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Living in the great outdoors

Having chosen to live outdoors for the past 24 years, Tom&

227;s Lockwood eschews the term homeless. Instead, believing the earth is his home, he prefers describing himself as an outdoorsman. Tom&

227;s has lived, with freight rails often his transportation, all over the country. Ashland became home when he rode the rails here from Boise, Idaho in the fall of 2001.

DT: Please describe your early years, before choosing to be an outdoorsman?

Tom&

227;s: I was adopted in 1962 by a well-to-do English couple. They had degrees in engineering from Cal-Tech and were going into the work world but wanted a baby. My mother died from cirrhosis of the liver when I was five. My father didn't blame me for her death, he just said it was a side effect of me being a psychotic baby--I was born with a genetic disorder and was considered emotionally and mentally disturbed.

I lived in a suburban neighborhood of people who made $350,000-$400,000 a year. My father was making that, and always preoccupied with building his corporation. I don't hold that against him. Let's just say I had a lot of nannies and babysitters, and tasting alcohol at age seven I found a new world.

At age eight, I went into the Devereux private school system. It was a trip. So much homework I couldn't even have a social life. Or a mental life. They're pumping this stuff down our throats, every day, for years. That's the primary reason for going outdoors two years out of school.

DT: What happened between school and moving outdoors?

Tom&

227;s: I took a year off to relax and then (despite the fact he'd considered pursuing an interest in History) I took a position at a firm that my father suggested. He wanted to groom me to work in his corporation. I wore a tie, cut my hair.... After a while I said, "Dad, I can't do this, it's so boring." He got me another job. When I came home--my dad bought me a house--I'd look in the mirror and there was this invisible space (pointing to his face) and I'd stand there, shaving or brushing my teeth, and ask, "What am I doing? Where is the love and the joy that I want to feel? I'm empty. Hollow. " It's go to work, go home, go to work, go home, shit, shave, and all that stuff. And so I went outside. Gave the whole life up.

DT: And moving outdoors has given you...

Tom&

227;s: Moving outdoors gave me back my sense of balance, reason, understanding. Of smell, touch, feeling, sight.

DT: Have you ever needed assistance in this life that you've chosen?

Tom&

227;s: I've never asked for government assistance. There are times when a person may need to seek help, but I've always been able to support myself. I've always praised the Lord and prayed. When I'm hungry or thirsty, things always show up in my path as I'm walking. It's amazing.

I ride a nice bike, I have property in Big Sur (his father died in 1987, leaving him the property), and I sleep on cardboard (laughing at the irony). This is my life. I live very simply.

I was approached once with the idea of getting food stamps. I looked at it and said, "Not really interested." I was working at a trout fishery in Washington State, and eating trout every day. I had trout sushi, cooked trout, smoked trout, jerked trout. I grew my own potatoes, okra, and collard greens. It was a very pleasant existence.

DT: Why did you leave it?

Tom&

227;s: I was restless, wanted to see more of the country. I'm now in my mid 40's, slowing down a bit, and not as restless feeling. I'm enjoying life. I've built some good ties with people. They enjoy my character, what makes me tick.

DT: What other sorts of things have you done?

Tom&

227;s: To support myself? Roofing, painting, waiting tables, sculpture welding, woodworking, landscaping.... And all over Ashland, every day, I reach out to community. I try to assist, love, and care. I primarily help outdoor people. Because, we're out there as a life-form. We are in existence. And all we want is acceptance, decency, and respect. Like everyone wants.

DT: What are some of your observations regarding the outdoor population?

Tom&

227;s: As in mainstream society, there are distinctions in the sub-culture. There are people of evil and people of good. There's infighting and violence. There's a pecking order. It's a complex sub-culture though because of the fact that, whether they are doing good or bad, people are living outdoors. They could be transient, subversive, homeless, vagrant, or a tramp/outdoorsman like myself, but they all come together in unity eventually.

DT: Meaning?

Tom&

227;s: In mainstream society, you have all these scattered things going on. But people that are forced to live outdoors have a common bond. We love each other. We care. We are a collective and we help each other.

DT: Do you think that this common bond makes the sub-culture appealing to some?

Tom&

227;s: Hard to say. I've studied Gandhi's writings over the years, and looked at how he lived. I feel a bond with that. It's simplistic. I am one with my earth. When you're sleeping on what you walk on you get to know other things. Things you've never known.

DT: You currently have some health and ongoing depression issues, do you mind sharing more about that?

Tom&

227;s: About two years ago I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I also have Type II Diabetes from alcoholism. Besides that, I feel great. It doesn't affect my employment or my relationships with people. (Later, Tomas admits that his health is rapidly deteriorating and he knows that he is dying.) And the depression, I believe, comes from how I process other people's feelings and emotions. It's a psychic thing. I take on and absorb their stuff. I care.

DT: Despite your difficulties, has living the life of an outdoorsman brought you some of the joy you were seeking?

Tom&

227;s: Joy? It goes beyond joy.

is an Ashland based freelance writer. You can learn a little bit more about each person by checking out the online video interviews at . Questions, comments, or ideas for future profiles may be emailed to debi@mind.net.