Down at the River: Harry Bouchard

By H. Maria

Harry Bouchard is a well-read, well-spoken, educated man. He loves the outdoors. He is not very tall, maybe 5’7” with a mop of curly golden hair, blue eyes. The “tell” of his love of the outdoors, is his tanned face. Early mornings and late afternoons are when he is most often outside. He has to take care with the sun. Medicine he must take makes his love of the sun problematic. Harry is a poet; the day we met he made his farewell by reciting his “poem of the day”. He flashed a boyish smile after his recitation and said, “the poem is free to you, but only this one poem, should you want to hear more, I do charge.”

He cares for his brothers in the way the New Testament instructs us to do. His occupation is to research valuable resources for his community. He welcomes new arrivals by supplying them with whatever information and materials are needed to make their move as smooth as possible. Harry is an orderly man of laws and codes. He makes sure new arrivals understand what will be expected of them as citizens. His other community service is to gather garbage from his town and place it where it can be easily be pick up. He told me he has made an arrangement with the neighboring community for daily collection. He loves where he lives. He shares that sunrises and sunsets there fill him with joy. He loves his life.

He told me a little of his history and proudly claims direct-descent from French pirate, Hippolyte Bouchard. ADHD and an easy tendency to depression require he take medicine. He brought out two prescription bottles, from his pocket, and held them out. I’m familiar with these medicines as being the gold standard for his problems. He lowered his head to look at the medicines and wryly commented they don’t really work for him. Despite having education and training in a useful field he says he has great difficulty working for others. He is very happy he was able to create the job he has, and is proud he does it well. He calls what he does, Human Resources for his community. He was once married. That union failed because of his then untreated mental issues. A son was born of the marriage. As he spoke of the boy, his blue eyes gave away the fierce love he has for his child. Despite having to move often, he has been careful never to move too far away. He wants the boy to grow up knowing he has a father who loves him. An elderly mother lives close by in a partly assisted living arrangement. He visits her from time to time and enjoys her hospitality. He never stays more than a day as he feels that would be wrong. Her rent is subsidized because of age and infirmity.

He graciously gave me a tour of his home. On the grounds were stacks of neatly contained waste he had collected from his community. In a culvert at the back of his lot was another waste pile that preexisted his move to the area. He puts a little of that pile out every day, as well. He’s careful not to put out too much for collection at one time. The service is free and he doesn’t want to overwhelm. Our visit came to an end as I had a scheduled commitment. After the recitation of his poem he wave me away with a big smile and a “be careful out there”. Harry Bouchard is a good man, he is a valuable man.

Since I met Harry in August, he has moved. Antioch cleaned out the homeless encampment a couple of months ago. I drove by the day after the clean up. I recognized his belongings neatly stacked in a row at the back of the lot. Harry lived in a ravine on our riverfront in a big tent. He collected tents, pots, and bedding to give to homeless that moved into his area. He gave out a list of contacts for sources in Antioch giving out food, clothing and direction to local homeless shelters. He also gave out information on how to apply for financial and medical aid. When we first spoke he stood downwind from me. The strong scent was overwhelming but interesting in that it was not the typical smell of a long unwashed human. It recalled the scent of a bobcat my husband and I once found while hiking in Southern California’s coastal mountains. He read my reaction, apologized and stood upwind from me.

“I shower at my mother’s from time to time”, he said. She is on financial assist so I can’t take advantage of her shower very often”. I don’t know where Harry is. I only ever saw him that one day. Harry is a truthful man. I could tell he believed everything he told me. What he understood to be a garbage collection agreement with Antioch was actually the work of citizens, including myself who took away the garbage he placed every day by a tree above his encampment. When I think of him, my immediate thought is that he could be helped to re-enter society. We in society would celebrate that as a job well done. Would he?

2 Comments to “Down at the River: Harry Bouchard”

  1. Bill Lucas says:

    I met Harry tonight at the Community Outreach Center in Antioch as he came for a meal. He voluntarily shared a poem, I I was nice to see someone else with such an outgoing personality. As he walked away, he said, “if you want to know more about me, search, Down By The River By Harry Bouchard.” I immediately searched and found this…

  2. Bob Liles says:

    I met Harry today at the homeless camps out past the end of Vierra. he said that he just got approved for SSI and hoped to be off the street soon. However before that he needed to find a home for a lady with sick German Shepherd. Quite the poet.

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