Freedom Blog

Friday, December 25, 2015

True Freedom: My Friend Willie Wrote The Book.

Steven Griggs    |   Free Spirit

True Freedom: My Friend Willie Wrote The Book.

Written by Steven Griggs |

“We don’t know what comes after death, we can hope and believe that there will be something, but it doesn’t really matter. Whatever our beliefs, it really has nothing to do with death or the afterlife,  it is simply a way  to help us make it through life” Steven Griggs

“The death of a friend sometimes seems to make them more present in your life than they were when they were alive.” Steven Griggs

On November 30th,Willie, my best friend from the age of 9 passed on. He was ill for the last 4 years but basically incapacitated and on hospice for the last 2 months. I spent a lot of time with him and I was with him when he drew his last breath. 

He had many other friends, although they came less and less, but I was his oldest friend and besides we were blood brothers from the beginning. One for all, all for one.

We were outliers. We could relate to any group in school but we didn't really "belong" to any group. 

We were, deep down, wild....... and we carried knives. 

We didn't play Indian, we WERE Indians and we still are. 

We had Indian names (he was Okta and I was Tanyo) and special words that we could use to communicate with each other that no one else understood. We camped out as much as possible. We had a Tipi (I still have one today that can sleep 10 people).We were Boy Scouts (Eagle Scouts) and would do our Indian dances for schools and hospitals.

We were definitely weird. 

I went on to pursue my goal of becoming a millionaire by the age of 30. He went on to become a Hell's Angel. And he really played the part!

We went to our 10 year class reunion on his extended fork chopper. I wore a suit and drove, he wore his leathers. It seemed normal to us......

Willie lived a wild life but he was the most free and real person I have ever known. He didn't do anything he didn't want to do.

And I mean not a thing!


He had no fear and didn't give a hoot about laws, rules, or convention. 

He never married although he had plenty of women. He was not the marrying kind, if they got too close or wanted a commitment, he moved on. He lived the life of a gold miner in the summers, camped on the banks of the Yuba River, among others, and he was a bartender during the winters. In between he was a biker doing bikerly things……

At the end, his apartment looked like a museum. His walls were covered with 100's of knives and hatchets, hanging on nails or in frames. He had Indian artifacts, ropes, bead work, cowboy hats (with the most perfect cowboy creasing). It was mind boggling. I counted two hundred knives on one wall.

He had scrapbooks documenting his entire life. He had pictures of us in our Tipi at the age of 10. Who took those pictures? I don't remember there ever being a camera, who even had a camera at that age...... but there we were doing the Eagle dance!

Willie was a throw- back. He looked like an old sour dough prospector at the age of ten. And he never really changed, except that his hair was eventually down to his waist and so was his beard! 

He had created a life he was comfortable in. He had no aspirations to be wealthy although he did strike it big one summer when he and his partners collected $350,000.00 in gold! That went fast and over the next 30 years he never made more than enough to cover his costs for food and fuel. His overhead was always low (key to living a no stress life).

He had three Harleys at one point but sold them to help his mother bail her house out of foreclosure. He hadn't owned a car in many, many years.

It is not easy to live that free and probably only 1 out of 10,000 people could live his kind of life, maybe a lot less..... 

He never had a mortgage or a car (bike) loan. He didn't have credit cards. Never owned a house or any property. He never had a wife or kids. No real bills, just for utilities and food. He had no insurance plan or retirement. I don’t know if he even filed tax returns. He did what he wanted and found enough money to keep everything going.

He kept being himself.

Can you imagine?  Could you do it?

When I look back at the chaos and stress I’ve gone through in my life in my quest for wealth (I used to think money equaled freedom)…... The ups and downs of my career, the financial challenges, the many homes and cars, toys and “stuff” I’ve owned,  the relationships and marriages……


It has been an interesting ride.

Today I have a great wife and 5 kids and 4 grandchildren. I can't imagine not having my kids and, now, the joy of my grandchildren. 

I know my lessons caused some damage and probably aged me in a lot of ways but it was those twists and turns along my path that brought me to who I am today and helped me see the truth about money, freedom  and the system we live in.

At 4:30 in the morning on December 2, I awoke with a sentence that kept revolving in my mind. It was about Willie floating down a river. I knew I could never remember it so I got up. I couldn’t find a pen so I went into another room and wrote it on my phone.

I didn’t think it up or imagine it, it just came out in a stream and I wrote it down as fast as I could.

 Here it is:

I lie, 
still and quiet,
here but not, the pain is now more outside than within
and I know death is closer rather than further. 
I float,
on a slow moving river, gently but surely 
and I ride. 
My vision seems shorter unless I swim to the surface and stare out.
I remember the faces but only in a swirl of memories, 
Here, then not,
into the swirl of thoughts that mingles with feelings. 
I feel the pull of the river, 
deep and persistent. 
Each time I hear a voice, it's further and further from my shore
until the call from inside is the only thing I hear
and I float.
Ever deeper, 
until I am no longer separate from myself 
and the sun warms me
and everything that was or is becomes a gentle blanket that shrouds me. 
And I drift no more.

William H. Danielson, December 7, 1949 – November 30, 2015