My series of stories about Humboldt continue. Hope you’re enjoying them.

While myself and my two roommates only stayed at the ranch for less than a year, when you have a property that numbers in the thousands of acres, someone has to be there year round. Enter Jim.

I’ve been going to the Ranch ever since I could walk and in that time I’ve met every single Ranch caretaker there’s ever been. My earliest recollections are of “Connie and Ron.” Connie made homemade zucchini bread- the taste of which I can still remember. And Ron was the first person to ever show me how to use a gun. I couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10, but I remember marching out, nervous as hell, to shoot a pistol at a bunch of balloons. I don’t remember if I hit anything, but until I was old enough to know better I had fond memories of balloon shooting and of Connie and Run.

As it turns out, they sued the family for a phony back injury Ron claimed he incurred on the Ranch. Screw him.

After Connie and Ron, there was Frank and Collette. Frank was an odd dude, but for some reason he took a liking to me. We went hiking, discussed books. He pointed things out to me about the land I never knew. One day he handed me a book and a statue. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the book- only that it was about a Messiah like character who came back to the U.S. and wandered around as a pilot, imparting life lessons. I do remember liking the book and the statue Frank gave me is still somewhere up at the Ranch- a figure of a pilot (I believe the character in the book did end up doing some flying or some such business). So I ended up liking Frank, until I grew up to know better.

Frank, it turns out, had done just enough drugs to fry his brain. He started climbing trees, paranoid to the point of “nuts,” muttering about people watching him and evil plots. So, he came and went as well. (I strongly suspect he was growing weed somewhere on the property, but never really heard definitively either way).

Then I hit college and never really got back to the Ranch excepting two very brief trips in which I didn’t really talk to the caretakers much. There was an older couple- the guy had a ponytail and the woman didn’t shave her armpits, that I remember. Their names escape me. They seemed fine and although I heard rumors of them being lazy- I wasn’t around much, so who knows.

So, when I returned for my extended “sabbatical,” I knew we would have some new caretakers around, but I felt like perhaps I should keep my head down and keep my distance.

I’m glad I didn’t.

Jim was a veteran of Desert Storm, a man’s man and a general badass at large. He lived with Jenny, his intelligent and engaging wife and his two cute as a button daughters. While we didn’t see them every day, when we did it was usually memorable.

One day Jim told us that he liked to go out on his ATV, at night, in full camo with night vision binoculars and look for pot growers. Another time he came over and asked us if we’d like to shoot a .50 caliber sniper rifle that a friend of his had brought over for the day. Allow me to state for the record that after shooting a .50 caliber sniper rifle, your penis does indeed get larger. The mother fucking slug went through a tree stump like it was butter. Jim later told me it’s effective range was five miles.

Jim didn’t drink, although Jenny did. I never asked him why, but it was clear he gave up the stuff a long time ago and I got the impression, that maybe at one point he had a been a bit more like us than he liked to let on. Early on in our trip he came over in boots and pointed at the lawn in front of the house.

“You guys think you can kill a gopher?”

And of course, wanting to impress the resident “man” of the ranch we immediately volunteered.

“Hell yeah- we have any gopher traps in the shed?”

Jim smiled at this.

“You’ve got guns don’t ya?”

We did. We had a shitload of them.

“Well, go into town, grab some beers, get those lawn chairs and when that little shit pokes his head out, pull the trigger.”

This may have been a joke on his end. But goddamn if we didn’t do exactly what he said. Jenny later told me they had a big laugh counting the days we sat outside on gopher patrol, completely unsuccessful. It got to the point that we were so embarrassed we actually decided to pull a Caddyshack and flood the fucker out.

And of course there was the absolute debacle of a night when the septic tank overflowed, hours before my aunt’s 50th birthday blow out party. (I’ll be writing about this later). I’m pretty proud to say I was knee deep in shit with a man like Jim.

Coming from L.A. I had a very shallow notion of “happiness.” You get a job to get the money, you get the money to buy some shit to make you happy, some girl comes along, she makes you happy and you continue working to acquire more and more shit to keep the girl. Shallow, but you try living in L.A. for five years- it fucks with your head.

One day I looked out the window of the ranch and saw Jim on his ATV with a rope attached to a mat running behind him. He was laughing and pointed to the mat. His two little daughters ran onto mat and grabbed on as he pulled the girls across the grass on his ATV. Jenny sat arms crossed laughing at the girls holding on for dear life on their little mat.

This scene, the family taking the time to just enjoy each other and the simple life. It makes you think long and hard about what’s “important” and what is just plain bullshit.

Jim knocked it out of the park. What a life. I’m better for having met him.