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Looking for John, the guy who saved me when I broke my leg riding trains

I'll start with the only details I know. He's gotta be around 38-45 years old. Caucasian, I'm gonna guess around 5'10 170 lbs or so. He's a dirty hat, flannel with cutoff sleeves lookin kind of dude. Last known location, Dunsmuir California on July 20th. Said he had a camp for quite some time near Mount Shasta. He told me he was heading to Roseville, those were his plans before I screamed "HELP! I broke my leg!" from the right of way as he was just settling in and getting comfortable on the rear porch of a grainer.

So let's rewind. I'm a former locomotive engineer for Union Pacific railroad. Matt Derrick can attest to that, I even snuck that fucker into the Roseville yard office having him wear my overalls when I still worked there.. we're muthafuckin jedi. So anyway.. I'm getting off track here. So back in like 2005 or so, I meet six travelers(The Dead Man Street Orchestra). They befriend me, and invite me to hop a train with them.

Never one to pass up an adventure, I agree to ride with the hobos. This is basically a genesis, I end up some time later hopping out to Chicago with J.A. and then I head down to New Orleans and meet up with Barnabus and Alynda, two of the friends I made that took me with them on that initial adventure. I get all turnt out on New Orleans, start drinking a lot and at some point I'm like yeah whatever.. you can take that job and shove it, I never return to railroading.

So now let's fast forward. Years of traveling, grew some herb, traveled some more and we've now reached July 17th 2015. They're throwing a little soiree there near Weed, Ca. Got a friend that has a place there with cabooses, boxcars n shit.. some of you know the joint. Anyway, so Tuba Skinny is playing. It just so happens, Barnabus, Shaye & Todd are in that band and those three are of the six original travelers that befriended me that I then rode with/lived with etc.

So I know I gotta make it to this event. It's a chance to see my friends place again and all that he's done with it since the last time and also get to catch up with other friends and watch them play. It's an amazing time, over the course of three days we get lots of time to catch up. One of the coolest things I experienced during that three days was getting to watch a double header at the California Theater in Dunsmuir.

My buddy had worked it out with the guy that runs the place, and so he was able to put on the hobo documentary "Long Gone" and then followed that up with an incredibly cheesy hobo themed flick called Rail Kings. The theater was built in the 20's, it's just amazing inside that place. There were basically around 30 crusties, maybe a dozen of us not so crusty riders and then these random two really old women, Dunsmuir residents that were just passing by and didn't seem to mind the scene at all, they just joined right in with us it was really cool.

We return to Weed that night, and the next day I decide to hitchhike to Dunsmuir to head back home to Fresno. So I run into some people there that were also at the festival and that's sort of an entirely different super long story of it's own so I'll save that one for later and perhaps write it in the appropriate forum for storytelling, for now I'll try to get back to my missing connection.

So on the morning of July 20th I'm waiting on a southbound. I'm standing around under the I-5 bridge, I'm waiting for hours and hours. Getting bored I decide to head south a couple hundred yards to a trail I remember seeing that kind of let down to the water, it looks like a nice place to take a nap. As I'm making my way down the steep trail, I slip on loose gravel.

My right foot rolls over and my ankle completely dislocates. As I'm falling down directly over my own ankle, picture my body like that of a skyscraper during a controlled demolition. I have an incredibly heavy pack on and I'm a big boy as it is. So in this collapse of torso and limbs, my leg also breaks.. you know just for safe measure. It's the most painful shit I've ever felt.

I immediately began going into shock so I grabbed some of the panels I use to make my hitchhiking signs with and I wrote "HELP" on them with a sharpie. I figured if I passed out and someone walked by they'd know I was in distress and not just napping or drunk. I managed to keep my shit together and decided to bust the panels in half and then wrap cord around them, I'd use them for a splint for my ankle.

All splinted up, the pain eased off a bit and I began fight or flight mode. I dragged myself backwards towards the tracks but it was excruciating each and every inch I budged. It took me four complete hours just to get myself back up that trail of hot sun baked stones and dirt. I balled up grass into my palms and used that as padding to counter the heat of the rocks.

Once I reached the tracks, I felt a little better. At least here, I knew I could be seen from all the way down the tracks beyond the bridge even. I continued to scream at the top of my lungs "HELP!" but nobody came. FInally I see it, it's a locomotive coming South around a bend way up ahead directly towards me. I begin flailing my arms dramatically. I've positioned myself in the shade of a small tree and I later decided that was a mistake.

So I'm not sure if the engineer and conductor were just too busy gathering their things, packing up their grips(bags) and things of this nature, as they had a crew change they'd be making within about a mile or so. I've been in their shoes, I've probably been just as distracted in that last approaching mile of the trip. So whatever the reason was, they simply never even looked out the window at me or slid one open to acknowledge I was there, nothing.

I began feeling desperate, what would happen when night fell? Do mountain lion creep through this canyon? Am I not just one very easy to catch meal? I wasn't sure I'd ever get out of there alive, I thought surely I'd see fishermen or somebody by now. So the train stops, and I'm just looking at the side of it. Can I drag myself up to a ladder? What's that going to do? I can't, it's a terrible Idea I just have to let this one go and hope for another.

So I sit, looking at the very train I should have been hopping and would have been hopping had I not been so careless with my footing. I hear two short horn blasts and it's starting to move again, they've done the crew change. As I'm sitting there I'm looking towards the end of the train, I'm actually thinking at this point okay fuck maybe I can spot a rider and yell at them and they'll have a phone or something.

As unlikely as this all is, sure as shit almost at the very end of the train I see an elbow protruding from the side of the rear porch of a grain car. This is my wildcard, this is my only hope. Once the grainer is in front of me I scream out "HELP, I broke my leg!" and I see him. He looks over at me as the train is rolling about 8 miles an hour. He laughs and just sort of leans his head back against the body of the grainer.

I'm completely crushed, I cannot believe how unfortunate I am this morning. He really just laughed at me, what the fuck. So I hang my head, I'm defeated. At least until the next train, and that one will probably ignore me too. Then I hear him yell back at me "Are you serious!?!??" I've never hesitated less in my life "Yes, I'm serious!!" I yell back instantly. I see his pack flung from the side of the train just as it's rounding a bend out of sight. At first he thought I was just some drunken oogle playing some kind of prank I guess.

I fall back in tears, hoping he doesn't hurt himself while hopping off. He gathers his bags and approaches. My voice is all broken up, I'm still crying and I'm not even thinking straight I just introduce myself by name.. apparently I felt like that was the first thing I needed to convey to him in this time of distress. "I'm Jason, and I've broken my leg. Thank you so much for doing what you just did" He stops me mid sentence and says "I know, man.. I met you last night on the bridge I'm John, remember?

I did remember, I had passed him on the I-5 bridge on my way to Chevron and he invited me to his camp but I decided to avoid that and sleep on J.A.'s lawn across town instead that night. Instantly I felt like I wanted him to know how much I appreciated what he had done for me so I gave him all the money I had in my wallet. He was reluctant to take it.

I also gave him my knife, which was just a knock-off ka-bar but the sheath was something I hand stitched from an old pair of ripstop pants I really liked and it turned out pretty cool.(I only mention that detail because maybe you've seen a dude named John with a rather unique looking sheath and that's the very thing that triggers the memory)

So he hikes out of the canyon and calls an ambulance for me. They take me to Mercy Shasta hospital, and as I'm sitting there waiting to go into surgery they ask me if I feel like company. I'm not even sure what to think, all of my family is at least 400 miles away and J.A. is out of town. So I'm like well yeah I guess, who is it? John walks in, carrying my sleeping bag and all the other things I left on the side of the tracks I felt were unimportant the moment I was leaving with the paramedics in the stokes litter(rescue basket).

He hitchhiked from Dunsmuir to Mount Shasta city just to bring me my shit and sit by my side like a brother would. I want to do more to let that guy know how much I appreciate his act of kindness, so I need to find him. My leg is almost fully recovered, and once it is I'm heading out on the trains again. I'm going to Roseville first, since that's the last place he told me he was heading.

If he's not there, I'm returning to Mount Shasta, since that's the last place I saw him on July 20th. When I woke up after surgery he was gone, and he never returned. I have no idea what came of John, but I want to find him. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thank you for taking the time to read my convoluted story. This is how I always write, I apologize I just can't seem to summarize for shit.

 

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Tude

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That is one hell of an adventure!! I sure hope you run into him or have someone on here who knows of him! Glad you made it!
 

Matt Derrick

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holy shit dude that's fucking gnarly. i twisted my foot in a train yard so bad once it was all black and blue, but nothing close to what you got there. that's fucking cool as shit that john helped you out like that. I'm going to try and blast this across facebook and see if anyone knows anything.

on a side note, you're fucking great at telling stories man, you should do some more!
 
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Eng JR Lupo RV323

Eng JR Lupo RV323

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Thank you, ladies.

@PennyRiver Such kind words, I must have left a half dozen errors I just now cleaned up. Thank you though, I definitely enjoy writing(especially on this site, it's been a while).

@Tude "hope someone on here who knows of him" Me too, it's worth a shot. I wish I had more details to share, I think this will come down to someone who ran into him in the area at the same time more likely than someone that actually identifies him through what little I've described.

It's rather unusual how this entire thing came together. I was writing a story on reddit about how I once slept through a home invasion and as things happen sometimes on reddit I end up having a run-in with a rider that I had met the night before this took place in Dunsmuir. I told her of my broken leg and all that occurred once we parted ways and she suggested I try to find John here using missed connections. Props, @fawn
 
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Eng JR Lupo RV323

Eng JR Lupo RV323

Jerk bouncer with an attitude
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@Matt Derrick Thank you, brother. As you know I only write non-fiction, so I have to first live what I'll later write about. I definitely have more to write from memory though, this won't be my last activity logged that's for sure. I appreciate you sharing this around. I'll see if I can find ya on FB and add ya, I know I got you on myspace but who uses that anymore.
 

Coywolf

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Dude, thats fucking epic, what a great person. I hope you find him. I am in Bend so If he heads up north i'll let you know.
 

Odin

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That was an excellent account of a difficult situation for you man.
Very well written and the example that this traveler John has put forth is something that uplifts the whole traveler community. He did the right thing (and with some risk to himself I imagine... jumping off on the fly like that) and that is awesome.
Stand up fellow there and I would be proud to bring some good beer to such a riders campfire.
Hope you cross paths with him again.
 

Koala

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Whoa that's intense! I enjoyed reading. January 2014 I got a real real similar injury, I've got hardware that looks just like yours as well! I was really glad to have my phone with me. But yea just the lovely crushing weight of your own body snapping your own bone, that's what happened to me ahah. Hope the ankle doesn't give you too much grief now.
 

Shaka

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Crazy story bro. Hope all is well. When i start my new chapter in life, I'll keep a eye out for him.
 
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Eng JR Lupo RV323

Eng JR Lupo RV323

Jerk bouncer with an attitude
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Just a little bump here, still haven't found John. I did revisit the exact location in Dunsmuir where I broke my leg though. It's the trail that leads down to the small jungle near the I5 bridge SBD catchout. I lost my footing at the very bottom of the trail nearly down there by that log you gotta step over. Figured while I was bumping this I'd toss a pic up and throw out a reminder to always pay attention to your footing while hiking down shit like this with a pack on.
broken-bones-jpg.50776
 

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