Gold Beach Thanksgiving (Part 4)

A long-haired man emerged from one of the RVs and caught the Reverend’s attention. He carried a folding lawn chair and a can of malt liquor. Binoculars were strung around his neck. The man wore dingy dungarees and a black hoodie. He was pushing 60 years old. A black mutt followed him.

Sunshine peeked through the clouds and lit up the field. The man unfolded his chair and sat down facing the herd. He cracked open the can, took a swig, and set the can on the concrete. He raised the binoculars to his eyes and glassed the field. The dog collapsed to the ground and snoozed out.

The Reverend exited the Navigator and walked toward the man. He wanted to talk to him and he didn’t know why.

“Hey, how’s it going?” said the Reverend. It occurred to him that he hadn’t asked that question to a stranger in years. He’d never asked it to any members of his flock.

The man lowered his binoculars and turned to the Reverend and said, “It’s a fine day for the elk drive-in theater.”

The Reverend laughed and said, “Yes it is.”

“You wanna take a look with my binoculars?”

“Sure, I’d love to.”

The man removed the binoculars and handed them to the Reverend.

“Be sure to look for Jesus and the Apostles,” said the man.


“There’s one big bull with a huge rack and he always has a group of 12 following him around so I named them Jesus and the Apostles. They usually hang out near that grove of cedars by the slough.”

He pointed toward the grove.

The Reverend looked through the binoculars in that direction. Jesus and the Apostles were there. They were all eating grass.

“I see them,” said the Reverend with an enthusiasm that surprised him. He was excited and it felt good. Watching elk felt good.

The Reverend and the man struck up a conversation, first about elk, then about the man’s life. In due course, the Reverend learned:

The man’s name was Tony. Tony and his dog Joker had been living out of a 47-year-old RV, The Chateau, for five years. He’d bought it for $500 at a storage unit. It ran great and he’d patched all the leaks. Tony used to live in Coos Bay in an apartment but the asshole landlord kept raising the rent and he was done paying rent. He survived by collecting cans, food stamps and a $1,244-a-month Social Security benefit. The man and his dog roamed in and around Reedsport and sometimes stayed in RV parks that allowed older rigs. Other times they parked on side streets down by the river in the deserted downtown area or on logging roads. The elk drive-in was their favorite place.

After his conversation with Tony, the Reverend drove into Reedsport and turned south on Highway 101. He still had no clue where he was going. He just knew he was going somewhere.