I have mentioned and written about this friend of mine in previous blog posts. He has had a rather difficult and unfortunate life. I miss him being around, and I learned a lot from him. I won’t use his real name in this blog post, I will refer to him as “Zane”.
Zane was born in a rural area of Wyoming, not too far from one of the Oil Boom Towns. Growing up, he mostly lived on his family’s rural, sparse, hardly improved 300 acre property. His mother and father were strange, abusive, and most likely they were mentally ill.
Zane only went to school for about three years in his entire life. His mother and father were supposed to be home-schooling him, but they were not. I believe that by the age of 10 years, he could read, write, add and subtract, multiply and divide, but I think that he knew how to do these things possibly mostly through his own efforts to learn them.
From a very early age, he spent a great deal of time wandering on his family’s property and exploring. He had an interest in the outdoors, the old west, and military/war things, like many young boys do.
From what he describes, many of his neighbors and people in the town had suspicion and dislike for him, ever since he was a small kid. He was probably dirty, he did not go to school, and he didn’t act right.
Zane’s parents had a lot of problems, financial and otherwise. At their dilapidated home, often times they did not have hot running water, or a functioning sewer system. There were probably several reasons why Zane’s parents kept him out of school. Zane would not have been clean, had clean clothes or many clothes, lunch or lunch money, or school supplies. His parent’s would have had a lot of explaining to do, and they would have been called in repeatedly, for inquiries about what was going on with Zane, and for complaints about his behavior.
From when Zane was about eight years old to sixteen years old, he spent much of his time wandering his family’s property. He hunted animals, cut and gathered firewood, tried to make improvements on the property, and he tried to make his own place to live.
There was an old well on his family’s property, that was full of junk and debris. Zane did not know why his grandparents or parents had begun dumping debris in the well, just using it as a big hole that they could dump things in. He cleaned all the junk and debris out of the old well, scooped out all the bad old water, and clean water began to flow into the well. When his father discovered that Zane had cleaned out this old well and that it was flowing again, his father began dumping junk and debris into this well again.
Zane began cleaning, patching, and fixing an old single-wide trailer on the family’s property for himself to live in. At one time, one of the things that Zane did, was have some plastic barrels of water on the roof of the trailer, with a hose attached to them. When the sun heated up the barrels, there was some hot water that Zane could use for bathing. Zane’s father was very angry about this, because his son thought of this, and his son had hot water to use for bathing, and he didn’t.
This is part of the background of what Zane’s life was like growing up. What I wanted to explain now, was how people reacted to and treated Zane when he was growing up. This is a lesson, in both the good and bad in people, understanding and ignorance.
As I stated previously, many of Zane’s neighbors and towns people did not like Zane and were suspicious of him. He was probably dirty, he dressed funny, he didn’t act right, and he didn’t go to school. He did not seem like a normal kid.
However, some people in the town recognized several things. They recognized that Zane’s parents were poor and that there was something wrong with his parents. They recognized that his parents had kept him from going to school, that he did not have hardly any clothes or much of anything, and that it looked like he was having to try to raise himself.
For instance, when Zane would be walking in town, some residents would see him and have fear and apprehension of what he was up to, he was not normal. Other residents who were also suspicious of what he was up to, might ask, “What are you going to do with that old hose you have there?” He might have answered, “I put some water barrels up on the roof, so that I can take a shower.” Then, they might have understood, that this eleven year old kid, did not have a normal home.
The people in town, that talked to Zane the most, were World War II veterans and Korean War veterans. These older men, were wondering what is wrong with this kid? They started talking to him, to try to find out what was going on. And they found out what was going on.
The older men veterans, would talk to Zane, and say, “I have got a bunch of junk in my yard, I will pay you to load it all on my trailer so that I can take it to the dump.” Zane would load all the junk on their trailer, and say, “Can I have this old bicycle that you are throwing away?”, or “Can I have this old lawn mower that you are throwing away?” When Zane was done, the old veteran would say, “By the way, do you want this jacket, it’s too small for me now, it doesn’t fit me any more.”
When Zane would get home after days like this, with a new jacket and an old bicycle, his father would angrily ask, “Where did you get that?” And Zane would explain to his father where he had gotten the jacket and the bicycle. His father would say, “Do you think they have any more, do they have any more in my size?” Zane would explain, “I don’t know, he was just giving away a jacket he didn’t need, I don’t know if he has any more.”
As Zane got older, he spent more and more time with the older veterans in the town. They did not criticize him or pick on him. They found work for him to do, and they gave him clothes, books, camping equipment, tools, hardware, and sometimes sold him something like a motorcycle or scooter for a very low price. It was one of these old men that lent him a vehicle in order for Zane to take his driver’s license test.
When Zane was in town, he liked to go to the library to read books and magazines. He liked to read all of the outdoor magazines, he liked to read western novels, and he liked to read the military/war books. The librarians and the library patrons did not like seeing Zane. He was not clean looking, he was shabbily dressed, and he was oddly dressed.
Zane was color blind. He got his clothes at thrift stores or charity stores. He bought shirts, pants, and coats that were his size or were too large, whatever he could get that he could wear. He did not know that his pants were green or red, they just looked grey to him. People would look at him and glare, scowl, or sneer, and he didn’t know why, he hadn’t done anything to them.
There were a couple of women in town that were in their 50s, that were concerned about Zane, and took an interest in him, almost like they would have for a feral cat. Women that were younger than 50, would not have offered any friendship to Zane, out of fear and out of concern over what people would say and think. Women older than sixty would not have allowed Zane in their home out of fear and out of not having the energy to deal with him.
But there were a couple of women in their 50s, that could see that there was something wrong with this young man, he was not in school, he was shabbily dressed, oddly dressed, and abnormal acting. They could see that many people would respond unfavorably to this young man.
I think, that both out of caring and out of boredom, there were a couple of women that thought that Zane was headed for problems in life, probably jail and prison, if someone did not intervene. Two of these women were retired, probably on social security disability because they had health problems, unmarried or divorced, who lived by themselves, except for having cats. Both of these women could not sleep at night, and they did not have any kind of fixed schedule. They did what they wanted, when they wanted.
They would invite Zane into their home. They would talk, listen to talk radio, or each sit and read their own books, late into the night. They felt sorry for Zane because he did not have anywhere to go, or any one to talk to. They probably thought that this was particularly unfortunate that he was raising himself, just as he was becoming a teenager, when most young people his age have all kinds of questions and things that they don’t understand.
I think that it is kind of funny, that some veterans in their 50s, and some women in their 50s, could see that there was something wrong with Zane, and they tried to find out what was wrong with him, and help him. Most other people saw Zane, and they reacted to him with glares, sneers, scowls, unfriendliness, and meanness.
5 thoughts on “A Strange And Interesting Friend That I Learned A Lot From”
This is an interesting read. What happened to him? I think I remember your writing about him, but I’m not sure…was he one of the guys you ran into again in North Dakota, one with a very unusual car? (I may be confusing him with someone else you wrote about.)
Yes, I ran into “Zane” in New Town this summer. I would have liked to have continued the story about Zane in this recent blog post, but I ran out of room in the blog post, because I don’t think that most people would have been willing to read much further. I didn’t even get to the point, that I had intended to make in the first place.
With Zane’s lack of going to school, lack of a normal life, lack of instruction and supervision, he had to figure things out for himself. He had to figure out practically everything in life for himself, and he was mostly able to do so. Some things he saw very clearly from an early age, more clearly than many people in the world will ever see. And some things he was oblivious to, and these things that he didn’t understand caused him many problems.
What I had wanted to write about most, was several books that he gave to me. Zane was very poor, and many times in his life he was living in a car. Often with no job, no place to live, and very little money, he had ways that he spent his time, to occupy his time. He would stop at second hand stores, thrift stores, and charity stores, and look through their books. He would look through their books, and read their books, for hours. He would ask how much for these books, and he would usually buy some books, even if $15 was all the money that he had.
He would go to a park, a lake, a river, a forest, anywhere that he could park in his vehicle and not be bothered. People did not like him, and were suspicious of him. He did not bother people, he was just trying to get by. It was common for police to question him, and for people to come and question him, and be mean to him. A group of wanna be bikers, low class trouble makers, and stupid people, surrounded him, caused a fight, and beat him up pretty badly, then called the police and had him arrested. The police gladly took him to jail, taking the ten people’s statements that he had started a fight with the ten of them.
He was in jail for approximately six months, without a trial, and without evidence being presented against him. Basically, he was denied due process of law, right to a trial in a court of law, and a right to defend himself against his accusers, and unlawfully imprisoned for six months. As much as the police did not like him, the prosecutor did not like him, and the people who beat him did not like him, their story was not making any sense, and it really started to look like these people had beat him up pretty badly, he was the victim, and it was more likely that they would be blamed, and be guilty of giving false statements to the police.
He was released from jail after unlawfully being held for six months. When he was released, he left Wyoming to come to North Dakota to work. And I met him about six months later.
Oh my, that is truly terrible. I have a very soft spot in my heart for someone like that. I’m glad I read this today. I’m going to try to be a blessing to the next “Zane” I meet. I’m glad you’re kind to him and see the good in him.
Yes. When “Zane” came to North Dakota to work, as it became winter and very cold, some truck drivers who were veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, saw that he was sleeping in his car. They brought him and gave to him a kind of propane heater that he could use in his car, without dying from carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide poisoning if he had a little gap in his window.
The following Spring, he got a job working for a construction company, where they let him stay on the company property, first in his car, then in a truck camper, then in a larger travel trailer. The construction company tried to help him, and other people tried to help him.
As I explained earlier, there were some things that Zane didn’t understand, because of the way that he grew up. He continued to dress strangely, even though he could have afforded to go to Runnings or Wal-Mart and buy new clothes and boots, to look like a gainfully employed worker. He could have bought a used vehicle, with minimal wear and tear, but instead he bought several used vehicles, and it was almost as if he had to have a broken window, broken light lenses, mis-matched tires, missing hubcaps, and some other things that were wrong with every vehicle he had. In short, he could have moved away from looking like a homeless person, acting like a homeless person, and gone un-noticed, and fit in with everyone else. But he didn’t, and it caused him problems, and it caused his employer problems. People had tried to help him, but he wouldn’t help himself in the important ways that he needed to.
You can’t change people, unless they truly recognize that they themselves need to change, and they truly want to make a change. You can only help so much, but unless they help themselves to change in the ways that they need to, you will become upset and frustrated that the help you give, seems wasted when they keep doing the same things that caused them all of their problems in the first place.
You will have to be very guarded about helping people who act or appear substantially different from other people. It should be noted, that people who act or appear substantially different from other people may, and probably do have something wrong with them. People like this who appear to be in distress, may be having many different kinds of problems. They may be mistrustful and wary of other people, and feel like law enforcement will be sicked on them by other people. Sometimes to a troubled person, a person who willingly comes forward to offer them help, is seen as someone who owes them something, someone who has an obligation to help them.
For instance, a few of my friends and myself, have stopped to check on people who were having car problems on the side of the road. We did not mind offering a ride to town, a quart of oil, a bottle of alumi-seal radiator seal, some coolant, or a wrench. However, sometimes we found people who were mentally ill, drug addicted, or very nearly mentally not competent, who had way more problems than we could help, who wanted way more than we intended to give. So you have to be very cautious about trying to help people that seem to be in distress or who seem to abnormal.
That is all very true! I agree with you on every point here. I once saw a woman whose skin was so sunburned it was blistering. I would guess she was around 45 years old and was living on the streets of a large city. I always have sunscreen, so I went to her and asked her if I could help her, if she would like to take the sunscreen. She became so angry and belligerent, screaming at me to leave her alone. I think she was schizophrenic.
Still, all the ways of helping you have listed and done for people, you won’t regret. I know you’re correct, and one does have to have a modicum of caution. Still, it is a wonderful mitzvah (I’m not Jewish, I just particularly like the meaning of the word mitzvah) to reach out when you see somebody who looks like they could use it. I have a helluva lot more compassion for the (genuinely) crazies over the lazies.
Again, I love that you still try to be someone in this man Zane’s life. Of course you can’t do everything and you may never really see the fruit of your labor in the here and now.