Tents and Tipis


Dirt, there was a lot of it. We lived in the back of a farm on what is now the North side of the street of the LDS Mt. Timpanogos Temple. The silo grains were jutting up above and the horses in the corral and everything. My dad rigged a “refrigerator” from the back of the horse corral. He’d hung a wet cloth and the breeze was supposed to cool any item in the shade nearby. In the hot weather, it took all that I had to even pretend that it worked. This is when my diet of raw ramen noodles and hot dogs, intermingled with binges of fast food, began in earnest. 

My brother and I worked with our dad, mostly on exterior painting, scraping, sanding, and other important aspects of the job. We worked long and hard and were encouraged to find additional work on our own and start making money. David was better at it than I was but I do remember rustling up a few fence-painting jobs, though I don’t remember any money.  



This is when the hallucinations returned. I had had waking dreams and sleepwalked earlier in my childhood. This time I would crash in the tent during the day, exhausted with the heat. I’d find myself with the sensation of being lifted in the air and dragged out of the tent. I remember the sheer terror I felt as, at least in my mind, I grasped the tent floor with all my might in order not to be lifted out by the evil presence I knew was waiting for me just outside the tent door.


Bad Dreams

Another time I was laying partially asleep inside the tipi, digging in my mind under the dirt, like a mole, digging a tunnel back to my mom. As I dug the long tunnel in the earth back to her, I wagged my head back and forth while I chanted something about having to dig my way back to mom. I knew that if I stopped wagging my head and chanting, I would not be able to make it and everything would collapse in on me. David and Dad walked in on me and they tried to bring me out of it, I knew they were there and could hear them shouting my name. My heart raced as I also shouted at them in my mind while I kept chanting and wagging my head. “Leave me alone! Don’t you know I can’t stop?! I have to keep going to get back to her!” They tried to hold me, tried to restrain me but I had to keep going, I would not quit. Eventually, I blacked out. I never made it back to mom. 

The next time we were in the city, my dad bought me a ten-speed at Shopko. He wanted me to be able to visit and spend time with my friends Cody and Jon. They had been my best friends since elementary school and they and their families were one of the few constants in my life. I’d bike the 16+ miles each way to see them each day. Sometimes I’d even spend the night at or somewhere near their house. I had a few dreams at my friend’s house as well, of dying, traveling through tunnels, holding my breath as I went through them. I’d feel the light within me counteract the darkness I felt trying to suffocate me. I explained it to my mom one time when I talked to her on the phone. She sounded worried. I told her how there was a very long tunnel that was inviting me to enter. If I did, because I couldn’t breathe as I traveled in the tunnel, I would very likely die in my body as I was in my dream. The thought wasn’t an unpleasant one. 


The Fog of Homelessness

Food tasted like the dirt I lived in. My appetite was gone and I withered to a measly 70 pounds. Waking life became foggier as time seemed to blend, with trips back and forth from the tipi to my friends’ houses almost every day. Often, I would get lost in the dark as I tried to make my way back to my dad but would lose the road and circle over and over again on the same streets trying to find my way back. I’d cry, wishing someone would appear and help, curse the sky when nobody would, and then find my way to my temporary home behind a garbage dumpster in the rear of a nearby grocery store to sleep until morning. 

Months passed this way, and I spent as much time with my friends and their families as possible. Sometimes Jon would even sneak me into his room or out in the barn or we’d sleep out on the roof or the grass in the yard so I wouldn’t have to leave. My friends and the goodness and security of their homes became my lifeline. I saw less and less of my dad and brother for a time. Dad had secured a bit of land high up in Payson Canyon to stay in, and I would only occasionally see him or David at the tipi in American Fork, as they were both working hard and my brother was developing his trade as a painter.  

As the school year started again, we would lose our access to the land in the back of the farm. I disappeared from my friends’ lives as I moved high up into the mountains on a private plot of land, where I would become a goat herder. I’d roam the land, chasing cows, living in an abandoned trailer and tipi without running water, electricity, or much else.