I told them I was a travelling storyteller, a lovewallah.
”You should write a story about me”, said the guy on the left. ”Because I’m fucking awesome!”
We were at the Saginaw Logger’s Days, a logging festival in the tiny, off-the-hard-road town of Brooklyn, once a major center of the local log trade. More than 500 people had shown up to compete in logging competitions, to enjoy vibrant and welcoming local community, and to drink beer.
The guy was right. In the next photo in this series, he’s pouring his beer onto the enthusiastic tongue of a spotted terrier. Later that afternoon, he won the tree felling competition: he cut a 25 foot pole so it would fall and crush a waiting beer can. The crowd went wild. It was fucking awesome.
Later that day, I stopped in at the local community center. A quasi-museum had been set up to honour the town’s logging roots. An old timer flipped through an album of photos: ”the maximum diameter of log that we could put on the truckbed was 10’ 6”. The side of the road was piled high with logs that were too big, from 10’ 7” to nearly 20’.” I looked around at the surrounding land. The logging company had left in the middle of the century, mission accomplished. No tree in my sightlines looked much older or wider than 20 or 30 years.
I asked about the biggest tree he’d ever felled. ”We were working on the Indian Reservation up along the coast. A fellow owned about 10,000 acres of private land on the reservation. There was one western red cedar out there that had an oblong trunk; must have been 22 feet by 14 feet, hundreds of years old. Every day the Indians would come over to beg us not to cut the tree. But this fellow was adamant. When it fell, it split into 4 easy pieces down the middle, like a carrot. It was better that way, easier to cart off.”
In the middle of all this play, I walked out into the young woods. It’s tough for a city guy like me to imagine what happened to the forests of the Pacific Northwest in the past 100 years. Ecological genocide, like it never existed at all. And, left behind are some of the most drug addled communities in the United States: nearby Elma, I was told, stands for ”Everyone Loves Meth Amphetamines”; Aberdeen is overrun with an organized ring of hobos who work the pavement outside of Wal-Mart on what seems like shift work; in Montesano, after a drug bust of a big time heroin dealer, local cops had to deal with addicts strung out in local high schools. Can a community suffer withdrawal from the eradicated magic of the land? If this forest could talk…