Wild Bill Osgood
by Dusty Middleton
Last month Wild Bill paid his rent with a small oil painting.
He doesn’t have a steady income… or any income really. He’ll joke about
getting a job washing dishes at Cholo’s, but cash in the pocket doesn’t
really mean much for Billy. And sweating for six hours to earn minimum wage
isn’t gonna happen.
Wild Bill’s a Vietnam Vet who’s spent the last thirty odd years living a
strange existence. He is a man who has found his own peaceful path in this world.
He sleeps in the back of an army truck, and spends most of his day hunting
pig in the mountains above the north shore. He has a bow and arrow, and a
knife. He trains his dogs with a fake pig that he designed himself. And in
the afternoons, after the hunt, he sets up a big canvas and starts scraping
his oil paint on thick with a puddy knife.
He has developed a unique style in his paintings, and his collection
impresses every viewer who gets a chance to see his work.
He reminds his friends of a Santa Cruz/ Viet Nam version of Vincent Van Gough.
Wild Bill pedals his bike forty five minutes, up-wind, to Ehukai and
bodysurfs Gums whenever there’s swell. The lifeguards are always happy to
see Billy and they’ll spend twenty minutes talking story with him.
After the sun sets Wild Bill sits next to his campfire and drinks one cold
beer. He eats cashews and cheese. He tells stories of ‘Nam. Stories of flying sea planes
in Alaska. Flying stolen planes to Bolivia. Strange years imprisoned at Lompoc.
Bodysurfing in Tahiti. The dog he had in Santa Cruz. The time he lived as a
hermit-fugitive with an M-16 in Big Sur. The time he travelled to Lima to get a friend
out of prison. He tells stories that are like his paintings… different and
pretty damn captivating. Then he wanders off in the dark, climbs into the
back of his truck, lays down in his hammock and thinks about the winter
season ahead of him. He drifts off to sleep and dreams of that inside bowl
that connects from Pipe to Gums up to the lifeguard tower.