October 5th, 1976
Coop died last monday. I met him the day before in a tramp-camp by the railyard in Grant’s Pass. I had just dropped out of an open box that I rode up from Klamath Falls, and headed straight in the Hobo Jungle in search of some wine and a roll-yer-own.
Coop was sitting on a log by the fire when I “Helloed” the camp. He had wine and tobacco but no papers, I had the papers and a union of souls was born.
He was older, so I listened to him tell his tales of living on the rails for five years. He was a west-coast-tramp, never riding any other line but the north/south BN and UP railways. He liked the west coast and said he never wanted to leave.
He never told me how he ended up on the skids…but I know now. He was larger than life to me. When he spoke, his education was obvious as was his toughness. He had a great sense of humor, but occasionaly got quiet and morose as we drank wine, smoked and enjoyed a night around the fire. Two other tramps wandered in the camp, but saw that we were tuned into eachothers rap and eventually they found another place to land.
It was after midnight when we polished off the wine and we were both getting ready to lay out our bedrolls. ” I’m all done, son.” Coop mumbled, then he handed me a map.
“It’s a treasure map, boy. Believe me when I tell you, that treasure has been a curse to me. Ruined me. I can’t go home to my family becuase of it, and without them what have I got? What have I done?!” He mumbled something else and turned his head, and I could see by the rise and fall of his shoulders that he was sobbing quietly.
I took the map, and without looking at it, I put it in my pack and passed out on my bedroll. I was stone drunk and so was he and I didn’t think much of it. Tramps drink, tell stories, and pass out. It’s what we do.
When I woke up Coop was gone, but all of his gear was still around the camp. It happened alot. Some road dog would wander off drunk in the middle of the night, but they always came back for their gear. I stoked the fire, made some coffee in a soup can using a clean sock for a filter, and smoked the stub of a cigarette while I waited for it to boil.
I wanted to leave, but I didn’t want to leave Coop’s stuff for the vultures. I got up and followed the path out to the yard, hoping I could catch sight of him. I did, and I was horrified. What was left of him was on both sides of the fast rail that trains blew through town on. He had done it on purpose, I was sure of it. I thought back to what he said before we passed out, and I knew he had ended himself.
I had to get out of the area, not wanting to answer any questions from the local law. I went back to camp, removed the map he had given me from my pack, and looked it over. It was simple and well made, and explained well how to get to a spot in the hills east of the I-5 about two miles. He had marked the spot with an X.
It took me all day to get there, over rough country and two streams. Behind a thick grove of Ponderosa Pines grown up on the side of a hill, I found a small cave barely 3 feet high and eight feet deep into the hill. Using my lighter for a torch, I crawled to the back of the cave and found the “treasure.” It was a small duffel with a mother of pearl tie pin attached to the handle. Inside was stacks of money!
I scrambled out of the hole and sat on the pine needle covered forest floor and began counting. $123,000 dollars and a newspaper clipping from 1971 with the headline: MAN JUMPS FROM COMMERCIAL AIRLINER AT 30,000 FEET.