Frank said he still owned the remains of a downed sawmill, a cabin and some timberland in the foothills of Clackamas County. But he said his shoestring, gyppo days were over.
Now in his mid-fifties, Frank was one of an elite group of independent logging experts known as timber cruisers. The big lumber companies and logging outfits would hire these savvy, old pros to survey and evaluate stretches of uncut timberlands prior to buying or logging the land. Frank would “cruise” remote stands of timber, all alone, sometimes for weeks on end. Then he would come back with his notes and draft a written, mapped-out report on the timber resource—quality and quantity.
The companies respected his expertise and they paid him well for it, Frank Simmons remained a man who answered only to himself.
Jack Kerouac, chronicler of the beat generation, was a man of my time. We were both born early in 1922, early in the “Roaring Twenties.” We both raced through adolescence during the bittersweet 1930s.
When I first read Kerouac’s freewheeling book, On the Road, I was struck by the simplicity of his narrative structure: the story of two guys hitchhiking across the country in search of something they don’t really find, coming all the way hack hopeful of something else. Inevitably, it pulled
me back to my own summer of ’38, when I went on the road with Cy. Nims.
A tall, gangly, good-looking guy with intense gray-blue eyes and a Viking’s lust for adventure, Cyrus R. Nims was his name.
He was a year and a half older and a head taller than I. Already out of high school and looking for excitement in unfamiliar places, Cy hankered for a berth on a tramp steamer. Stringent maritime requirements postponed that dream. Then he began exploring with me the idea of spending the summer hitchhiking along the final leg of the historic Old Oregon Trail—in reverse. He wanted to back track through the spectacular Columbia River Gorge east from Portland all the way to the high country up around the Wallowa Wilderness Area.