The Humboldt Helper

The gunshots were still fresh in my head. Alone, save a puppy, in my van in the middle of nowhere.

J.R. Tolkien says, “Not all that wander are lost.”

Well, I sure as hell am.


Pulled over on a turnout off a crumbling country road, things were calm when I woke. The sound of the creek could be heard nicely, now that the sounds of engines on the winding, forested roads were no longer roaring; just a slow autumn morning in Humboldt County, California, if there is such a thing.

Ready to leave, I loaded Harper up into the van and turned the key. No start, no click, no power. I lifted the hood, grabbed my cables, walked out to the edge of the turnout and began the wait.

Trucks roll by; few take note of my presence. Most just rev their engines louder as they approach, blowing black smoke into the air of freedom. A suburban turns the corner and I flag him down. Love those cars.

Montana plates. Girlfriend in the passenger seat, with their pit-bull mix. Both are pretty over-weight. The guy and his girlfriend that is. Not the dog.

I hand the Good Samaritan one end of the jumper cables, old and withering that they are. They will work, he says. No problem

Red to red, black to black. I connect my ground cable to the frame of my car. Advice from a good friend that it protects the jump from shorting the battery. We let his engine run and get to talking.

“Colorado plates. That’s a long drive. How long you been travelin?”

“Since May. Montana, how long have you been out?”

“This’ll be my second season. Beginning to make a bit of a name for myself.”

My thoughts begin to wander off, anxious about my car not starting. I begin to tune him out, aside from the occasionally nugget of information about the area. I hear him talking about the grow season. Apparently I am a month to early to find work. “No worries,” he says, “Just grab some cardboard and draw yourself some shears. You will find work.” I don’t tell him that I am not looking.

He continued on talking. He seemed anxious too. I am not sure why. Then he says, “Never let anyone know too much about your life. A friend told me that. People will try to take advantage of you here.”

It was at about that moment when a guy in his late 90’s green Toyota Tacoma truck pulls in and does a half donut burn out to join the party. “Speaking of friends,” my Humboldt Helper says.

A man got out of the car. Young, maybe early 30’s and walked towards us. “Everything alright?” he said with a twangy smile.

Humboldt Helper responded, “Hell Dave, how’s it going? Just jumpin’ his car.” Dave looks at me. We shake hands.

The two of them begin chatting. “Hey Dave, what did you say you were using for compost in your garden?”

“One-third chicken shit, one-third oak trimmings, one third lawn trimmings. Only need three gallons of water a week, per plant. People out here watering with 100 gallons a week. Stupid!”

I decide to pipe in, “you might as well just buy your groceries elsewhere.” I was serious. I thought they were talking about food… I am an idiot.

Dave chuckled. My fat friend just looked at me, then turned to Dave and said, “So what you consider that strain?”

“Oh, we call it Redwood Kush. Not thick enough to be an OG.”

“Damn, I gotta get my hands on a clone of that.”

The two chatted some more. I realized the blunder I had made. My mind begins dozing off. Dave was leaving. I nodded his way and he pulled away.

The girlfriend had decided to get out of the suburban at some point. I don’t remember when.  She says, “I always ask what they are growing before I agree to trim. I ain’t gonna be caught trimming OG. You can’t make any money.”

I nodded, surprised at how much I was learning, and how quickly it was coming at me.

“And if anyone ever offers you a job near Bushwhack point, you tell ‘em you have other plans. Two weeks of work, then there is a gun to your head telling you to get the fuck out. Goddamn Bulgarians.”

Suddenly the gunshots I had heard the night before took on a new ring.

“Bulgarians?” I ask, “I had no idea.” I wanted my car to be done charging. I had plans to drive to the coast and try to find a vet for Harper so she could get her final booster shots before taking her on a backpacking trip.

I suggest I try the car. Good news is I have power. Bad is that it wont start.

The girlfriend that suggests she rev the engine. The Humboldt Helper nods. I see him change the location of some cables and then walk to his car.

I get of the car and see what he has done. My ground cable is no longer on my frame and now it is on my battery. She is reving the engine hard. I switch the cables back remembering my friend’s advice (remember that?). I walk over to where I saw the guy disappear and find him hunched over turned away from my car with his fingers in his ears.

“You switched the cables,” I shout over the engine roaring. He turns around and sees me standing there?

“What?” He stands up and runs over to my car. He looks at me and looks back at the battery. Things feel tense. “Oh! Hold on, try this!” He pushes the cable that connects my battery to the car up. I turn the key and the car starts.

He slams the hood down and gives me a strange look with his thumb up. Confused, I give him a thumb up in return. He gets into his car and they turn to drive off.

They double back and roll down the window. “Hey, by the way, go back towards Redway, go to the feed store and buy that pup a double-dose of Parvo Vaccine. Shit will kill her real quick around here.”

I nod and they drive away.  Both of my problems solved by the plump couple.

I drive to the store get the vaccine, give her the shot, and drive to the coast. On my way, it dawns on me that I caught this guy about to blow my battery.

I shake my head and get ready to walk the Lost Coast.