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"About a guy I met in the nuthouse, a Mr.Siggs...Siggs was terribly paranoid in crowds, equally hung up in one-to-one situations, and seemed to enjoy no ease at all except by himself inside a book. And no one could have been more shocked than myself when he volunteered for the job as Ward Public Relations Director. "Masochism?" I asked him when I heard of his new position, "What do you mean?" He fidgeted, hedging away from my eyes, but I went on. "I mean this Public Relations job . . . why are you taking on this business of dealing with big groups of people when you're apparently so much more at ease alone?"
At this Mr. Siggs stopped fidgeting and looked at me; he had large, heavy-lidded eyes that could burn with sudden unblinking intensity. "Just before I came in here . . . I took a job, stock outrider, in a shack hid away outside Baker. A place a hundred miles from noplace. Nobody, nothing, far as I could see. Sweet, high country; beautiful . . . Not even a cedar tree. Took along complete set of Great Books. All the classics, ten dollars a month, book salesman took it out of my wages in Baker. Beautiful country. See a thousand miles any direction, like it was all mine. A million stars, a million sage blossoms-all mine. Yes, beautiful . . . Couldn't make it, though. Committed myself after a month and a half." His face softened and his blue stare dimmed again beneath his half-closed lids; he grinned at me; I could see him forcing himself to try to relax. "Oh, you're right. Yes, you are: I am a loner, a born one. And someday I will make it - that shack, I mean. Yes. I will, you'll see. But not like last time. Not to hide. No. Next time I try it it will be first because I choose to, then because it is where I am most comfortable. Only sensible plan: sure of it. But . . . a fellow has to get so he can deal with these Public Relations, before he can truly make it. Make it like that . . . alone . . . in some shack. A man has to know he had a choice before he can enjoy what he chose. I know now. That a human has to make it with other humans . . . before he can make it with himself."
I had a therapeutic addition to this: "And vice versa, Mr. Siggs: he has to make it with himself before branching out."
He agreed, reluctantly, but he still agreed. Because at that time we both considered this addition pretty psychologically profound...in spite of its chicken-or-egg overtones...
Recently, however, I found that there were even further additions. A few months ago I was sage-hen hunting in the Ochoco Mountains - high, spare lonely plains country and certainly as far from noplace as any place I know - and I ran into Mr. Siggs again, a healthier, younger-looking Mr. Siggs, tanned, bearded, and calm as a lizard on a sunny stone. After overcoming our mutual surprize, we recalled our conversation after his acceptance of the Public Relations job, and I asked how his plans worked out. Perfectly - after some successful therapy he'd been discharged with honors over a year ago, had his outriding job, his Great Books, his shack . . . loved it. But didn't he still occasionally wonder if he were really choosing his shack or still just hiding in it? Nope. Wasn't he lonely? Nope. Well, wasn't he bored, then with all this sunshine and adjustment? He shook his head. "After you get so you can make it with other people, and make it with yourself, there's still work to be done; you still have the main party to deal with . . ."
"The 'main party'?" I asked, right then starting to suspect that statement about his being discharged "with honors." "What do you mean, Mr. Siggs? The 'main party'? You mean deal with Nature? God?
"Yes, it could be," he remarked, rolling on his rock to warm his other side and closing his eyes against the sun. "Nature or God. Or it could be Time. Or Death. Or just the stars and the sage blossoms. Don't know yet . . . ." He yawned, then raised his little head and fixed me once more with that same intense look, a demented bright-blue look galvanized by some drive beneath his leathery face that sunshine - or therapy - could never adjust . . . "I am fifty-three," he said sharply. "Took fifty years, half a century, just to get to where I could deal with something my own size. Don't expect me to work this other thing out overnight. So long."
The eyes closed and he seemed to sleep; a skinny back-country Buddha, on a hot rock miles from noplace. I walked on, back toward camp, trying to decide if he was saner or crazier than when I last saw him."