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A Ramblin’ Man: Steven Bogert update

Steven B and Russian friend
This fellow gave Steve Bogert a ride to Utah. After a long discussion, Steven figures he’s lucky to have been born in the U.S.A.

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

My phone range with a familiar number as I drove home at about a quarter past five in the afternoon.

“What’s going on,” I asked?

“Pretty good out here.” said the caller. “I found everything I was looking for.”

Then the line went dead and I was left to wonder what would prompt a person, any person, to make such a statement.

It certainly sounded hopeful, even though the caller, Steven Bogert, didn’t sound particularly happy when he said it. Though we remain in contact, I continue to find Steven to be enigmatic in the extreme.

I picked up Steven Bogert one day last year as he was hitchhiking into town. I found that he was living in a tent near the Pulaski’s exit on the Interstate and stopped in to visit his campsite on a couple of occasions.

I found out that Steven Bogert was a Navy Veteran who had once received disability checks from that branch of the military but had long since lost contact with the Navy and the Veterans Administration.

A snowy day last December resulted in a heath crisis for Steven, as a heart attack left him barely clinging to life at his campsite. He was transported to the local hospital and then treated for a variety of circulatory ailments. By then, I had written a couple of articles about Steven and had contacted the VA about his situation.

After Steven’s hospitalization, the VA kicked into high gear. It turns out, both the Navy and the VA thought Steven was dead and so his benefits had ceased. The VA arranged that Steven’s disability payments continue as before with an additional lump sum payment to make up for the years he had not collected this money.

After the hospital, the VA provided Steven temporary housing at the Budget Inn and later a room in a housing unit in the City of Salem.

After refusing to live in what Steven described as a “ghetto apartment” that the VA offered to provide him, Steven hitchhiked out of Salem without a clear idea of where he was headed.

Steven had made many acquaintances in his time in Pulaski and many people, especially readers of The Southwest Times, were following his story. During his time living in Pulaski County, several individuals and groups including the Girl Scouts, had provided him with assistance in various forms.

After reading the article, people donated camping gear, food, flashlights, books, money, motel room stays and even a cell phone to Steven Bogert. His story garnered much sympathy from people throughout the NRV.

Almost miraculously, a husband and wife who had been especially helpful and kind to Steven, found a small house in Draper where he could live. A day or two later, Steven moved in.

This was a fantastic turn of events. Only a few months back Steven was flat broke and in very poor health and living in a tent by the highway.

As I took his photo on the front porch of his new dwelling, I thought of how good he looked and how he might one day become a pillar of this community. He now had money coming in, he lived in a nifty and safe community and he had made a lot of friends during his stay.

I wrote about it in an article published in the June 13 edition of The Southwest Times. Steven said he was planning to start a garden and maybe even open up his own computer shop.

But just a day or two later, all that changed.

A very personable women, who I met through my acquaintance with Steven, called to tell me that Steven had suddenly left town.

Apparently Steven had argued with several individuals before parting on bad terms. He left behind nearly all the items he had been given or had collected over the past year.

Steven had nasty quarrel with our mutual acquaintance and her husband, which was weird because this couple had been very helpful to him in his time here. It was her, after all, who had found him a permanent place to stay.

I called Steven and asked him what was going on and he told me about how the gangs were pushing him out, as had happened to him before when he lived in a city.

I may have reminded him that street gangs may be an issue in the Southside of Chicago, but that he was living in Draper and I was pretty sure there were no gangs there.

Whatever I said exactly, our conversation didn’t last long. He wouldn’t tell me exactly where he was either. My erstwhile vagabond buddy had become suspicious of me, too, and ended the call after only a few moments.

That was in mid-June. By early July, Steven Bogert called to tell me he was in Alabama. He had hitchhiked through Virginia and Tennessee to get there and was heading west. Steven was still staying in a tent for the most part but would occasionally stay in motels when the mood struck him.

I didn’t bring up the fact that he left a seemingly perfect situation in Virginia for no reason. Why bother?

If he had regrets, he never expressed them to me. He seemed pleased to be on the move again.

What can you do? Steven Bogert seemed to have been born a Ramblin’ Man, an often incurable condition.

Over the following weeks, Steven Bogert would call me periodically as he made his along America’s highways.

He called from Texas, then Oklahoma, then Kansas and he seemed to having a pretty good time.

“Yeah, I told you I was gonna go out west,” he said to me.

He may have. We had quite a few conversations. He talked a lot about hunting for Bigfoot in Montana a few years back.

By late July, Steven was calling me from Gunnison, Colorado. It was warm enough to camp but numerous wild fires out west made for smokey/hazy skies.

By mid-August he called to say, “I’m in Utah!”

Apparently Steven had caught a ride with a Russian national who brought him to Salina, Utah.

“Be grateful for who you are because it’s rough over there in Russia,” Steven related. “It rained hard last night but they needed it to put out the fires. It’s clearer than before but still hazy. I traveled miles and miles through this empty barren land until I got here. It’s like an oasis. It’s a little chilly out, so I’m gonna hunker down in my motel room and just be lazy today.”

I asked about his health. He said his knees were feeling much better but had ceased taking his blood thinning medication when he found he was unable to stop a small cut from bleeding.

His new medicinal regime consists of aspirin, a toke of marijuana and a fruit smoothy.

Hey, if it works …

The last day of August, Steven called me from Mountain Home, Idaho. Amazingly it was still hazy, as a result of all those wildfires.

Steven said he was planning to buy a used car of some kind and that he was looking to buy a plot of land somewhere in the mountains.

Many of those who knew him, had hoped that Steven would stay around the area and be a part of this community, but that wasn’t to be. Whether he settles down in Idaho or anywhere else is unknown, probably even to Steven.

But though he maintains a vagabond lifestyle, Steven Bogert is surely better off than when we first met, primarily because the VA sends him money every month and he receives medical care … if and when he is inclined to pay the VA a visit.

Some have suggested that those who helped Steven along the way should be angry that he abruptly, perhaps even illogically, left his recently established abode in Draper.

But there’s no reason to feel upset. Those do-gooders who donated money, materials and time to Steven truly made his life better during his stay in this area. They may have even extended his life.

Steven Bogert still lives like a vagabond at present but he’s no longer broke and wanting for food or shelter.

Besides, things must be looking up. After all, he said he “found everything he was looking for.”

That could mean anything. Maybe he bought a plot of land in the Rockies along with an old CJ-7 Jeep to travel over those mountain roads.

Maybe he finally found Bigfoot.

I’ll have to wait for the next phone call to find out.

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