by Travis Mateer
With no clear plan on how to proceed with the impending City Council meeting later in the day, I sat in my car wondering what to do. Maybe I should call the Lemhi County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), I thought, because if there’s a chance of someone knowing Glen “Harley” Stephens, the Sheriff’s Office would be a good place to start.
During my days working at the shelter, when Harley was on the streets, I recalled him mentioning Salmon, Idaho, and work he had done cutting timber. Did he still have family there? When I called the LCSO, the woman who answered wasn’t familiar with the name, but took a look anyway and, sure enough, found an old report from 2003. There was the name of a woman on the report as well, and she worked in Salmon at a grocery store, I was told, so I decided to take a day trip South on Highway 93.
It was an uneventful drive, unless you consider catching a glimpse of the famous Yellowstone ranch from the show an EVENT. My first few stops in town were obviously grocery stores. The last one is where I surmised the woman worked, based on the response of the customer service person, so I left my contact information. If that had been all it would have made the trip worth it. But then I stopped in the Lantern
I almost left town before doing the most obvious thing if you’re looking for family of a chronic alcoholic who died on the sidewalk in Missoula, Montana, and that’s check a local watering hole for stories, so I did and found out a few things about “Buddy”.
Since the bartender’s family went three generations back, he knew Harley’s father, who was also named Glen, so that’s who he thought I was talking about at first. After realizing that Harley–known to the bartender as “Buddy”–was the elder Glen’s son, it made more sense to him, since “Buddy” was known to be homeless on the streets of Missoula.
Harley’s dad had a nickname, which was “Heavy”, and he was known as a tough son-of-a-bitch. Before becoming homeless, Buddy was known to be a hard worker. I confirmed that was something Harley told me, but the car accident in East Missoula was the catalyst for Harley making the streets his new home, because he couldn’t work anymore.
Even though Buddy was a hard worker, he had mean streak, and almost killed a man named Lance when he stabbed him 4-5 times. The bartender also had a tussle or two with Buddy kicking him out of the bar. Sounds about right.
Speaking of BARS, these METAL ones I took a picture of outside The Badlander are a part of Harley’s street notoriety after he tore similar metal bars out of the brick and concrete with his bear hands:
It was this incident that made former Municipal Judge, Kathleen Jenks, desperate enough to have me in her office in order to provide what insight I could on how to address Harley’s extremely unmanageable street presence on the streets. If my memory serves me correctly, Harley had around 85 open cases in just her court alone.
Did I, or DO I, have any magical solutions for someone like Harley? No, but I’m in the process of ensuring his hard life on the streets might inform SOMETHING productive going forward, and this step of finding scraps of his past life is important because I get the feeling there’s ALSO a credibility crisis happening when it comes to our elected leaders, their operators within the Homeless Industrial Complex, and the general public being shamed and coerced into throwing more money at the problem.
The woman who I traveled to Salmon to find called me back on Tuesday, and WHY her name popped up in an old report from 2003 is now puzzling both of us, especially since she (let’s call her Ruby) was only 2 years old at the time. Ruby was familiar with the name “Buddy”, but since she was so young at the time, there wasn’t much else she could add. I did get her assurance she would ask around, since she knows a lot of the old timers in town, and for that I am very appreciative.
Finding next of kin is important for a number of reasons. For me, there’s a chance at some closure, and for the community, there’s a chance to take an unknown and scary reality, which they are being told to just accept as their NEW NORMAL (can’t remember which City Council member said this), and make it a little less unknown and scary by showing the monetary cost of this one man’s impact, and identifying WHY he was so impossible to contain in the first place.
Thanks for reading!