The True Story of Dugout Dick, the Last of the Fiercley Independent River-Cave Dwellers
I was looking at my Facebook Memories and came across Dugout Dick, the best friend I never knew. Six years ago today I learned this 100% true story about a man that lived in river caves in Idaho...
(Idaho Statesman) 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. “He was in his home at the caves at the end, and it was his wish to die there,” said Connie Fitte, who lived across the river. “He was the epitome of the free spirit. He was the last of Idaho’s river-canyon loners that date back to Territorial days.”
I wish I’d met this gentleman…he sounds like exactly the kind of person I would enjoy.
People he'd have hung out with, or known, or at least respected, were people named Beaver Dick, Cougar Dave, Wheelbarrow Annie, Buckskin Bill and Free Press Frances Wisner.
That same Idaho Statesman article said this, and I love it so hard...
Dugout Dick said, “I have everything here,” he said. “I got lots of rocks and rubber tires. I have plenty of straw and fruit and vegetables, my dog and my cats and my guitars. I make wine to cook with. There’s nothing I really need.”
I don't know what to make of the love for rocks and rubber tires, but it doesn't make me like this guy any less. He had caves that were 60 feet deep...and by had them, I mean he rented 'em out! By the night? Two dollars. Want to stay a whole month? That was $25. Some folks stayed for years.
Some of his caves were 60 feet deep. Though he “never meant to build an apartment house,” he earned spending money by renting them for $2 a night. Some renters spent one night; others chose the $25 monthly rate and stayed for months or years.
As he got older, a friend moved him into a home where he'd be taken care of. nope. not for the man that had the whole world as his back yard. He skedaddled and hitchhiked home.
Don't think all this cave business meant he was a hermit or a misanthrope (one of my favorite words). There was a time he was out there, living life, working on sheep farms, punching cows, and, he spent a time being something of a hobo, tho he didn't think of himself as one.
His stomach gave him fits, so he learned to make his own yogurt in the cave. He was also married for a while, but she was a pen-pal that didn't like the cave life, so got the heck outta there and worked in a favorite, sorting potatos (lots of that in Idaho). She was murdered, which is probably a story worth digging into, but this is about Dugout Dick.
His real name was Richard Zimmerman, but I have a feeling we'd all rather get to know a Dugout Dick. Plop down the $25, get a cave for a month and just soak it all in.
I just found THIS link with actual pictures of Dugout Dick. I can't share 'em since I don't have permish, but check it out!