or maybe the car wreck started him down this path. The accident happened when he was only 20, and the car he was in overturned 13 times at 80 mph. He broke 40 bones and required 1,500 stitches. Then he got his first taste of homelessness after running away to the mountains when doctors wanted to amputate his leg. The leg’s still there, and David’s still moving.

    Another trauma involved a wife who had an affair and left him. He recalls standing alone in his five-bedroom house, “ready to put a gun to my head, until I heard God say, ‘Take your dog for a walk. The angels will take care of you.’” David just kept walking.

    Soon after the gun incident, someone gave him a bike. “This person said, ‘god told me to give you this,” David notes. He’s been riding that bike ever since. Besides the dog, he carries with him a phone, stove, compass, first aid kit, dog food, tarp, backpack with maps, clothes, sleeping bag and a pan.

    A sticker on his bike says, “The activist is not the one who says that the river is dirty, but the one who cleans it up.” David was an activist in the past and protested about illegal dumping in washington state. He claims that one day he was called up to a tall building in Seattle and given a check for $15,000. Two thugs in the room looked toward an open window and back at the check, making it clear he would go out the window if he didn’t take the money, shut up, and go away.

    Despite looking much older than his 54 years, David seems pretty sure that by being careful with his money, he’ll someday have enough to buy that farm he’s always wanted.

    Until then, “being homeless is something I think I like,” he says, bending down to give Jasper some treats and taking hold of the handlebars.

    “It’s a nice day.”

    posted to Cedar Street Times on April 6, 2012

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles


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