Death of 'Caveman'

This is a discussion on Death of 'Caveman' within the Bob & Terry's Place forums, part of the The Back Porch category; Richard Zimmerman, known to all as Dugout Dick, succumbs at 94 Known as the "Salmon River Caveman," Richard Zimmerman lived an essentially 19th century lifestyle, ...

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    Death of 'Caveman'

    Richard Zimmerman, known to all as Dugout Dick, succumbs at 94


    Known as the "Salmon River Caveman," Richard Zimmerman lived an essentially 19th century lifestyle, a digital-age anachronism who never owned a telephone or a television and lived almost entirely off the land


    Cort Conley, who included Zimmerman in his 1994 book "Idaho Loners", said that "like Thoreau, he often must have smiled at how much he didn't need. É What gave him uncommon grace and dignity for me were his spiritual life, his musical artistry, his unperturbed acceptance of life as it is, and being a WWII veteran who had served his country and harbored no expectations in return."


    He lived in a cave by choice. Moved by a friend to a care center in Salmon at age 93 because he was in failing health, he walked out and hitchhiked home.


    He punched cows and worked as a farmhand, settling in Idaho's Lemhi Valley in 1937 and making ends meet by cutting firewood and herding sheep. In 1942, he joined the Army and served as a truck driver in the Pacific during World War II. When his service ended, he returned to Idaho and never left.


    He rarely went to church, but read and quoted continually from the Bible.



    These few paragraphs are excerpts from the whole article, posted here;


    Death of 'Caveman' ends an era in Idaho | Local News | Idaho Statesman

    What an amazing Man, to live to 94, in a ramshackle rocky dwelling along the river
    If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    Back in 2005, a guy was traveling through Idaho and wrote of his meeting with Mr. Zimmerman along the way.


    Boise to Bozeman trip:

    Start: Boise, Idaho
    End: Bozeman, Montana
    Miles traveled: 476 miles
    Route taken: Highway 21 north to Highway 93 northeast to Highway 43 east to Interstate 15 north to Interstate 90 east exit at Bozeman.



    For the first time I was reluctant to get on a motorcycle and that was scarier than the accident I had two days before.

    I woke up a dawn, thinking it was excitement about being able to continue my journey, but it was nerves. I tossed about the bed for an hour, instead of bolting out and preparing to leave.

    It took a good hour just to pack up, as I walked around the hotel room, procrastinating.

    This is the first crash I have had. There have been three prior to this one and they were a lot more serious than this one.

    I separated a shoulder in one accident, got run down by a station wagon in another, and the last one I had I was rear ended by a car letting a pedestrian cross the street.

    Every time I got back on the motorcycle no problem and the first thing I did was drive by where the crash occurred to get rid of the bad karma.

    This one was different. I don’t know why, but I didn’t want to get on Libertad. I sat on the edge of the bed and really thought this was it, I was packing the bike and coming home.

    It was paralyzing. I couldn’t move. I just sat and thought about what a failure I would be if I came home and remembered a saying that is on my wall at my house. It is from the Dali Lama and it says great love and great achievement involve great risk.

    This is something I have wanted to do for years and I couldn’t let one obstacle deter me. I packed my bag, hopped in the shower and was on the road by 8:30.

    The first part of the road was traveled territory. Highway 21 is where I was Sunday and I thought the familiarity would be settling, but it wasn’t. It acted as a reminder of the day. It didn’t help the blacktop was stained with an early morning rain.

    When I approached the site of where I crashed, Libertad sputtered a bit, like she knew where it was and didn’t want to relive that moment any more than I did.

    When I saw the turnout my tire mark was still in the sand. I slowed a bit, looked at it, then hit the gas and didn’t turn back around.

    Route 21 turned much softer after the town of Lowman, the tight twists, lengthening out a bit. Directly after the town was the lower fork of the Payette River.



    The east view of the lower fork of the Payette River.



    The west view of the lower fork of the Payette River.

    After the river the road became one of my favorite types. There were curves, but not tight ones and the scenery was beautiful, a river running to my right and tall trees on both sides. Up until the town of Stanley the river followed the road, which opened up and allowed Libertad to flex her power.

    In Stanley, 21 runs into Highway 93 which runs all the way to the Montana border. A new river accompanies this Highway, the Salmon River and it is just as scenic.

    The water runs north to south and jumps over rocks that are in the riverbed. Fisherman spot the river, either fly fishing or casting a line.

    The river was reportedly discovered by Lewis and Clark in 1805 during one of their journeys. It is treacherous in some spots, earning the nickname, “The river of no return.”

    There was construction along the highway and at one point it was down to one lane. A flagman stopped us and she told us we had about a five minute wait.

    It was a good point to take a break. I turned off the motorcycle and took a stretch. I was talking to the woman in between stretches and told her I was on my way to visit with Dugout Dick.

    Everyone in the area knows him and they all like the nearly 90 year old local celebrity.

    His place is visible from the highway, but I saw a blue pick up truck at a row of mailboxes and a man wearing a red miner’s helmet.

    I introduced myself and he led me back to his caves. We crossed a one-lane bridge that he helped build in the 50s after the previous one washed away.

    When he first got here in the mid-40s, Richard Zimmerman was fresh from World War II duty in the South Pacific and readying to work on a farm.

    “Back in those days they had a rule that if you were needed on a farm, the army could send you back home,” Zimmerman said. “I was needed by my boss. I didn’t want to go back, though. I loved it there.”

    Fresh fruit that could be picked off the trees, warm weather, and beaches, all appealed to Zimmerman, but he came back to Idaho, a state he discovered as a teenager hitchhiking from the Midwest.



    Richard Zimmerman (Dugout Dick) in front of one of his caves.

    He worked on a nearby farm and saw this piece of land that was unreachable because the Salmon River ran between the road and it.

    There was something about it Zimmerman liked and he fashioned a cable to pulley himself across. Then dragged lumber across the river.

    The first cave was built along the river and fashioned out of mud and rock. Scrap lumber helped fortify the roof. He even put in a window. In the far corner of the cave is an icebox, which because of the cave’s depth, provides natural refrigeration.

    There is no electricity, no phones, no gas. A wood burning stove heats the approximately 20 foot long by 6 foot wide cave.

    Zimmerman lives down the road a bit now, using this cave as a spare. He was canning apricots on this day, using old mason jars he has had for years, heating the apricots in two pots on the stove then putting them in the jars.

    “I’ll eat some of them,” Zimmerman said. “I might sell some too.”
    Dugout Dick, as he is known by the locals, lives a simple life and in February 2006 will be 90 years old. He has lived in the caves since 1948, working odd jobs and getting a check from the government for his service in the army and from social security.

    He put in four mining claims on an approximate two acres of land.

    “I wanted to buy it, but they couldn’t figure out why,” Zimmerman said. “They wondered what I wanted with that piece of ground. ‘You couldn’t give it to an Indian,’ they said.”

    Zimmerman’s property taxes are $125 a month and he has given up two of the four plots he put mining claims on several years ago.

    He still has 14 caves and rents them out to vacationers, who come from all over the country to see this oddity.

    “I’ve had people from Germany stay here,” said Zimmerman, who charges $5 a night. “I have water leaked into one of them and it stinks, but they still rent it. They don’t seem to mind.”

    A full-time tenant occupies one of the caves near the entrance. Zimmerman rents it for $25 a month to a crossdresser named, LeAnn.

    “It is beautiful here,” said LeAnn, adorned with blue high heel shoes and red lipstick. “At night the deer walk down the road outside the house to drink from the river.”

    Zimmerman lives another quarter of a mile down the road from the two original caves he built. There along the hillside are the newer caves he built in the ’50s, some reinforced with hoods of cars or whatever else he came across.



    Dugout Dick in front of one of his caves. His cave is on the next row.

    There he rents out caves to anyone truly wanting to rough it. The one luxury he had, a water wheel, isn’t working, so he is forced to buy bottled water, making the 18-mile trip to Salmon in his old blue Chrysler pick up with a broken right tail light.

    “Don’t ever try and get Dick to move over,” the woman holding the stop sign at the road construction site said. “He is going to do 35 mph. He’ll let you pass, but he isn’t going to speed up.”

    Since Zimmerman was there before the Bureau of Land Management claimed the land around him, he has squatter’s rights. Zimmerman got a couple of neighbors across the river about 10 years ago, with two ranch style houses built with in gun shots of his place.

    “I used to fire my gun across the river, but I can’t do that anymore,” Zimmerman said.

    Walking now with the aid of a cane because of arthritis, Zimmerman still enjoys writing and listening to music, but is unable to play the guitar any longer because of sore hands.

    “I like it here still,” Zimmerman said. “I live in another cave up on the hill. It’s got everything I need.”
    We talked for about an hour and I was so engrossed in the conversation I didn’t even notice the dark clouds gathering as quickly as people gawking at an accident scene.

    The sky was black and a couple of drops fell on my face. I put on the rainsuit and headed north.

    I got to Salmon and had a decision to make. The clouds were behind me, but gaining. I could stay in Salmon or try and outrace the rain to Montana.

    Being a gambler, I started Libertad up and headed towards the Continental Divide, reaching 7,000 feet when I turned right onto Highway 43.

    When I reached the small town of Wisdom the thunder was in my ear. I gassed up quickly, and shot towards the town of Divide. That is where Interstate 15 is and then I would make good time to Bozeman.

    The rain got me a little, but the rainsuit kept it off and by the time I reached Bozeman it was late. I wanted to get to Sturgis by the next day, so I got to bed early, another 400 mile drive awaiting me in the morning.
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    This guy really lived in a man-cave huh?
    Turn the election's in 2014 to a "2A Revolution". It will serve as a 1994 refresher not to "infringe" on our Second Amendment. We know who they are now.........SEND 'EM HOME. Our success in this will be proportional to how hard we work to make it happen.

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    What a colorful individual.
    ALWAYS carry! - NEVER tell!

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    VIP Member Array Hiram25's Avatar
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    If things continue on their present course, we may all fit that lifestyle soon.

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    Member Array MIfamvalues's Avatar
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    Wonderful story. Makes you think twice about complaining when little stuff goes wrong.

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    Senior Member Array hayzor's Avatar
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    Very interesting – I spent 4 summers in Salmon as a river guide on the Main Salmon and the Middle Fork of the Salmon. I must have driven by his caves dozens of times, but never knew about him.
    Wish I’d have paid a little more attention to the local area and stopped by for a visit.
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