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  1. #1
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    Default Death of 'Caveman' ends an era in Idaho

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

    Richard Zimmerman had been in declining health when he died Wednesday.

    Few knew him by his given name. To friends and visitors to his jumble of cave-like homes scrabbled from a rocky shoulder of the Salmon River, he was Dugout Dick.

    He was the last of Idaho's river-canyon loners that date back to Territorial days. They are a unique group that until the 1980s included canyon contemporaries with names like Beaver Dick, Cougar Dave and Wheelbarrow Annie, "Buckskin Bill" (real name Sylvan Hart) and "Free Press Frances" Wisner. Fiercely independent loners, they lived eccentric lives on their own terms and made the state more interesting just by being here.

    Most, like Zimmerman, came from someplace else. Drawn by Idaho's remoteness and wild places removed from social pressures, they came and spent their lives here, leaving only in death.

    Some became reluctant celebrities, interviewed about their unusual lifestyles and courted by media heavyweights. Zimmerman was featured in National Geographic magazine and spurned repeated invitations to appear on the "Tonight Show."

    "I ride Greyhounds, not airplanes," he said in a 1993 Statesman interview. "Besides, the show isn't in California. The show is here."

    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."

    His metamorphisis to Dugout Dick began when he crossed a wooden bridge over the Salmon River in 1947 and built a makeshift home on the side of a hill. He spent the rest of his life there, fashioning one cavelike dwelling after another, furnishing them with castoff doors, car windows, old tires and other leavings.

    "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."

    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.

    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.

    Bruce Long, who rented one of his caves and looked after him, said the care center "had bingo and TV, but things like that held no interest for him. He just wanted to live in his cave.

    "People said he was the only person they'd ever known who was absolutely self-sufficient. He didn't work for anybody. He worked for himself."

    Born in Indiana in 1916, Zimmerman grew up on farms in Indiana and Michigan, the son of a moonshiner with a mean streak. He rebelled against his domineering father and ran away at a young age, riding the rails west and learning the hobo songs he later would play on a battered guitar for guests at his caves.

    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 raised goats and chickens, tended a bountiful vegetable garden and orchard and stored what he couldn't eat or sell in a root cellar. A lifelong victim of a quarrelsome stomach, he survived largely on what he could grow or make. Homemade yogurt ranked among his proudest achievements.

    He was married once, briefly, to a pen-pal bride from Mexico. The other woman in his life, Bonnie Trositt, tired of life in a cave, left him for a job as a potato sorter and was murdered by her roommate. He claimed to see her spirit in the flickering light of a kerosene lamp on the cave walls.

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

    Services are pending. A brother, Raymond Zimmerman, has requested that his remains be sent to Illinois.

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

  2. #2
    Senior Member professor goodstain's Avatar
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    everyone uses every function about evenly. take NE for example. if there are those who don't use it much, then why are there such massive amounts of people constantly flowing through Wallmart with 20 items or less?

  3. #3
    Carerra Lu IZthe411's Avatar
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    Wow.

    Until I saw his birthyear below, I was wondering how old he was, and how long he could have lasted living like that. Not saying that it's impossible to live the way he did, but thinking about pollution of streams and rivers- I was thinking about the toll on his health. Guess it didn't break him.

    It's interesting to know people still live like this.

  4. #4
    morose bourgeoisie
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    Thanks for posting this, Risen.

    I grew up in western Montana. I saw a few people like that around, with a horse, a dog and a tent.

    We called them mountain men.

  5. #5
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    Sounds lovely.. I love to hear when people live their lives out the way they wanted to. I don't presume he could have died any happier.
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  6. #6
    Feline Member kelric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IZthe411 View Post
    Wow.

    Until I saw his birthyear below, I was wondering how old he was, and how long he could have lasted living like that. Not saying that it's impossible to live the way he did, but thinking about pollution of streams and rivers- I was thinking about the toll on his health. Guess it didn't break him.

    It's interesting to know people still live like this.
    If he lived around Salmon, Idaho, there probably wasn't much pollution, relative to what you're probably thinking of. That part of the state is sparsely populated, and the river is basically a mountain runoff, and probably un-dammed that far upstream (I forget the exact locations of dams in the area). It's also a very beautiful area:


    Probably a very healthy way to live, really. In that area, growing his own food. Sounds like he lived a good life that he wanted - R.I.P. Dick.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  7. #7
    Courage is immortality Valiant's Avatar
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    I've always wanted to bug out and just work for myself.
    No taxes, no one to tell me what to do. Nothing fancy...
    But self-sufficiency is something incredibly fancy in and of itself.
    Not to mention that I love growing things and being in the woods and mountains by lakes and rivers.
    Too bad this would be largely impossible to do in Sweden, where I live, due to harsh winters and the poor farming capabilities of the land up here in the northern half.
    The land only yields one crop per year, the rest is too cold.

    Mightier than the tread of marching armies is the power of an idea whose time has come

  8. #8
    Senior Member Hexis's Avatar
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    Am I the only one offended that his brother wants to move his remains to illanios instead of burying him somewhere in Idahos remote landscape where im sure he would of wanted?

    Other than that, awesome.

    And how did you come up with ISFJ Prof? Everything I know about ISFJs from personal experience would not be able to do it. They require someone to care for other than themselves and not complete isolation.
    SDMF

  9. #9
    Courage is immortality Valiant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hexis View Post
    Am I the only one offended that his brother wants to move his remains to illanios instead of burying him somewhere in Idahos remote landscape where im sure he would of wanted?

    Other than that, awesome.

    And how did you come up with ISFJ Prof? Everything I know about ISFJs from personal experience would not be able to do it. They require someone to care for other than themselves and not complete isolation.
    Yeah, what a dick. I'd haunt him for the rest of his life. At least occasionally.

    And yeah... Not an ISFJ. I'd expect it from a real loner ISTx or INTx.

    Mightier than the tread of marching armies is the power of an idea whose time has come

  10. #10
    Feline Member kelric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hexis View Post
    Am I the only one offended that his brother wants to move his remains to illanios instead of burying him somewhere in Idahos remote landscape where im sure he would of wanted?
    You're definitely not the only one. I mean, what on earth is this brother thinking? Somehow I doubt he really knew Dick well enough to know what he'd have wanted, and it's pretty presumptuous of him to try and make that sort of decision.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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