Three Feathers

I peer under the hood of the PTV, looking around for any signs of packrats. 

Before long Rusty comes over holding a jar of black coffee in his hand.  “Are ya’ havin’ trouble?” he asks.

“No, I’m just looking.”  We’re both happy to be outside in the sunshine under an intensely blue sky.

Bridget and Spike are wandering around us, investigating clumps of grass, an activity they’ve missed while holed up inside the BLT during the snowstorm.  Already I can see the top layer of soil has dried out and it’s only about ten-thirty in the morning.

Rusty’s a tall drink of water, about six-foot-three.

He tells me he weighs 153 pounds, and I believe him.  I ask Rusty some questions about his life and he’s happy to tell me stories of his mountain man years.  Back then, his name was Three Feathers and he walked around the western states, about 2,500-2,800 miles a year.  “I’d still be doin’ it if the doctor didn’t tell me it was gonna’ kill me.”

Rusty’s years as Three Feathers are vivid in his mind.

“I use to travel with Canary Kate,” he tells me.  “At that time I was teaching people how to survive in the woods, Indian stuff and all.  I said to Kate, ‘I can’t be teachin’ Boy Scouts and you and me not married.’  So we got married.”

As Three Feathers he painted signs for rodeos, carved jewelry and made art out of wood and ivory, and gave seminars on how to be a mountain man.

“I had long hair and wore buckskin and moccasins.  Kate did, too.  I had a long gun I carried over my shoulder and wore a pistol and a tomahawk hanging from my belt.  Do you know why I had long hair?”  I had no answer for him.  “So I could light fires.”

Rusty kneels on the ground and shows me the process of making fire with a flint, dry grass, sticks, and a few strands of hair, just like the Indians did.  On and on he talks, covering several subjects, including how to pretend to be a deer so you can lure it toward you for a good shot.  He describes how he used to go to mountain men gatherings where he would pitch the tent he made with a hundred or so like-minded people.

“It sounds like you had a good life with Canary Kate,” I observe.

“Oh, we had a pretty good life until too much whiskey and differences of opinion got us bickering.”  He pauses. “I don’t drink anymore and I believe in God.”

“Well, that’s a good thing, Rusty.”

“I still miss her.”

After a pause I change the subject. 

“What were the names of your donkeys?”

“Baby Belle and Trooper,” he says, smiling again.  “Come on over and I’ll show you their pictures.”

We walk over to his camp.  Timber runs out the full length of his tether.

Rusty tells me that Timber is a mix of malamute, german shepherd, and shih tzu.  Spike and Bridget hurry up to meet him.  Bridget snarls when Timber tries to sniff her, and Spike hops around, yipping with excitement.

I ask Rusty if I can take some pictures.

Rusty shows me photos of himself as Three Feathers, along with his two donkeys. 

He continues to talk, telling me how he lives now.  I’m astounded by the little bit he eats each day on a diet of mostly canned fruit, ramen noodles, and beans.

He spends his time reading the Bible and listening to Christian radio. He leads a very spartan life, to say the least.

I don’t hear one complaint.

It’s well past noon before the crew and I head back to our camp.

I’m glad for the chance to shake out the rugs, sweep out the dirt, and clean the mud off the floor.  I fix myself a chicken wrap sandwich.  I can’t help but think about Rusty and his limited diet, as I sit looking out the back window at the fields, eating my lunch. The only snow is on the mountains.

I wonder if I should pick him up some groceries.  He doesn’t have refrigeration. I’ll have to come up with a way to give it to him without hurting his feelings. What a remarkable person he is!


P.S.  If you’d like to read more about Three Feathers, click on this link:

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30 Responses to Three Feathers

  1. geogypsy2u says:

    Seems that Rusty has chosen a simple life that he’s happy with. Why not invite him over for an early outside dinner?

    • Elizabeth in NC says:

      You are right to be careful!! He sounds like he is a very interesting person…probably still could find those willing to pay to learn from him actually…

  2. Chuck says:

    “Had a two for one special at store, you got room ’cause I don’t”

  3. davedoc says:

    You didn’t explain when he lost a feather and went from three feathers to two feathers?

  4. Pat says:

    Wow, impressive. I have to admit I was very skeptical of Rusty, maybe that is the ‘city girl’ in me. Enjoyed the story and pictures. Comments good too. I look for your posting everyday….can’t travel now, but maybe one day…Thanks Sue….

  5. julieinoregon says:

    That was great that he taught you how to make a fire. You never know when that might come in handy!

  6. Ed Smith says:

    You’re the best.

  7. cathieok says:

    Maybe some canned meat, chicken, or tuna. Maybe you bought too much on ”sale” and are tired of it!

  8. RVingFT says:

    You are such an inspiration … am really enjoying your posts ….and I suggested another solo female wannabe check out your blog.

  9. Shar Pei Mom says:

    Bless yer heart Sue!!!

  10. Sherry says:

    Very interesting life he’s led and is living. Spartan is a good word for it. Sounds like he was very happy to have someone to tell his stories too. One of those win/win situations I love so much. He got to tell the stories, you got to hear them and now so did we. Thanks!

    I knew that snow would just disappear but I was a little surprised to see not a trace after your last post.

  11. Wow, amazing morning Sue and what an amazing man. I believe he came thru Truckee quite a few years back with a donkey. There was a man who passed thru here and he was walking He had a donkey and a dog. Could of been him if he walked for so many years. They had a little thing in the paper about him but it was a ways back so I dont remember a lot about it. What a cool guy.

  12. Llanos says:

    I have found most people are pretty decent if you treat them right. Good for you rvsue.

  13. Karen Blaine says:

    Everyone has a story to tell. Not everyone listens. I’m so glad you had an opportunity to hear his. What a unique life he has lead. You inspire me so. When I grow up…..If I grow up….. I want to find the courage to live my own dream…..take care and keep on writing, it’s the highlight of my day. Karen

  14. Ron says:

    There are several articles on Three Feathers on the net , interesting reading .

  15. Billy Bob says:

    Your story of Rusty may clear up my own experience with a “burro” man and a dog. Just south of Van Horn, Texas on US 90 I pulled up at a roadside camp. There was a man, his dog and a burro. I’ve often wondered, who was this man? What kind of a life does he live? Why?
    Wish I could have visited with him to answer my questions. But where do you park a 36 foot motorhome on a narrow highway? Now I wonder if this could be the same person.
    Good on the snow melt.

  16. Ron says:

    They call him by name and talk about his Burros and even there names.Type in Three feathers mountain man and it will come up.

    • Wow! What a great Article! Thanks Ron for sharing this. Sue, you are so lucky to have met this wonderful person. Leaving him some food is a wonderful thing to do. His dog is beautiful! Looks like its very healthy. My step brother Kevin is half Indian. He goes by the name of “Raven”. His second wife is full blooded Indian and her name is “Little Bear”.
      They are both great people, live in New Hampshire at the moment. The pictures are wonderful! Glad the weather is good now. Been thinking of you. I pray for the poor people with the tornado’s in the mid-west. God bless them, and prayers are for their safety. You made my night. Always look forward to your great adventure and your pictures. Thank you so much for taking the time. Sharon

      • Emily says:

        We fared pretty good in western KS, though had a few tight moments as to “do we prepare or not”. Two Casita friends I know did okay, haven’t heard about the other 2 yet but in watching the storms progress, I think they were missed too. There are some Casita owners in the Wichita area and hope they are okay. They are saying 97 tornados in the State Saturday. We ain’t out of the woods yet. Thanks for thinking of us.

        • Geri says:

          I think this is the time of year I’d be hooking up the Casita and heading West… outta Kansas! Good news that you and your family are safe Em!

  17. Kcgaz says:

    Listening to him is probably the best thing that you could do!

    • Geri says:

      I agree Kcgaz, it has probably been while since Rusty has had company to talk to. He is a very interesting person, one of the invisible people that seem to exsist on the outer rim of our awareness. Sue has enriched all of us by letting us meet Rusty and hearing his story via her blog! Thanks Sue!

  18. Al from The Bayfield Bunch says:

    There are still so many characters out there in the south-west & it’s one of the great things that make the south-west so unique & appealing. I always have respect for anyone who can step away from the so called normal society routine & have the courage to just honestly be themselves.

  19. Judy in OH says:

    You might tell Rusty your food gift was in gratitude / exchange for hearing his wonderful stories? How enriched we all are because you were brave enough to meet “Camo Man” and hear his story. Thank You!

    Not sure if you remember me, Bill and I met you briefly at Quartzsite Dome Mtn.RTR in Jan. Happy to report we now own a 21 ft Ultra Light travel trailer to tow behind our Chevy Express…our house and excess posessions sell at auction May 19. We’ll be headed for the south west eventually.
    I’m thankful for the trail you and the crew have blazed thru AZ…your first hand knowledge of campsites & pics will be priceless info for us!

  20. Susie says:

    Hi Sue. Great story about Rusty. Thank you for going out of your way to meet him. Most of us wouldn’t have and then wouldn’t know his fascinating story. I hope you have more about him coming our way.

    Thanks to you, I prepared, hooked up (weight distribution hitch and all), and drove our 17′ SD Casita to Monte Sano SP in Huntsville, AL. I was scared to death, but afterwards felt empowered. Here hee! Nothin’ can stop me now! Susie

  21. ct says:

    Hi Sue & the Crew!
    Just found your blog & I’m enjoying reading about your adventures. I’m a FT RVer, although not traveling at the moment. I’m much more of an animal person than a people person too. Fortunately, I’m a pet sitter so I get to spend every day with wonderful animals.
    I admire you for being out on the road on your own & I can’t wait to read more about your travels!

  22. The Desert Scruff says:

    Yes, an interesting story on Rusty. Regarding his dog, it looks more like an Akita in the mix rather than a shih tzu, which is a small dog.

    The Desert Scruff

  23. Guido A. says:

    Fascinating character and amazing what you discover when you travel like you do! I love variety in life and his story goes to show you can still live life how you want to without interference from anyone, God bless him!

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