Lew Barnes, 62, eases back into the wicker chair, sipping coffee in the frigid morning wind, and informs me matter-of-factly about how the new government will soon be leaving him to die.
Barnes, a surfboard maker and former businessman from Crescent Beach, is now in the fifteenth year of his bout with Leukemia. When he was first diagnosed back in 2002, doctors generously estimated that he had ten years to live; but thanks to four rounds of chemotherapy, he is still alive and well, talking to me here today beneath the oaks at Harry’s Café.
This, however, is by no means the end of his struggle with cancer. Surviving the disease has come at a costly price: paying for such expensive treatments meant losing $700,000 over ten years- nearly his entire net worth- draining both his bank account and his day-to-day energy.
You wake up in the morning to the sound of rats skittering above you.
Their little feet make quite the racket against the thin, plywood ceiling of the barn, and after five agonizing minutes of rolling over endlessly, trying to get in a last little bit of sleep, you realize you’re playing a hopeless game. Reluctantly, painfully, you get up and stagger out to the main living room.
Evidently, you realize as you look out the broad wall window that faces the lake, the rats came in for a reason. The world outside is enveloped in white. Snow spirals down silently in fat, frosty flakes, and when you press the palm of your hand against the windowpane, the glass is astonishingly frigid.
It’s gotten colder inside. The furnace probably hasn’t been replenished in four or five hours, and in the time the building has lost a substantial amount of heat; the temperature, you think, can’t be more than sixty degrees.
When you gaze up to the top of Chief Cliff, you can almost see, in your mind’s eye, the image of a Blackfoot Warrior gracing the horizon. Head held high, horse hooving the parched summer grass beneath him, he saunters about restlessly on the distant promontory of granite, surveying the shimmering lake and valley below. In the
bronze afternoon light, you can see the sweat glisten on the musculature of his body, and perhaps, the occasional glint of an arrowhead; in the smooth summer wind that sweeps up from the lake, the soft, painted mane of his stallion flows loose.
Suddenly, though, the daydream is over. A tractor-trailer loaded with pine-logs rushes past on Highway 93, abruptly jolting you back to the present day.
The landscape remains unchanged, but the distant man has vanished. It is 2017, and the tribe of the Blackfoot Warrior- the noble, fierce nomads that once dominated a vast swath of the continent- has been dead for over a century, castrated by modernity’s onslaught, a faint shadow of it’s storied past.