In 1998, protesters took to the woods deep in the Mattole watershed and stopped the Pacific Lumber Company from cutting parts of a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) on Sulphur Creek.
In 2000/2001 there was a Free State for 4 months, and continual occupation in the woods for almost a year. In 2001, Pacific Lumber (PL) cut five Timber Harvest Plans, THPs: 475, 031, 020, Rattle Snake, and Devil’s Hole. They then filed eight new THPs: Rattle-9, Fox-8, TC-2, Oil Change, SC-23, Taylor Maid, Upper Sulphur Crk, and Cabins. In 2002, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) within weeks apart approved ten THPs to be cut in the Mattole.
Non-violent actions were used to try and stop the cutting and to raise awareness of what is happening to our natural world.
Here is a story from one of the activists who lived there since election-day in November 2000 until after the war had started in October 2001. This is her story about living in the woods.
This written story is dedicated to those forest activists who died shortly after the campaign. For the rest of us we have been able to move forward in our lives, for a few they were never able to move past this moment of life. They left this world still encompassed in the energy of this intense experience. Tribe died of a heroin overdose while living in the city. Gary Oat Groat died of advanced cancer. Bagel died of an overdose. Roots left behind a small child and died of suicide. Nature Boy died of suicide. These are the people at least that I know of. It is very tragic and they will be constantly missed. This is their story, and their bravery in the woods will always be held deeply in our hearts.
As I slept on the riverbed, the clouds got low and precipitation began. I scooted in my sleeping bag like an inchworm to get farther under the overhanging root mass of a big Bay tree. An hour later, a furry medium-sized creature began to try to get into my sleeping bag. I didn’t peek out because of the insistent growling that was coming from its pointy nose. It kept nudging me, trying to gain warm shelter from the constant light rain. Was it a raccoon or a possum? Well as long as it isn’t a bear again. I went back to sleep with it still scuffling about.
I had never been here before, but that was nothing new to me at the time. I had just come back to Humboldt County from a long stint of traveling around the United States, and had lived in Alaska the year before that. The most novel thing was that I was around a few people that I actually knew and a couple of kids that I had lived in Alaska with for the year of ‘99. It was a relief to be back in their company. To finally relax and know that I am safe; at least if this fuzzy raccoon, or possum, or whatever it is would just let me sleep a few more hours. I wouldn’t mind it sleeping near or next to me if it would only stop all the scratching and growling. I awoke with the first hint of light, and had a wonderful day making applesauce with a few new faces in an old cabin surrounded by thick mossy trees. That evening we packed our bags with gear, and all of that night we hiked out to the deep woods, under infinite stars through rain and snow. Sticking to the ridge we constantly climbed the gradual grade of dirt road staring into nothingness, fully trusting our guide. I definitely had eaten too much pasta.
When we reached the designated woods, the dawn was an awakening I had only seen in my dreams. The image before me felt like as if I had died. The mountains were ancient Japanese paintings I thought I would have climbed when I was very old. My life, all of 21 years, was prematurely aged with this vision. I was here in North-western California, walking the terraced staircase of animal worn trails after an all-night hike through all sorts of weather and as we arrive the thick fog began to dissipate with the cold rising sun.
The three of us finally reached a place called ‘the Fortress.’ Our guide Lupine told us that we ought to rest here for a while. There was a dry overhang and we gladly collapsed. We found enjoyment of a cold unconsciousness for only a couple of hours, until Lupine urged us to get up, and out we emerge into the magical morning mist.
Lupine is a good friend and an old traveling partner of mine. The other boy in our company was named Aardwolf, I had never met him before but he seemed nice. From our ridge-top perch, the distant mountains faded from dark blue to light blue as the early morning slowly burned its way over the hills, lighting the panoramic landscape. We hiked a ways and reached a grove of trees along the road. Surprisingly, a couple of humans hopped out of the wilderness veil. With French accents, the two men welcomed us, happy to hear what supplies we were carrying. Anxiously we look behind us as we confide our worries.
“Hey, we’ve been hearing a vehicle for a while, have you guys heard a …”
One of the men called Patreek yells, “It is there … Run!” He leaps into the small grove of trees as cover, pulling our packs and our exhausted bodies over the boulders to follow him. Bub, the second French Canadian who had been ‘holding down the fort,’ ran to the other side of the road and disappeared into the forest. We lay down, and watched the pickup truck pull in and park across the road from our hide-out. We watched silently and motionless, imagining ourselves invisible as if there was still the heavy night’s fog.
The small pickup truck had an ATV in the back. Two men got out of the truck and unloaded the ATV. The two men climbed onto the back of the ATV and continued down the road. We take a deep breath and sit up. We look questioningly to each other as Aardwolf verbalizes, “I wonder what that is all about.”
“Maybe surveyors,” suggested Patreek, “It’s been really quiet the couple of weeks that we’ve been out here. Let’s get these supplies down to camp. We can have some breakfast, and you guys can get some real sleep.”
“Hey, there’s Bub coming back. See him? He’s over at the tree line,” says Lupine. Sure enough Bub was stalking along the edge of the forest, making sure it was clear. He looked like a deer silhouette in human form. We waved him over and headed across the meadow following Patreek to the promised camp. We walked through the forest, weaving along trails and off trails. How in the world will I ever find my way back to this ‘camp’ if I’m ever by myself? Well, I know how to get to the road at least, just go up.
All night long we had been following the road on the ridge. But which ridge is this? We are fourteen miles from concrete. It took me two days just to hitch hike from town to the meeting spot, a remote ocean town I had never even heard of in my home county. Then a forty-minute drive into the hills to be dropped off on the edge of the concrete road. We went through a locked gate, and along the guided hike through the darkness of twists and turns of this semi-graveled ridge road. Now here I am in the depths of this immense forest of Fir trees. We happen upon our camp before I even realize we have arrived, the boys duck under the duff and disappear. I quicken my pace hampered by my heavy pack, and peak under the roof to a large dug out nest.
The heavy roof is made of poles lashed together and tarps with leaves and branches on top of the outside to make it less visible. It is perched on the edge of two steep slopes and leveled out inside as best as possible for sleeping. It had two levels wide enough for people to lie down. The Canadians pointed in the direction of where the shitter is, and I curl up to sleep in my sleeping bag as they rummage through our packs for the food and propane we have hiked in. They tell us that after leaving the shelter we should always stash our own sleeping bags in a hidden spot away from the camp, just so if the camp were to get busted then at least we have something warm to sleep in. We hear the ATV driving along what is said to be a nearby ATV trail that goes to the Timber Harvest Plan (THP) units we are here to protect.
“Any day now they can come in to log,” Lupine tells us as I drift off to sleep.
It was voting day the day-before-yesterday, 11/7/00. Bush can never win, they say. I think his record is too corrupt, seeing what they did to Clinton. I didn’t vote. I was going to India to escape this country. After a cold harsh winter with the Alaskan Eskimos, mushing dogs to haul our water out of the frozen Yukon, I was ready for something different. Okay, so Y2K didn’t happen instantly. At least my own self-sufficiency did. I was not alone either. I was with Lupine and our friend Waterfall. We were eating moose and salmon. We chopped frozen firewood as far north and west as we could get. After winter though, we found this group of Forest Activists back in Humboldt County. After an intense action camp, miraculously not getting arrested, we were so encased in the activist community’s grips that we were swept away to Washington, D.C.’s IMF World Bank protest. Dancing in pepper-spray, lock-downs, billy-clubs and Puppets, riot-gear, tear-gas and helicopters were all it took to scatter our efforts and feed our antigovernment movements. We united with the black ghettos of D.C.’s slums. They sheltered us as we squatted the abandoned buildings of this country’s great capital. We met the IMF delegates at the doorstep. They were blocked, so security took a helicopter and delivered them to the roof of their delayed meeting.
It was a week of blurry confusion, bruises from abusive forces. We were living in a whirlwind of power in numbers. Truth in the form of disillusion. The belly of the beast spat us out as suddenly as we had arrived. For the rest of the year, I hitch hiked around the United States with my Alaskan Husky Amadeus. I visited relatives, explored New York City, living in Manhattan for a couple of weeks, Atlanta, New Orleans, Cincinnati, searching out purpose, or people. I audited classes at Harvard and M.I.T. Trying to find a way to earn money so I could fly away, help humanity, save some animals from premature extinction. Maybe I could cut potatoes on a boat for transportation, some way to live as need be.
I am an observer, an outdoor worker. I understand the language of animals more than English. I train horses, but there must be something more. There must be some sort of grant or organization who wants my energy and survival skills. I was going to Africa, but not yet. The timing must be better. I decided to go to India, to aid the last attempts for the Tigers and their forests.
I came home at 4 a.m. from New Mexico on Halloween to get my passport and I received a message that day from Lupine asking for me to meet him in town. He was with a hard-core girl dressed in green wool. They said that they had just come out of the woods in the Mattole, and that I needed to come quick. I said that I had figured on “serving my time for the trees.” I wasn’t really into tree sitting, and the whole thing on locking-down to get arrested for a headline in the local paper, I felt was kind of silly. I had seen the film “Pick-axe” at the action camp that spring. It was about a strong hold, a road blockade, they were a community living deep in the wilderness. I was ready to help with a free state if that is what everyone else wanted to do.
The girl said to me suddenly rough, “I heard you don’t have any fear.” Taken back by the comment, a statement obviously from Lupine, I answered slightly defensively and mainly confused by the word.
“Well, what do you mean by fear? A fear of pain. Afraid to die? A fear of the unknown? I do like novelty. This year I have been learning that most anger stems from fear, and I don’t usually feel much anger.” I find activism as a nice way to channel insecurities we have of the consequences created by the government and these large corporations.
Lupine said that the area they had been at was 500 acres of Old Growth Douglas Fir trees in the works to get slaughtered. It’s pretty far out there. There are lawsuits in the courts to slow the logging down, trying to protect it as a wilderness and roadless area. All it needs is some front-line defense to keep an eye on it.
That’s all I needed to know; that I am not all alone in this giant country, outcast because I cannot afford to drive a car or pay rent. I was launched through this world, eating from garbage cans, and searching for somebody who cares about our natural world. I am now washed with the memories that there are nice men, with different purposes than to drive a big Mac-truck and try to get into my pants or blouse, while I was just going to the next town over. And now here I am, back with familiar faces. “Yeah, sure I’ll go out there with you guys.”
“Well, Jenny, er Waterfall, she’s in town right now too. I’m just here to get some supplies and I’ll be going back tonight. If you want to hitch down with Waterfall later this week, that would be great. Just bring a sleeping bag,” said Lupine, and so here I am. I’m safe again among friends and family, set out with a purpose to protect this wilderness they call ‘home.’
My thoughts return to the present with a new sort of anxiety. The new word stays with me as I wake up from the cold sleep. “Home,” I say it under my breath, as not to let it go. I get up, slip my wet socks and shoes on and quietly explore my surroundings. I am careful not to get too far away from the nearly invisible shelter. It is raining again and the darkness comes abruptly.
We ate a warm dinner from the propane stove and prepare to sleep again. Late into the night, we are awoken by a commotion. Another group of hikers just arrived, and now this time the shelter is full. I moved to the upper level’s corner and watched as the weary group crams in. I fall back asleep in my comfy cocoon, a sleeping bag that has been very loyal through the year. Throughout my travels it was one of the necessary possessions, other than a metal cup with a fork and the clothes on my back.
An alarm went off in the dark and we’re woken up a little while later. Bub’s voice cheerfully drowns out the sleepy moans of the recently arrived hikers.
“Good morning! It’s 4:00 o-clock. Time for breakfast!” He is answered by rustling sleeping bags and hushed whispering. “Who wants oatmeal?” He asks in his French accent.
There is light from a headlamp hanging from the ceiling and a big pot of bubbling oats. Our upper bodies sit up, still in the sleeping bags for warmth. Bub and Patreek hand out scoops of steaming hot oatmeal into our cups. After swallowing the hot mash, we begin to emerge from our warm depths, pull on extra clothes, wet socks and shoes. We file out of the shelter, splitting up along the way to stash our individual sleeping bags. It has stopped raining, and the moisture from the ground rises into a dense mist. I can ignore my own aching body’s stiffness by thinking of how exhausted the new hikers must be with only their 2 hours of sleep.
We hiked to the top of the ridge in the darkness, and greet a few extra hikers that had slept on top of the hill. We built a fire in the middle of the road to keep ourselves warm in the morning mist and wait to see if the surveyors will come back. They can begin logging today according to CDF (California Department of Forestry) and we want to be sure that we make a presence of opposition if they do.
With the first sign of dawn, faintly we hear the dreaded droning sound of a vehicle. Anxiety creeps into our blood. It’s not an airplane, we tell each other. It actually sounds like it might be more than one vehicle. The silent and still people fidget, the cold fidgeters become still. Anxiety courses beyond our blood, it escapes through our pores, filling and draining the heart, affecting breathing and exiting from the wide eyes peeking out of scarves and warm hats.
The vehicles arrive. We see them cresting along the road, headed towards us. With clenched jaws and fists we stand our ground. There are six trucks in total, and instead of continuing down the road towards us, they swing to the right and park off the road where the surveyors had parked yesterday. Did they even see us? The fog is so thick, and us in our forest colored clothing. We relax a little bit and look around at each other. The loggers get out of the trucks and begin unloading the ATVs from the pickup beds.
Somebody within our group says, “Well, they need to know that we are here.” Everyone agreed, so we walked on up the road. Quickly the tally counted twelve loggers and twelve of us. Wow, well it can’t get more even than that. Once we reached them, we stood in a line along the road. Our spokesperson said, “Hello. Nice morning we’re having, huh?” A tall man with white hair, tan carhart pants, and a plaid flannel jacket said, “Sure’s not a nice morning anymore.”
Some of the men cursed quietly to themselves as they turned around. A younger man started coming up to us talking shit about how canned Spotted Owl makes for a great dinner. One of his buddies touched him on the elbow and they all walked to the front of their trucks to talk it over with their backs to us. We had expected a confrontation, to be split up instantly on the run from aggressive giant men; instead we just got the cold shoulder. It kind of confused us, but we were patient to find out what would come next.
They were trying to use a cell phone to call out. Were they calling the cops? At least they would call Carl Anderson, the head of security for the Pacific Lumber Company. P.L. had started in 1863 and had been managed that whole time by the same Murphy family until a hostile stock market takeover happened in 1986, when it became an owned subsidiary of the Maxxam, Inc. based out of Houston, Texas which is owned by a man named Charles Hurowitz. With over 200,000 acres of Redwood and Douglas-Fir timber land, the company had gone from having healthy management practices that ensured sustainability, to now clear-cutting vast swathes and causing irreparable damage to waterways and animal habitats.
These loggers weren’t our enemies. We all live in the same community that is getting screwed over by the same giant multinational corporation. At the same time that PL is trying to log on geologically steep and unstable slopes, clear-cutting some our last Old Growth Redwoods and this remote Douglas Fir Wilderness, Maxxam with Kieser Aluminum, they are MAXXAM Property Company, McCulloch Oil Corporation, MCO Properties Inc., and Horizon Corporation.
“The police are on their way,” a logger tells us, after they got the phone working decently enough. We explained to the loggers that there is a lawsuit in the courts right now, and they cannot cut the trees until the court stuff is decided. We are trying to protect this land as a Wilderness area, most of it is roadless and it is Virgin Old Growth.
“Well, ya know, the Native Americans used to manage this land by burning for the oaks and meadows so they could collect the acorns for their food,” one logger tried to explain, “We’re just following the tradition,” as he chews on an Egg McMuffin.
One of our younger activists yells back, “Yeah, but they never used chemical herbicides on the land after they were done.”
“Hey man, I’m just doing my job, okay? My wife’s pregnant. I’ve just gotta pay the bills. We’re only following orders. When the cops come, we’ll see who’s breaking the law around here.”
One of the logger’s buddies came over and brought him back to the trucks and told him to keep his back to us like the rest of them. We complain a little that we were just having a nice conversation but they go back to ignoring us. Geez, that’s a great tactic to defuse a wound up little group like us. I wonder if it would have been a similar reaction if the numbers had been different, or if we didn’t have so many girls in our group.
We decided to split up into our different units to wait and watch from there. We are on foot, they have ATVs, and we need to be in our places before the cops get here. They’ll probably be in a mighty big hurry to get some trees on the ground now that they know that we’re here.
Most loggers in Humboldt County are paid by the “board-foot,” rather than an hourly wage. We are not here against these individuals, but to affect the larger company. The board-foot wages seem to cause a tendency to be a bit more reckless while civilians are on the ground, versus if they were getting paid to stand around and bullshit. One of the most documented activist incidents in Humboldt was the story of David “Gypsy” Chain, who was murdered by a logger that continued falling trees even though he knew there were activist folks on the ground. The tactic of “Cat and Mouse,” at this point we liked to refer to it as “Last Resort,” because it is not a safe or favorable tactic. It is when a group of activists go into an active logging zone, and inform the loggers that it is not safe to cut the trees because there are people all around. Osha (_________) Regulations states: _______________
In Gypsy’s case, the video shows the logger screaming, threatening their lives, saying things like, “If only I’d brought my gun with me today.” He kept on falling the trees, even when he knew it was dangerous. It was a known Marbled Murrelet nesting site, they are endangered Old Growth dependent birds, and he was cutting illegally before their official nesting season was over. The activists were only trying to regulate the law, because the company was ordering against it. The logger felled a tree on top of Gypsy, and he was killed instantly. The company, cops and investigators wanted to charge the activists, who had just come from an action camp a few miles away. The activists wanted to charge the logger, A.E. Ammons. The community was split, the logger walked away without even a drug test. The activists set up what became known as the “Gypsy Free-State,” blocking and claiming the road, setting up platforms in the trees. Telling the company that they couldn’t continue logging on a crime scene until it was fully investigated. Julia Butterfly began sitting in the tree Luna, a tree-sit that lasted for 2 years and received endless international media. Tree-sits began popping up all over the county. It was a months long vigil in memory of this terrible reality.
“Here comes Carl,” somebody says as a gray Dodge Ram pulled up to where the twelve loggers had been sitting around on their truck hoods. The loggers jump up as a tall big bald man gets out of the truck and starts talking to them. He points at us down the grassy ridge near Unit 1, and he points at the road where the cops are coming from. He gestures to the ATVs and towards the other units down the road. We decided we had better get down to our Unit 1 into cover while we still have time.
Once in the unit everything seems peaceful. Big trees, steep terrain, open skies. Our anxiety is above us on the ridge making plans, but at least we are ready for them. There are six of us. We’d split in half. We got on the radio and told the other group what we saw with Carl.
“Hi, my name is Ituri,” I said as I introduced myself to the few people I didn’t know who had arrived late that night. We sit down and eat some snacks as the sun came out. We break up into partners to keep count easier. We were lounging in the warmth being out of the wind, as we heard more vehicles coming.
“It’s the cops,” our scout informs us, “and they’re parking farther down the road.” The ATVs start up and we all stand at attention ready for what comes next.
“They’ve gotten through the slash piles and they’re on their way to unit 6,” crackles the radio. Some people in our group want to go help the other group since that is where the action is happening. Others want to stay in Unit 1, just in case.
“Fine, you stay here, I’m going,” Coal says, and disappears into the woods.
“Me too,” and Hoot runs after the first.
I turn to Waterfall and say, “I’m confused. I thought we were supposed to stay in this unit.”
“Yeah, well I guess they’re saying that all of the loggers are in the other units. This is the biggest unit, but it is far away from all of the rest.” The four of us remaining started getting kind of antsy. The radio begins cracking in incomplete sentences. Bits and pieces come through, then, in the distance we hear a chainsaw. One of the people in our group runs quickly like being pulled by a string towards the sound and instantly disappears. Aardwolf pushes his glasses up to the bridge of his nose, takes a deep breath and says, “Well, I guess I’d better go too,” and scuttles along the trail.
A few minutes later, as my partner Waterfall and I stand in horror, we hear Aardwolf on the radio, quietly he says, “Hey guys, there are cops in the woods… Oh shit,” he says and leaves the radio on as he begins to run. We hear: “There’s one!” and on the ridge a couple of young cops dressed in black uniforms run into the woods. Aardwolf, running while still on the radio screams and crashes, it sounds like he is falling, then all is silent again.
Our hearts racing, we look at each other, waiting to hear Aardwolf say that he’s okay. The radio crackles and it is Cascara from unit 6. There was a loud chainsaw and yelling in the back ground.
“They’ve started cutting a tree here in Unit 6! We have people in the trees and on the ground, we need some more help!”
Someone else asked, “Are you guys okay?” Then there was an odd reply, the voice didn’t sound like anyone we knew, “Help me brother, where are you?” Eyebrows puzzled we looked at each other.
“Tell me where I can find you,” the deep man’s voice said, then, in the background on the radio we heard Aardwolf.
“Don’t listen to him! He’s a cop, he stole my radio!”
“Shut him up,” the cop said on the radio, “oh shit, there he goes. Let’s go get him,” then all was silent. Shocked we looked at each other.
“I’ve got to go over to Unit 6,” Waterfall said, as I followed behind, petrified.
“What if they come for Unit 1?” I asked, and pointed to the vast forest we had come from. When I looked back, no one was there.
“I don’t know where Unit 6 is! Wait!...” There was no answer. I looked around and I was all alone. I walked along the side-hill deer trail that they must have taken, but soon it split off in three directions. ‘If you’re lost, just stay where you are,’ said a little reminder in my mind. I’m not ‘lost,’ I know where the road is. It is up on top of the ridge. So, I took the trail going up. As soon as I reached the tree line, I could see three cops; those skinny young ones they say are recruited from the College of the Redwoods’ track team to do the physical work that the fat donut eating cops don’t want to do.
“Shit,” so I duck back into the woods, retrace my steps, and head deeper down into the forest. I hear some footsteps in the leaves and I freeze. I see a cop heading up the hill carrying one of our food buckets and somebody’s back pack. I crouch down and tiptoe away. Close to panic, I feel like I am surrounded. I hear crunching everywhere. Finally I can’t stand being exposed any longer and I find a cave below a giant boulder behind an old standing snag. It is a large open space, big enough for me to sit up in. I take my day pack off and drink deeply of the cold clear mountain water out of my small water bottle. I eat some dried fruit and lay my head down on the pack between my knees.
I heard a huge crash as a tree falls. Curled up, eyes unblinking, I recall all that has happened in the last two days. Here I am in paradise, in the middle of nowhere, and now I am alone. The trees are falling. This is not America. This is no-man’s-land. The animals know nothing of human civilization, and now the cops are chaperoning the loggers to log illegally? Well, they’re never going to catch me.
Suddenly I hear leaves crunching, and I regret the burst of confidence. I slowly sit up to peak out to see how close the cop is from my hideout. I see black and white movement and I duck back down. Slowly I take a peak again to watch and I catch my breath as the black and white figure is much closer than I expected. It is a skunk! Surprised to see me in the entry of the hollow rock, the skunk turns, grumbling to itself, waddling until it finds a trail and it continued on its way.
The skunk must be trying to hide from the cops creeping around and all of the commotion. A deer wanders by, looking in all directions, following the same trail that the skunk went. With my confidence regained slightly, I wander out into the forest. I hear lots of yelling, and trucks were driving above. I try to follow the yelling, it sounds like it is on the other side of the creek. I walk down and diagonal. It gets really steep, and I scramble back up. Now, it sounds like the yelling is coming from a different direction. What is going on? Finally I realize it must be an echo coming off of the other ridge, sending it down into the creek and back up to me. I don’t know where the other units are, and I am not ready to guess. I decide to go up to the meadow and watch the ridge.
I have already gotten lost this year in the towering Redwoods by myself and with the Alaskan husky Amadeus when he was a pup. I had just gotten back from Alaska’s -50 degree interior and I was happy for the 50 degree rain. I wore cotton though and lost my trail. Amadeus almost broke his leg while we climbed down a hill riddled with protruding roots. I had a compass and hiked west. We were out there for three days until I found the ocean. I had a sleeping bag, a plastic bag as a bivy sac, Amadeus’ food and a few granola bars. It was a great experience to prove to myself that I didn’t die, but I am not ready to do it alone again. That is the nice thing about a campaign like this, there are a lot of people involved and they know that you exist.
Reaching the meadow, I hid along the tree line and watched some of the cop cars leave. I walk in the direction of where the cops had parked to see how many are left. I couldn’t see the loggers’ parking area unless I walked into the meadow, and I wasn’t willing to risk that much today. Besides, the cops are my real concern. I have heard of agro loggers, but these guys seemed pretty cool.
As I rounded over a beautifully forested hilltop, I heard yelling. Instantly my body hit the deck, clinging onto the moist ground, I shakily crawled to the nearest fern and listened.
“…where are you!? Ituri!”
“Ituri, where are you?!” Hey, that’s Jackal and Salmon. They are calling for me. Happily, I hurry through the forest, and before I reach the meadow, I meet up with Salmon. He is barefoot as usual and wearing his red plaid wool jacket. I give him a big hug.
“I didn’t know where you guys were,” I said, relieved that here was a family that knew I was lost. They took a head count, asked ‘who are we missing?’ and spent the energy to try and locate me.
He took me by the shoulder and sternly told me, “Now, don’t you ever do that again.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know where I was supposed to go. Everyone took off so fast,” I said quietly, knowing I shouldn’t defend myself.
“Then get a map,” he said, “You should always have a map on you!”
“Alright,” I said, thankful for a solution. That’s a good point, a map. I’ll put that on the necessity list, like traveling the U.S. with the pocket sized road atlas, each state on a different page. A compass may get me to the ocean, but only from the grassy ridges and free-climbable meadow trees the ocean is visible. It is actually fifty percent of the horizon, south, west, and northwest, but we can’t exactly see that from deep in the forest. *[Insert map of California with Mattole located]
“Ituri, thank god you didn’t get arrested,” Jackal said when he saw me. “I’m sorry that I took off so quickly, I just panicked with all of the cops running around, and then I heard the chainsaw.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “I got a lot figured out in my own head today, I kept hearing echoes I guess, and ended up above a big landslide down the hill. Tomorrow I will carry a map so I know where to go.”
Salmon smiled at that, and said, pointing down an ATV trail, “This is the road down to the other units of THP 475, they all circle a meadow blooming with purple lupine flowers, can’t miss it.”
“Alright,” I said. We climbed up the hill, now called ‘Pig Hill’ since the cops had all decided to park on it.
“They had two cops sitting up here guarding their own trucks, but it’s funny that they didn’t hire anyone to watch the logger’s trucks,” said Aardwolf.
“Ah man, I’m so glad that you didn’t get arrested,” I said.
“Yeah, me too,” he said. “I just ran straight downhill when I felt the guy’s grip loosen when the other cop was on the radio.
“About that,” Cascara said. “We need to choose another channel for the radios tomorrow.”
“I’m hungry,” Aqua said. “Does anyone want to help me with dinner?”
“I will,” said Patriek. “I’ll see you guys back at camp.”
“Alright, we’re going to finish watching the sunset, and we’ll be right down,” Cascara said for the rest of the group. She hiked up to the top of the hill with the rest of us following and we sat around a big rock watching the storm clouds roll in, catching all of the brilliance of the sun disappearing beneath the ocean.
“Well, it seems like they might not show up tomorrow with that storm coming in, it looks like it’ll rain,” says Jackal optimistically.
“Good,” said Hoot, “because we’ll have to figure something out. Sawdust and I got our backpacks stolen by the cops today, and they had our sleeping bags in them.”
“Yeah, cops took my sleeping bag today too,” said Coal.
“I’m hiking out on the weekend. I can leave my sleeping bag out here for you guys to use,” offered Chanterelle.
“Thanks man, until then maybe we could all just sleep on top of blankets, and open up our sleeping bags and share with our neighbors. Just sleep close and we’ll all stay as warm as we can,” said Salmon. Wow, I thought, the other side of communal living, physical contact in close quarters. I hadn’t been traveling with anyone since my dog had gotten shot in upstate New York for looking at some chickens wrong. Since then I have been very much solitary, which I guess is why I am here now, to have this family. Just as they cared about me being lost, they have solutions for people who were unfortunate enough to get their survival gear stolen by the cops. There is so much for me to get used to, like knowing who to trust. Listening to inner instinct and letting physical walls be scrubbed clean by these dirty hippies who seem to care about each other.
“Let’s get back to camp before we have to use our flashlights. Who knows if they have security watching for our camp,” said a girl behind me. Everyone nodded, taking a last deep look at the fading green sunlight and the thick clouds that were across half of the sky already. As we descended down into the forest, the switch-backs turning left and right. Cashew complained, “Man, this camp is too far away, I’m going to make a camp closer to the road sometime.”
“Yeah,” agreed Coast. “We could make one near that Amphitheatre we saw today, it’s pretty flat in there, and we could hear any cars coming.”
“Well, the gear is safest down here,” answered Hoot, as we arrived into camp. The smell of cooked onions and beans filled the air.
“Just in time,” said Aqua, and he started handing out bowls of beans as soon as we sat down. Sawdust and Coal began a fire on the flat ground outside of the shelter and relief flooded the group, still shaky from the day’s events. With food in our bellies, people sat around the campfire in a crescent shape since the hillside was so steep. Everyone told of their long day’s adventure.
One tree had been cut in Unit 6. People had climbed into the trees around the working loggers and they had to shut their chainsaws off. They struck a deal that they would let the loggers finish felling that one tree if they would go away. The loggers agreed, overwhelmed by our presence, not sure really what the court suit was all about, and nervous with the cops running around. Cashew told of a cop that was dressed in logger’s clothes, and a few other people around the circle agreed that there had been a cop in logger’s clothing.
Salmon and Cascara had been pepper sprayed directly in the face at close range by a cop. Salmon said that he had been standing on the edge of a really steep slope and the cop had sprayed him in the face. Blinded, he jumped down the nearly vertical landscape and disappeared deeper into the forest. The cop never pursued him.
“Pepper spray in the woods,” we all muttered, shaking our heads slowly. What are they trying to do? Scare us or break our necks? The Humboldt County sheriffs have a reputation of using chemical agents against forest logging protesters, but it was usually used for mass protests as crowd control, or for a way to try and remove the lock downer.
A ‘lock down’ is kind of similar to the civil rights’ ‘sit ins,’ but with a device known as a ‘lock box’. The activists attach themselves to each other or an object so it is difficult or nearly impossible to be removed by authorities. Most commonly, a lock box is made up of a tube wide enough for an individual to fit their arm into. They are often made out of a metal pipe, or armored p.v.c. called a ‘goo-box’ due to the tar and metal shreds that are smeared on the outer plastic & wrapped in duct tape in order to dissuade ease of cutting through. It is shaped at a right angle for both of your arms, or straight if you are using multiple people or the end is covered in concrete. There is a piece of rebar through it at arm’s length. The individual wears a thick chain around their wrist with a carabineer at the end, which is able to be opened by your thumb. You attach the carabineer to the rebar, and voila, it might take all day to get you to move from where you are, or longer depending on what tools and man power that they have available.
This is where a chemical agent like pepper spray, comes in, to try and convince an individual to unlock without having to pull the grinder or jack hammer out. It is due mainly to police laziness, panic, and downright cruelty. Often times it doesn’t work, and they have to grind the person or people out anyway while they listen and watch the individuals suffer through painful agony, but what it really does is empower us even more to stand up to these that mock unfeeling machines and blame it on taking orders. It may do the trick to dissuade some to lock down, but that just means that the people that do are already mentally prepared to take on whatever it is that our small-time law enforcement has to throw at us. To think that the police are able to get away with its own level of brutality in this country that claims ‘freedom of speech,’ and the media eats it up. What better publicity for an activist to have their movement on the front page of a corporate newspaper that everyone reads during breakfast? Sometimes, the easiest way to get that coverage is when the local police over react violently towards passive non-violent activists standing in the way of a community-damaging corporation.
So here we are. We call an entity named ‘Town’ with the cell phone, and they can report on what happened today and get it out to the public. Amazing. I have so little of an idea on how this group functions, but here I am, in the midst of being part of this county’s history, even though today I just hid out like a paralyzed rabbit. Tomorrow I will know not to lose sight of my group. Maybe I can even learn where the other units are quicker just by heading down that ATV trail rather than trying to orientate these THP maps.
Before the talking had abated, I crawled into the shelter, opened up my sleeping bag for whoever was to be my neighbor and fell asleep instantly. What a long day. What a long year. I had learned a definition of fear, and a sense of awareness I had never known to exist in our human brains. I was finally out of America. In a country that we have become exiles in, reliant on the landscape with the closest concrete a night’s hike away. I had not been in a car for almost three days, and it’s strange getting my bearings back. Just to be in the same location for more than a couple of days is something to get used to; a grounding I have not felt in a long time.
The next morning, we awoke to a beeping alarm, and warm sticky oats as we sat up were handed to us while we pulled our arms free of the bundled sleeping bags. It had begun to rain in the night, and we looked outside of the tarp with dread.
“I bet they won’t come today,” said Acacia.
“Yeah, but we have to be ready either way,” Aqua answered as we gulped down the oatmeal and put on our shoes. The rain gear we wore had been donated by companies like ‘Patagonia’ and ‘North face’ who support odd little endeavors like this by giving grants and gear. We hiked up the hill, and started a big smoky fire in the middle of the road and waited in the rain for vehicles. I went off with Chanterelle to video some evidence on the road used as something called ‘Ground Truthing’.
In the written THP it says that trucks are not allowed to drive on ‘unrocked roads’ during ‘overland flow.’ If we video the road with water flowing across it and a company truck drives on it, then we can send it to town and CDF (California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention) receives it, they can be charged with a violation. As violations add up they can be punished, like when Pacific Lumber lost their license to fall trees in 1998. Of course they just began to contract out other fallers, but it still sure looks bad.
Other people went out and began to build slash piles of woody debris and rocks in the middle of the road and ATV trails to try and buy ourselves time for when they would come again. The next day it was still raining, and rained on and off for the rest of the week. The slash piles continued to grow. Cashew and Coast built their own camp closer to the road near the flat they called ‘the Amphitheatre’. They built a little brown tipi, which barely fit the two of them without their feet getting wet. People joked about the two teenage boys moving out to sleep by themselves, but it kept them happy and busy, which was much better than bitchy teenage boys feeling controlled.
Coast would sometimes be seen out by himself in the meadows and forest, inspecting something on the ground or just trekking through the tall underbrush stepping high with his long gangly legs. He would sometimes bring back mushrooms to identify, most of them ended up in the general category ‘L.B.M.’ little-brown-mushroom. The best to eat proved to be the abundant Oyster mushrooms. Big and white, they were found by the pound-full growing horizontally along downed Fir logs. They had a very different taste than the ones that grew near human dwellings. These fungi were very clean, eating completely organic forest matter.
One day the wind was blowing hard from the west and it began to snow. The fire in the road, we had begun to call it ‘the Eternal Flame’ because no matter how rainy or windy, there always seemed to be enough coals from the previous day to build the fire back up. It was burning well, but the wind kept cutting out all of the heat. With the snow on the ground we noticed that just 50 feet up the road, there was no snow. It was protected by the only grove of trees on the west side of the road. Actually, it was the same grove of trees that Lupine, Aardwolf, and I had hidden with Patriek the first day we had hiked in. We moved the fire to the center of the 20 foot radius of bare dirt, and sighed a deep collective sigh. It was significantly less windy and our visibility was even slightly better.
The next day, as everyone went up the road to work on the slash piles, Aqua and I stayed at the road fire to make lunch. We gathered firewood from an old dead tree which had fallen in the storm and we stacked the branches off of the road near the fire. We got the idea to make a rock stove, and began collecting large flat rocks. By the time the lentils were ready, we had made a 3-foot tall oven out of the orange rocks with two chambers. One chamber on the ground level was for the fire, and the other chamber above was for cooking the food.
Aqua walked the pot of lentils up to the top of the road where they were building slash piles, a mile and a half away, and I went to collect more firewood. One man had fallen ill with pneumonia and I hiked down to the Too Far Away camp to give him some warm water and a bowl of lentils for lunch.
That night a group arrived and bedded down, as we all squeezed in closer. They had brought extra sleeping bags and all kinds of new food. The population ebbed and flowed, constantly changing by a couple of people hiking out, or a big group hiking in. The number never went below twelve and there were always enough chores to keep everyone busy. We always had a look-out to see if there were any cars coming and an alarm system to let everyone know, no matter what direction they were working in. Look-out position was a 24 hour post, so it was on a constant rotation. There was another 24 hour look-out post way up the road, maybe 2 miles, to relay to the other look-out that somebody might be coming from a long distance away. I took my share of positions. I usually didn’t go way up the ridge to the top for slash piles, unless I was feeding people, or running around with Coast and Cashew. I mostly stuck to the closer slash, working on a rock wall in the road below the Long Ridge look-out, wood piles on the ATV trail, and getting to know the units. I always carried a folded up map with me in my pocket or in my day pack, and tried to understand the terrain.
The next morning it was clear skies. The new hikers straggled up to the road camp’s ‘Eternal Flame’. It was a primitive way of living, cooking food, drying off clothing. How many bic lighters were there really, even 200 years ago? Water-proof matches? We don’t exactly each carry a black powder riffle everywhere we go. Fuel is a serious consideration on survival, on how to initially get a fire started living out west. There was only one other local, Cascara, and she was hard-core and burly. Most of the people weren’t even from HSU (Humboldt State University) they had already been involved in forest stuff locally, or came from Oregon actions, and all sorts of other states in this monstrosity of a country.
I continued on the realization that for the past year, I had not stayed in one place for more than three days. Maybe that was why I was reluctant to go to the top of the road. That it is where I came from, and I couldn’t even think of going back. I was here for the long haul. We only had one day of action so far, and it felt like I’d really made some friends. We were here to share each other’s responsibilities of self. Here it was a week and a half, and I hadn’t even seen or heard a car since the first day.
After leaving Arkansas and traveling through Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona, trying to stay on the I-40, which proved very difficult for some reason, I began to grow a deep mistrust of vehicles. Traveling across Texas, which was supposed to be a very quick straight shot, I was in the back of a pickup truck in a camper shell with a guy from a farm I had worked on in Arkansas. He looked like a greasy long haired serial killer and I was a just-turned 21 year old girl, so we made the perfect hitch hiking team on our way to New Mexico, since no one would pick him up and anyone would pick me up. It was late night and for some reason the Mexican drivers in the cab decided to take a back road that lasted for a long time, which turned into a dirt road. We kept banging on the cab window, saying they should let us out because we wanted to stay on the highway. Eventually the man I was traveling with was pounding on the window saying he really needed to pee. He was ready to piss out of the tail gate by the time they pulled over. They let him out, but one of the boys insisted that he would ride in the back of the camper shell and the guy from Arkansas would ride in the cab, as he proceeded in his thick Mexican accent to attempt to convince me that I needed to “marry” him. What are we in Lonesome Dove on our way to Nebraska? Just get off of me. Around dawn I was dropped off somewhere I had no idea because there were no road signs or landmarks. The guy I had been traveling with from Fort Smith was continuing to Arizona and he said this was New Mexico. I had my compacted sleeping bag with a long silk tie as a strap, pant legs tied onto my shorts, a spork, the tin cup, and a soft plaid brief case from the 70s with a knife, my journal, Homer’s Odyssey, and a pocket sized road atlas of the U.S. I walked for a long time in the crisp morning air, watching the orange pinks of the sunrise. The desert was beautiful, but from a foot traveler’s perspective it was spooky because there is only an endless sky line and nowhere to hide except the occasional water ditch. At a junction I was picked up by a car & soon found myself at an old western style corner mini-mart. Then I climbed in with a trucker on his way to Roswell. He proved to be harmless enough, but he did give me fifteen bucks to flash my boobs at him. From Roswell after a short respite with some very sweet teenage girls who cleaned me up and let me sleep for like 20 hours, I camped out at the truck stop in the rain and got a lot of reading done. I took a vow not to hitch from the road & to pick my rides, insisting to myself that I would only get in a car if it had a woman in it, and no more semi-trucks. This wasn’t Alaska, everything had changed from black to white suddenly without my dog. They saw that wolfie grin and they talked to me about ranching or the weather, now I’m just a skinny chick with short hair.
I am so grateful to be here in the woods, near my family, surrounded by new friends, and old travel partners. To be with the people who had started all of my adventures. After coming home from Alaska with Waterfall and Lupine, we went to the East Coast for the IMF protest with Coast and Cashew, and others from this forest crew who I had met at the Hole in Headwaters action camp almost a year ago. Now here I am and I am so grateful for the chance to ‘settle down’ into a grounding location, to become familiar with my surroundings and form a family bond again like I had found briefly at the Rainbow gatherings and the Furthur festivals this summer. Like the kids we had found at the Alaskan blue grass festivals; a core belonging.
Everyone here has such a beautiful understanding of nature and ecology, a spiritual connection with what is reasonable as far as habitat. The ecosystem has rights to survive and to be left alone. So much has already been destroyed; there must be these pockets of sanctuary as refuge for the wild species. I have become more aware of the landscape, becoming a part of the learning process that is survival, happiness, joy, mixed into the ever daunting feeling that it could all be shattered at any given moment. That is why we are here though, not to hide out like a Rainbow gathering and rejoice in the oblivion away from society, we are here to prevent that shattering from affecting the rest of the creatures and flora from ever having to know what it looks like in the human creation of a concreted matrix, over-complicating reality by making the population believe that they are dependent on these technologies.
Here where the wind shouts or whispers, the branches tell of bird songs, you can see distances unimaginable from such heights, while we are invisible among the branches of a huckleberry bush. Moss covered logs lying horizontal they must be climbed like a ladder because they reach so far above your head. It is a comfort to hug into the ground, breathe, and sink through the deep duff and be so clean in that dirt; compared to the filth and grime that city towns are made of. This is healthy dirt. I nibble on the slimy orange Witches’ Butter fungus that grows along the roots and logs, amongst the moss. It tastes just like that, it tastes like as the duff smells. It is of the earth and it is chewy like a gelatin based gum drop or jelly bean, though extra slimy and tasting of the forest. It is my favorite.
As dawn broke, like clockwork, a big buck would come through our road camp, walking cautiously, but also with his own sense of confidence. He smells our oats and has considered us a non-threatening species. Four-points on his horns, or eight-points, depending on what state you are from. You could tell that he wasn’t the ‘daddy of ‘em all’ or very dominant in the local deer population, but he was around our age and probably would get a girlfriend this year if he tried. I suppose hunting season is like when a country goes to war and the women are left behind. It is a lucky girl who didn’t marry a soldier.
The old mountain man, Sylvan Hart, who lived alone for 35 years beside the ‘River of No Return’ in the Idaho Rockies once said, “You have to kill equal numbers of the sexes. Otherwise the remaining bucks can’t keep up with their job and you have fawns coming at all times of the year, in snow and in miserable summer heat.” I would imagine that there would be weaknesses caused by a lack of genetics also. Well, not too many hunters come out here and this guy looked as strong as can be, and patient too.
At dawn he came up and tasted our compost that was off of the road a bit and he watched us. Nibbling at an apple core or some left over oatmeal. After the second day that he returned, I took to following him. He came every day after that.
While everyone was chatting up a storm and before they had broken off into groups for the day, I would wave to whoever was listening and say, “See ya in a little while,” and I would follow the deer about 10 feet behind him. He would usually lead me up over look-out and across a steep meadow down into a thicket of dense young firs trying to get their share of the sunlight, many of them were dead from the overcrowding. The needles trickling into the back of my neck as I crouched through the thin branches. Sometimes he would stop along the way and eat acorns, bay nuts, or an unidentified ‘little brown mushroom’ an ‘L.B.M.’ Other times I would stop to watch a wood pecker fly by and I’d have to run to keep up. If I fell behind, he would never spook at my running, he would just stop and look back at me until I would reach him, sometimes I had to be careful not to run into him, almost touching his back as I regained my balance. He would turn back to the trail and continue in his steady floating pace, an elegant walk as his head bobbed back and forwards with the movement of his shoulders. He had a type of beat as if his step was (1) and he’d hold up the other leg for (2, 3, 4) his head would stretch out at the (1) and then slowly come back up at the (2, 3, 4). 1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 3, 4. I tried to match his step, but if I walked like that it would be more like a duck or an egret since I only had two legs, and I would have to catch up. Sometimes he would just eat a leaf mid-step and make up the difference for me.
It was a magical time of day, the dawn colors emerging, sometimes in the rain or mist. This wild friend who taught me quietness and patience, he pulled me as if by a string attached to my heart. I was the domesticated, and he was caring for my upbringing in his backyard of wonderment. He taught me to communicate silently with my eyes and movements. He showed me how to listen to the birds, that what they spoke of was our eyes above the ground, about what was happening in places in the forest that we could not see. He taught me how to listen for water.
Today he took me to the left after we reached the old growth tree line. We went into a secret little meadow that I had never seen before. There was lush grass that the rancher’s cows couldn’t get to, and sparse giant brush. Brush that was so old they were like little trees reaching for the sky. Hazelnut, Wild Rose, Ceanothus. We crossed the spring. It wasn’t a spread out muddy marsh like the low hidden meadows that the cows knew about. The deer jumped over the clear running water, with nearly opposite delicateness as a cow, not even leaving a mark at all. He looked back.
“I could probably drink this and not get sick like we do around the cows, huh?” I asked the deer out loud, and he just turned and kept walking. We entered a beautiful grove of trees, much larger and straighter than those close to the meadowy ridges. The creek had turned back and flowed into this forest. He followed the gargling clear water and drank after the next curve.
I got down on all fours like him and drank with my mouth to the water. Drinking this way, it was like a mirror. I was looking into my own eyes for the first time in over a week. I could see the trees and the sky as bright as a photo, as they danced in the breeze. I could see the speckled sun reflecting on the big branches along the tree trunks. After I had finished my drink from the cold stream, I looked up and the deer was gone. So silent he is that my thoughts could drown out his departure. Well, he’ll come back tomorrow, he probably wants me to remember this spot. And I always did remember that spot, the moss covered rocks with the fresh water, and the huge trees covered in lichen. It was tucked away behind a veil of a young growth thicket, seemingly uninviting from above. It was a refuge from the impact of the cattle and road run off, though the blue lines on the largest trees made my heart clench.
I decided to go straight up the hill back to the ridge so I would remember where it was in reference to everything else. Zigzagging along the steep slope, I finally reached the top, and lo and behold, it was right below Long Ridge look-out! I wonder if he listens to us from down there. We aren’t exactly quiet all that often, and he has such big sensitive ears.
“Hey Hoot,” I said as I came out of the forest.
“Hi Ituri, have you been following that deer around again?”
“Yeah, he took me to the most beautiful spring in a meadow that the cows don’t go in, and then he took me down stream for a drink, where he disappeared.”
“Yeah, yeah, I wish I had a drink right about now,” he said, not taking his eyes off of the distant road.
“I could refill your water bottle if you need som…”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” he said, “Never mind.”
“Is everyone out making slash piles?”
“Nah, they’re up on Ammagonus hill with the townies playing some silly games.”
“Okay,” I said, baffled at the abrupt change of routine, “Well, do you want me to send you a replacement for look-out?”
“No, I’m perfectly happy here,” he said looking through his binoculars. “Alright, I’ll see ya later then, Hoot.”
“Yeup.” I crossed the road and headed straight for Ammagonus, which was shrouded in the glittering of the sun. I wonder if the new arrivals realize that it hasn’t been this warm and nice this whole time.
Whatever it was that was happening, everyone was laughing and rolling around on the ground. It seemed really healthy for all of our spirits.
“Hey, Ituri,” said Bub, as I approached the group, slightly confused. “Downtown and Lorelei and their friends brought us a game to play for helping us evade the loggers. It’s called: Bear Hug.” Chanterelle began to spin slowly in place with a blindfold tied over her eyes and then stopped and pointed to Coal and Jackal. As soon as Coal sprung to get a head start, Jackal grabbed onto his ankles and Coal came crashing down, now everyone began to laugh wildly, as Coal tried to drag himself [and Jackal] towards Chanterelle who was standing in the center. Some people counted the seconds out loud. As Jackal tried to get one hand towards Coal’s waist, he lost his grip and Coal made it to Chanterelle’s feet and everyone cheered. Now Jackal was in the middle. He spun around so quickly just as Coal and Chanterelle got arranged, that only some people were composed. He pointed at Catalpa and Pecan. Pecan jumped, but Catalpa grabbed him, flipped him over on his back and held on around his waist.
“I guess this is why it’s called Bear Hug, huh?” I said to nobody in particular. We were all laughing as Pecan struggled and squirmed, while Catalpa just laid there, wrapping around him tighter the more he struggled. Time was up and Pecan was in the middle. It went on like this for what seemed like a couple of hours. We all had tears running down our faces from laughing, all warm from the sun. For once we didn’t even notice our soggy shoes. The laughter was washing away our worries and concerns, if only for a moment. Just a picnic on a grassy knoll, no reason in the world to feel anxiety, though it was teaching us skills of evasion, and preparing our bodies and minds to remember that we do have the power to unarrest ourselves in a time of relaxation of a cop or logger, like how Aardwolf ran off even after they had gotten a hold of him. We are much more useful to the campaign out here rather than in jail. After Bear Hug, we played Duck Duck Goose.
“Man, Hoot must be getting hungry,” Aqua said. “He’s been on look-out all morning.”
“At least he hoards enough food out of the commie stashes for himself,” said Coast.
“You should know, man,” Catalpa said laughing and everyone else laughed residually. Coast walked off a little ways until Downtown said, “Hey, who wants some bread and baked tofu with tahini?” Everyone snapped to attention with our mouths watering. Town food: the kind of stuff that goes bad in a day or two. Mmm, what a rare treat.
“We don’t have to cook beans today!” Patriek said ecstatically. “Yay!” People cheered. The bear hugging grins back on their faces as they passed the bread around. People from town looked a little stunned and taken back from our reactions, but smiled none the less.
“I’ll bet Hoot has some of that local mustard,” Sawdust said as he walked towards look-out with an extra piece of bread and tofu for Hoot.
With lunch quickly out of the way, the slash pile parties resumed positions, and I walked up there to the top of the road with them. We all wore bandanas while we worked because we were so close to what we called, The Golf Ball. We were sure that they had surveillance cameras. The ‘golfballologist’ didn’t come during the bad storms, but he would come today, in his white SUV, stopping to unlock and relock the gate to go to his road and drove up the hill. The Golfball was a giant round structure, completely white. It sat on top of Rainbow Peak, the tallest point throughout the whole 20 miles of Rainbow Ridge. It was 3,800 feet, looking down on our 3,400 feet at the top of the bottleneck road near the rancher’s corral. It was nearly 3,000 feet where Hoot and Sawdust sat at look-out on Long Ridge.
Back at camp that night, we sang campfire songs, and heard news from around the world. Nobody could still tell us who would win the National Election for the U.S. Presidency. We were given the status of the THPs in the Mattole. None of the other four had been approved and the units of 475 were still in court. The clear weather caused a definite threat if they wanted to try to log. Once we decided to lie down, even though it was more crowded, we slept very comfortably. Everyone zipped up in their own sleeping bag, full from the town food dinner and stories from the outside.
The next morning, with the sun coming up, we had a nice campfire on look-out. We were cooking some breakfast, and passing the binoculars around, always adjusting it to each individual face & eye sight. Somebody had the idea of taking the center screw out to turn them into two ‘mono’culars. It worked great! Just close one eye and you didn’t have to squint. They were lighter weight, and two people could use them at the same time.
As we were eating breakfast, we heard something. “Shhh, shhh… what was that?” Everyone stopped and barely breathed.
“Oh, it’s just the Golfball,” said Chanterelle.
“Yeah, maybe,” Bub said. The Golfball makes a distant rotating motor sound, and sometimes the wind can shift and it could sound broken up or quite loud, like it was working overtime, or like it had gears which made it easy to mistake for a car driving up a hill.
“No, it’s not the Golfball,” said Hoot. “I’ve been listening to that thing for a week now.”
“Hey, look, there it is. It’s just an airplane,” said Bub. Sure enough there was an airplane flying over the ocean behind us. After it had faded from view we still weren’t convinced, because the sound continued to drone from the east, shifting gears kind of like a truck does. Could this be it? Is it the end of our peaceful ways out here? We waited, hearts pumping. Then somebody with a monocular saw it. There it was, it had just come out of the woods and was sitting at a gate across the river. A small human figure about two miles away, got out of his vehicle, opened the gate, got back in and drove through the gate. As he got out of his vehicle again and closed the gate behind him he stopped and stood there. We saw a reflecting light flash towards us. Hey, he’s got binoculars too, and he’s watching us watching him. Speculation began to fly. Hearsay flung this way and that. What kind of vehicle is that, an ATV? Almost looks like a dark green golf cart. Maybe he is from the Golfball, where was he just coming from though? Maybe he’s a rancher. He is definitely a fed paid to spy on us. Do you think he could shoot us from way over there? We laid down flat on the ground, resting on our elbows. Maybe he has a telephoto lens and he’s taking our pictures to press charges for trespassing. We put our bandanas and scarves up over our noses and breathed through the sweaty cloth. After a while he got back into the vehicle and drove away, disappearing into the next clump of trees. We sat up and began chattering confusion on what it must be and what it means.
Forty minutes went by and he came back down the distant road, we jerked our bandanas back up on our noses. He stopped at the gate, and paused as he closed it again. With the flash of light from the glass lens he was looking through, we passed the monoculars around and we watched as he drove away. We sat up tall like meerkats, wide eyes, looking around, unsure what it all meant. Then the chattering began again. Maybe he was just fixing some fences. He didn’t go to the Golfball unless there is a road to the back of it, but we would have seen him at the intersection. He is definitely a fed paid to document us. He was videoing from the shelter of the trees thinking we would be caught off guard. We settled on that one.
“Yep,” we said nodding, “definitely a fed.” It was still sunny that weekend, and after helping on the slash piles at the top of the road, Coast, Cashew, and I decided to take out the commie bicycle we called the ‘Trusty Steed.’ We took turns riding and pushing each other up and down the hills to a road called the Brushy Connector, a road that connects Long Ridge to Brushy Ridge. There was a THP along it, THP260 on the waterway called Alwardt Creek. As we came around a bend, dodging boulders in the orange dirt road, we nearly ran into a whole mess of cows. The cows closest to us spooked and spun around kicking at us and pushing into their neighbors. The herd didn’t really move because only the ones that saw us knew what they were pushing about. They kept packing in tighter, because the ones farthest away hadn’t seen us and weren’t budging. They could have jumped off the road, because it wasn’t too steep on the downhill side, but one thing about cows compared to deer is that they are lazier than they are afraid. They would rather not do something unique or reactionary unless someone else was going to do it with them.
We started yipping like coyotes and that got some movement. We yelled like the ranchers, “Git! Let’s git-a move on now! Yip, yip, yip!” They began to trot down the road slowly in front of us, leaving mud and sloppy poo as they went, slobbering stinky cow belches. It was a good job for the ‘Trusty Steed’ on a warm day.
For about three quarters of a mile we walked behind them yipping and hollering as they slowly trotted down the dirt road mooing and pooping until we reached the big meadow on Long Ridge where the ‘Brushy Connector’ connected with ‘Big Hill.’ The cows emptied into the steep meadow, bucking and galloping, kicking up their heels. They reached the top of the hill, and began eating instantly with their heads down. They were mostly black Angus, some crosses black with white faces, red Herefords, some red with white faces, and a few odd ball colors like grey or red speckles and a couple of gray or red roans.
“You’re a good Trusty Steed,” Cashew said as he patted the bicycle’s handle bars.
Domestic livestock, I sure like the smell of them, though I don’t like what I see them do to the feral land. Deer trails eroded nearly into terraces, creeks and streams turn to mushy shit mud, and the grass is eaten to the ground, compared to the knee high grass of the State Park on Rattlesnake Creek at the beginning of Rainbow Ridge. Giardia is no fun either.
Our closest water supply from the road camp is called “Jah Trough.” It has a hundred year old Redwood trough all busted up in the bushes, and a modern round plastic watering trough that a black plastic hose pipe empties into from a spring box near the meadow above. We can fill our small water bottles, or community five gallon jugs from the pipe and it is okay. It is just extremely muddy and mucky around the trough to get to the pipe, and it stinks like a muddy corral, quite a contrast to the crisp clean air, and certainly compared to that creek in the hidden deer meadow.
The next closest spring is around a few more bends, called “Sasquatch Springs.” One evening while Aqua was filling up the community water, he swears he saw a Sasquatch running away. It scared the shit out of him, and it has been called that ever since. It is a beautiful spring, with a little waterfall in the forest. There are always Pacific Giant Salamanders resting on the mossy rocks, raccoons, or little birds flitting around. It seems like it should be cleaner than Jah Trough, but they both make us sick sometimes. Another source of Giardia is from human feces, like if someone doesn’t wash their hands enough after taking a shit. You can’t help cook food unless you sanitize your hands, but sometimes you just never know with community food.
If we stick to eating our bulk foods it is usually okay. Don’t think you’ll ever have solid shits again while you are in the woods, but when there is an abundance of town food, it flares up. Bread is the worst. Peanut butter and jelly, it is all over. Anything sugary. A little bit of dried fruit is okay, but not much more than that, including chocolate. Coffee is pretty harsh. Even pasta. Your best bet is to stick with fresh or cooked veggies, oatmeal, beans or lentils, rice, and not to let yourself get dehydrated or it makes the diarrhea that much more painful. It is always good to remember not to eat with your fingers unless you know that you have sanitized your hands, but still, how clean are people’s fingernails? To drink from someone else’s water, pour it in your mouth. To eat out of a commie bag of food or to take your ration, don’t reach into the bag with your hands, pour it into your own bag or hand. Giardia is no fun, and it can weaken your immune system enough to catch pneumonia or bronchitis which makes it difficult to hike the 16 miles back down the road to get picked up by town.
Each day we have been watching the fed with the green golf cart, since that first day we had seen it. He never did talk to the Golfballogist in the white SUV, who would just drive up the Rainbow Peak driveway, open and close his gate, and head to the Golfball, so we are thinking that they are not associated with each other.
Today it was drizzling as we watched the green golf cart do its rounds. It opened and closed the lower gate, but instead of stopping in the forest to spy on us, it appeared down the road into the next meadow opening. We blew a red alert, three blasts with the whistle, and fumbled with the walkie-talkie to warn the folks who were at the top of the road. They had seen him, and they held their ground. He maneuvered the ATV/golf cart around the ends of the slash piles on the bottleneck.
“Okay, we’re gonna need to fortify those slash piles on the edges, guys,” said Hoot anxiously. There was no reply, only silence. The golf cart had reached them. He never got out of the vehicle. Five minutes later, he drove away, but not back the way he had come.
“He’s heading towards you guys now,” Catalpa said on the radio.
“Who is he? What did he say?” asked Hoot.
“Says he’s a rancher, that he’s got cows on the other side of the river. He has a riffle that he was holding on his lap.”
“We see him coming down Big Hill,” said Hoot. “I’ll talk to you guys later.” Hoot hated to be caught off guard and this was out of the ordinary, compared to our peaceful days lately. He grumbled as he organized his pack. There was about five of us there near look out, and we could see about four more folks walking up over Ammagonus. They must have been down in the units when they heard it on the radio and came up to check it out.
The golf cart drove around into the meadow, past the rock piles in the road and swung back heading right up our little grassy mound. The trees were right behind us, and we eyed them nervously ready to run as he approached.
He stopped the vehicle right in front of us as we backed up. There was the rifle, but instead of it being on his lap, he had hung it up behind him on a little gun rack. The kids up ahead must have made a good impression, at least a non-violent one.
“Hi, my name’s Micky Brown,” he said cheerfully.
“Yeah, and you run cows across the river. We heard from the guys up the road,” Hoot said rudely. We stepped in front of Hoot, as not to set off on the wrong foot.
“We thought you were a fed over there spying on us,” Cascara said.
“We thought you had a parabolic ear and were listening to everything that we said,” piped in Blue Jay.
“Nope,” said Micky Brown. “I’m just an old rancher. I own all that land over yonder, and even Rainbow Peak where that big FAA building is,” he pointed at the white sphere on top of the ridge.
“We call it the Golf ball. What is FAA?” I asked.
“FAA stands for Federal Aviation Association. They’ve got two of those things every 250 miles all over the U.S. They use ‘em for aviation radar, to keep track of air traffic and send the information to the airports. It’s also used for defense to detect an invasion of enemy aircraft.”
“Do you know the golfballogist, I mean, the guy who works there?” asked Cascara.
“Sure. There’s actually two guys that work there on shifts. It’s a pretty long ways from anywhere you know. They’re nice fellas. Keep to themselves usually. You guys call it a Golfball, huh? I call it a ‘Soccer ball,” he said chuckling.
“A Soccer ball?” exclaimed Hoot. “Why on earth do you call it a Soccer ball, it’s all white.”
“Yeah, but if you look real close in your binoculars, I can see it more clearly ‘cause I’m closer to it over there, you can see that it has shapes like a soccer ball holding it together. They aren’t any real shape though. It was designed by a computer, each shape is unique, like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s supposed to be the strongest kind of structure; for a circle that is.” He looked around Long Ridge and saw the other four people approaching in the distance.
“I sure do miss this place,” he said as he looked past the people and his gaze stayed on Taylor Peak rising above the ocean. We watched the old man realizing that our group lacked elders and children. Our ages ranged from 17 or 18 to 35 or so, a social imbalance that is hard to recognize. It was like we were passive soldiers and had left the balances of civilization back at home to fight our battle. Here was a man, in his 70s or something and we were learning so much in only a five minute conversation. His eyes were deep in thoughts and knowledge. We were hungry for education, chopping at the bit of the world.
“You know, my family used to own all of this,” he said collecting his memories. “When I was a kid, the timber company kept pressuring us to sell, and one year during real hard times my mother sold them Long Ridge when they were pushing her.” We were mesmerized. He went on, “It turned out that it was too steep to log anyway, so they just leased it out to some of the big cattle families like the Russ Ranch to run their cows and bulls on. We still owned Taylor Peak though, and had a right of way on this here road. We would go up there and have picnics on the peak. When the weather is good, you can see all around you. You can see Mt. Shasta, the Yolla Bollies, the town of Fortuna, Petrolia, the ocean.” He had this far off look in his eye that captivated our imaginations.
“They kept pestering my ma to sell ‘em Taylor Peak though. ‘What good is it to them if they can’t even log it?’ she would ask. It really upset her. One day they took the road easement away on Long Ridge and told her that there was no way she could get to Taylor Peak anymore, so she might as well just sell it to them. No more picnics on the top of the world. You could see boats out on the ocean up there, and the eagles would be nesting and soaring around. Anyway, years later when she was getting older she ended up selling it to them. They had kept on hounding her, and since we couldn’t go there and visit anyways. ‘It was just too much on the taxes,’ she would say.”
“Oh, those assholes!” exclaimed Hoot.
“Well, I’ve got enough to keep me busy over there at the ol’ fruit farm.” Micky said as he pointed across the river to the north east. “See them houses, that’s where I live.” Sure enough we could see a barn and a house roof poking out of the trees.
“Why is it that we haven’t seen you until this week?” asked Hoot as he stepped forward.
“Well,” said Micky, “we go live in our town house when it’s real stormy out here. Never know if a road’ll wash away, or a tree blows down. Me and my wife, we come out here to check on the cows and get away from all of the noise when we can. You all are the most excitement we’ve seen out here since the ‘Soccer ball’ moved in, and then there was the time when ol’ Frank lost his mules.” Micky was looking over our shoulders as he backed up towards the green golf cart, it was more like an enclosed ATV, on the side it had a label that said it was called a Mule.
“This rain today’s not supposed to last long. I’ll be seeing you guys later. I’ve got to git back to work on those fences the storm busted last week.” We looked behind us at the sound of footsteps as the group of four from the ATV trail reached us. We looked back at Micky as he turned his vehicle around and drove away.
“You guys scared him off!” said Hoot accusingly as he pushed Coal’s shoulder.
“Well, what did he say,” asked Ceasar.
“He said he lives over there, he’s not a fed, and he calls that thing a soccer ball,” Hoot quickly summarized.
“A soccerball?” repeated Caesar slowly.
“Yeah, I know, it doesn’t even have any black on it. I’ll explain it all later down at camp tonight,” he arranged his glasses more comfortably on his nose. “Right now, I just want to get this fire back before it goes out. Man, I hate the rain.” Hoot crouched down and started blowing on some kindling. Caesar looked at all of us and shrugged his shoulder. We all shrugged back to him and began telling them our side of the story.
Micky was right. The rain didn’t last long after dark and the next day was covered in a thick fog. We woke up at four o-clock as usual, ate our oatmeal, slipped into our cold wet socks and shoes, while we took turns making a mad dash to the shitter. We did some quick clean up around camp. It was soon to be Thanksgiving, and we had to be prepared for a possible population influx. Just in case camp was ever raided, we stashed our individual sleeping bags as we hiked up the steep hill to the road. At the road camp we threw some more logs on the eternal flame that Cashew and Coast had already started and we stood around the fire until the sun rose out of the dissipating fog.
“You know, we get to sleep a half an hour longer than you guys because we don’t have to hike up that crazy hill,” Cashew said, and we still get to the eternal flame before you guys. I bet the radios don’t even work down there. That camp is too far away!”
“Actually,” Aardwolf began as he took his foggy glasses off and began wiping them on his shirt.
“You’re right!” Coal interrupted. “See you guys, I’ve been telling you that, that camp is too far away.”
“Yeah,” piped in Catalpa.
Aqua suggested, “Why don’t we move to another camp?”
“I will sleep up here tonight,” offered Caesar.
“Me too,” added Cascara. People were nodding and agreeing. My heart began beating really hard. I liked our too-far-away camp. It felt safe, though I could barely find my way there by myself, and could barely breathe by the time I came up, it still felt comforting to be hidden. It did seem a bit cramped, but certainly not if a bunch of people were going to start sleeping elsewhere. I managed to get enough guts to say, “Well, I like it down there.”
“Then stay down there,” said Coal.
“Oh, okay,” I said. “Who else is staying down there?” I looked at Patriek and Bub, they kind of gave a grin by tightening their lips.
“Well, I have an idea for a new spot,” Patriek said, “It will be alright, Ituri,” he said in his French accent.
“Someone needs to keep the raccoons from busting into all of the food buckets that are down there, right?” I asked.
“Go ahead Ituri,” said Cashew, completely loving it that everyone was moving up closer to the road, mostly because it was his idea probably. “You can stay down there and keep the raccoons from getting into the buckets, then one of these days we can just move the bucket stashes closer too. It’s just a ridiculous place.”
“Well, it is a spot that people know where to find us when they hike in. It’ll be good to make some room down there for the new arrivals for Thanksgiving,” said Cascara.
That morning the buck didn’t come, maybe he was still in his place that he stays when the weather is raining. I went up to the top of the road towards the corral and helped haul rocks and woody debris. That evening people had gone down to camp early, individually and gathered up their sleeping supplies, setting up tarpies down into the woods on either side of the road in their own hidden locations. We ate dinner and I waited up thinking someone else was going to walk down to Too Far Away camp, but nobody did.
As I walked down there, all I had was a squeeze powered flashlight. Whir-whir-whir-whir. ‘Man,’ I thought to myself. Why the heck are these things so loud?’ It was nearly deafening in the silence. I heard footsteps in the woods. “Hello?” I asked into the darkness. I stopped and stared into the steep nothingness. No answer. I asked again, nothing. Okay, it must just be an animal, or even just a rock rolling down the hill. Whir-whir-whir-whir. The flashlight went as I descended deeper into the forest. I heard footsteps again, & stopped to listen. I cranked the flashlight and tried to see if there was anything there, but the light really wasn’t very powerful. I kept going and for god’s sake the thing started following me again. It’s not sasquatch, it’s not sasquatch, I know it is not… I stopped and spun around, whirring the dim light, but couldn’t see anything and everything was silent again. I’m just going to get to the too-far-away camp as fast as I can and I’m just going to go to sleep and forget about being scared. It’s probably just a darned raccoon anyways.
I unstashed my sleeping bag, and when I got to the camp, it felt very cold and empty. Without lighting a fire I just unrolled my beloved cocoon and climbed in, covering up my face, ready to fall asleep. As soon as I started drifting off, I heard the footsteps again, but this time it wasn’t just one. They were coming from at least five or six different directions. Really close to the camp too. They made weird bird-like chirping noises. They sounded too big to be raccoons. I got out my flashlight and bright eyes shined back, surrounding the camp. I reached for a thick stick and hugged it to me. Coyotes. They kept circling nervously. They were having whole conversations with each other, they sounded like jackals, or small hyenas. Their pacing sounded like a large dog, scrambling up and around the steep slopes. Well, I thought, I doubt that they can break into the buckets unless they knock the top off by pushing it down the hill. Screw the food. I’m not going to fight off a pack of coyotes. I’m pretty sure that they won’t eat me, just laying here. I covered my face completely, with my mouth sticking out the top as an air hole and eventually fell asleep.
It was a rainy Thanksgiving. There were two buckets that came in full of home baked pies, and different Thanksgiving foods from local people who had cooked for us. It was a wonderful reminder that people knew of and appreciated our efforts out here. People chattered, argued, laughed and made jokes, attempting to raise the spirits we had been deprived of during the stress of trying to protect the forest. We ate standing up since the tarp wasn’t big enough to house everyone sitting and we only had a few buckets that we had unstashed along with the pie buckets. The tarp wasn’t exactly tall enough either for everyone to be standing, so we were more slumped over at the shoulders, shoveling the tasty town food into our mouths. We had the rock oven going, trying to heat up some of the turkey and stuffing in actual casserole dishes, but the fire was being very difficult to get hot enough in this miserable weather. It was billowing dark smoke out instead. Everyone was soaked to the bone. We were cramped up against each other, trying to stay away from the edges which were more like a waterfall and much wetter than just standing in the actual rain. What we really needed was a big bonfire to dry off and get warm. We called it an early night, most people heading down to Too Far Away camp to make a camp fire and at least get some of our layers dry enough to fall asleep.
One day, just before dawn on a wet drizzly day, a few of us went to relieve our overnight lookout way up at the bottleneck. We brought Bub some warm oats that he could eat on his hike back to Long Ridge to take a quick nap. We began to throw rocks onto the slash pile and rearranged the card table through the raining windy fog. Just then we heard a rumble, suddenly we saw a giant Bulldozer and right behind him, Carl Anderson, head of PL security’s unmistakable gray truck. Major realization began to set in as one cop truck after another cop truck became visible through the thick fog; one after another, five, six. All lined up. More came by the moment. The Bulldozer was moving the slash piles out of the way without even slowing down. We began to back up, and then turned and ran. Glancing back we could see more Sheriff vehicles piling in, then the logger trucks appeared at the end.
“RED ALERT!” we screamed into the radio. “Cops, loggers, there are a shit ton, you guys. Get everyone into the units immediately!” as we huffed and puffed, looking back briefly at the onslaught of vehicles. We leapt off of the road onto the Bovine Freedom trail, a side hill trail that the cows had terraced onto the side of the ridge, almost as wide as a hiking or bicycle trail in town.
“Wholly crap, how many do you think there are?” asked our crackling radio.
“A shit load, dude. I don’t know we counted up to six and then took off. Way more than that,” Lupine answered. We caught up to Bub, wide eyed he tossed his remaining oats and ran with us. I don’t remember ever running that fast. We flew along the familiar trail and terrain. The fog became brighter as the sun continued to rise. We reached Big Hill and came out half way down as our trail ended and we ran parallel to the road until we reached the Long Ridge lookout. Fully winded we looked over our shoulder as we joined our Unit 1 group.
“The rest of the folks went down to the units already, or are on their way from camp,” Hoot said.
“Okay, now that you guys are here, let’s get down to our unit,” said Aardwolf.
“Look! Here they come!” yelled Bub, exasperated by our run, and a lack of sleep having been on a damp lookout for half of the night. It was still quite chilly out, and even though the sky continued to get lighter, the fog was sticky and wet. Sure enough, the entourage was peaking over the hill.
“Oh shit!” said Hoot. “Let’s move it, guys,” he hefted his shoulders to reposition his backpack and we all took off down the hill, across the road, and followed the short ATV trail into Unit 1. We stood like meerkats, trying to watch the scene unfold. Over fifteen trucks passed lookout, which had been the original parking area for the loggers, and they all proceeded to Pig Hill.
“I sure hope those kids that arrived last night hear what is happening and get their butts up before the cops go traipsing through the woods and catch them with their pants down. They are probably still asleep down there,” Hoot said as we walked cautiously along the trail.
“Well, with all of this noise, I’m sure they will find out pretty quick,” answered Caesar. They had started cutting, we heard the chainsaws fire up as our friends began yelling and screaming, hooting and hollering. We instinctually leapt into the woods, the unnatural roaring of the saw had wrapped a string squeezing our hearts and tugged it towards the sound like a magnet. We knew what it meant. We scrambled across the landslides, determined to help the other group. There were people in small trees in the fall zones, there were people on the ground, one with a video camera. The cops kept trying to keep activists away. They were chasing folks down extremely steep embankments, which truthfully never should be logged near in the first place. Trees fell and activists screamed their hearts out as we felt the pain and heard the creaks of the trees in their twisted descent. They landed with an earth shattering crash, and the ground shook below our unstable footholds.
It was a couple of us that went over last, and we went down to avoid cop and logger contact to reach where they were cutting. We ended up having to cross through extremely steep and dangerous landslides again. Waterfall and I were the last to arrive. We followed a steep creek up as we listened to the sounds of the shouting. We climbed the cliff embankment, finding any protruding roots to take hold of as the orange dirt crumbled below our feet. Looking towards the creek it turned into a steep gully, the other side was equal to our height. As we reached the top and popped our heads over the ferns, we could see that Lupine and Cashew were in small oak trees on either side of a big Fir Tree that the logger had been cutting. The chainsaw was idling, and there were cops all around. Caesar appeared from the bushes and had noticed Waterfall & I. He beckoned us to sneak over to where he was hiding. We crouched behind a thick Huckleberry bush and he pointed to a pile of logging equipment.
He said, “I think I can reach it.” We nodded. He tiptoed in slow motion to the unprotected gear. He grabbed the two gas cans, a thing of oil, and an extra chainsaw chain.
“Here,” he whispered and handed us the gas cans. “Let’s stash them down in the gully.” We followed him back the way we had come. Climbing down the cliff backwards, one handed, watching below us for footholds, and above in case anyone had noticed. After placing them in a stable location, we crawled back to the Huckleberry bush.
Lupine and Cashew were coming down their trees, they stopped suddenly when a logger exclaimed, “Where the fuck did my shit go!” Our eyes got big. A cop came over and we heard the logger say, “My shit was right here, gas, chains, one of those fuckers must have took them!”
Cascara put the video camera back around her neck, and she tried to back pedal, “We have no idea what happened to your gear!”
“Well, somebody does!” The logger replied, “and you better give them back or all deals are off!” Deals? We looked at each other; the other activists further up the hill were getting real pissed.
Lupine yelled, “Anyone who knows where this guy’s stuff is better go and get it right now! Cashew and I made an agreement with them that we would come out of our trees, and they can finish cutting this tree that is already cut through half way, if they would leave for the day. Now you guys are fucking it all up!” Our hearts dropped to our stomach. Waterfall & I looked at Caesar, and he had a very sad frown on his face. He took a deep sigh and stood up.
“I’ll go get them,” he said solemnly. Waterfall & I stayed hidden, peeking out as everyone glared in our direction, the activists all looking around at each other and shaking their heads. Caesar climbed down the cliff and handed up the gas cans to the logger, took the chain off his shoulder and handed that up as well. He went back down for the oil container. He stayed safely perched on the root with his hands holding onto a shrub oak, and he said, to the cop and to the logger, “I was going to give them back, I just want you guys to stop cutting these Old Growth trees.” The logger just turned around huffing with anger. The cop stayed and turned around to watch the logger get back to work. Caesar looked at us, and gave an embarrassed shrug. Waterfall and I looked at each other as if saying, what the hell was that all about?
Lupine and Cashew climbed down out of their trees and retreated back into the forest to a safe distance. The faller revved up his chainsaw as the other loggers began to walk up the hill towards their ATVs. The chainsaw spat out wood shavings onto the logger’s orange chaps. The tree began to moan. A living being getting killed right before our eyes and we could do nothing to help. The tree felled side hill towards the small purple flowered meadow. The logger hefted his chainsaw onto his shoulder and grabbed a gas can and followed the rest of the crew to the ATVs with no ritual. The cops seemed slightly traumatized and they followed along behind. Caesar climbed onto solid ground and braced himself for the brunt of the words from the activists.
“Dude, what were you thinking?” Sawdust questioned.
“I wanted them to stop cutting the trees. The gear was unprotected, so I thought I would just hide them,” answered Caesar honestly.
Lupine and Cascara came over, “We were in the middle of making a deal with them so they would go home!”
“Well, I didn’t realize that, sorry.” The ATVs fired up and began to head out along the steep ATV trail.
“Let’s fill this trail back up with slash!” Catalpa said. Everyone agreed, so until dark we reestablished our slash piles along the trail. Aqua and Patriek decided to head to camp and try to find some of the new comers who hadn’t shown up in the units.
“We’ll get dinner started,” Aqua offered.
“And a fire so we can all get to sleep early tonight, maybe we can convince some of the new hikers to take a night shift at lookout,” Patriek added as he looked at the frazzled Bub who followed them to camp. When the rest of us reached the top of the ridge the fog was getting thick, there was no horizon through the wet physical cloud. The ghosts of the trees blew in the fading white atmosphere. The wind picked up the water particles and swirled through the branches below, it made our eyes run with exhaustion and sorrow.
They cut eight trees that day.
The loggers came again the next day with the dawn and their police force entourage. We split up into our two groups. The loggers began to cut in the lower units and so our Unit 1 crew moved over in pairs again, I kept up with everyone else this time.
“Alright, so maybe they will just be focusing on the other units again?” speculated Aqua.
“Who knows,” Waterfall piped in cautiously, “shouldn’t we stay here to see what they really are going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Caesar said. “Maybe we should wait a few minutes and then just head over there, because that is a huge crew and they could get a lot of cutting done if we are all split up again like this.”
“I agree,” Hoot said matter of factly.
“Yeah, okay. Let’s just go there, and no silly business this time, you guys,” Aqua said accusingly at Caesar, Waterfall and I as we stood in the back.
“Okay, I’m sorry guys. We’ll leave the loggers’ stuff alone. We didn’t mean for it to be like that,” Caesar said sheepishly.
“Yeah, whatever,” said Hoot abruptly. “Let’s just go!” He got on his radio and announced, “Hey guys, this is Unit 1, we’re going to head over to you guys right now because they’re all parked up on Pig Hill again.” The radio crackled.
“Okay and you guys can just go back if they end up over at Unit 1 later. We’ll keep an eye on what is happening. We hear the ATVs, they are already heading towards Unit 6 right now,” replied Cascara. We could see the distant Pig Hill past the trees of our still smoking road camp. Some of the sheriffs stayed there to watch the vehicles, while the rest of the convoy headed to the lower units. The sheriffs on their own ATVs were ‘chauffeuring’ the logger to work in the rain. We ended up having to cross through extremely steep and dangerous landslides again. Eventually, shakily we made it to where they were cutting. This time the loggers had split up into two different units, and were cutting trees with activists and cops all around. There were people on the ground and in nearby trees. The loggers were working really fast this time. I guess they decided to get the most out of the large group. There was no pause between trees falling and chainsaws starting up. They didn’t care where we were, it was up to the cops to keep us out of the way. Nobody was standing around today; they were determined to make their pay. It seemed like a very reckless way to approach the situation.
After a short while, chainsaws could be heard towards Unit 1, and we began to hear trees falling. A few of us broke off back towards the unit, cursing ourselves for not having been there, at our own station to prevent this nightmare atrocity. We scrambled across landslides, sending our gravity to the horizontal, defying the vertical pull. On our way over, we ran into a Pacific Giant Salamander in the middle of the area where they had cut the first tree that first day, three weeks ago. We paused slightly, giving it our apologies and our promises.
We arrived at different times. Waterfall had been trying to protect a tree, and was grabbed by three cops and thrown against the tree. They all jumped on her and held her down as she screamed that they were hurting her. Later she was charged with resisting arrest with force, as if a 130 pound shy as heck blond girl was any physical threat to three big fat male cops.
Other activists were across the stream yelling at the loggers and cops. When I arrived, I immediately tried to go up the bank where the chainsaws were, and I saw two cops. I looked around, and continued. I could see where the fallers were, and the two cops kept slowly walking towards me. Once the cops were getting nearer I noticed one of them, who had me in quite a fixed stare, raise his eyes slightly over my shoulder and look at something I assumed that was behind me. I glanced back quickly, and saw that there were two more cops heading towards me on the other side. I jumped down the cliff, telling them that it wasn’t safe for me to be climbing on landslides, and by chasing me down this side of the creek was greatly endangering my life. As I slid, falling and stumbling I cussed the whole way down. They had Waterfall! They had my friend. Lupine was yelling constantly, I had never seen him so upset. I began to cry uncontrollably. I carefully scrambled up the other side of the creek, where I now realized that my friends were actually on this side of the creek and not in the active unit, for good reasons. They were all yelling passionately at the sheriffs. One of the fallers kept asking if he could stop and call it quits for the day because he couldn’t take the anxiety and the pressure. The foreman said, “No,” and insisted on, “just one more hour.”
The last hour in Unit 1 of THP 475 on November 26th, they cut so many trees. One was falling each minute. Some of the trees shattered because they landed wrong. They were felled like pick-up-sticks, crisscrossing in a giant tangle of branches and huge trunks. We kept scrambling up and down the creek bed, trying to distract the cops while others crept along and popped up further down. We got chased, we cried. We tried to yell over the chainsaws, at least for the cops’ sake of their own safety when they weren’t paying attention to what the loggers were actually doing, if the cop was too close to the fall zone himself. After that last panicked hour of demolishing the forest, there was sudden silence as the loggers packed up and rode their ATVs to the top of the ridge, and back towards their trucks. We were sitting at the head of a stream, crying. We sat in a crumpled pile, holding on to each other, and sobbed in each other’s arms, all the time watching the cops, with judgment glaring from our blurry eyes.
The cops began hiking, hobbling up the hillside on the ATV trail. With big bellies, and stiff steps. One had a tall walking stick he used, made of a Fir branch that he used to pull himself up the hill. We couldn’t help but laugh.
“Hey, why didn’t the loggers offer you guys a ride on the back of their ATVs, huh?” inquired Cascara. “They’re makin’ you walk all the way back to the ridge without even a thanks for the good day’s work? Ah, the bastards. Good thing they didn’t fall a tree on you like what happened to Gypsy. You guys were way too close, you could have gotten hurt!”
Bub asked the slow moving crew of cops, “Hey, do you happen to know what the time is?”
One of the more round shaped cops answered, “It’s Miller Time!” and they all laughed.
“Eww! That’s gross!” we commented, making barfing sounds. I think the cops were glad for the lightened mood.
Now to make sure everyone was alright and to see if we can find where they were holding the people who got arrested. We headed through the forest to try and meet up with the rest of our friends. We crossed the road, to avoid the landslides and followed the Bovine Freedom trail through Unit 7 of 031. Cops and loggers were driving around, congregating on Pig Hill. We stood on the north side of the road, across from the giant parking lot that was on Pig Hill. We watched the cops, loggers, and what we found out to be five people who had been arrested. We called out to them our love. The other group of activists, who had been in the lower units, were on the south side of the road watching and yelling too. The line of vehicles headed out, but our ability to count how many of them were interrupted as a sheriff truck, every now and then, would drive down the hill, park right in front of us and suddenly the doors would slam and two young sheriffs would jump out at a dead run to try and catch us. Grunting yells we were immediately out of sight. In a blur we would jump down the hill, through the ferns, and the young tangles of trees, falling down areas where the ground would disappear, cussing the whole way. We would climb back up the hill and take our original positions. They did this numerous times, as they trickled away, waiting for the sun to set. As the sky finally began to sink below a huge dark, stormy cloud bank, the winds began to pick up, and the cops left. A long time earlier the loggers had already gone back to their hotel rooms. The cops were waiting out the daylight, milking their triple over-time.
In the fading light we all got together and recapped each other of our individual experiences, and how the people were arrested. We were shaky and exhausted. Two days in a row was taking a toll on our physical and mental states, let alone a large portion of the forest had been murdered. We felt that they needed to be prevented from even driving near the forest we loved so dearly. It was obvious this tactic was not sustainable.
The next day, huddled under a smoky tarp while we were still trickling in for lunch, we heard that Luna, Julia Butterfly’s giant Redwood tree, was cut, not fallen just severely injured. The tree named ‘Luna’ was 200-feet (61 m)-tall, Julia lived in that tree for two years, 738 days between December 10, 1997 and December 18, 1999, without touching the ground. She had received international attention, and helped bring notice to our isolated county and the environmental issues that we faced. There were many people who were upset by this media attention, but Luna had helped raise awareness enough to save the Headwaters Forest. The chainsaw cut measured 32 inches (810 mm) deep and 19 feet (5.8 m) around the base, nearly half the circumference of the tree. Some of the people at our road camp had been very involved in keeping Julia resupplied, even had helped set the platform. There were mixed emotions of the tragic event. For one, after years trying to protect the tree to get pushed backwards by a poacher’s chainsaw was certainly insanely frustrating and sad. The other thing, which was on all of the rest of our minds, if extremely selfish, but in our reality while being on the brink of a new campaign, experiencing our own tragedy yesterday and really needing the news coverage to get the word and the support out there to the community, with Luna having been cut it was going to take all of the media coverage and nobody was going to know what we were all doing out here! Was this the company’s thinking? Did they do this? Who did this? Is this crime more or less worse than what we are doing here stopping illegal logging on the same private land? They were all questions of philosophy. Our reality is that we are facing an unknown onslaught and hopefully they are going to plug our activities into Julia’s story. Yeah, we are not a famous face figure, we are masked strangers determined in our anonymity.
That afternoon, a couple of lone cops came out to the woods. We hid in the forest, and overheard them talking about a lost wedding ring. We certainly laughed about that. They were retracing their steps. Good luck to them, wandering and driving around in the rain. There also happened to be a lost cop radio.
The next few days, the storm kept the rain and wind blowing. We videoed the roads with ‘overland flow’ since they are not allowed to drive on ‘unrocked roads’ for 48 hours after water flowed over the roads, and as long as there was proof we could at least file it as a violation to the California Department of Forestry, CDF. We tossed our slash piles back into the roads that had been pushed out of the way by the bulldozer.
There had to be a better way.
A dozen people, stumbled over roots and ferns as we heaved the long fir pole out of the forest and carried it across the road. We laid it down the hill towards the headwaters of Sulfur Creek. As we climbed back up the hill the next task was to tie and secure the trucker’s rope anchors, some were yellow poly and only one was actual climb line. Caesar climbed up a tree at the Sulfur creek headwaters and tied the line to where it could reach the road reasonably. The wind roared in the trees, and I hunkered down against the road’s upper bank with a few other people whose task didn’t include tying off ropes. We attempted to cook some quinoa. Coast, Lupine, and Cashew worked on the other tree. Wrapping a girth hitch around the tree’s base, they had the trucker’s rope go across the road. Other than helping to stabilize the pod, it was made so if a car were to drive through the rope or disturb it very much, the pod would become unstable and fall, hence injuring or killing the pod sitter, and that would be much more of a crime than trespassing, or blocking a road and disrupting a million dollar industry, right?
The sun set and now we were needed to help with the ropes. Oh blast that wind is cold. Twenty people tried to keep it even. Eight people on this most westerly line, as we were piled up on top of the upper bank trying to keep the tension while tightening and loosening the anchor attached to a baby fir tree growing above the road.
There were the four or five boys working on the come-along to the main Anchor. Some folks were across the road in the steep meadow in a Bay Laurel tree grove called the Fortress, fiddling with their slack; back and forth. A couple of times the pole fell all the way over and out of its base hole we had dug. Stand it back up.
“Okay, Pull! Stop!”
“Pull! Okay now Stop!”
“Stop!” yelled Cashew, completely frustrated.
“It’s hard to understand the difference of the commands because the wind is too loud!” yelled Hoot.
“The wind is too loud! Can we use different commands?”
“Alright, when I say ‘Now’ pull, okay? When my hand is up and I say Stop, don’t pull but keep it tight,” said Cashew trying to be patient while standing with the come-along crew.
It took twenty people in four groups. Each group would pull on the ropes, trying to erect this giant pole. It is called a ‘Mono-pod.’ A ‘pod’ blockade with one pole. A pod is a platform that someone sits in, like a tree sit, but not in a tree. Sometimes you could have a tripod, or a bipod, or a traverse pod without any legs, but this was a monopod. Some of the ropes go across the road at about waist height so they can’t drive through. The foot holding was dug into the hillside to stabilize it some, and the ropes were attached near the top end of the pole, and tied to nearby trees. The person sits in a platform that is big enough for them to lie down in, which is hanging from the top end of the pole. I wasn’t going to question it, but I certainly wasn’t going to sit in it either.
It took a few nights to get it up, but on December 1st after hours of pulling and giving, we finally got it right. Somebody was tying off the last of the ropes to a tree. The rest of us were still holding onto the ropes will all of our strength. All of a sudden we could see two, three sets of headlights barreling down the road towards where we were. Our flashlights automatically went out. Panic froze everyone much more than the wind ever could. Suddenly it was no longer cold out, suddenly all plans must be abandoned. Abort. We could never get this thing habitable in time. No longer did we shout in commands but in herd bound necessities.
“Caesar tie that off and get out of the tree!” Coal called out to the night sky above the creek.
“Maybe its cops,” we whispered.
“Well, they’ll never get this thing down if we’re all still holding on to it!” Coal said, trying to lighten the mood.
“Screw that!” replied Hoot. It felt like we were caught off guard with our pants down and our hands tied. We had held onto the heavy rope for hours, skidding down and back pedaling on the road embankment.
“A little bit more from group 3!” called out Aqua.
“Hurry up dude!” yelled Aardwolf.
“Almost there!” Coast said. As quickly as possible, Cashew secured the rope to a large Fir tree across the road from the pod, tying up the end.
“Alright, we have it! You can let go,” Cashew announced. Lupine tied our rope off to a small meadow Fir. We could see a muffled flashlight in the middle of a tall Fir across Sulfur Creek as Caesar made his way down.
“Nobody touch any of these lines!” warned Cascara. We carefully crept under the lines, gathered into a spooked group and spoke in hushed voices.
“Shit, you really think it’s a raid?” asked Aarwolf.
“Maybe they knew we were doing this,” hypothesized Bluebird.
“It’s midnight. Why would they come now?”
“Maybe they’ve been watching us on the ridge, and now that they have seen us waste all of this energy, no one is in it yet, so they can take it down before we get it functioning.”
“Should we get someone up in there then?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s not ready yet! Do you remember the last time it tipped over? Dude, fuck that!” exclaimed Lupine.
“So, now what do we do?”
“Let’s stash all of this gear off of the road. Some of us will finish getting this come-along off of the rope, and we’ll meet the rest of you up near that spring under the road,” suggested Aqua.
“Yeah. Okay,” echoed the crowd as we nodded to each other in the dark. We scrambled away into the woods off of the road carrying personal and commie gear to stash as we went along. Really what everyone needed was to take a dump real quick, the giardia loves some good stress and nerves, and it doesn’t wait around.
We met up under the road and crept along while staying in the shadows, hobbling three legged, using our arms as stabilizers since the rocky eroded road (hence the term, E-road) would crumble with each step.
“Shhh!” hissed Coast, after a near-by foot sent a small boulder rolling and crashing into the forest. The vehicle was passing the corral and then it stopped before us. We caught our breath. A loud hooting happened.
“WooHoo!” it called. Our heads cocked sideways and we looked at each other with lowered eye brows.
“WooHoo!” answered somebody among us. We all jumped.
“Oh my god, dude? What are you trying to fuck us!?” spatted someone.
“What the hell are we going to do now?” We perched ourselves for a quick escape down the steep hill.
“WooHoo!” answered above. “Hey you guys, we’ve got a surprise for you! Come and help us dig a hole!”
“Shit. Is that Fae?” Our cluttered group dispersed instantly as people climbed up to the road.
“Hey, we brought you this car to help make a dragon. We figured on putting it in the narrowest part of the road, since it’s only a Dodge Colt. People have already started digging.”
“Man, we’ve been making a Monopod.”
“What the hell? A ‘mono’pod? With only one pole? That’s insane.”
“Yeah, it’s taking us forever to get it stable though. We thought they wouldn’t know what to do with it..”
“That’s for sure. Do you have someone that will actually sit in it?”
“Lupine says that he would give it a go for a little while.” That got my attention. The cars were parked up under a tree cluster in a curve of the road. The rest of the area up here was big and meadowy. The Golfball was very close, the intersection was only a five minute walk. It was a five way intersection up there, one way to us along the ridge, then one going side hill north to Micky Brown’s, one to the Golfball at the top of the hill, one east into the dark forest towards Monument Ridge and eventually into the town of Rio Dell, then one comes up Rainbow Ridge forking quickly along Palco land to the left heading southeast to State Park and Fox Camp Gate which is on the Mattole road on the way to Honeydew. The other fork went to Vevoda’s cattle ranch house and barn which looped back around to the Rainbow Ridge road near an old cabin.
People had dug a hole with a fence hole digger and a digging bar. Everyone was moving a hundred miles a minute. I guess the folks from town were running off some serious adrenaline, because those of us who had been in the woods for a while were quite keyed down compared to them. I think we were just relieved how this night was advancing, compared to the alternatives we had imagined. A pvc pipe was down in the hole with the opening duct taped closed, top and bottom. They began pouring concrete to fill in the hole.
“What are they doing?” I asked someone from town.
“They are making a Sleeping Dragon.” I had heard of them in my non-violence training. It was a way to lock down with one arm in the sleeve, and it is very difficult to remove the person since their arm is stuck in the ground surrounded by concrete. Oh, especially with a car encasing the person! Ha!
“Dude, the cops are going to be so pissed!” I remarked.
“Hey there’s food for anyone who’s hungry and there’s a box of extra clothes!” It sounded like a nice invitation. I went over to have a look at the clothes, because gosh it was extra windy up here on the meadow road, away from the trees. I made my way to get a bite to eat of some delicious nuts and bread.
“Here, let me back it up,” said Bub as the driver climbed out and Bub popped the car back into gear. They were trying to get it parked perpendicular with the road, next to a gate people were wrapping with chain and locking closed. The car was going back and forward, trying to squeeze in next to the gate and back it up as much as it would go without backing it off of the road or running it into the hill. It was sitting in the ditch that people had made for it, like a nest or a bed. Then instantly they had it on jacks and were removing the tires.
Some people went down to keep working on getting the pod habitable, and other pod folks went up the road to see what the vehicular scene was all about. People were out and beginning to set to work. It was a party! So many people on the mountain! The food that had been brought needed to be stashed.
The car that stayed was called ‘The Blue Dragon.’ It was a small car and it housed four people in the general vicinity who were ready to ‘lock down’ if unwelcome visitors showed up. There was a ‘Black Bear’ which is a metal pipe lock box that is welded together at a 90 degree angle. This one went through two of the open side windows around the piece of metal between the windows. Somebody would stick their arms into the pipes, with a chain around their wrists with a carabineer they would clip onto a piece of rebar in the center of the angle. The other lock box was the one that went through a hole in the bottom of the car, with a pvc pipe encased in concrete under the ground, called a sleeping dragon. The person would lie down and stick one arm into it, clipping their carabineers to the little piece of rebar going horizontally at the end of the pipe. The other two people were there as direct support. They were not attached to anything at the time, but they would stay in the car until physically removed. They give comfort, food, and water to the people who have their hands preoccupied.
The weather was on and off hot sun, naked days and wet cold rain, with full winter gear. There was a tarpy in front of the car and different tarp structures further back on the road and in the forest. The Monopod had a triangle shaped tarpy like a cone, and the platform was wide and just about long enough for the pod sitter to lie down. The pod sitters said that they had to sleep either in an ‘L’ or an ‘S’ shape to stay dry because of the tarp sag.
There were thirty-six people around in that first week. During the nights we worked in the wind, taking shifts. We cooked on a fire in a deep trench that went across the road. It had to be so long to fit all of the people around the fire. Cashew and Coast would sleep inside of it at either end, staying warm with the coals. It was called ‘The Flaming Trench.’ At some point people decided to fill it in, due to potential erosion once it started raining. We made sure that some of the unused firewood logs were thrown in vertically as the dirt was getting tossed in. This began the foundation framework of ‘The Wall.’ For a few of us ‘The Wall’ became the love of our life. Each day for the next few months it is what we worked on. First the vertical poles were accompanied with horizontal poles as well as giant long poles spiking out at some sort of angle towards the front of the road. The Wall was about 200 feet from the Blue Dragon. The Wall required some sort of cooperation since each big pole took at least two to four people carrying it.
Life was wonderful not having to hear chainsaws and death. People were still on edge, not sure when the loggers would come next. We existed as a family, isolated from the general world of propaganda that America is based on. We were away from the deafening highways and concreted road system. We could breathe deeply in the clean mountain air. Smelling with your nose actually tasted good, no stinging chemicals to chase us indoors. The rain didn’t burn; it was just wet, like a cold shower with our clothes on, nothing to rush out of. We didn’t tell each other to put clothes on when it is hot outside. No computers, electricity, no phone lines on the horizon. Only plastic bags and lighters, rain gear and sleeping bags, tarps, ropes, baling wire, p-cord. There was one cell phone to talk to town once a day. Our vehicle was concreted into the ground with no tires. Our visitors were limited and the majority used their feet to reach us.
Some people in a Palco (Pacific Lumber Company) truck came by one day, “to work on the water bars.” One of them we had met in November working on the road, but this time we figured they were there to spy. The ranchers Micky Brown and his wife Beverly came by riding on their spiffy forest green ATV called a ‘Mule,’ to talk about the weather and to see how things were going.
We met the ‘Golfballogists.’ They are FAA technicians who work in the giant white round building up above us on Rainbow Peak. It is used for air traffic control, a satellite radar system that tracks airplanes and helicopters. They were very nice and offered us a ride to town if someone were to have an emergency. They were neutral on the forest issues and seemed to be happy to get to know us and have people to talk to way the heck out here.
A rancher named Vevoda, who owns land on Rainbow Ridge, and the nearby Little Rainbow Ridge, shot at some hikers as they were going back to town. We call him Gargamel now, because anyone who uses his land as a short cut better freaking be stealthy as shit or just go along the main Palco road which adds only about a half an hour to the hike.
Mrs. Rodoni came by one day; her husband is Roger Rodoni who was a member of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. They live near the beginning of Rainbow Ridge, and lease land from Palco to graze their cows. It was a rainy morning when she came by to take a look. I was at what we called ‘The Bus Stop.’ It was the look out post when it was raining and foggy, anytime when the visibility is only a few feet and you can’t see the road if you’re sitting at the top of the hill. She parked her truck and came up to me as I sat on the boarded fence of the cattle ramp. I jumped down and stood at attention, radioing in that we had a visitor. She asked for Sawdust. I relayed to the car lookout on the radio to find Sawdust because Regina Rodoni would only speak to him. She criticized the way we lived, because we didn’t make our own clothes, that if we were living naturally then what are we doing with corporate clothing, then she walked up to the Tipi to wait for Sawdust to arrive. She inspired me with this comment to start making a pair of shoes. My shoes had the inner liners pulled out of them, so there was only a metal plate running down the center of it. When it was cold out it was a concern of mine, since the year before while living in Alaska, I got frost bite and lost feeling in one of my big toes. It was still numb and tingly. My body hadn’t fully recovered from the 20 below to 50 degrees below freezing weather, and living in the Mattole without any indoors except a climb-in-through-the-window dodge colt Blue Dragon, and an underneath-the-tarpy shelter. No warm water unless we heated it up, though you are very unlikely to be able to stick your fingers and toes in there, it is waiting to be made into soup. There were the fires, and that was our heat source as long as you had time enough to sit close to one in the evening.
It made me feel free. Out here we were freer than working for the Eskimos, or for other mushers, experiencing survival while forced to witness the reality of animal abuse. Freer than hitchhiking on the Alaskan Highway, for with its existence made wilderness exploitation possible, harboring horny truck drivers. Hitchhiking around the lower 48 in the U.S. was nothing close to free, chained to the highways, the cars, the weird rest stations and a country that didn’t understand my lack of understanding of it.
I was home here, with a family as we lived isolated fourteen miles out. Blocking access to a road, no ties in Babylon except our town support. We learned edible foods like thistles and miner’s lettuce, and we listened to the ingrained knowledge of the Native people’s ghosts throughout the mountains. Some people had visions. Sometimes they would have visions about the massacres on lookout hill above the car lockdown. In the night while starring into darkness for hours, watching for headlights, I have heard people say that they saw the massacres in front of their eyes, like as if they were there watching it. There are very few Mattole Native ‘Americans’ alive now. They were sent to reservations in different parts of the county. The animals and plants are still Native though. They still live here. Even after the genocide of nearby clear cutting. The species are pushed to smaller and smaller habitable areas. Becoming crowded in their own rarity, for the Pacific Fisher to find a mate when you are only one in a mountain range for miles. To find a home when all is left are small oaks, huckleberry bushes, or stumps. To find food when the bulldozers come, and the slash piles are burned, or a new road is built and more cows appear.
Time and acceptance isn’t going to give you the winter’s ration. Determination right now is what is going to keep the trees standing. The animals crying out their pain and the ancient lichens being trucked away should be enough to stop the loggers, but the balance of nature requires other humans to stand up for this fight of life when the human equivalent of survival is monetary. One of the only ways for humans to stop destroying is for other humans to tell the machines to turn off. We must Restore what has already been done, but we must Prevent the rest of it from disappearing as well, or else we are just chasing our tail, and soon there will be nothing left to call pristine. This government figures if indigenous caves first are blown up, then there won’t be as much shelter for people to hide in. Likewise in Humboldt County and everywhere else in the U.S. and other places, if it is all a clear cut, then the people in exile will have nowhere to hide. They will be visible by air or roads. They will know where we are. If they know where you are, do they feel as if they are in control? No one can be in control of something that is as natural as this. But humans have invented control over what is unnatural, and through that they have continued a horrible destruction at increasing rates. The animals that are trying to live within the balance suffer merely for their existence. Listening to a Spotted Owl in the alive and uninterrupted wilderness and hearing one in a place with a concrete road and occasional cars are of two worlds. They speak a different language.
Towards the end of December, the storms didn’t let up much, and the corporate holidays were near. I was on nighttime lookout for the lockdowners with McCurly pretty much continuous. We would stay awake all through the long nights, and try to sleep during the days to get enough rest for the next night. We would talk about faeries and gnomes, and the different energies and beings that we had already experienced in our life. He taught me Spanish, at least the necessary words for the type of living we were experiencing in nature. Nosotros vivamos para la tierra y la bosque. We live for the Earth and the trees.
One sunny day an airplane flew by really low, waving. Everyone began running around freaking out, but then it kept circling and waving at us. Someone had said that Moss had been in town trying to get an airdrop, could it be? They flew over to Long Ridge look out and from the car we could see something fall from the plane. We all hooted and hollered, jumping up and down. They circled around waved again and went back to Long Ridge and more supplies fell, tumbling down the hill, sort of exploding.
“Ah man, let’s get over there and see what they’ve dropped!” Cashew and Coast ran down the road, followed by Caesar and Hoot. As they ducked under the ropes they explained to Coal what they had seen, and he called out a whoop of excitement as his hanging pod swung in the air. It turned out that there was a barrel of oats, all wrapped in sleeping pads duck taped together so it wouldn’t crack on impact. The thing that had exploded was a bucket, but most of the contents were salvageable. There was a spool of trucker’s rope, which everyone was excited about and they left stashed on Long Ridge so we could start tying in trees in 031. There was clothes, a couple of sleeping bags, just all sorts of great stuff without the risk of driving along the Palco roads. It was probably the most exciting day that we had all month. Everyone’s spirits were high and the chatter was completely positive that night. No one remembered the cold wind, or the rotting feet. Giardia was a thing of tomorrow, tonight we were eating bread and laughing at Moss’ giant smile as they had flown over. We sang our hippy campfire songs from town and banged on the food buckets. The warm glowing of smiles kept us warm and full for the night.
During Christmas time, I was locked down with some of my lockdown buddies. A man in his late 40’s, named Gary ‘Oat Groat’ taught me a song, “It was Christmas in prison and the food was real good. We had turkey and pistols carved out of wood. And I dream of her always, even when I don’t dream. Her name is on my tongue, and her blood's in my stream. Wait awhile eternity, old mother nature’s got nothing on me. Come to me, run to me, come to me, now. We’re rolling, my sweetheart, we’re flowing by god! She reminds me of a chess game, with someone I admire, or a picnic in the rain, after a prairie fire. Her heart is as big as this whole goddamn jail, and she’s sweeter than saccharine at a drug store sale. The search light in the big yard swings round with the gun, and spotlights the snowflakes like the dust in the sun. It is Christmas in prison, there will be music tonight. I will probably get homesick, I love you. Goodnight.”
Oh Oat Groat, let’s sing it again! It was an appropriate song, for we had been wearing the shackles and chains around our wrists with heavy carabineers, making our bones ache. We slept with them on, we shit with them on. The weather was nasty, so I didn’t mind spending time in the car. We had been wearing the chains for some time though, with an undetermined amount of time ahead, and they were gnawing into our wrist bones. Over and over we would sing the song, in the car, at the fire. It just made so much sense and he was such a sweet soul, a true pacifist like the Quakers that I had grown up with in my family, he was like my uncle and I could never imagine him being unhappy, though he sang it with so much feeling and in a deep lonesome voice. He had been arrested many times, he lives alone, homeless when he is in town. Gary plays the most beautiful harp I have ever heard. He is an angel I am convinced, and he has such a sweet voice. Comforting, calming. He is accepting. He is one of the only elders that we have here, and he is one of the most quietly spoken of anyone. He is not one who is going to leap off into the forest, bouncing off trees like a spry fawn. His role is to be there locked down or as a direct support. He is grounded, deep and steady. I used to find him in town and I would just sit down on the concrete and listen to his harp on the square, or outside of a coffee shop. I would walk to the Redwood Park with him and one time he explained to me that he would vote, but one requires to have an address and he didn’t want to give the government the address of the bush that he slept under. He always made me think.
He had spent a lot of time at the antiwar protests at the Concord Naval Weapons Station protesting the shipment of weapons to Central America in the 80’s. He was there when war veteran and peace activist Brian Willson was run over by a Navy weapons train which cut off both of his legs.
“We camped a lot like this out here, but instead of it being a Free State way deep in the woods, we were in a road surrounded by trucks and machinery. It was dusty. They would arrest us, but not even cite us, just detain and release a lot of the time. We would hold hands in a circle and sing. There was a bunch of railroad track that was taken out, a hundred feet of it or so, and about a year after Brian Willson lost his legs they stopped using trains all together and started using trucks instead. We did a lot of fasting those days,” Oat Groat would tell me stories. He was often on overnight lookout too. I would wake up and see him pacing slowly, looking at the stars and all around. He loved silence. He seemed self-contained in his loneliness. He never talked about his family, or personal stuff, only protests, and the harp, and how beautiful the forest was. He ate raw oats with cold water, oil and cayenne in a shallow metal cup. I really loved Oat Groat, in his light blue rain jacket and spindly gray blond beard. He was as passive as I could ever wish to be. No physical aggression, only extreme stubbornness, strongly standing up for what he sure as truth saw as right. He stood up for the atrocities against human kind, and nature itself. He had a different kind of energy as a lot of these kids out here; we were all still trying to figure it out on our insides. We would have epiphanies, we would laugh in our raucity, and we would get angry. He would get angry too, but I could see a deeper sadness in his eyes. Like having seen the past, he was able to foresee the future. He was not one of us runners, at the first sight of a vehicle we would vanish for hours, shaking. He was the stoic ram, and he would stand up to the authorities, he would lie down and get shot for the rest of his herd. In the lock down position I had a lot to learn from this method of going within oneself, and meditate, no matter how much pain compliance techniques they tried, just hold out for a little longer and within that stubbornness, we shall win over violence.
As New Year’s arrived, so did the stars and clear sky. Supplies were dwindling and the wind never let up. Evening fell and a supply convoy arrived. Two trucks came barreling down the road, instilling the now familiar sense of panic. Chaos began throughout camp as people scrambled to grab valuable cooking ware and our remaining food buckets.
A collective sigh of relief came in waves with the realization that they are members of our crew. They had driven up directly to the blockade. Relief turned to hyena-like frenzy over unloading buckets and boxes. Hugging and chattering, we got updates on the elections or any news that can be gleaned of happenings in the outside world. Our weather prophet was a constant friend, but it was too expensive to use batteries on a radio.
One of the drivers of the supply put their finger up and said, “Oh I have just the thing,” and she fished around in a box until she pulled out a small plastic box. It made a whirling sound as she spun a nob on the side. She says, “It’s a crank radio!”
People began to gather around like curious monkeys. She handed it off, climbed into the open door of her truck and turned her key slightly. She turned her own radio on and cranked up the volume. This along with the “all-clear” alert we had sent off earlier letting people know that it was a friendly vehicle, or two, the shadows began coming out of the woods. They were carrying the food and cooking supplies earlier stashed for safety, time for a real dinner. Suddenly I could not tell that the wind was blowing. The excitement of the supply trucks and the music got the blood pumping. There was not only food and gear in the backs, but crammed in were a bunch more people. We were in a sea of bodies, some familiar and others unrecognizable in the dark or unknown.
“Let’s get some firewood,” Coal suggested. I walked down the slope into the forest and grabbed an armload of dry branches to stoke the fire. Ah, warm gear. As people talked and caught up, I discovered the clothes box. Away from the noisy traffic on the other side of the blockade I rummaged through to find gear I would need to get through the weather that I now knew was possible and predictable.
Lupin was here, my hitchhiking partner from Alaska. He was driving one of the trucks. I ought to finish up my clothes finding and go catch up with him while they are still here. When the days were sunny, the car lock-downers had been naked, lounging in the cramped spaces of the car. With the weather getting colder, I had begun to take brief stints in the car, which also came with a side effect of the station. I had started to receive an unwelcome infestation of crabs, little human body lice who loved the stitching in my disintegrating road clothes. I was ready for a new start and some fresh cloth.
I changed into some new long underwear, and a pair of wooly pants, a bit big and cumbersome, but warm and clean. A long sleeved neoprene shirt, sweater, and I found a beautiful gore-tex rain jacket and rain pants that fit. I felt like a million bucks. Unstoppable. I was actually not itchy from creepy crawlers against my skin at my belt and collar. I hastily bundled up my rotting old clothes into a small ball and buried them in the woods like a steaming pile of shit in a shitter. Good riddance. Yet another chapter closed on my previous existence. It is another lesson that long loved possessions might not and don’t need to continue to exist. Back up the hill, I left my plastic poncho hanging on the gate, just in case it might be an upgrade for someone riffling through the clothes box later tonight; especially if the wind kept up. I hope these new comers brought enough gear to keep them warm. I caught up with Lupin at the now full on New Year’s party.
He handed me a beer as they passed a whiskey bottle around. There was still some cooked dehydrated pea soup. I scooped myself another bowl of it, as I sat down near the fire and bit chunks off of my handful of fresh bread. Looks like the vehicles were going to stay put for a while, no one seemed too rushed to leave. I might as well make myself comfortable. Folks were jovial and there was high energy. People were talking loudly telling stories. The latest issue of Beth Bosk’s ‘The New Settler Interviews’ a paper, magazine that was getting passed around. Does it have Felony’s interview that I had seen at the cabin in Petrolia, or another article? It had photos from the woods, which people were appalled by having their faces as representations of what is happening out here, all the easier to become a political target. Can they get arrested on alleged charges of conspiracy or worse, be a target for somebody’s hate crime, like Judy Bari’s car bomb during her Redwood Summer campaign with Darryl Cherney? Best not to be known since the authorities and the company are always trying to put blame on one individual as a leader. Something familiar and physical they can grab onto rather than a gyrating mass of no names and masked faces that are crawling around in the woods. They want passive resistance. They want non-violence, because they are scared enough of opposition as their occupation requires. It means money to them. There is always conflict, and with a group of forest defenders it is nice if they can just sit down, the agencies can figure out how to remove us and then move on. Everyone agrees no sabotage. That is a given, anyone who doesn’t subscribe to that rule of non-violence is not at all welcome in the campaign or even working on the county’s forest issues. Physical violence, fighting back, that is also unacceptable. No need to escalate an already intense situation, and then what, get charged with assault and battery? No need, anyway, they are generally bigger than any of us and they eat meat on a regular basis. They would pulverize one or two of us if they had the legal means of self-defense. The one clause of the Humboldt Earth First! that isn’t always agreed upon on this campaign out here is the one of “No Running.” Um, yeah, because we are going to. If we didn’t run we would get arrested and if we all were to get arrested then there would be no on-going campaign of occupation in the deep woods. It is not Redwood Summer, we do not have thousands of people to block up the courts with. Most of us were too young to know what even happened back then. These are Douglas Firs. Meadow trees. A wilderness land of 500 acres to be cut and we are preventing that from happening. This is a place that is home to many of us and is quickly becoming a home to more. I had no idea what The Mattole was, for that matter when I was in college I had no idea of what Headwaters was. At least while writing a campaign name in chalk on the sidewalks, include Mattole ‘Forest’ or Headwaters ‘Forest’ so the general public can at least know what it is referencing. ‘Save Headwaters’ what does that mean? ‘Save the Mattole’ what is this? Save the Mattole Forest, okay, well at least I now know what it is referencing; it is a place name that has a forest that is threatened, and it is actually one of the most beautiful places on earth. Does Beth Bosk’s article talk about that small little fact, and that the animals are not afraid of people due to the lack of human contact that they have received by living in this intact Wilderness? Or is she just concerned about causing drama and riffs among the community? She said something about Sawdust and his band of merry men and women. Everyone was giving him shit about it, calling him our Robin Hood, and he kept telling everyone to shut up, but it just made everyone laugh even more at him, so he finally just turned around facing away from the fire and mooned everyone, which just made everyone laugh even more, ‘bare your ass to the wind, Robin Hood!’ I think he was fairly drunk at this point. I smile because she certainly has given our little group something to get excited about one way or another, plus any publicity will let people know that we exist right? As long as we aren’t thundered with a giant eviction squad, hopefully it will let donors and inspired activists to check out our cause as well as the general public and community to ask, why don’t we hear about this more?
Saying goodbye to our wonderful comrades who had taken the risk of driving out to give us such a wonderful New Year’s celebration was definitely sobering. We were sad to see them go but also anxious because it was getting pretty late in the night. As the two pickup trucks turned around, one of them got stuck in a huge rut, a water bar in the field, a small dry creek bed running through the meadow as they were turning back to the road. They were driving just fine and then smack! We all ran out there. “Oh man, dude, that sucks!”
Everyone pushed and heaved. Concerned that if it took too long and if the loggers decided to actually come in to work today at 4 am we would be royally screwed. We kept pushing and finally lifted it out of the drainage as she backed away towards the road to follow the other truck out of the gates. Cheering and waving we greeted once again our complete isolation. Looking around to the shadows of those who took the ride out, including a guy who had seriously injured his knee while ‘housing’ or rough housing down the steep rocky slope above the car. A big housing fest, including at least 10 people wrestling on the hill slope, yeah okay so sometimes people just need to channel their energy and anxiety in a silly outlet, and sometimes it requires physical contact and slight aggression, even if everyone is laughing. It looks like a bunch of crazy puppies dog piling and squirming around, tossing each other trying to stay on the top rather than get dog piled on. Old sticky oatmeal somehow got involved and was slimmed into faces and hair. It all ended when this boy rolled down the hill and injured his knee, fairly severely. Suddenly it wasn’t as fun as it had been.
Smiling as the tail lights disappeared, they will all be missed. Looking around at the living shadows that had been left, I suppose in the morning introductions will be in order. There were some that were familiar and loved, but some new faces who followed the rest to the tarpies. One person offered to take the chains and lock down position in the car for the night, I gladly unscrewed the bolt and handed them the carabineers. That night I slept in the road behind ‘The Blue Dragon’ lock-down car. Without a sleeping bag, though it was still quite cold outside, I used my new collection of commie clothes. I covered myself in army issue green plaited insulated pants with plastic rain pants on the outside, neoprene on the inside. On top I had a puffy jacket. Wrapped together in the poncho, I was a human burrito. I was sheltered by the wind laying low behind the blockade. As I was falling asleep to the noises still around the campfire and the clear starry sky above, it felt nice to know that survival could be so simple sometimes.
I rose the next morning to the sounds of a stirring pot, metal on metal, simmering oatmeal glopping. My face dusty planted in the road. There was dirt in my teeth and dry lips, shivering sweat under my plastic layers. Dirt in my eyelashes and nose, I crawled out of my clothes pile, half surprised that I actually slept above ground on the road which is not stealth at all. I guess it was my protest to the elements, challenging this beautiful night to rain on me, to arrest me in my slumber. At least on the road there is no false sense of security.
It was Gary Oat Groat, he had food prepared, yet no one else was up. On New Year’s morning, as most of the folks were still sleeping, Oat Groat and I began to dig a new shitter. Not just any shitter to last three days of car support shitting in the shitters near the car. Our shitter lasted for more than two weeks! We spent all morning digging in the soft, silky feeling dark dirt. The sun was shining and by the end of it the shitter was up past our elbows.
“Hey Ituri,” the congresswoman croaked, “Why don’t you join me in the car?” Two of the lock-downers were around the fire making some cowboy coffee without a filter. I climbed in the car, took a drag from her cigarette and settled in, looking at the book titles that had just arrived and were piled in the back. I pulled on one, “Roots” by: Alex Haley, a nice thick book on African American slavery. It had been a while since I had read something. I suppose Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ in Roswell, New Mexico was the last book I had read, while trying to hitchhike at the truck stop in the rain. That was my last ride, to some unknown snowy town in the mountains I sucked it up and got a bus ticket home. Having hitchhiked for over a year, up to Alaska, through BC and Yukon, around the U.S. in circles many times, missing only North Carolina and Florida, I knew that in my own state of California I would much rather miss the southern part, especially considering my latest encounters. So, sans-dog, I climbed on the bus, grateful for the break. We went through Mexico, guards with their K-9 units walked through the isles, though I barely woke up. They had us get off of the bus for a moment and back on. I arrived in Eureka at 5 a.m. on Halloween. That morning I received the phone message from Lupin and Cascara, to meet them in Arcata. After waiting in a tree near the co-op, they told me that I needed to come out to the woods. A week later I was in heaven. Blue misty mountains, dew speckled meadows, all the freedom in the world. It was a third world country where they can’t shoot us. It is the non-violent movement in my own home county that I grew up reading about in the newspapers. And now I’ve been here for over two months. Why is it that I have travelled for so long and so far, but these trees, in this case not even Redwoods, this ecosystem that sustains life, even our human lives is right here in my backyard.
Simpson Lumber company is untouchable still at this point for some reason, but with Maxxam it is full on pursuit. The Mattole is as pure and intact as ever to be found. We aren’t sitting in a tree for media, we are blockading a road to protect 500 acres, surrounded by thousands of acres. It is an untouched ecosystem. There are birds and lions, eagles and bears. There are lizards, boas, salmon, and trout; jack rabbits and bunnies, lynx and coyotes. Everyone is living here as if the outside world is not covered in concrete. They live in their little glens below the gigantic trees. The cows are the only disturbance because the cowboys come seasonally to drop off bulls and pick up yearlings. The cows don’t even know better, they hear the ATV and assume salt is being delivered. They live amongst these meadows and forest trails just as peacefully as anyone else.
It is nice sitting around and reading, but it is also nice doing physical work outside in the fresh air and away from the cigarette smoke. Back outside the car after breakfast, I started hauling logs again. We have been converting the eternal flame trench into an impassable Wall. Baling wire and large branches, small trees, glistening white without their bark, whatever we could find mostly amongst the old clearcut of THP #97-413 down the road a ways, left over ghosts from the last protest out here in 1998, which prompted the protection of the headwaters of Sulfur Creek through a lawsuit by a local rancher Michael Evenson.
An article from the Mendocino Environmental Center in 1998 written by Michael said: “The death of David "Gypsy" Chain occurred in a climate of escalating aggression on the part of Pacific Lumber loggers against activists. The following article, excerpted from "Voices of Humboldt County" September, 1998 illustrates that tragedy was imminent.
Violence in the woods
by Michael Evenson, Mattole resident
The following is an account of violence in the woods in the Mattole. We tried to get this word out to the media, but the media considered us "outrageous" in claiming "attempted murder" and "assault with a deadly weapon". Had they picked it up, had the media done their job, Gypsy would not have made the ultimate sacrifice.
August 9, 1998
Sulphur Creek THP 97-413, Unit A
Unit A of 413 has been logged by a family, including two older fallers, some younger ones and a squad of young, violent chasers whose sole job was to chase, harass, and do harm to any forest defenders. On Sunday, August 9, the chasers and fallers began a spree of violence intending to hurt and disable protesters. It was an escalating violent game for them, based on rising adrenaline and frustrations. Below are individual accounts from forest defenders.
Aldo was talking to an older logger in the unit when he was lunged at and chased by the logger's sons. They chased him with axes, boasting what they would do to him. While being chased, he was called 'Nigger', 'Whore', and threatened numerous times.
Trying to stop a large Doug fir from being felled, Aldo climbed up a tree in the fall zone and demanded the faller to cease. The logger responded by asking another group of loggers if they had a stretcher. "We'll probably need one," he said, before making the final cut. The fir fell directly towards Aldo and smashed into the tree he was in, smashing its branches. Aldo leapt and fell to the ground on the other side. The chasers ganged up on him barking like dogs and swinging axes as threats.
"These areas are going down illegally," Aldo said, "but I don't feel like getting anywhere near them. [The loggers] are so violent. They want to hurt us and keep trying. I told them if they cut any trees, that it would endanger my life. A giant branch smashed exactly where I was before I fell out of the tree. They don't care. I'm frightened for my life."
Orange was climbing a tree near a cut-through grove. An angry logger informed her that he was going to fall the tree she was in. He made the wedge, cut all the way through the middle of the tree, and then made a back cut nearly to the wedge cut. The tree did not fall. He informed her that she'd better get down, it was going to go down soon and she would get hurt. The chase gang waited for her at the base of the tree. She was trapped. Waiting them out, she could feel the tree bend and crack in the wind.
She had also climbed up a tree near the fall zone of 3 remaining trees and informed a faller of the dangers. He then proceeded to cut two of the three towards, but not at her tree.
She said: "He told me, 'This one's going to come real close. You might get hurt. Wanna come down?' I told him, "No." He made the wedge cut directly towards me and I watched it fall and smash into the top of my tree. It smashed branches on top of me but missed hitting me. The tree shook and I held on so as not to fall."
Sippy was chased up a tree by a logger with spikes. She climbed to the top and could not be reached. The logger then cut off all the branches and other trunks so she could not get down. She said, "I don't feel like there is anything we can do. We are trying to stop something illegal by putting our lives on the line."
There are many people from the previous Mattole campaign out here and in town working hard to get this place saved. They protected those other units in the court system in 1998. There are millions of dollars trying to buy this land from PL, we just have to keep it safe and in order to keep the land safe while keeping ourselves safe as well, the Free State was the best tactic at this point, with the lockdowns and the monopod. This way we only have to deal with the cops for now.
The Wall was shaping up nicely. We had to send some rolls of barbed wire back with the last truck load since we don’t want to harm the Wildlife if The Wall gets taken down. Baling wire seems to do the trick as well as old antique saw blades, other rustic metal, and large rocks, with the idea that if they try to chainsaw through the wood of The Wall, they just can’t. It has turned out that we must make an ATV trail around it for the ranchers. This will be a trap door, like a drawbridge, only openable for the ranchers since the idea is to prevent the loggers’ ATVs from being able to pass. The trap door turned out to be a bit too narrow, so folks have been helping to carry the ATVs around the lower part of the trail to the other side. Past the Blue Dragon, and after The Wall, the next blockade is called The Spatula, the monopod with its trucker’s rope running across the road we can lift it up as the rancher’s ATV passes under it.
They need the ATVs to bring in the salt, but when they are just doing a routine check they have begun to bring the horses. This is one thing that makes me very happy. The forest and Wildlife are wonderful and peaceful and magical, but oh, for the love of an equine. They are our domesticated partners in the complete advancement of the world. For someone that does not drive a car, the horse is that locomotive for me. It is a fellow soul to take me places hours faster and much less lonely than if I were to walk. If only our roads were more pedestrian and equine friendly. While in school, the horses were my friends, my escape, an alternate reality that loved me back. They were a portal to fly along the beach with the wind in my eyes, a silence that was all my own.
One day Clint pulled up with a horse trailer. I could speak Rancher talk, so I had elected myself to be a liaison between the ranchers and the hippies, because I could tell there was much unneeded tension. I ran over to the horse trailer. Clint had brought someone else with him, a young man who he introduced as Lane Russ, of the Russ Ranch. He had a beautiful Strawberry Roan mare. I combed her mane with my fingers as they saddled up. I talked to them about the cows, about the horses, what the weather was looking like. What were they doing if they aren’t bringing out salt today? They didn’t answer me back much, but I’m sure they were glad that at least I was friendly. I kept the dark silvery hair and tied it in my own hair, in a front dread and kept it there for months even after the campaign until I actually cropped my own hair.
The men on horseback rode off over the hillside, past lookout and under The Spatula at the headwaters of Sulfur creek. I watched until they were out of view. Maybe they were just doing a head count. Clint was never very talkative and Lane Russ didn’t seem too easy with our company. They must have figured that bringing the horses out would be simpler than the hassle of going around the wall today, which is just as well. It was a nice justification that our blockades are a great deterrent to the wheeled vehicles necessary to log this scale of old growth.
I lost my beloved sleeping bag, having stashed it in a place where no one would find it, under a log below the kitchen camp. Unfortunately, I was one of those no ones. I went to look for it and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I swore it was right here. I missed that sleeping bag, not just for the warmth it provided, or its glossy almost sparkling gray exterior, just for the familiarity it served. It was my only constant, like my tin cup and spork on a rope. It was “one of the only possessions that I needed” when it came down to it while hitchhiking around the U.S. this year, hitchhiking to Alaska last year. The sleeping bag was also in possession of my stuffed dog who had traveled with me through Alaska, NH, & that I had snuggled since I was a kid. Time teaches to let go, I guess. I had a feeling that it was just the beginning of life lessons that this mountain was bound to teach me. Let go of sentimental possessions, check. It is difficult, these small comforts that we rely on. Oh well, at least I am not alone. I now have a make shift family here in one of the most beautiful places straight out of a painting. It was a pastel life with tinges of darkness. The only thing is that it’s already night and people didn’t exactly sleep in one big commie tarp structure like they used to at too-far-away camp when the other people had lost their sleeping bags. I followed Cashew and Coast to the A-frame camp along the Bovine Freedom trail, found myself an extra wool blanket and situated myself between the two boys. I tried to snuggle as close as I could, but I don’t think that they understood really what I was doing, which was that I was generally trying to stay warm. I didn’t want to seem creepy, but I also was cold as heck and I didn’t care at that point. Cashew rolled over, so I turned to Coast. He turned towards me and I whispered, “I lost my sleeping bag.” He unzipped his sleeping bag half way down and covered me with it like a big warm encompassing wing. I snuggled in close and fell asleep immediately. We slept that way for a few nights in the A-frame tarpy and then moved to a tarp in the middle of the road near the Spatula, until it began to rain and the overland flow on the road flooded the structure.
Once it started raining I began to lock down more often. In the car, in the ‘Sleeping Dragon’ lockdown position which I figured would at least be the last car position to get arrested. The other car lockdowns were a Black Bear, which was a thick pipe welded at a right angle making it so you put your hands into the sleeves and lock your carabineer to a piece of rebar at the center corner where your hands meet. To get you out they have to cut the metal box at that corner, while not nicking your fingers. Or really they just need to cut through the car where it was attached between the front and back side windows. The two side windows on the left were rolled down and the box went around the strip of metal between the two windows. So the person was sitting up facing the outside. The other lockdown was a U-neck which was a U-lock passing through the springs of the back seat. The lockdowner is sitting up with their neck locked against the seat. We figured it was a safer way to be for Direct Support if you were also someone that took time and effort to remove from the car. How supportive can you be if you are loose and floating in the car when they come? They’ll just pull you out first without any difficulty, and someone could get arrested even if they were just coming on a reconnaissance mission.
The dragon was a little more difficult to get out than cutting some fabric and springs, or using a bolt cutter. The right front seat was removed and the lockdowner laid on pillows and sleeping bags, putting their hand down into the floor where there was a hole cut out with a PVC pipe that went straight down. With a chain around the wrist you lock the carabineer to a piece of rebar at the bottom. The whole thing is surrounded by a giant block of concrete below the ground. They would have to dig down and cut through the concrete to be able to get you unlocked. Of course there is the other favorite technique to try and get people to unlock, which isn’t necessarily any faster than running a jack hammer. It is some sort of means of torture. Be it pain compliance methods using pressure points, or pepper spray, mace. Who knows when the cops get frustrated; the trick is just to be more stubborn and calm than they are. If they get you out, great, you get a shower and three decent meals per day for a while. But you have to preserver, meditatively go inside of yourself and withstand the pain, because the alternative is that the pain you feel now will be planned for the rest of the forest if they were to get through. We can channel that bad energy that our own species is condoning this perfect beautiful peaceful wilderness, unsuspecting. At least I know what to expect. I know that they will come. We cannot physically hold them off forever. There must be another law suit to keep them out. There are negotiations to acquire the land to be protected as a ‘Wilderness and Roadless Area’ we must stay here until we get an okay from town that the forest is safe.
We discovered that the best tarp structure at the wind tunnel that was the car lockdown, was a tipi. The A-frame attached to the car just wasn’t cutting it. We left it up because it kept the wind out of the car, but it was a miserable place for support to have to hang out in, especially during the night time watches, since if someone did come they could get trapped inside between the door and the car. When it was windy, which was almost always, it flapped exceedingly loudly and violently, and there wasn’t enough space to sit up against the side without it smacking someone in the head with the wet plastic. Aliento tried to call town one day with the large cell phone, bent over below the angled tarp. He was yelling into the phone, the tarp smacking the antennae, whipping through his reception. He was trying to give them a list of provisions.
“More oats, dried mango, oil… Hello? What!? I can’t hear you. More oats! Dried.. Hello? Can You Hear Me? Blast!”
“Just call them tomorrow,” suggested Coal. The reception was best from the top of the hill on lookout, but it was way to blustery and wet to bring the phone up there. Only on Shit Hill was there any other decent reception. Other than that, it’s best to climb a tree, which was pretty much not happening. Even the pod sitter would come down every-now-and-then if the weather was obviously too horrid even for the Golfballogists to be at work.
A tipi was the perfect solution, the wind cut right around it and it was perfectly quiet inside, considering the weather. The smoke went pretty well up too, compared to the A-frame which we rarely had a fire in since it would end up filling the car up with campfire smoke. You could stand inside the tipi, which was a novel idea in itself, not crouching under a tarp, but you could stand inside tipi and have a good visual of the road from the door. It took three or four good sized tarps, but it was worth it. It kept more people coming up to the car lockdown since it was a good shelter. You still didn’t exactly want to sleep in it unless you were taking a lookout shift, since it was on the front line, but at least it kept people from balking at doing lookout in the first place.
One night, Coast was sleeping in the tipi waiting for his lookout shift to come up in the middle of the night, and he suddenly woke up as he stared into the night sky covered in stars. Confused, he sat up and the tipi was nowhere to be seen. The next morning we found the tipi way down the hill lying on its side. It was so windy that the wind picked up the tipi straight up like a kite and threw it a hundred feet down the hill towards the woods. We got a crew together and dragged it back up the hill and decided that it would be best if we anchored the tipi into the ground with stakes in the road attached to ropes.
“Hey, Patreek,” I called out from the car when I saw him outside of the tipi.
“Oh, hi Ituri. How is the car treating you?” he asked politely.
“Yeah, it’s fine. So you know most of the Radiohead songs, right?”
“Why, of course. They love me like I was a brother, they protect me, listen to me…”
“Okay, well, what if we translated them into French!?” I suggested.
“Oh, yes,” he answered. “That would be fun, and it would be a great way for you to learn the language.”
“Yeah! I mean, I know I ask everyone the same question when I meet them: ‘Do you know any Radiohead songs,’ and ‘What languages can you speak.’ But this way we can just combine it together!” I said, excitedly, obviously bored out of my wits.
“Yes, that would be fun Ituri. Then we can sing them in French. That would be nice. You can write down the lyrics to the songs that you want to sing and I can translate them when you’re ready.” The main one that we were able to translate the best was called ‘Let Down’ plus it was the one that Patreek and I usually sang together already in English.
“Vous savez, vous savez où vous en êtes avec
Vous savez où vous êtes avec
Flottant, avant de rebondir
Et un jour… ”
“You know, you know where you are with, you know where you are with. Floor collapsing, floating, bouncing back And one day.... I am going to grow wings, a chemical reaction, Hysterical and useless, Hysterical and... ” I was in heaven. I could sing Radiohead songs all day. It reminded me of my friends before all of this started, when I was still in college, friends from high school. It reminded me of my innocence, or at least when I began to lose my innocence. Boy, we thought we were crazy back then, and we just had no idea. I miss Lupine being out here, and I haven’t seen Waterfall since she got arrested in December. “For a minute there, I lost myself…I go forwards, you go backwards, and somewhere we will meet..” I really like the crew that is out here right now, we’ve all been together for a long time, but we continue to change. We call it cracking. We are like eggs, not just physically, the elements aren’t nearly as tearing as it is mentally. We are cracking like eggs, and we aren’t sure what the end will result in. We just know that we are going crazy with the isolation, with the nerves, with the unknown, and it isn’t a bad thing. It is actually very beautiful. We have become a family reliant on each other, we are still very reliant on our town mother, but we are also becoming very in tune with the nature around us. The only really crazy part of it is when the outside residue attempts to come through, like these weird commercials that we have stuck in our heads, or like these songs with lyrics that make no sense, they might as well be in a different language. You want to relate to the lyrics, to the programs you saw as a kid, to the movies we’ve all seen. The hippies on the road would say, ‘life is a movie’ it’s your own movie that we live in every day. Nothing but nature programs have prepared us for life out here. News, politics, tv, radio, the latest sports game, none of it matters in the big scheme of things. Survival, love, each other, clean water, a warm fire, dry clothes, a place to sleep, not twisting your ankle, these are the things that really matter. Lunch and dinner, everything else just falls to the way side as accessories to the bored. Like reading the books in the car, there are many things that would or could happen if we weren’t tied down to this one location. I don’t have to travel hundreds of miles a day hitchhiking, we have thousands of acres here to be free.
We have become tribalistic. We have our Bay Ceremonies. It’s where you take a few bay leaves, one to three or so, depending how strong you want it. Crushing the bay leaves in your palm and inhaling deeply with your mouth and nose. Immediately your nose and eyes would start running. A natural expectorant I suppose. Maybe it is why most of us rarely got sick from the elements. The front of your skull would begin to go numb while painfully tingling, and people would start yelling, “Ahhh! My brain is being mentholated!” It was like smoking a menthol cigarette or a strong mint, but instead of swallowing, it would reside right in between your eye brows and the top of your head and it would start tingling and tighten. People would grab the closest noisemaker. Pots, pans, your tin cup and spoon or spork and start banging on it. It served as a ruckus release, but it was the easiest way to deal with the pain. BAY CEREMONY! It was an initiation process for newbies sometimes. They either joined in the fun along with us crazy feral monkeys or not. Often they would hike out the next day, sprinting back to their new semester, writing us off as a tangle of backwoods freaks.
“I’ll make sure they send in your peanut butter,” they promise.
We just smile and say, “Please stay.”
“Where is the toilet paper?” they ask.
“Oh, well The Bishop, he uses stripes of his old t-shirt, but there is some good moss around that snag and behind the log. Other people use rocks, but I think they are a bit rough. Some people use Usnea, but it seems like a waste to bury it in the shitter. Most of us have giardia, but you get used to it.”
“Yeah, well, I really ought to get back to that uh, essay I was supposed to turn in on Monday, so, yeah, I’ll deliver these letters and cell phone battery to the town office,” they would stutter.
“Oh, and take this little trash puppet that Lukas and I made,” as we smile widely. “You can hang it on your wall to remember us by. Look we painted it and everything. It seems a waste to throw the trash away, especially since we don’t make much of it, might as well create something with it while we are here.” Another deep sigh and they turn round and walk away. Some of those people we would never see again, but it was nice of them to bring us supplies and food. I’m sure they will have a wonderful story to tell their roommates.
Lukas, one of the girls in the car lock down crew had a set of watercolor paints. She began painting people’s faces. She would paint her arms and hands and have other people paint her own face. This made us look extra feral. Not exactly woad, a blue dye used in old times, but we certainly did not look normal. Many people would hike in with equipment and food supplies and leave as soon as possible, supposedly to get back to college classes but sometimes it seemed to get away from the brewing madness that was plaguing this demented encampment. Perhaps it is contagious, like the giardia that we ever blamed.
We called it “poo culture.” People would come back from the shitter and talk about their experience. It was something we could hold in common. Yes, we all have to eat and yes, we all have to take a poo. Sleep, ah, we can take turns doing that. Shitting was an art and everyone had their own technique. We didn’t exactly have rolls of toilet paper. Maybe a couple of people did, but it was their own stash and never made it public knowledge. Some preferred rocks, other people used lichen. Moss, sticks, leaves. I preferred a combination of a squishy stick covered in moss. Pull any fir needles out first. I would find one that was not too skinny and not too thick. We would shit in a community trench shitter that you squat over with one leg on either side, so less than a foot wide and 4 or 5 feet long. The dirt and rocks would be piled near it, so you would just cover over your moss with the earth after you are done. The Pope had an old green t-shirt he was proud to rip up into shreds and he used that to wipe with. Each time he would come back, he would gloat about how nice it was to use, and then about the giardia. The stomach cramps and the horrid gas, the belching that smelled of sulfur was a sure sign. It was worse in the off set, then you would get used to it and realize that is was a part of life. Say goodbye to solid stools. It doesn’t have to stay as constant diarrhea the whole time, but more of a certain peanut butter consistency. It could also have to do with no lack of fiber in our diet. Eating oatmeal, polenta, fry bread, pasta, dehydrated beans and lentils, must not have helped any either. Not everyone was vegetarian out here, it was just that meat is perishable, expensive and hard to come by, and veggies were heavy in water weight for hiking in. If any jerky were to make it out it would be gobbled up immediately. Everything was commie as soon as it arrived. Folks didn’t take kindly to personal stashes. Once a supply came it was divvied up. People would pull out our sorry excuses for a plastic bag, often being held together completely by duct tape because of the amount of small holes it had gathered. Anything communal, as in dinner food that requires cooking would go into the white buckets of the kitchen, to be stashed when not in use. Other things would go into the buckets like condiments: Tapatio, a type of hot sauce, Braggs, a live enzyme soy sauce equivalent, a local Linda’s mustard, salt, pepper, sugar, and other flavorings.
Food like chocolate, were seen as gold. It would be divided equally and some people would stuff it in their mouth as soon as it reached their fingers. Some, like me, would take a nibble off of a corner and then stash it away for later. What wasn’t right were for people to take something commie and keep more of their share stashed away. There were other things too that were passionately divided up, like tobacco, and rolling papers. Everyone needed a working lighter, and we would wrap it with duct tape. Working with ropes, it was essential to burn the ends and then wrap the end with duct tape. Having these two together solved a huge challenge of carrying a certain amount of duct tape around with you. Everyone needed a working flashlight as well. If you didn’t own a fancy headlamp, or if you wanted to conserve on coveted batteries, then we would just use a crank or hand squeeze flash light. Aqua had a special solar powered flashlight, it was big and he never ever let anyone touch it, but it seemed like it worked way better than the crank or squeeze ones and way more stealthy.
Some people decided to build a Traverse pod off of the Blue Dragon car, well, off of the gate pole that the car was parked next to. They set up lines of long trucker’s rope off of the gate post, and to four trees in each direction. The pod had no wooden poles to hold it up, only the ropes. It was suspended in the air, about at eye level from the road, but very high above the ground. The pod sitter would climb the down line and pull the line up while they were on the platform. It had a cone shaped tarpy like the Spatula. Bub volunteered to sit in the Traverse pod and everyone just kind of shook their heads at it in dismay of how truly sketchy it seemed, especially when the wind was blowing, it seemed like he bounced around like a yo-yo trick. The trees all moving in different directions. He ended up getting very sea sick up there quite often.
The snow came. It was much easier to live in the snow. The car was highly desired, so I received my long lost freedom. Lukas was released on occasion, as well as the Reverend Ass Love. The Professeur and Oat Groat stayed with the Congresswoman. Lukas and I were hyper-active. We were fully fluent in Free Walkian by this point. It is a combination between French/Canadian, Chinese, Japanese, German, Russian, Spanish, Pig Latin, and Gibberish. Just words we had gleaned from the innocent passersby. We then mixed it with American sign language, puppets made of trash or props such as sticks now that we were loosed from the car’s grip, or other people combined with our own miming gestures to portray and express a story or mock a conversation through means that lack in the English language.
The boys were grateful for our endless energy. What lacked for our physical strength gained in the ability to just keep moving. I learned in Alaska that winters don’t have to be constructed by nightmares. If you want to survive, if you want to avoid the talons of depression, even if the sun never shines, if you are constantly moving then there is no room for that nasty chill to creep in. We proceeded to help the boys haul the logs from the old clearcut, as they had been doing while we were locked down. They were happy because it could go twice as fast. The poles were heavy enough that most often it required one person on each end, so instead of one long pole at a time, the four of us could carry two. Also there were extra-large poles that they had been eyeing for a while, so we all got on those and began heaving. Often times they were stuck, so we had to rig up ropes and leverage to try and get them out. Lukas was handy with the gear since she had previously done some tree sitting up in Oregon. The Wall was coming along. Lukas usually slept in the car.
One night a few of us were sleeping in the A-frame along the Bovine Freedom Trail below Shit Hill. The snow was extra heavy, though we went to sleep like any other evening. Later that night Cashew and I woke up to the wet tarp resting on our face and the sleeping bags were getting wet. We nudged awake the rest of the tarp dwellers, and as they woke up they mumbled, “What the…”
“Come on you guys, the snow has weighed the trucker’s rope spine down. We all need to push with our shoulders, on three…” By then people were shuffling and moaning. We could barely sit up the tarp was so heavy. Still in our sleeping bags we all turned around and knelt, squatting while pressing with our shoulders and backs, necks bent. It was no use.
“Okay, we have to all start at one end and work our way across I guess,” said Cashew, taking charge. We inch wormed our way across to the uphill side, crouched in our line and tried again. This time some of the snow rolled off. “We’re getting it! Keep pushing!”
We worked our way down sloughing off the snow. Once we got to the end of the tarp and we tossed the snow to the ground the shelter was still very much compromised. Cashew dropped his sleeping bag around his ankles and stepped into his boots. The center rope needs to be tightened; it must have been stretched out by all of the weight from the snow.” We heard him rustling outside, as the six of us sat in our sleeping line staring into the dark as his flashlight moved in jerking movements upon the tarp above, lifting the center rope as tight as he could get it. He crawled back into the line and found his sleeping bag in the spot he had left it. “Well, it’s not perfect, but it should hold for the night.”
A few hours later we were woken up by Pondi groaning in her strong Russian accent, “Hey, guys, the tarp, it’s sagging again. Ugh.” Our sleeping bags still damp from the first time, we woke up the whole line with gentle elbows nudging the person on either side.
“Okay, let’s do what we did last time,” and we slug crawled in our sleeping bags to the end of the tarpy. Kneeling we sloughed off the snow, now being expert on what worked last time. The rope wasn’t as stretched out, but the plastic of the tarp maybe was getting stretched, because it was still pretty saggy. One more time that night we repeated the procedure of clearing the heavy tarp off, as we waking up to it touching our noses. It made for a few grumpy free-walks the next day. We called Coast in and he helped us reinforce the tarp by giving it a solid A-frame like the Madrone camp down on Sulfur creek. We gave it a pole as a spine and set it on two tripods to hold it up.
Still, I abandoned the shelter and moved to the Madrone camp, I didn’t really trust the A-frame I guess, I’d rather end up with a rope at my nose than a pole. Madrone camp’s poles were attached to trees rather than tripods. It is more of a walk, and seemed less warm, maybe because there were less people smushed together like sardines and less protected by small firs. It was quite roomy though. Coast often had a fire going down there that Brighty helped keep going. They were determined to keep everything dry. It was in more of a flat opening so it seemed like it had more of a draft. It proved difficult to keep the smoke going out of the shelter, so it was quite smoky. We didn’t often have a fire at the A-frame, I guess because it was so close to the kitchen. Madrone camp was on Brushy Ridge and down the hill through the old clearcut. It was a stealthy camp, like the abandoned Skunk camp from a previous year. The only problem was that since the trail was through the clearcut, it was becoming a visible trail cut into the snow.
One day a black helicopter flew over the Free State. We weren’t sure what it meant. It took a few passes, the noise breaking the silence and making our hearts beat against our chest. We told ourselves that they still can’t drive through. They aren’t going to drop people in the snow to raid us, it must just be a surveillance. Perhaps they are preparing to come in once the snow melts. The weather prophet never told us that there was any let up in the snow. Then as we watched it, the helicopter flew low and followed the road. It took Brushy Ridge and then followed our pathway through the clearcut and swooped above the trees. “Oh, crud, did you see that?” Coast asked. “Holy, they totally know where we camp now!”
“At least they can’t come in for a while still,” said the Bishop.
“Yeah, but Madrone camp is going to be the first place they raid as soon as they do come in,” Coast remarked. “I’m not sleeping there anymore.”
The pods were really something in the snow. The lines would freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw. We became accustomed to sewing on additions to our layers. You never want skin showing from the second or third layer out. There is no need for a biting wind to sweep past any inkling of a goose bump. We discovered that the Army issue green wool blankets made a perfect cloak. With the rain gone, everything is dry from the knees up. Gaiters were necessary to keep the snow from pushing your pant leg up and filling your hiking boots full of powdery snow. Rain pants of course were still completely applicable. They just seemed to work even better in the snow. Now the Army issued pea soup green plaited poochy pants worked as an outer layer as well it seemed. It was what Waterfall wore on her visit. The Bishop kept with his boasting on how well his sno-seal greased carhart canvas pants and jacket worked just fine, though it had melded fairly well to his skin and creases. Like a diesel truck, you could tell that he was in the vicinity. Not unlike Coast, who had his unspeakable overalls hidden below his jacket. Though for him it was mostly kept to the overalls, the problem was when he sat down all of that excess stagnant air came billowing out to the surface.
Rabbit, Mouse, Cashew, Lukas, Oat Groat, Brighty, and I wore the dark green wool cloaks. Mysterious cone headed figures out on lookout, hiking through the snow, or slurping up the latest soup. We would take the army issue blanket and cut it square. Everyone liked their collar their own style. Then we would take the left over rectangle and sew it as a pointy wizard’s cap. Some, like Cashew, cut the center as a poncho and fastened his hood on from there. Sometimes we would sew it to the collar, other times using safety pins just to hold it on if we were still perfecting the collar, or if it was for someone that wasn’t sure how long they would stay.
My cloak was wrapped around my shoulders, collar high and the hood rolled around the edges. We found that thick needles worked best and dental floss, another one of those five to ten things that it is always necessary to have as a kit when you are dependent on the clothes on your back. On the road I was constantly making repairs. In the woods it is no different, only winter clothes rather. To close the cloak I just made a big knot below the center of my collar bone. This way, I didn’t really need to sew the hood on, with the corner of the square going down the center of my back, it overlapped well and it could be removed if necessary, like if it were a warmer day.
While drying off, there is that feeling of sticking your foot nearly directly into the fire, where the wool sock is so soaked in water and your foot is wrinkled in spongy white, creases running deep under the ball and toes, and the heel is pock marked. I was lucky enough not to get trench foot, where the skin then begins to peel, and exposes pink under flesh. As the shoes around the fire steamed, it was important to keep them rotating to prevent a plastic smelling smoke. Same with the foot, I suppose. It can stand cooking like a browning marshmallow as the wool sock still drips water into the sizzling coals below, until a spot, usually on the back of the heel, dries first and begins to heat up enough to pull your foot out of the flames, or curl your toes to wring out the extra water. There was a German photographer man in his 50s and his side kick who wasn’t as old, but older than us and he was also a professional photographer. They hiked out in the snow and stayed with us for a week or so. The German man was completely fascinated by the simplicity of drying off your feet and socks. Like, out of all of life’s complications, stresses, whatever was going on in your life at the time, that when you are in the woods and it is snowing and freaking cold out, there isn’t anything that is possibly more satisfying than drying out your socks and watching the water just evaporate into smelly steam. We thought he was slightly overdramatizing it all as he zoomed in with his video camera on the drying shoes around the campfire, but yeah, dry feet are definitely a good thing, I suppose.
Then there is the warming of the hands. The skin may burn if it is too close to the fire, though the bones are still cold, underneath. It takes the bones a lot longer and slower to heat up if it is just skin and flesh. Like the feeling in your toes while the meaty flesh tingles, it is warm skin meeting cold bone and the nerves begin to react, tendons stretch and ache. The skin swells out as it dries and you try to flex them. The fingers aren’t as much like that. For me, having long skinny fingers, prominent bones and tendons in my hands, it turns out more like the heat has to penetrate the marrow. Waterfall and I both had issues with our yellow finger tips. Even before Alaska, but certainly after. I still don’t have any feeling in my big toe, but the finger tips would turn yellow after about an hour of cold and it was challenging to get the circulation back. In the woolen cloaks we sewed in thick pockets, like a wing flap at the corners. We could wrap the cloak wings tightly around our bodies to prevent the wind from coming in from underneath. On my long-sleeve biothane undershirt I sewed on finger flaps with a small square of the woolen blanket material. It reached down to my palm, leaving my thumb exposed. The thumb got a circle cut through the sleeve and I added a woolen cap to it to keep the thumb warm, or I could hide the thumb back in with the other fingers if it was not in use. My sweater had long sleeves to cover all the way over to trap the heat.
Coast and I began to sleep at the Fortress. Not the stealthiest camp ever, but it was one place that didn’t have any snow fall on the ground below the tall thick overhang of the Bay trees. It was in the middle of a steep meadow, so it did show a trail where we would hike to it, but we hadn’t seen the helicopter since the first time and it wasn’t exactly a long term campsite, it was just handy in the snow being close to everything. We didn’t even set up a tarp, we just slept together in a large bivy sac that had tent poles to keep it off of our faces. It was very warm up against the rock cliff, but our breath would condense on the plastic by morning, and there wasn’t much room to move around at all.
We didn’t have much of an influx of hikers through the snow, but we also didn’t have many people leave. Most of the folks there had been around since at least New Years. Our supplies maintained us fairly well. Oil, chocolate, tobacco, and coffee were always a welcome weekend resupply. If we ran out of oil, then we would resort to eating dumplings instead of fry bread. The dumplings would sink like a brick, we would say. Making you instantaneously tired. Though the chapatis and falafel (pronounced: feel awful) would sometimes make our stomach hurt. The giardia loves any and all wheat products.
A man who we called Compost hiked in one day with Waterfall and Lupine. He had come from the ‘doggy free state’ up in the Bald Hills, north towards Del Norte county. I had met him once before when we were leaving Waterfall’s dogs before she came out here in the fall. He had been out gathering Rose Hips and drying them as a vitamin-C supplement. He was very adamant that the only food he ate either came from hunting, gathering, or scavenging. Wow, and I thought it was hard enough going vegan. Reminds me of when Waterfall suddenly decided that she was going to switch her diet to only eating nuts and berries, while we were working our asses off in December in the interior of Alaska deep in an Eskimo village. With barely an hour of daylight as the sun did a shallow arch over the Yukon at noon and disappeared again shrouding us in our dawn/dusk before being plummeted back into a headlamp existence. “Oh, baby,” we told her, “you can’t eat only nuts and berries, it’s 50 below out right now. The only food we have is the Moose stew, and Salmon. Here, I’ll open a jar of pickled carrots before I put it in the stew if you just want some of those with the pilot crackers and Emergen-C.” She was working for a Yukon Quest musher, while Lupine and I worked for some Sprint mushers. She would come home with candy sometimes, like little round peppermints that you would get from a Mexican restaurant. The only place to get food in the village was either the hunting, fishing, or gardening that happens in the warmer months, stock piling for the winter, and then there was the small grocery store but it was priced at five times a normal price and rarely had fresh veggies. The only other place was at a vending machine in the laundry mat slash liquor store, again very overly-priced for us white labor kids. We needed all the money we had for a plane ticket out of that place when the time would come.
I was curious on how this guy Compost would get along. It was rumored that he had eaten one of the resident dogs after the Bishop had accidently run it over while backing out of the driveway. And I thought we were all crazy. He immediately volunteered to sit in the Monopod, so that there was a sure sign. We would send up oatmeal and he would send it back down insisting that he would only eat our left overs. The oatmeal would be good for about three days, where then we would turn it into oat cakes. When it got to about the second day consistency we called it Jah-latinous goo, but after the third day it would start getting kind of a rank smell and it was time to start a new batch. He said that is when he wanted it. Once it starts getting that pinkish tint. “Ugh, well, aren’t you going to get sick from it?” we asked.
“It’s how I keep my stomach strong,” he said. We would try to sneak him some fresher like two day old mash, but he would send it down saying it wasn’t old enough. “Here, let me go scavenge for what I need, and I’ll be back.” Okay dude, whatever you feel like you need. One more person as a head count, without having to calculate him into the food ration, but why was he like that? Was he running from something? Were we? Other people think that we’re crazy just for being out here, he’s just a whole other step away from society.
One night the coyotes were calling up a ruckus.
“Sounds like they made a kill, how they are going off,” Mouse said as we sat at the kitchen fire, stirring some lentils.
“Hey, I need a replacement!” yelled Compost from up on the road in the Spatula.
“What dude, why?” asked Lupine.
“The coyotes, they’ve got something, and I want to go see if I can find where they are.”
“Okay, hang on,” as Lupine began pulling on his harness Compost repelled down the rope and took off across the road and into 031 crashing through the darkness, his headlamp bobbing down the slope away from the kitchen. We all just looked at each other, and chuckled, “wow, dude’s, scavenging off of the coyotes.”
Coast and I would follow him as he went on his collections through the forest. Even under the snow there were many plants that we had over looked earlier because we didn’t recognize them as edible. We began to include “Edible Plant Guide” on the supply list. Neither of us asked for much, he often asked for trucker’s rope and baling wire, but a guide on edible plants sure was something I could get behind having out here. Compost taught us how to recognize a game trail by the direction a Trail Plant was laying. It is a short single green leaf the size of our hand, it is a triangle shape and when it’s walked over the animal brushes by it and the plant flops over upside down for an hour or so. The underside is a fuzzy white and it points in the direction the animal was going, like an arrow. He taught us how to boil the roots of the thistles, though the thistle stalks were dead, the roots could be dug up and cooked, tasting like an artichoke heart. Stalking down into the damp marshy glens that kept the snow melted, he showed us what Miner’s Lettuce was and Candy Flower, even though they were a bit stunted and wilted in the cold, they were still tasty. After a while eating these greens it seemed to really help the giardia symptoms. Hmm, maybe he was on to something.
I found no time to read in this weather. Being away from the car there was always something to do. At least stoke the fire if we weren’t hauling logs and working on the fourth side of The Wall, we now called it ‘The Compound’. The spring in the middle of the Compound had become the main water source for the car and the kitchen, being in between both locations and easy access. The spring was uphill from the road coming out of the hillside, so we knew it was as fresh as it comes. The other water source was still off of Sulfur Creek in a small cave that housed hibernating Giant Pacific Salamanders, but it was a bit of a hike up hill which was more difficult in the slippery snow.
We kept at about fifteen people at all times. Spread out amongst the car, lookout, and the kitchen, where much of the supplies were stored along with a pile of people’s backpacks while they sat on the white food buckets. If by chance there was an alert sounded we could jump up, grab your bucket seat, grab your personal bag and take off down the hill. Sleeping bags were always still stashed in the morning separately. Stash your bucket or two, and then climb back up to the road wearing your daypack to see what the commotion is all about. We didn’t exactly have many actual alerts. Mostly just, ‘hey there’s a vehicle on the switchbacks 10 miles away towards Monument ridge.’
At this point it was assumed that the snow was too thick for a vehicle to pass. Even the Golfballogists stopped coming as frequently. When the snow had begun, Steve came by and asked us if anyone needed a ride out before the road became less passable. This was a good sign to us. I mean, pray there is no extreme emergency, but as long as we had supplies and people, it was nice to be able to feel a little bit of comfort knowing that we can wake up without endless anxiety.
Everything is so quiet in the snow, compared to the drowning white noise of the rain. Splats hitting plastic tarps, the metal and glass of the car, hitting the ground, the trees, our soaked rain jacket hoods. The snow is so peaceful. Along with the release from cold shackles; as my wrist bones still ached from deep bruises from the heaviness of the thick chain. There was also a stillness, and a peace of mind that I would not imminently end up in jail if the authorities would arrive.
Lukas went back to the car more frequently because the Reverend Ass Love was starting to go kind of cabin feverish. He was speaking in tongues again and he is so tall that he could not stretch out fully in our little Dodge Colt interior. He needed to stretch his limbs. He would gallop down the Spatula hill and hug the lower side-hill trail until he reached the headwaters of Sulfur before the water began, then dip into a run down and back up the other side like it were a skateboarding ramp with his arms in the air and a howl caught in the wind. If we weren’t going to get arrested we needed to stay in shape, and as a lockdowner it is good to get your lungs back from being hot-boxed with the Congresswoman’s tobacco smoke. We could be loud in this silence. The Reverend’s loud laughter echoed among the leaves as he darted through the forest.
Little glittering snow veils would sparkle to the ground. Often this is a warning of a big Schlumph! Then the trail is filled, or a mound falls into the woods from a heavily overloaded Fir branch. The trick is to not be under it when it decides to off load. The result is a cold shiver down the neck and your hat, collar, and scarf will be wet for the rest of the day or until you find the closest camp with a lit fire to dry your scarf off. Yet another good reason to wear the woolen cloak. As long as you had the hood on at the time, it is wide enough not to let it down the front compared to a rain jacket.
We always had to have a game plan. Our dreams were full of them. The trick is to be on guard enough to implement it when the time came. Some would smoke tobacco, but only a few; many people would smoke pot though. It was called ‘Safety,’ and kids would announce, ‘Safety Meeting!’ It would keep us on edge and open to the chance sound that may warrant an immediate reaction, though it helped dull the panic and keep it a medium paranoia and a slow motion reaction enough to make sure you go through your whole check list before leaping into the woods like a frightened gazelle. People stumble through panic, others don’t realize the need to run, that if they do catch you they will take you away. Generally speaking the loggers and cops are bigger and stronger than us. Ranchers not so much, but they do come armed.
Even without the bay leaves we enjoyed banging on our tin cups and buckets as a means of percussion with the lack of instruments. Caesar had brought a small guitar out, but it didn’t like the cold weather. Lupine also had a tin whistle. We all ended up with lengthy forest names. There was Bob, the French Canadian, he pronounced his name Bub, so we all decided that all of our names were Bob, just pronounced differently. So each poo-name included as follows: A title, mine was Ologist. A first name that was John, for everyone. A double name: Ituri Nanka. A poo-name: Turd. And lastly a number: 14, but you can call me Bob for short, pronounced in its own way. Coast was Captain John Coastal Tide Dingleberry the second. This way when and if we were separated then when we asked: “What is your poo name,” the person had to respond with the full name and number or we would know not to trust them. To remember our own and each other’s, we would chant the names to the beat of our homemade percussion noises, throughout the night as the dinner simmered. Sewage Manager John Muammar Gaddafi Bong-Dung 27, just call me Bob. Professeur John Smithy Smith fecal 42. The Bishop John Hill-Billy Shite 78, call me Bawb. Reverend John Ass Love flagellant 69. We gave the Congresswoman her title and she didn’t like it much which made it extra funny because it proved that it was even more fitting when she was upset about it. Poor thing, we would just laugh & laugh while she got all the more pissy in her hoarse voice. She was usually in the car though, so she didn’t hear our chantings very often.
A group of hikers came in through the snow led by Aliento. They trickled in, about six of them arriving in pairs. They sat down exhausted from the tromping, since they were breaking trail most of the way because there hadn’t been many cars that went through the roads since it had started snowing. Vevoda would be the only one who came out much past the first few miles of the State park, and it had been snowing so much that week that there wasn’t any sign of him being out here. I guess the cows were on their own, and so were we. It was nice seeing new faces and getting fresh supplies. Oil, chocolate, raisins for the oats, all were very welcome, and of course the locally baked day old bread.
“There’s still one more hiker,” said Aliento, slightly concerned. “He’s been behind this whole way. We’ve waited as much as we could, but he’s having some issues with his shoes.” An hour or so later, a short thick kid in rain gear tromped up through the meadow towards look out and laid down in the snow above the car. He was breathing heavy and slightly annoyed. Once he caught his breath he was anxious to sit in the Spatula though, so we let Compost have a break to run around in the woods and sent the kid up immediately. He seemed happy to have a position where he didn’t have to do anymore walking.
Coast and I were sitting on the gang plank next to the flag pole on the Front Wall of the Compound. We had some baling wire in our hands and were slowly reinforcing the logs. It was a clear day in our snowy wonderland. We could hear the crisp sound of the spring overflowing into a five gallon jug. In the snow we could see where the spring wanted to flow across the road. It melted the compacted and trampled snow, leaving behind a line of bare dirt disappearing down the hill as the spring water emptied into the headwaters of the North Fork. It was a small stream, but it was The Source. Spouting from the road cut cliff. We had dug a little ditch to allow it a safe passage across the road, like a mini water bar, to prevent it from spreading out and creating mud. The snow was banked up on either side of our handmade curving creek.
Coast was talking about how it would be really cool if we could find someone to lockdown to the wall. We had made a crawl space under the gang plank. It was fairly roomy. Through the hatch it was hollow enough to get a black bear lock box under it.
“And then we could set trucker’s rope across to those trees and set up another traverse pod.” The trick was to find extra lock downers, because it is difficult enough to keep the monopod manned as it is, and the traverse pod was pretty much decommissioned with the snow. We would need another black bear or goo-box from town as well. I have learned with Coast, that he often doesn’t have a lot to say, but when he does it helps just to listen. He has all sorts of brilliant ideas. If I give my two cents, it often is automatically wrong anyways. Even if it is right, it may take a while to sink in and must be converted to his own idea. I don’t mind. I don’t usually have much to say anyway.
Coast and Cashew used to always argue. It was so cute. They were like brothers. They had always been the babies of the movement, both having started when they were young. Coast, when he was 16, his mom dropped him off after a protest and she went back to the city. He quickly learned to make his way, to defend himself and his ideas. Focus on projects in the forest. He was in Grizzly Creek when Gypsy had been killed. He had been in the woods when that happened. It was one of his earliest actions, and he had found the body. A logger had felled a tree and it landed on a protester, a young man named David ‘Gypsy’ Chain. The 16 year old Coast ran down the hill and told the rest of the action camp what had happened. After that they had created a Free State, the Gypsy Free State, blockading the road and not allowing the loggers to drive in the next morning to continue to fall trees like nothing had happened. They had blamed the protesters, the movement. The people that were out there were originally blamed for the death, though they had video evidence of the incident. It had scared Coast real bad.
They created the blockade starting on September 18th, 1998 the day after Gypsy had been killed claiming this was a crime scene and they demanded an outside investigation rather than the county and company sweeping it under the rug like it was a tragic accident. On October 7th 42 members of several different law enforcement agencies raided the vigil blockade, pouring pepperspray into people’s eyes to get them to unlock. The original protest was because the company was logging illegally during Marbled Murrelet nesting season. There was video footage of the logger making blatant threats. He had said: "Get outta here! Otherwise I'll fuckin', I'll make sure I got a tree coming this way," and then a little later on the tape the logger yells, "Oh fuck, I wish I had my fucking pistol!" He knew there were people on the ground. Again, where is OSHA? This was Coast’s adolescence. He learned to do what needed to happen, to keep quiet and get the work done. Gain respect in the doing and age gaps can fall to the way side. Speak up and declare the corruption when it was obvious. Watch peoples’ dogs when they were arrested, sit in a tree when it was necessary and organize food runs while his growing body constantly craved nutrition.
Cashew’s dad was very active in the movement. This is what Cashew was raised to know. He was born without a birth certificate and is happy to stay under the radar while busting his ass trying to protect the ecosystem. These boys aren’t the babies of the group anymore. Though, they still may be some of the youngest, at 18 and 19 years old, there were many of us near that age as well and certainly without as much experience. We were coming up, questioning the motives of our government, seeing that the science was not adding up, and taking our own stand against the corruption. For what is obvious to us, may not even be known by most of the country. How are they supposed to know? The media always sides with the propaganda that pays the bills. When the public is presented with high quality wood, they are not told of how it is extracted. How can human consumption, profit for a few, justify destroying whole lands, ecosystems, homes that have existed for five hundred years, thousands of years untouched? Haven’t we touched enough with our poisonous hands?
Some states and counties, have state and federal land, though not saying their forest practices are much better since that is the location of the majority of forest defense protests that happen up in Oregon, though at least the public can pretend to have a say so. Our county is 50% private timber land. It is harder to find people to support something that questions private property. A bit socialist or anarchist for most palates. We are not arguing private land though, we are arguing special privileges allotted to these corporate entities. It is easy to say that we are in the wrong. That trespassing on private land is a violation. Sure, but we ask, which is the greatest evil? Who is committing the biggest crime, us, who are only pointing a finger and trying to hold out while the acquisition papers are still in negotiation? Or is it the ones committing atrocities across the board against the environment? If Mines and Geology could actually come out here to survey instead of flying over, if they could physically see that it is nearly impossible to even walk on most of these slopes. Add that to the instability of the Mendocino Triple Junction, where the Gorda, Pacific, and North American Tectonic Plates meet, which is said to be one of the most seismically active areas in the continental U.S. Oh right, Mines and Geology already declared this an area too steep to legally log. The agencies know there are Spotted Owls, Fishers, Golden Eagles, Howl’s Montia, Usnea Longisima. Though through the Headwaters’ Deal, the Mattole was a “Sacrifice Zone” as well as most of the remaining lands that had known Old Growth and were once protected due to Marbled Murrelett habitat or other reasons found and were traded for the company not to log the 7,500 acres along the Elk River, including the purchase price of $130 million of state funds and $250 million from federal tax payer money. It was not the acquisition deal that the protesters of Redwood Summer had wanted. Between the state and the company it is what they had agreed on. Now here we are again at the negotiation tables. There is an acquisition group who has raised $9 million to buy this land we are on right now, though the company keeps refusing.
“Hey Ituri, do you have any trail mix?” Coast asked me.
“Uh, yeah, hang on.” The boys were already catching wind that I didn’t eat my rations all at once, and how could I refuse those boyish eye brows? He knew how to be cold and distant, but when he was being personable it was very endearing.
I sat on the gang plank of the Wall, rummaging through my day pack to find the right plastic bag. I felt bad sometimes because I felt like I had come between Coast and Cashew’s closeness. They didn’t hang out as much as they used to. Coast and I often worked together, perfecting the Compound walls, and Cashew was spending more time up at the car, I guess, because he was hanging out with Lukas. I’m sure it wasn’t because he liked arguing with the Congresswoman. He still busted ass on hauling poles and stuff, but he was definitely volunteering for lookout more often. I suppose it wasn’t all of my doing, but I missed their dynamics. It always made me laugh.
As Coast and I spoke about how we were going to try and make the fourth Wall against the cliff side stable and unenterable, like how legal is it to have spikes at the end of the poles going up if someone slipped while attempting to invade or do we need to saw off the ends to be blunt, and how are we going to attach them to be stable, because we don’t want to dig on that side of the road since it is already crumbling. Well, just keep adding layers, and at least make it look impassable until we got more baling wire.
As Coast handed back my greatly taxed bag of trail mix, I saw someone hiking up towards us from the Spatula and kitchen direction. He weaved his way through our compound labyrinth and stood squarely behind Coast. Stocky legs spread to his shoulder width and his arms crossed over his chest, trying to look very official and obviously had something to say. I nodded to Coast to turn around and he saw the kid’s stance.
“Hey, aren’t you supposed to be in the Spatula?” Coast asked loudly. He was in fact wearing a harness. I glance up the road towards look out and it didn’t seem like we were in any danger, what with all of the thick snow, but we were still very vigilant about keeping the pod and car manned at all times.
“Yeah, about that,” he said with a slight grimace, his dimples popping out on his full brown cheeks. “My name is Tribe, by the way.” I nodded his way and smiled through my lips. “That’s what I was going to ask you about,” Tribe said, as he looked at Coast. He came to about Coast’s chest in height. A stocky, native looking, very strong and muscly, tattoos, long dreaded dark hair with beads, pulled in a ponytail. He had tennis on, in the snow, because his hiking boots had disintegrated on his recent hike in. He was wearing the campaign’s wool pants and a dark blue North face jacket, the climbing harness snuggly around his waist and crotch. He smiled sheepishly, his baby face smooth and his big dark eyes went on for galaxies.
I smiled at him, waiting for him to continue, and he finally asked, “So, uh,” as he tightened in his shoulders and scratched his head. He sighed, like, oh god I just have to get this over with. By now Coast and I were very curious with all of his nervousness.
“Yes, what is it?” Coast asked, he of little patience.
“So… um, say that the down line is still in the pod, is there any other way that someone could still get into the pod?” He blurted out.
Coast said, “Well, that is the point of the monopod, that it is very difficult for someone to evict you. You’ll be fine. They probably will have to bring a cherry picker.” Tribe scratched his dirty neck nervously. I could see a tremor going through his whole body and up his arm.
“Yeah, um, that’s kind of what I was thinking. See that’s the problem. Um, ‘cause, how do I say this? See, I was in the pod…”
“Yeah, that’s where you still should be,” said Coast rudely.
“Well, see I was in the pod, like just a few minutes ago,” Tribe blurted out again, trying to rush himself. “And see, I decided to go out on one of the traverse lines.”
“You what?” Coast yelled, I didn’t really understand.
“Yeah, well, I thought it would be fun, to see how really high up I was and stuff. Well, then the trucker’s rope broke.”
“That wasn’t trucker’s rope. The only trucker’s rope is going across the road. That was yellow poly!” Coast yelled, exasperated as he turned the kid around and they hiked back towards the Spatula.
“Well, I didn’t really get hurt,” I could hear him saying as they walked away. “I just landed in a big snow drift and rolled a ways down the hill.”
“Cashew!” yelled Coast from the Spatula. “Lupine!”
“Yeah?” answered Cashew from lookout walking over with Rabbit to the west side to peer down and look at Coast.
“I’m going to need your help resetting something!” Called up Coast.
“I can replace you on lookout,” I said as I climbed the rocky outcrop grabbing onto the baby fir trees up to the ridge. I felt bad for the kid, but I also couldn’t help laugh at how the other kids looked at him in dismay, shaking their heads sternly, like, dude what the hell? Are you nuts? Someone y’all are calling nuts? This is bound to be fun.
The snow began to melt in patches and the Golfballogists started to go back to work on the weekdays. One night we heard that Buffalo might drive a vehicle in. We needed to stay on alert so we could help get it into position. I stayed at the car, nodding off while I sat in the A-frame tunnel tarpy, protected by the wind leaning against some gear. When lookout on the hill blew the alert whistle I jumped up and out into the crisp starry night sky and headed up the ridge. A bunch of us gathered there and we saw the headlights, puttering down from the Rainbow Ridge road to the right, emerging from the trees. There was a small truck behind it.
They pulled up, and as he shifted gears near the tipi the vehicle died. Buffalo got out and kicked and cussed at the massive stinky hunk.
“What time is it?” he asked us, as we stood open mouthed at what he had driven in front of us.
“Oh, uh, almost 2 a.m.” sputtered Aliento.
“Jeezus, it took us half of the night just to get here!” he called out over to his shoulder at a younger man in the truck who had just turned off his engine and clambered out, stepping up to the older man, Buffalo.
“Man, that thing broke down on us the whole way!” he said, “We were out in the middle of the road nearly 5 times fiddling with that thing, sure hope it starts up again, why’d you turn it off Dad?” the younger man asked.
“Ah, crap. We need to know where to put this thing,” Buffalo said to the general crowd that had gathered, fresh from our warm sleeping bags. The ‘thing’ we all gawked at was a medium sized RV, an old one, like from the 70’s or something.
“That thing is perfect!” remarked the Bishop as he stepped out of the darkness. “Shit man, that is gonna get their goat for sure!”
“Where do you want us to put it?” Buffalo repeated. “We took way longer than we had planned to get out here, we need to head back to town real quick. We don’t want to be caught out on the road. If you guys want to park it where you want it to go, we can just take off in truck,” Buffalo suggested, as the wind whipped through our circle, and he hoisted up his jacket collar a bit higher.
“It’d be nice if you could help us get it moving,” said the Bishop.
“Where do you want it then? If it was just sitting here next to your tipi they’ll just tow it away.”
“Yeah, unless someone locked down to it,” smiled Hoot.
“Okay, here’s an idea. Why don’t we get it on the other side of that tarp there?” asked Buffalo.
“That’s where the car is,” answered the Congresswoman matter of factly.
“There’s a car under there?” the younger man asked.
“Yeah, that’s our lock down. The car is parked in front of the gate,” the Congresswoman relied.
“Well, let’s get this thing around it then,” Buffalo suggested as we all laughed.
“That’s the point, no one can get around it with a vehicle,” the Congresswoman said.
“Except ATVs,” added Cascara.
“The ATVs go around this pole here?” asked the younger man with Buffalo as they walked past the car tarpy.
“Yeah, there’s a path just about wide enough, and we carry the other side of it,” said Caesar. “Are you guys seriously thinking that we can get that thing around the pole? That thing is massive!”
“Here look, if we add more dirt right here near this knoll we could almost make the track just about wide enough,” suggested the younger man.
“That is nuts!” yelled Rabbit. “Oh, god that is nuts!” He laughed excitedly as he jumped up and down clapping his hands. “There are some boulders right here we could haul down there and maybe make a base.”
“Where are your shovels? We have to do this quick!” urged Buffalo.
“I have them,” came Patreek running up with three shovels, and a pick axe. I think the digging bar is down in those trees still.
“I’ll go get it,” offered Rabbit as he leapt down the hill. Patreek handed off the tools and we all started moving dirt.
Jumping on the new ground level, and stomping on it a half an hour later Caesar said, “Okay, I think it’s ready to give it a try.” The ground had been rearranged so that there was now an extra wide bulge going around the metal gate post.
“Let’s fire it up and see if we don’t tumble this thing down into your creek bed,” said Buffalo, patting the younger man’s shoulder as he turned around.
“Yeah, please don’t tumble it anywhere, we are out here fighting to keep the watershed pristine,” pleaded Cascara.
“I sure hope it doesn’t topple anywhere either, girl, since I’ll be in that beast. Let’s get this going,” Buffalo said as he walked away towards the monstrous white vehicle. “Bishop, Caesar, guide me hey?”
“Okay, man, we’re right here. I’ll take the front, Bishop you can be near that tree so you can see how his rear tires are,” said Caesar.
“Let’s do it!” yelled Cashew, everyone was pumped. It took a few minutes to get the RV actually started. The young man was working under the hood as Buffalo kept trying to turn it over.
“Okay, let’s just push it, can we?” he asked the group of us, as we looked at him speculatively. “It’d be a lot faster to get it started if we just push.” Ten of us went over and began to heave, it started rolling and he got it running. Puttering slowly around the tipi, and then back around the Blue Dragon, it was all in slow motion.
“A little to the left,” Caesar yelled. “Oh, too much!” The siding of the RV scraped along the pole. “It doesn’t have to be pretty,” Caesar reassured us as we gasped, “as long as it doesn’t slip off the hillside.” Yeah, that’d be ideal if it stayed on the road. We agreed, nodding our heads at each other, kind of at the same time as shaking them in disbelief. It was all as if it were some sort of twisted dream. We held our breath, and somehow, as miracles go it was on the other side before we knew it. We gave a collective sigh. Now for maneuvering it to be as much across the road as possible and Buffalo and his son could go home. It took a lot of backing up and yelling on the cliff side, but luckily the back of it was far away from the back wheels, so it gave it a nice width. We all laughed hysterically, Cashew was jumping up and down with Rabbit.
“Oh God we did it!” yelled Rabbit as he laughed and pushed his glasses further up on his face. “Oh, man!”
“Woohoo!” called out Cashew. “Let’s see the inside. Is it full of Brio bread, or what?”
“We didn’t bring too many supplies, we were mostly concerned on just getting it out here, but yeah, there are a few boxes. Some with food, and some with clothes. I think there’s a spool of trucker’s rope,” said the younger man as he opened the door for Buffalo to climb out.
“Trucker’s rope?” Coast’s ears perked up and climbed into the side door with the other boys.
“Okay, well we’re going to head back down the road. Good luck with everything out here. Man it’s windy, you guys live in this shit?” said Buffalo as he tromped along the muddy melting road.
“Thank you!” we all yelled, as we followed them back up the road and past the car. Quick hugs goodbye and they were backing out in the small truck as we all gave a good hardy group howl. They drove down Monument instead of the way they had come from Fox Camp.
Caesar looked at his watch and said, “Sure hope they get out of there before the loggers come through if they do decide to arrive today.”
“Yeah, well down Monument who knows where they might be working,” said Cascara, “but they should make it out before 4:00, if they don’t have any mechanical issues.” We walked down to our new addition of road ornaments, to snack on some bread before heading back to bed. It was directly placed in between the Blue Dragon and the Compound.
The next morning as we woke up and migrated up the road, we could help but laugh hysterically. “Oh my god, they are going to flip! They’re going to be like, where the hell did that come from? And how the hell did they get it on the other side of the damned blockade?”
“We’ll tell them that we rolled it down the hill,” said Rabbit pointing to the steep cut ridge above the nose of the RV.
“We’ll tell them that Aliens dropped it down from outer space,” Cashew said, and we all laughed.
“Yeah, yeah Aliens!” agreed Rabbit as they jumped up and down holding hands spinning in a circle. It was so fun to see everyone excited and happy again. It was a nasty old thing, but Cashew was already making plans on sleeping in it when the weather was bad.
“Dude, it’s like a giant trap. Are you going to lock down? What if the cops come and you’re freaking asleep in there?” asked Coast, annoyed.
“Oh, it’ll be fine. I’ll just sleep in there when it’s stormy,” Cashew said reassuringly.
“Hey, has Tribe seen this yet?” asked Coast as he turned to me.
“Probably not,” I replied.
“Here, let’s wake him up and get him out of the Spatula for a moment so he can at least see it. Pondi, want to sit in the pod this morning? I want to let Tribe see this thing!” Coast asked the short Russian girl with thick glasses.
“Ya, ya. I’ll get my sleeping bag,” complied Pondi, as she walked down the road. Coast trotted down the road, slowing down as he caught up with Pondi and they passed through the Compound. A few minutes later Coast returned with Tribe walking briskly at his side.
“Holy mother of…” Tribe responded as he got passed the Compound. He stood back for a moment and then went right up to it and inside. “Holy…” he kept shaking his head with a huge smile and his indented dimples as deep as they get. He was beaming. “Haha!” he spun around, “Hey, did they bring any food?”
“Yeah, I think the boxes went up to the Blue Dragon, there’s some Brio bread in there, and a small jar of Annie’s mustard,” answered Coast smiling at his friend’s enthusiasm. That morning we smoothed out the hillside, to erase any trace that there had been a road going around the pole.
The RV’s arrival had breathed life back into everyone. Spirits were higher than they had been for a long time. The snow melting was a huge concern that lingered like a black cloud. We dreamt of snow clouds reappearing, but there was just wind and clear skies. It was disheartening, so the RV helped restore some energy so we could focus on other projects. Though we weren’t sure how much the RV would actually be able to do, but we couldn’t help but laugh imagining the reaction when they finally see it and are completely baffled by how it got there. Coast, Cashew, Rabbit, and Mouse, and I continued to haul poles up from the old clearcut to add to the Compound. Pondi began to take more turns in the Spatula, so that was nice having Tribe around to help us too. Each time I would pass back past the mono-pod I would ask Pondi how to say certain things in Russian, then as I went to the clearcut and back I would repeat the sentence to myself, until I came back and repeated it to her. I either got it right, or she would correct my pronunciation.
The Compound was coming along quickly. People often bitched at us, that we should be using the wood we haul up as firewood, and that it was difficult to get past. That was the point, we said. There is enough firewood. We had no idea how the cops would get through the Compound, because they sure weren’t going to be able to saw it apart by hand. It was so heavy and the biggest poles were all sunk into the ground, and it was all protected by the metal and rocks. We were very proud of what it had turned into. The 3rd side on the back was growing every day and that was the main part that people were getting grumpy about. We began to call it a labyrinth. It took a bit of zigzagging to get through it, and then you were popped into the center of the Compound. There was then a right angle to the left to pass the draw bridge which stayed open unless there was a red alert. We still dreamt of a lockdown, or a pod, but didn’t have the volunteers yet.
Peter began building a wooden fence in front of the tipi. It was a nice rustic fence made of poles as the posts and two rail posts at an equal length from the ground as it were from each other. It looked like a nice old style horse fence. He said it would make it harder for them to just drive up to the car and tipi. He had a good point. He was very protective of the lockdowners. He was a sweet man. He seemed like he had a lot of pain that he was dealing with. For a while we wondered if he was a spy, but it seemed more like he was looking for reconciliation. Peter and I had become good friends. He was an ex-logger in his ‘50s. He said that Lukas and I reminded him of his daughters. He would do continuous supply runs with his bicycle. I often wondered, was I scared of the hike out or scared of the town at the other end of the hike? Out here I was anonymous, though I was also a part of a family, a cause. Time stood still. Some people said it was as if I were under a spell. If I was, then be it. It was a magical and transcending experience. It was a land that I thought only existed in my imagination, but here we were and here it was, and it needed our help to continue to exist. The wilderness was stuck in a time that these 21st century ideals no longer appreciated. The humans in the U.S. do not understand the balances of the true natural and so it is exploited and enslaved like every other piece of ground that is banished into society. Logged, slathered over in concrete and sold off to the next developer who will cover it in boxes.
The Congresswoman would sing a song that often rang too true, she would sing through a raspy voice as she held onto her rolled up cigarette, “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky, little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same. There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one, and they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same. And the people in the houses all went to the university, where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same. And there's doctors and lawyers, and business executives, and they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.”
Peter would sing it with her in his deep voice as well as other people. It would go on and on, but it was kind of a spooky song I thought. It sounded like a bad Sci-fi story, but it was the description of U.S. If you don’t fit into those categories, then you are a bane to society, not pulling your own weight. If you don’t fit into those categories and you actually stand up and speak your mind, yeah, freedom of speech is like the right to bear arms. You can have your own thoughts like a pistol, but you best keep it hidden behind lock or key or ‘they’ will come and take you away and put you behind a lock of their own, only a file and a name on a list to be processed as they see fit. Do not stand up and speak your mind if your ideas are different than the current law. Certainly don’t question these mega corporations running all around the globe making profits hand over fist while our environment, wildlife, waters, and air suffer immeasurably in the process.
The snow kept melting on these warm days. Tensions ran high in the community. We knew that the inevitable could be just around the next bend. Lookout at night continued to be vigilant. We began to have meetings again, not just ‘safety’ meetings, real meetings about what we would do. We needed to change our tactics now that the roads were quickly becoming passable again. We still had a good population. Some of the long time Freewalkians left for town to catch up on life out there, or to try and relieve town of certain responsibilities for people who were getting burnt out of doing organizations for supplies. They also made sure that people kept hiking in and we had a steady stream of newcomers. Newbies we called them and sometimes it was hard to tone down our strangeness, our feral tendencies, especially when it came to new supplies of food. We were very food oriented as far as having good energy or failing completely and allowing the anxiety to take over. This was heightened when new hikers were observed.
One day we saw a group of new hikers plodding and slipping through the mushy snow blotched field. A group of overenthusiastic boys ran over and nearly assaulted the group, asking, “What did you bring?”
“Okay, okay, settle down. We’ll get the stuff unpacked,” Bub as the guide said. They sat down in the meadow above the Blue Dragon and they began unpacking slowly looking for the town food that the boys were obviously so eager to devour. The new faces of the hikers were very confused, and obviously concerned of their own rations and personal possessions.
Bub said, “Hey, we’ve got pastries!” That was nearly the most wrong thing to say obviously, because suddenly Tribe and Cashew, Mouse and Rabbit went running towards him, grabbing the pastry container and ripped it open. One grabbed a handful and kept running, the other boys were in hot pursuit. I stood on the road, shocked with a few others patiently awaiting our rations. They looked like hyenas, snatching bits and chunks from each other as they wolfed it down without chewing. The newbies were in shock at the complete lack of manners of these wild mountain boys. Some of us were laughing, because they were obviously excited about the sugar and bread prospects, but others were yelling at them that they had no right to eat all of the pastries and that they need to calm down and chill out so we can ration them out to everyone. The boys knew what that meant. That means they would get a nice fingerful, enough to taste the sugar and bread, but no actual effect other than a stimulus for their taste buds. They were looking more for the actual effect that this town food may have to contribute. They were sick of the cardboard tasting balance bars.
Eventually Aqua and the Congresswoman got the boys to settle down, once the remaining pastries had been swallowed and they were stalking back looking for more. They made the boys apologize to the new hikers who looked like they were ready to run back to town as soon as their muscles and tendons were fit enough to function. I still couldn’t help but laugh, which rewarded me a nice glassy stare from the Congresswoman, but I’m sure she understood the hilarity of the situation.
Where is the equilibrium found between? Our oppressive society of how to act is so black and white, we all fit into categories, we are expected to act within a perimeter or a set role. We are to wake up in the morning in a bed paid for by either rent or mortgage, pay taxes to the state that no one attempts to understand or question, because if you did question it your keys may become reversed, and no one wants to be locked out. You brush your teeth, put on your certain clothes depending on what gender you are, climb into your own vehicle or a public transport if you live in a place where it is provided. Put your keys in your pocket because what you own is needed to be protected by everyone else in existence. This lack of trust is suffocating. What then, you go to your job to earn money to pay for your transportation, your food, and your bed. Seeing the look in the newbies eyes, they are appalled at our wild tendencies, but this has only taken a few months to achieve. If this is only a couple of months in isolation what are these instincts that we are suppressing on a daily basis? We look at the homeless, the crazies, the people that don’t fit into our boxes, that don’t want to or have a hard time functioning within these facets that society has somehow evolved to inhabit and accept as a norm. There is not much space to exist within the gray matter of this society. You are shunned, looked down upon, be it a drug habit, a mental instability, or just a desire to not conform. It is difficult to find alternatives, to find a safe haven in this world of private property, where what is yours is yours, and what is mine is mine.
Perhaps we are more animalistic than we give ourselves credit for. We grab like these Jackal boys, ripping off chunks of bread out of each other’s hands. If he has a big piece and I have already swallowed mine, what is to say that since I have caught up to him, maybe I am faster than he is or maybe he accidentally slipped in the wet grass, stumbling long enough that I can catch up, and so it gives me the right to take what I can out of his hand while he is down, and God knows that I will continue running because there is a hungry pack behind me after what I have. Hopefully they will be distracted by the one already on the ground. No matter to the rest of the population who stand watching it unfold with without a competitive desire. Is this a bad trait? To not have a reaction to compete? To accept and expect that since we are a living being that there is enough to share? We bust ass, we do what is necessary to survive, but when it comes to fighting for, what of the person or the species that we are taking it from? If I have devoured a larger portion than is my right, isn’t that directly coming from someone else who will automatically have less? This is how society expects us to become, only in a domesticated way, wearing suits and ties. If I am a woman I wear a skirt because being provocative is a good thing in the work place. That or conformity. You have women wearing pants or jumpsuits in a factory, but you don’t have men wearing dresses do you? We haven’t come as far in this century as we think sometimes
The newbies ended up being a bunch of gentle kids from a place called Heartwood. There were more girls than any of us had seen in months, about six girls and four guys. Heartwood is a massage school in Southern Humboldt. The kids were all very soft and hippy. Smelling of herbs and they had nice backpacks. The weather was nice, though of course it was very windy up on the ridge. We divvied up the rest of the trial mixes and oats between the forest defenders who had gathered. Then we showed them where to stash the commie food down in the kitchen tarpy across the road from the Spatula. Brighty showed them to the Madrone camp. Sure it had been spotted by the helicopter, but it was just the biggest spot that was fairly empty. Everyone else had pretty much made their own personal camps at this point, so it was good for a big group like this. Room for a nice camp fire and space enough for all of the large backpacks, though we suggested that it would be good to stash them somewhere individually so if the camp did get busted at least they wouldn’t lose all of their personal stuff.
Coast and I still slept in our framed bivy sac under the rocks at the Fortress, though it was about time to start thinking about a new location with the snow beginning to melt.
The boys began to get jumpy, they were hyper and happy. There were so many girls they didn’t know how to behave. My suggestion was why not just go introduce themselves to the girls and be normal, why is it a big deal? They just laughed nervously to that. Normal might not be the best tactic to make friends with folks from town, I do realize, how we all were at this point. The girls and guys from Heartwood offered massages to the Forest Defenders. They weren’t really here to lockdown or anything like that, they just wanted to donate their services. This made the boys extra nervous. It wasn’t a normal resupply. They were just as peculiar and nearly as opposite as we were after the long cold winter. They wanted to be soft and touchy feely, while we were all hard and generally pretty gross. Okay, first thing is that we don’t have warm running water around here. For me I would go down to the creek every now and then and wash off, but it was borderline hypothermic, and it was in patches at a time. Like take a sleeve off for a moment, wash and put it back on immediately. I don’t know about the boys. Everyone had their specific rank smells. We slept in our clothes. We wash socks and stuff like that out in the rain or in the creek, but not much the other layers. So, the idea of taking off a shirt, while lying in a cold tarp in the woods with a stranger was more than most of us could conceive. People like Aliento, Caesar, folks like that, older more experienced town and forest people, people that would actually go to Heartwood after leaving the woods to get their donated massage anyway, sure they were fine with it, but us kids were fully repulsed. Oil? Scented oil? That is out of the question. How the hell are we supposed to even clean off all the nasty hippy smelling oils off of us? Our skin and clothes are oily enough, we don’t need some stranger to put oil from a little glass bottle on us. No wonder the boys avoided them. Though of course it was tempting, we were all wired so tight with nerves and physical exertion. Maybe without oil? A few of them were convinced, though it was quite an ordeal to get past their modesty.
“Nobody touches me,” said Tribe.
“What about just a foot massage?” offered the sweet dreaded girl with the brown eyes. “We could go down to that tarp over there.” Coast and I muffed our giggles. Poor Tribe’s eyes got huge, he pulled on his own long brown dreads, and stood rigid, shaking his head with his mouth shut tight.
“You really don’t want to touch his feet,” Coast remarked, trying to help.
“Yeah, it’s called foot rot, or trench foot,” Tribe added, relieved to have a reasonable way out. “You really don’t want to get that on you, it’s pretty gross.” Tribe stayed very serious nodding his head, but Coast and I couldn’t help but bust up laughing. The girl looked a bit miffed at the idea of the flesh eating fungus.
Instead of talking to the girls, the boys took to sword fighting with wooden swords made out of scavenged young poles or straight branches. They clicked and clacked, jumping around the hillsides, for days. Needing to release a lot of energy, I guess. It was quite entertaining. We just kept laughing at them; we hadn’t seen the boys like this. I mean sure there might be a sword fight every now and then out of boredom, but this was more competitive. They were having a lot of fun, in their own little worlds, but they also took it fairly seriously too. They would fight one on one, two on one, or six at a time with sides. They would work their way up the road, using the Compound as a block, or jump up the road cliff to leap off and ambush. It seemed good practice and training, though not fully non-violent. They made the Heartwood kids look very mellow, and kind of introverted watching these wild boys taking enjoyment out of hurting each other. They would jump on top of the RV and hit swords, silhouetted against the blue sky. As long as they were having fun it seemed like it was much better than infighting about random annoyances, might as well deal with the tension externally in physical form rather than get emotional.
The Traverse pod had been abandoned during the snows due to the freezing and unfreezing of the lines. It seemed dangerous and it was doing odd things to the rope tensions. Aqua and Lupine decided that they would climb up and cut it completely down. In the process, the group of boys decided that they ought to keep one of the traverses up and turn it into a rope swing. The sword fighting turned into rope swing adventures. This was something that the Heartwood kids could join in with. Everyone was laughing. It was one person at a time, with a foot standing in a loop. It swung above the North Fork, attached to the big trees below the Blue Dragon. Grabbing onto it from uphill, they would launch off, and the swing would go way out, high above the ground since the terrain was so steep, it would do a big circle and bring them back to the launching spot. They pretty much needed to jump off after that first round or they might end up stuck out there, then someone would have to get a stick and try to drag them back to the group of grasping hands and pull them close enough to jump off. Even just landing on that first round, people would try to help by grabbing onto the person or rope to help stabilize. Boy they had fun. I stayed out of it, sitting on the back of the Blue Dragon and laughing at the entertainment. I grew up on some big rope swings, but had no desire to try this one out. At least it was non-violent, but it was probably much more dangerous than the sword fighting gauging by the amount and levels of injuries that were accumulating. It was definitely toughening up the Heartwood kids though, and doing a great job at breaking the ice. Hours they would play on the rope swing. Exhausted climbing back up the hill, twinkling in everyone’s eyes, except those that got hurt, but even those still had a smile behind the grimace, ready for lunch.
We received news that the Timber Harvest Plans in Devil’s Hole were approved. We decided that since it was as quiet in the Free State, as it had been all winter, that it wouldn’t hurt to send a small crew to Green Ridge and see what we could do to show some defense. It was a far enough hike in from Fox Camp gate and the main Mattole road, that the Rattlesnake creek treesit folks wouldn’t make it out there. The terrain and the unit layout called for individuals who were hard core enough that they didn’t mind landslides and needed some pretty stealthy hiding abilities since it was a lot of meadow. It was closer to the road though, so maybe we could intercept some resupplies or get our own if someone didn’t want to hike all the way to the Free State. Maybe we could have a stash spot that supplies could go and the Free-walkians could pick up what they needed. It might prove to bring in a more steady supply if they only had half of a hike to do.
Four of us decided that we really needed to go there, immediately. It would be a nice break from the random drama and bitchiness that was plaguing camp lately. Coast and I, Tribe and the Bishop got ourselves packed up and ready for the reconnaissance mission. We gathered our supplies, ignored the Congresswoman’s protests and headed down the road in a fast paced stride. A couple of hours later we reached The Cabin, and hit the road going down along Green Ridge. It was so beautiful! A big sloping meadow, flat and wide, the road followed along the finger ridge. The top of the road was steep, and then it evened out to a gentle slope. We felt so free. The meadow was beautiful.
By sunset we had set up camp, a tarp structure snug amongst the trees far enough from the unit to be unnoticed. It began to rain lightly as Van Choick ridge was lit up by the descending sun. What a great view of that massive mountain, so dense with trees directly west.
We walked in the bright green shimmering light to the unit. It was a magical place. We were mute in awe, holding our breaths in deep while processing the clean smell of the open understory. The Fir trees were meadow trees of course unique in all of their splendor. So different they were from 031 on Long Ridge. They were thick and almost smooth. The forest was peppered with the occasional Oak, Bay and spiraling Madrone. The canopy was dense, though the ground was so open and flat it seemed like a park. It immediately sloped down to a long descent without any trees down to the steep creek.
We cursed and Tribe asked, “How the hell are we ever supposed to create a defense for this place with a freaking drop like that?” We were looking down into the deep ravine we had already deemed ‘Poison Creek’ just to make sure people knew not to drink out of it if they happened to not notice the nasty herbicide job on the opposite ridge. Certainly not as pristine as our beloved Long Ridge and Taylor Peak, but nor was it as devastated as Brushy Ridge, and we loved Brushy just the same.
As if all of our minds were working as one we slowly turned and looked at the massive canopy with the beautiful thick branches arching to the next closest tree.
“Yeah!” laughed Tribe, and we all grinned. “I’ll get the ropes!” He hit his fist on his chest and marched off on the balls of his feet, bouncing on his toes. Did he just walk like that, I wondered, or is it because of his trench foot and his shoes are still bugging him? He quickly came back from our little camp with a rope looped over his neck and shoulder, and with a bag full of gear.
Tribe tried and tried, the poor ambitious lout, to throw the shot bag over the lowest branch. Mind you, the branch wasn’t particularly low, but there wasn’t much in the way either.
“Ah, if only I had a cross bow,” he said frustrated. He was throwing all with his arm and shoulder, not letting the encased rock get any momentum of its own. At the same time he continuously got more and more frustrated with himself, it was quite entertaining, though us chuckling at him didn’t help matters any either. Coast was attempting to help him, coach him through it but they were both getting frustrated at each other. The Bishop and I cooked some dehydrated split pea soup on a small propane burner and by the time dinner was ready, I suppose their luck had decided to stop playing games. They had set the p-cord in that lowest branch by actually climbing a smaller upright oak and tossing the shot bag over and down at a different angle.
Miffed at the challenge and overcome by hunger, they came and swallowed the warm green colored mash, adding tvp (textured vegetable protein) chunks to give it a simulated ham texture. Certainly not our favorite meal, it was grainy like chunky sand, just kind of dissolves. It reminded me of astronaut food if it came out of a tube like that rather than our dry dehydrated flakes. Just add water, hot water that is, it’s not like the lentils, hummus, oats, or even dehydrated black beans where cold water is fine. The split pea flakes just didn’t congeal correctly and it tasted horrible cold. We doused it with Braggs and Tabasco sauce to mask the flavor. I personally love a good homemade split pea soup, but this was an equivalent in name only. The boys proceeded to mack down mouthfuls of protein bars. Ugh. Goes in like a chewy brick and stays there like a brick, like refusing to actually enter your stomach until you eat something else.
We went to get one last water run for the night and then settled into the tarpy. We lit a nice little fire to dry our socks and wool pants before climbing into our sleeping bags. Each of us saying a nightly prayer as we silently promised, “The trees will remain standing and we shall stay until safety is insured, and freedom of the creatures living in harmony come together through peace united within nature’s balance of survival. Loraxs, sasquatches, goblins, pixies, elves, faeries, Forest people, with an awareness of a speaking mother earth we are here as her children to guide protection from the people whose greed dictates harm to the ecosystem. We will try as hard as we can and they will have to drag us away, calling your name.” With that we fell into a light paranoid sleep until dawn.
That morning we packed up our gear and hiked down to the water source, a spring that flowed into a small culvert where the water traveled under the road and emptied back out downhill. The water from the uphill spring seemed clean. There were probably cows out here looking at how cropped the grass was, but maybe they didn’t winter here. We hadn’t seen any yet, anyhow. No fresh cow manure in the meadows above. It was far enough away from the herbicide, since it seems like was only applied to the other side of the creek to the south. This spring was running west.
We followed the road to the next unit. We couldn’t find any defendable trees there, same with the neighboring unit. The drop-offs weren’t as steep as the first unit, so potentially we could do cat and mouse, or Last Resort as we would rather call it, making verbal contact with the loggers when they arrive. The road going down Green Ridge were much too wide and flat, though it is steep, there was no way to make a blockade. They would just drive around any slash piles, but at least it would show a presence. We weren’t ready to tip them off that we were thinking of defending this place until we actually had a tree sit set up though and we still needed to check in with town if they thought that this THP would get logged first or if they were actually going to try to come into the Free State anytime soon.
There was another Timber Harvest Plan on the next ridge called Devil’s Hole, named for a huge encompassing drop off between Devil’s Hole Prairie and Little Rainbow Ridge, where Gargamel lives. It is below South Rainbow Peak. We traversed the connector road, it was sunny but looked like there might be some weather, at least another cold front was coming in. It was windier over on Devil’s Hole Prairie, Green Ridge looked so inviting. It was much more of a prairie than Devil’s Hole was. Maybe it had been cleared in the past and grown back in, there were a lot more trees here than on Green Ridge, but smaller residual growth and more brush like Whitethorn and Manzanita, which we didn’t have much at all on Long Ridge, only Brushy Ridge which had also been previously logged over. Devil’s Hole is one of the worst landslides that I’ve seen only more contained than the Blue Slide in Honeydew or the one at Cuneo Creek called the Devil’s Elbow. What business do they have logging above such nasty landslides?
We set up a small A-frame tarp because the stars were nowhere in sight. The wind was blowing and we were worried about snow, there was snow across at Van Choick, but maybe we were too far down, still it sure felt like it. We lit a nice cozy fire and dried out our gear.
We decided that since we hadn’t been able to get a hold of the Free State since we had arrived here, maybe one of use should go back and check on how everyone was doing and if they needed us back or if we could stay for another couple of days to get things set up and do more reconnaissance. The Bishop decided he would go to the Free State, he said he would be back by dark with some more supplies. Tribe, Coast, and I explored the Devil’s Hole THP. There were some big trees, it was fairly cut over on this ridge, but man it was steep, and like that unit on Green Ridge, the drop off was deadly just past the last tree which somehow was blue marked as ‘cut’.
Amazed at the geology we just shook our head, “How can they cut a tree that is the last living thing above a landslide, especially at one called Devil’s Hole! It’s like they are trying to open a curse or something!” we all gritted our teeth.
“Technically they can cut anything 100 feet from a class-I stream,” we would remind ourselves.
“It is non-sense! How can the agencies allow this, the corporation shouldn’t be able to have their own Geologists decide these things. If anyone in their right mind who saw this, just like those units on Brushy and Green Ridge, they would at least tell them that they had to leave a buffer from the cliff. Ah, it’s so frustrating! This one they could totally see from the air.”
“Don’t forget that these are ‘Sacrifice Zones’ from the Headwater’s Deal. They know that this area, the whole of the Mattole area is too steep to cut, it used to be protected.” Coast reminded us, “The company negotiated with the State so they could protect Headwater’s forest, then through the SYP (sustainable yield plan) not sustainable forest plan, it is sustainable yield for the company profit, then they can cut these places with endangered species, or steep slopes, or whatever other reason that they had been previously unable to log. The crazy thing is, why do they have to clearcut, and why the heck can’t they leave a damned buffer on these freaking landslides? It’s just asking for trouble.”
The Bishop didn’t come back that night. We were worried but figured that he must have gotten tired, or maybe his feet hurt and wasn’t ready to do the extra walk back in one day. By halfway through the next morning we began to get anxious and we decided that we had better head back and see what was up. Maybe we’ll run into him on the way back and then we could check out the new THPs along the road. We reached the top of the ridge, near the old dilapidated cabin where there was one of the new THPs called ‘Cabins’, no sign of the Bishop so we kept going. The view was beautiful. You could get a great sight of the ocean from here and the low laying clouds had their unreal ghostly presence to them, sinking along the creek ways. We headed north and the ocean disappeared behind Gargamel’s hill, we took a right, where to the left there was Gargamel’s gate, which we were more than happy to hike an extra forty minutes rather than take a short cut through his place. He had shot at hikers before, and we were pretty invested in keeping good relations with the neighbors out here in no man’s land. Someone gets shot and what are we supposed to do? Carry them out? What if nobody even knows that it happened? Like the Bishop, where the hell is he? It’s about noon and he hasn’t even shown up on the road, he was going to be back last night. If something happened to him no one would know. As it sunk in we started trotting back. We had reached flat ground, and for us walking was a waste of energy and time. Our Freewalkian pace was much more ground covering and saved on energy. Propelled by inertia. Our heels didn’t touch the ground, just a forward gait, in small steps but it was just as fast as if we were running. It kept our breathing steady. A gait that we could keep up on a gradual uphill, and going downhill we just had to keep ourselves back from going too fast, the gravity did the rest. Our hands hooked into our backpack straps at our breast.
We ran into some cows as we broke through the trees. The herd scattered and a baby cow got separated from its mom. We mooed at it and it turned around and came towards us, we hid behind a tree and mooed again. It kept coming all the way through the opening between trees and when it got through the branches and saw that it was a pack of humans and we were not its mother it ran off towards where the rest of the herd had disappeared across the small meadow and into some small trees.
We laughed, saying, “Ah man, that is the first thing we’ll eat when society collapses. Ha! He just came right up to us.”
“That’s when we’ll use a club. The only weapon we really need is a club to bludgeon it over the head with. That calf would feed the whole Free State for so long, could you imagine! Tender beef jerky, oh man, that would be the best!” Tribe said dreamily. Coast and I agreed.
“There’ll be time for an oat break when we get back to the Free State. We’re almost there, just over the next hill,” Coast said matter of factly, and we kept going. We crossed the road after Gargamel’s junction and headed down the hill across the steep meadow, towards the Fortress. It was much shorter than following the road around to the corral or to lookout, plus it’s wide open there, far from anywhere if we did need to ditch.
As we approached the Fortress, we slowed down, looking around. “Boy it feels eerie. Where is everyone and why is all of that trash on the road? Oh shit. Guys, where the hell is the Spatula?” asked Tribe. Sure enough, the pod was gone. Oh no, it’s not gone, it’s on the ground. We dropped to our knees.
“Someone has cut the ropes,” our breathing began to come in short bursts as our hearts pounded out of our chests and our eyes ceased to blink and began to sting from the wind. Realizing that within our stint to Devil’s Hole, our fantasy world would never be the same. What is this alternate reality Free State that we are coming home to? Without the Spatula, is it even really a Free State anymore? We just needed to remember to breathe. Coast whispered, “Okay, let’s go down into the woods, slowly. No wonder the Bishop never came back it looks like the Free State might have gotten raided while we were gone.”
“What do we do?” I asked in a momentary panic.
“Just don’t get arrested,” Coast said to me looking at my face. “I’ll be right back, you guys stay here hidden, I’m going to go see if I can find anyone and see if they can tell us what happened.” Tribe and I crept down into the trees below near a large boulder as Coast stalked long legged and crouched over, to the Fortress and then down to the fallen Monopod. He slowly crawled up to the road, looking in all directions and ran across dropping down towards the kitchen. We were terrified. What had happened? We went away just for a couple of days and suddenly our magical bubble had been popped. Our beautiful way of life. How did they get the Spatula down? That must have been crazy trying to evict the pod person. They must have used a cherry picker, but in order to get a cherry picker in that means that the Blue Dragon must have been removed. Oh, the poor Congresswoman! I wonder who else had been in the car. What about the Wall, the Compound? Nothing could have gotten through that! Oh god, our whole reality. Where is everyone?
Tribe and I explored a little, but we didn’t want to get split up from Coast or he’d be pissed and we’d be terrified, so we waited for his report. He came back with Bong Dung, wide eyed and crazy haired, looking like he’d seen a ghost.
“What happened? Where is everyone? Is the Blue Dragon still around?” Tribe and I questioned.
“Here, let him speak,” Coast said sharply. “Bong Dung, tell them what you told me,” Coast looked at us, his face drained pale and I could see a slight tremor start through his body.
Bong Dung took a deep breath, looking all around. He began in a low voice to tell his story, “At least eight sheriff trucks came the first day, April 3rd. There were about a dozen men, Sheriffs and Carl. They parked at the corral and walked down the road all together. I was videoing on top of the hill at lookout, and as soon as they saw me, one of them came up through the meadow towards me, followed by Carl, but they were bluffing. Probably over excited, like look I found one! One of those rare specimen of forest defenders. Well, yeah, dude, you happen to be walking around in our home, aren’t you? They had their own video cameras.
The sheriff told me, ‘Come here, I want to talk to you. You’re trespassing and you have to leave.’ Leave where? We’re still trespassing for like 14 miles. I asked them, ‘which way I should go?’
He said, ‘You’re trespassing, hit the highway. Go to the nearest public road, sir.’ Then they reached Peter’s fence. One of them said, ‘Nice fence. They built a nice fence since I was here last.’ The others agreed. They looked around in the tipi, which still had quite a few kitchen buckets and cooking materials.
As they reached the Blue Dragon they called, ‘Hello, sir! Is there anyone home? Hello?’ They looked in the lockdown, ‘There is, there’s somebody in it.’
‘They got another rig in here?’
The others started slashing holes into the tipi tarpy and going through the supplies. ‘Oh, there’s a guy in here. We need to patch to services. There’s somebody inside the car.’
I told them, ‘We’re just trying to protect the forest! You know they would have cut Headwaters if we hadn’t protested! But you guys don’t care.’ I followed the original guy that had talked to me. He passed the RV and headed to the front Wall of the Compound. I asked, ‘Why do you care more about your job than you do about the forest?’
He informed me, ‘You know you’re going to go to jail.’
‘For trying to protect the forest?’ I asked him.
‘You had the opportunity to leave, now I’m going to come and…’
He began to walk up the steep hill and I said, ‘We’re trying to protect the forest and all you are doing is doing a job… for money.’ The group of sheriffs walking down the road caught up with him and he turned around and walked back down to the road. I told him, ‘You take it so seriously. Don’t take your job more seriously than the planet.’ Looking closely, zooming in with my camera, I could tell that at least five of the people that I thought were sheriffs were in skinny plain clothes, red neck type clothing. Tight blue jeans, carhart jackets, I don’t know who they were. Feds? Ranchers? I don’t know, they looked sketchy. I yelled down to them, ‘Money isn’t more important than the planet!’
Carl stayed at the RV, looking in it, probably to see if anyone was inside. I bet he was trying to figure out how we got it around the Blue Dragon.” Bong Dung laughed. He laughed, but he was also shaking as he recalled what had happened.
“What happened next, dude?” urged Coast. We all looked at him, excited to hear what we had missed.
He continued, “They reached the Compound. Went to it straight on, looked at the spiky poles pointing into the road, examined the hanging cow skulls. They walked through it, probably scoping out what it was going to require to take that giant hunk of weight out of the road. Not exactly a tow truck and pepper spray, huh? They looked at the ditches and the posts towards the kitchen with the skulls and rib cages. When they reached the Spatula, they started pulling on the ropes and throwing rocks at the platform, which still had the triangular tarpy over it. They were trying to figure out if there was somebody sitting in the pod.
They started talking into the radio, ‘Ten twelve.’ Then they started yelling at the pod. ‘Sheriffs’ office. If you’re in the uh, tree, you gotta speak up now. Hey!’
‘Anybody up there?’ They started pulling on the ropes. The radio crackled, ‘4-1-1-2-42 clear?’ static… ’42 clear.’
‘Just cut it.’
‘Why didn’t they get in their tree house?’
‘Hurry up. We want to see this thing falling.’
‘Is there anybody in there?’
‘Steve, do you see anybody in there?’
‘There’s nobody in there.’
‘Security check 1. Security check 2. Security check 3…and Wayne is already cutting.’ They cut through the trucker’s rope, and the yellow poly snapped. The pole swung to the side and got caught by a couple of the ropes. ‘Watch out. That’s their piss bucket right there.’ The jug swung smacking into the hillside while the pole was still hung up.
‘Cut them all man,’ and the Spatula fell to the ground. They started pulling out the tarp and buckets that were left down in the kitchen. Someone brought a small chainsaw to cut the long pole of the Spatula into pieces. Cashew and Rabbit joined me up on the hill and they were calling to the cops. ‘That looks like a bunch of plastic! Is that a bunch of plastic?’
‘Are you going to arrest us?’ asked Rabbit. ‘Do you like our Recreational Vehicle? Don’t you want one of your own? I bet you own one of your own!’ They were being silly. They made me laugh, it was nice not being by myself up there. The cops and Carl just ignored our heckling.
‘Are you putting a camera in our Recreational Vehicle?’ asked Rabbit, always the paranoid. Don’t give them ideas, man.
Meanwhile, back down at the car the cop said, ‘Well, what a predicament we are in now.’ Looking at the Professeur, who refused to make eye contact. His long red beard, and his round glasses, black wool hat pulled down low on his forehead. He was scared. Today was the day, damn it…
‘You got any words of wisdom Joe?’ asked the cop to the man who stood next to him.
‘Uh, no,’ big Joe replied. Brighty laughed like a pixie and started singing quietly. She had a cut out fabric mask on, like a brown ghost cut out of a sheet for Halloween. Big Joe leaned into the car, ‘You aren’t going to assault me, are you?’
The professeur replied quietly, ‘I have never assaulted anybody, I am non-violent.’
‘Okay, I appreciate that,’ answered big Joe.
‘Is that a bag over her face?’ asked the first cop.
‘Yeah,’ a third cop answered.
‘How many are ya, out here?’ inquired Joe, his head sideways still looking into the car through his own glasses. ‘How many?’
‘I don’t know how many,’ replied the Congresswoman, smushed down laying on her side with one hand chained into the dragon’s hole deep in the ground.
‘Well this is called negotiating, and that’s what we’re doing, negotiating,’ said Joe, starting to get annoyed at the Congresswoman from the start. ‘I got some people on the other side of the hill, and I’ll show my people and you show yours.’
The third cop said to Carl, ‘Walk around, her neck is attached to the back seat with a bicycle kryptonite lock,’ pointing at Brighty.
‘Let me take the mask off so we can take a look,’ said Carl.
‘Sure. Hey, uh, Joe. Carl wants to see if he can take the mask off the girl in the back.’ Joe moved out of the way and Carl bent around leaning into the back window and for some reason decided to leave her alone.
‘So how long are you planning on staying here trespassing?’ asked the first cop.
‘I plan on staying here until you leave the forest intact,’ the Congresswoman told them.
‘So, you’ll trespass until you win your battle, is that correct?’ Joe asked. ‘Is there someone I can call for you?’
‘Call for what?’ the Congresswoman asked.
‘To get you out of here.’
‘I don’t want to get out of here,’ she answered, kind of chuckling at the notion. The cops packed up and backed their trucks away from the fence with their beds full of gear, tarps, buckets, trash. We were perplexed, but we knew that they could be back anytime.” Bong Dung looked up at all of our faces. We were close to tears. His tremors were contagious.
“Where is everyone else then? So that was just the first day?” asked Tribe.
“They came two days,” Bong Dung explained. “They came two days later. So you guys must have just left when they came and you just missed them coming back.”
“They must have come up Monument, because we would have heard all of those vehicles if they had come up Rainbow,” Tribe said.
“The cops arrived in the morning around 8 a.m. on April 5th. We heard the alert whistle, and began to head up the hill and congregate around the old kitchen area, since the cops had taken over lookout hill this time. We climbed the side hill to be below the car so we could hear what was going on.
“Good morning!” a cop above the Spatula called out. We wore our masks. We figured that it must not be a good sign that they were back so soon. First they attached the top of the tipi to a truck winch to pull it over. After that time it blew down the hill in the wind and we anchored the legs, and I guess it was pretty stable, because it took a long time for them to get it to fold. They were afraid that if they pulled too hard that the top would fly into the wind shield. They left Peter’s fence intact for the most part, just disassembled what they needed to get through on the road. They brought the Scotia Fire Department guys, and a man in a yellow suit and a hard hat used the jaws-of-life to cut through the metal between the front and back window, where the Professeur was locked in with the metal black bear lock box. They put a tarp over the lock downers. We were all yelling down the hill at them. It was like we knew our lives were changing but there wasn’t anything that we could do but watch, and then there was that sinking feeling that not only our lives might be changing and that our friends will be going to jail if the cops have their way, but that the trees are still slated to be cut and that this is only the beginning.
They had brought their young skinny recruits to clean up the mess and traipse around the forest. Luckily none of us who weren’t locked down got arrested. They took the center metal part out of the car which freed the Proffesseur. They pulled him out of the car, arms and head first. His arms were still locked to the lock box up to his elbows. Since we had made the black bear into a metal goo box, layering it with tar covered in duct tape, it’s harder for them to just cut through the box.
The Professeur was silent and limp. They pulled out the blankets that he had been sitting on and left him face down in the dusty road as the Congresswoman and Brighty were calling out, “We love you Professeur! I love you Professeur!” They left him laying only a couple of steps away from the car and covered him completely with a wool blanket. They covered the whole inside of the car with a blue tarp as they began cutting out the front window. Sawing by hand through the glass at the top of the frame and pulled the whole window out. Then they used three people to carry the Professeur like a stiff log, his ankles crossed and his knees locked in a plank form. They carried him closer to where the tipi had been to keep him out of the way. It was becoming a sunny day.
The Congresswoman complained, “There’s glass falling right by my eyes.” They got the jaws-of-life out again and cut through the metal between the front door window and the front window. The Congresswoman yelled, “There’s shit falling in my ear!” You know she would have hated that, with all of the trouble her ear infections had been giving her all winter.
They began breaking the back side window on the west side right above the Congresswoman. They surprised her and she yelled, “Oh my god! There’s glass falling in my face!”
One of the cops said, “We’re trying to help you out there.”
“You are not helping me by cutting me with glass! Why are you a slave to money?” They took the jaws-of-life and cut the top off of the left side and bent it towards the gate, so it exposed the car completely. The girls were still covered with the blue tarp. They started calling out, “I love you Professeur!”
A cop said, “He’s gone, he can’t hear ya,” though he wasn’t gone, he was laying in the dirt just thirty feet away, being his quiet self. The cops began to fantasize about Miller Light beer again, though it was still only around 10 a.m. Finding their happy place, I suppose.
They opened the trunk, and one cop said to the Firemen, “You see that? It’s the bicycle lock that is around her neck, the girl in the back seat.” They took a metal grinder to the trunk and cut through it to get her loose. She also was limp, less stiff than the Professeur had been. She looked like a rag doll as they dragged her out of the car, her head, shoulders and arms dangling out the window. Two of the young recruits with their back packs on lifted her up by each shoulder with their other hands through her belt loops. They were dragging her bare feet, so the Asian cop, who we called Slimfast, trotted after them and picked up her legs. They laid her on the ground face down next to the blue socks of the Professeur’s feet. He looked back at her, her nose in the dust and the U-lock still around her neck. Her hands were handcuffed behind her back as were his.
Meanwhile back in the car, the Congresswoman was talking with one of the cops, boy they were going to be sick of her by the end of the day. She was saying, “We are here to protect the forest, and the wildlife, and keep their families healthy and all of the life that they help sustain. And I’m not leaving, because of that. And there’s glass like everywhere.” They tried to pull the sleeping bag out from under her, but couldn’t seem to budge it. They put goggles on her, she complained, “I can’t breathe through my nose,” so they adjusted them. “Is this so that Palco can drive through here? Is that why? Or a local rancher? Or what are you doing this for?”
“Because you are trespassing,” answered the cop.
He shook out a small blanket and she yelled, “Ah! Fucking glass shards in it, that I ate.”
“Well, lift your head up and I’ll put this under your head,” yeah, good luck with her, you guys. She’s a feisty one. Then there was Brighty complaining that the handcuffs were on too tight.
They began trying to lift the car to get to the Congresswoman’s lock box, or at least to see what they were dealing with. “Pretty funky cement job,” they said.
They had the generator going. The Congresswoman tried to yell over all of the noise as the car bounced up and down, “My arm is stuck in the ground!” They turned the generator off and she said matter of factly, “You cannot pull the car up without my arm splitting from the rest of my body,” she laughed, “oh that doesn’t matter, huh Carl? As long as we’re gonna make some money off this forest. Ow! Can you try not throwing shit on my head?” She repeated, “Do not pull the car up any more without my arm splitting from my body.”
Slimfast said, “You have to let go.”
“I’m not letting go, but you cannot do that without my arm splitting from my body.” They turned away from her for a while, probably just needing to get her to shut up. They took the grinder out and began to cut the chain off of the gate. They opened the gate to get it out of the way, and began digging with a pickaxe to try and get access to the concrete block that the lock box was inside. They dug and dug, it’s nice seeing the cops do some actual manual labor instead of getting what they want through force and bullying.
“Well, pull it out.”
“I’m not pulling it out.”
“I’m not pulling it out, I’m just telling you that my arm is down in there.”
“Pull your arm out.”
“My fingers, my arm, my fingernails, my joints, my elbow… my palm, my knuckles…” she began boring the Firemen and they walked back to their trucks to let the sheriffs do the shoveling and swing the pick axe, they didn’t need to hear her spiel. “I’m here because this forest needs to survive. That’s my arm that you just hit!” The cops groaned. “You ought to be careful of my arm that you just hit.” Jiménez picked up the pick axe to have a go. He kept rolling his eyes behind those sunglasses, watching Slimfast have a turn. “I couldn’t really care less about this game that they are playing, you know? I just want the forest to survive.”
They began to carry the Professeur away towards the cop vehicles. Brighty began calling and howling. The other forest defenders all answered her, but I stayed quiet because by this time I was hiding up on top of the hill looking down at the cops who were digging out the Blue Dragon as I videotaped. The red fire vehicle and trailer were behind it with the generator. A couple of the cops were dragging Brighty’s limp body away, following the Professeur. They finally made her stand up and started walking her backwards to the cop car behind the fire truck. The people in the forest were all singing. They put the Professeur into the car, and then walked Brighty around to the other side as she howled, and was answered by the echoing forest. The cops folded up the big tipi tarp.
One of the men on a radio at the car told the guys over at the Blue Dragon, now holding a jackhammer, “I’d bring you a quad if I could. I have never seen you labor like that before.”
“Got any ear plugs handy?” he asked the cop bent over watching him as he straddled inside the hole that they had made around and under the car to get to the big concrete slab. “Oh, it’s coming off good now.” The Congresswoman became more subdued it seemed now that she had realized that they were taking their time to remove her in the proper steps that it was necessary. The cops, well, Bettis the property manager for Palco, noticed me first, but they seemed to leave me alone for the time being. Until they sent up one of their skinny kids with a back pack up from behind, and Slimfast came up on the front. I moved off after that.
After they extracted the Congresswoman and moved the Blue Dragon out of the way, they brought a big giant machine in, like an excavator with claws, and attached it to the back of the RV. They spun it around and dragged it backwards. It still had its rear tires, but had no front tires. It was getting pretty close to the downhill side of the road, but they managed to get it out of the way too. They dumped the vehicles across the road from the corral, between the Monument and the Rainbow Ridge roads.
“Goodbye motor home,” said the cop as the excavator proceeded to the Compound. The logs and poles creaked and moaned, like a tree dying. It was the last blockade standing. Instead of pushing on it, they decided to pull it out. They attached a cable to some of the base logs and backed the excavator up spouting black smoke as it battled with the front wall. The Wall moved a bit, the cops lounged around on the hillside above in the meadow. I’m sure they appreciate the beauty and the view from up here. It was a nice sunny day, it was nearing 3 p.m. they had been working at it for 7 hours already. They finally got the Wall to break apart and they pushed all of the debris down the hill off of the road.
After the cops had left we regrouped and made some dinner. We were in shock, and in dread of what may happen next. We were exposed, naked without the blockades. You guys were not reachable out in Devil’s Hole. It’s nice that you’re back. We need to regroup again and figure out what we are going to do,” Bong Dung took a deep sigh and slouched on the log he was sitting on.
“Thank you Bong Dung for telling us what happened. Yeah, we need to find the rest of the people and come up with a game plan. Looking at those clouds it seems like there is at least a small storm on its way, hopefully that will keep them out for a while so we can talk with town and see if they have any ideas.
“I’m going to do a water run,” announced Tribe. He walked down the hill with his bouncy step, to the Sulfur Creek spring called Salamander Springs, an underground home of Pacific Giant Salamanders, where the water drips from above in a little dirt cave. It’s not as clean as the road spring, but it sure is a lot better than drinking out of the creek, even though we were at the headwaters of Sulfur Creek, there was a lot of cow traffic, and sometimes the wild pigs came through and made an utter disaster of the small waterway.
We heard leaves crunching and we thought it was Tribe returning. That was quick, the drip usually took a while to fill a water bottle. We saw three people walking up the switchback through the thick brown oak leaves. We stood up, and quickly recognized one of the people as the Puppeteer!
“What are you doing here?” I called out.
“Shhhh,” Coast reminded me, I still wasn’t used to the stealthy reality yet. “When did you guys arrive?” he asked.
“Hey, we just got here this morning, what the hell is going on? Where is everyone?” the Puppeteer gave us big hugs. His companions stood awkwardly behind him.
“I don’t know. We are still fairly scattered since the raid. Security keeps coming through. Everyone is confused on what to do next, and scared,” Bong Dung explained.
“The Free State was raided? I kind of figured. Holy shit!” the Puppeteer said. “Well we camped in the cabin last night. Almost got snowed on, it was cold. I suppose no one wants a puppet show anymore. I lugged my whole puppet trunk in,” he said pointing to the bushes towards the creek.
“Ah, dude, we’d still love a puppet show. Be careful of where you stash that though, it’d be a shame if it were confiscated,” said Coast.
“Tell me about it. It’s stashed pretty well. Oh, this is Falcon and Storm,” the Puppeteer introduced his friends, or hiking companions he probably didn’t really know them up until the hike in. It is always nice to have able guides to get people in here who want to help. We waved at the new comers.
“Hi, sorry it isn’t very fun right now. It’s not even a Free State at this point, is it?” I asked, as it started to sink in.
“Well, that’s what we need to change,” said Coast. Thank god Coast is here we all said with our eyes. Someone to take charge, who has great ideas, and the knowledge to execute them, someone to pull us all together and focus our energy before we begin to eat ourselves up from nerves and fear.
“Who the hell?” Tribe stopped in mid-step as he came into the little forest flat that we sat in.
“You remember the Puppeteer, Tribe,” I said. “He does the funny political puppet shows. He even brought his whole trunk in again.”
“Oh, yeah. Hey man, how’s it going,” and then Tribe looked suspiciously at the other two hikers.
“I’m Falcon, and this is Storm,” said the burly young guy as he pointed to the girl as she grinned gently.
“Hey,” said Tribe shortly. He wasn’t much for small talk. He walked over to us, not taking his eyes off of the new hikers and sat down on a wet log. “So, what’s for lunch?”
“Oh, we brought some food,” said Storm, she looked like a college girl. Tribe’s eyes lit up, all of ours did.
“Well, I’m sick of Split Pea soup, that’s why we came back from Devil’s Hole. What got raided from the kitchen?” Tribe asked as he looked at Bong Dung.
“Hmm, some, but we stashed a lot of it,” reassured Bong Dung.
“We have some bread and bars,” said the Puppeteer.
“Bust it out!” said Coast with a song in his voice and a gleam in his eye that we all shared as we smiled with anticipation. “We’ll take some bars for later.” We happily nodded and stuffed the bars into our back packs as Falcon handed them out.
“Guess what else we brought?” the Puppeteer prompted. We couldn’t guess, well at least not correctly. “Here’s some Emergen-C,” the powered kind of fizzy drink, we were all convinced that it could keep giardia away. Bong Dung was always concerned about scurvy. “That’s not all, we brought peanut butter,” said the Puppeteer proudly.
“Oh, peanut butter, perfect to go on the bread!” Tribe said standing up, ready for this peanut butter. Falcon stood up and walked around a tree, pulling out a bucket.
“A whole bucket full!” he explained.
“A what?” Tribe was just as perplexed as the rest of us.
“The peanut factory had some batches that they were going to throw out, so we ended up getting a few buckets full, plus a small bucket of almond butter,” Storm explained.
“A bucket full of Almond Butter? Jeezus, how long is that going to last us?” Tribe asked completely in awe.
“Not very long if I have any say in the matter,” Coast said as he stood up to take the heavy bucket from Falcon and open the top. Sure enough there it was, a whole bucket full of peanut butter.
“Mind you, it’s a little bit burnt,” warned the Puppeteer, “that’s why they were throwing it out.” Coast and Tribe dipped their bread pieces in, as Bong Dung and I followed suit.
“Oh, it tastes fine though!” Coast said as we all munched down, agreeing.
“Boy, the giardia is going to love this,” reminded Bong Dung, as Falcon and Storm looked at him concerned, and looked at our grubby finger tips.
We stashed all of the gear except for our day packs, and we split up to start looking for the rest of the Forest Defenders. I guess we weren’t Freewalkians any longer. We had to resort to stealth mode again. Looking over our shoulder we hopped down towards the kitchen below Shit Hill, across from where the Spatula had been. The kitchen tarp was gone and all that was left was p-cord hanging from the trees that had once held it up.
“The cops didn’t go too far down, so most of the bucket stashes were safe, the only stuff that they really took was stuff that hadn’t been stashed,” Bong Dung explained.
“Woohoo!” we heard a call in the woods, towards where the A-frame had been before it collapsed in the snow.
“Hey, it’s Cashew!” called out Coast.
“You guys totally missed it, man. They dragged out the RV! And they bull dozed the Compound! Did you see that? They just demolished it!” Cashew said, his eyes big with excitement. Rabbit came up behind him with Mouse.
“They arrested Brighty,” Mouse said, they had come from the same campaign in Oregon and even the same state out in the Midwest.
“Yeah, and the Professeur,” added Cashew, “Of course the Congresswoman too, but they probably wished they didn’t, man, she was blabbing at them the whole time.”
“So, what’s next?” asked Coast. “How many people are still out here?”
“More people are planning on hiking in,” he looked at the Puppeteer and his two hikers. “Wow, when did you guys get in? Town didn’t tell us that you guys were already here.”
“Well, I thought you guys would like a puppet show, and these guys were hanging around the office and wanted to come in, so I told them that I would guide them,” the Puppeteer explained. “It took us a couple of days to hike in since I brought the whole puppet trunk, and we stopped through Petrolia on our way out. I hadn’t heard that you guys were getting raided though. Hopefully we can still have a puppet show.”
“Heck yeah!” said Cashew as Rabbit jumped up and down behind him on the narrow trail.
“A puppet show,” exclaimed Rabbit as he clapped his hands quietly and looked at Mouse excitedly.
“So, where is everyone else?” asked Tribe.
“They’re around,” answered Rabbit.
“Why don’t we at least start piling the slash from the Wall back into the road?” suggested Coast.
“Yeah, that’s a good idea, though they have the excavator sitting across from the bus stop where they dragged the RV and the other vehicles,” said Cashew. We all went up to the road to see the carnage. The Wall, and the whole Compound had been pushed off of the road. Most of it was still wired together, so it proved to be a challenging task to get poles out separately. We needed some wire cutters.
“I’ll go find some, I think there’s a leatherman stashed somewhere,” I offered, and wandered off down the road to one of the tool stashes towards the Brushy Connector above Alwardt Creek. There, as I was going through the tool bucket stash, I heard a crunching of sticks and leaves. Assuming it was one of our friends, I whistled a quiet call. The call was answered with another bird whistle, and Aliento popped out of the bushes.
“Hey man, we’re trying to put the Wall back on the road, but the wire is all still intact, so we thought we could use some wire cutters,” I explained. “How are you doing?” He looked a bit nervous.
“Hey Ituri, I haven’t seen anyone all day.”
“Well, we’re up in the middle of the road and we haven’t seen any cops,” I said, having not experienced the raids of the last few days. “Come join us, we’re trying to locate everyone so we can talk about what the next tactic is going to be. If they are going to start logging soon, we’d better be prepared. At least all together so we can know what the plan is.” Aliento agreed and walked up the road with me back to the giant pile of poles and random old saw blades that had been the Wall only a few days before.
“Well, there aren’t many camps that were raided too badly, plus we can’t just tell people to meet us at a new camp and expect them to find us,” said Cashew.
“Who else is still out here? Do you think that they would meet us at Madrone Camp?” I asked.
“Pondy, Caesar, Peter, and the Bishop found us yesterday, let’s see; Catalpa, Patreek, and Bub. There are still a few people,” Mouse said, “and there are more people planning on hiking out,” he said sounding very hopeful.
“Let’s try and find those people that are still out here and get a new tarp set up,” said Tribe, probably looking forward to more peanut butter. I bet Cashew didn’t know there was a bucket of burnt peanut butter, and we hadn’t even tasted the almond butter yet.
“Why the hell wasn’t Pondi in the Spatula?” asked Coast. Everyone just shook their heads like they were asking themselves the same question.
We got the tarp set up, towards Skunk Camp, further down Brushy, but still slightly visible from Madrone Camp so we could know when people arrived. Sure enough some folks arrived that night, early morning. Mouse went over to welcome them and then he continued to the road to keep an eye out to see if the loggers were going to come in. He had a radio and a whistle just in case they did decide to begin logging.
Realizing that we needed to be ready for them to come in, we started to reclaim the Long Ridge road again like in November. It was very depressing, the terror that they could come in and reenact a similar scene as what we had experienced in the beginning of the winter, but now there is no ground truthing overland flow and snow storms that will last for months. Spring comes as mating season continues. The Stellar Jays were making some crazy noises above in the branches, and the Whoop whoopers (the grouse) echoed throughout the forests. There was an upper road crew that would hang out up near the Wall location and add to the slash pile there as well as organizing the kitchen stuff that had been stashed. A lot of folks had hiked out of the woods as soon as the raid came and never told anyone where they stashed the food buckets and gear, which was very frustrating.
Even if we were able to get a hold of someone on the phone who knew, it was a very difficult thing to explain over the phone, ‘So you go down a little ways, and there’s a snag on the right, past that a bit and over a log, behind a tree, it is stashed under a thick fern.’ Yeah, that just described the whole forest, thanks. We had our burnt peanut butter, and it went well with the raw oats and condiments.
“Just hike back out here,” we would tell them. Sure the Free State was fun and all, but it was inevitable. So it didn’t last a whole year like in the film ‘Pick Axe’ up in Oregon, this is not State Forest either. We aren’t dealing with Freddies (Forest Rangers) we are dealing with County Sheriffs. I don’t know how the Freddies are, but the Sheriffs certainly don’t show any sympathy with the forest. The loggers know more about the effects of clearcutting than the Sheriffs do. They definitely scared people, but the raid also empowered a lot of others that were in town and it even sounded like some folks from out-of-town are starting to arrive having heard about it. Funny that us being in Devil’s Hole seemed to be some of the last to know what was going on. We didn’t exactly have a newspaper out there, and our radios were out of reach because we were on the other side of Little Rainbow. Some people like Compost were here only to help maintain, but had no desire to get arrested. But then I wonder why Compost had sat in the Monopod in the first place. And really, why wasn’t Pondy at her station, even if she had to do something pressing on the ground, that’s when you ask for a replacement before you come down. There are shit buckets, and piss jugs. There are other people who empty them. We never did get a good excuse from her. She just said that she didn’t know. Well, we don’t either. Argh! We can’t help but blame ourselves, if only we were there we would have made sure that the pod was manned at all times, as we hiked back and forth to the Wall all day like we had done so for the last four months straight.
“Did they know that we were gone?” asked Tribe.
“How would they know? Why would that matter?” Coast replied.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m sure there are spies, or feds that are disguised as forest defenders. Maybe Pondy is a spy. You said that Eeyore introduced her when the Blue Dragon came in as their Russian spy, Ituri,” Tribe suggested.
“Yeah, well they were probably just joking. You think someone told town that you weren’t sitting in the pod and so Pondy just happened to not be sitting on the platform when they came in and raided the first day?” I asked.
“Well, why the hell wasn’t she in there? I should have been sitting in the pod and it would have taken them forever. At least some sort of resistance,” lamented Tribe.
“Okay, well it’s not helping any right now is it? We can regret all we want to, but it’s not going to change what happened. Coulda shoulda woulda, what are we going to do now? They aren’t logging yet, so we need to put up a new pod or something. What has town said today, anyone talk to them yet?” Coast asked looking around the small group as we stood on the sunny dusty road, amongst the ghosts of where the wall used to be.
“We haven’t heard from them yet today, but yesterday they said that they were working on something,” said Aliento in his official way of talking, a nice east coast accent. The wind whipped his many dark dreadlocks over his shoulder. He pulled down his black beanie further so it covered his ears.
“How are you guys doing up there?” asked Cashew on the radio.
“We’re doing fine, trying to figure out what kind of blockade we can make up here with the materials that we have. They slashed up the trucker’s rope pretty good. We still have the stuff hanging in the tree that Caesar had hung for the Monopod. How about you guys? How are the ATV trails looking?” answered Coast, as the radio crackled.
“They’re pretty full. We’ve been putting up some new slash piles, but the old ones are still here too. What about some tree sits, or at least traverse lines? I guess traverse lines would still require trucker’s rope, but we could at least set some p-cord in a few of the trees in 031. Actually most of these trees are free climbable,” suggested Cashew.
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” agreed Coast. It was nice seeing the boys working together again. It was also nice that the sun was out, shining bright up here on the road. We had found a nook, near the spring that had crossed through the compound, it was free of the wind up against the cut road cliff, it actually got fairly warm enough to take our jackets off. Things were drying out quickly, though as soon as you stood up and walked into the wind it was again extremely chilly and back with the layers.
That night Sawdust came in with his ATV. Our alerts went red and we all jumped up, relieved that it was one of our own vehicles. He had brought some supplies. He said that we could use the ATV as a work horse to help pull logs up to rebuild the Wall.
“Sweet!” the boys were ecstatic. Sawdust said that there were more hikers behind him.
“Oh good,” said the Puppeteer, “because the weather is getting nice enough I was thinking of having a puppet show tomorrow.
“Yes! I love your puppet shows,” said Sawdust as he used his bent thumb as a lower jaw and made his hand speak in a squeaky puppet voice.
“Can I watch too?” asked Sawdust’s hand puppet.
“Aye, Camilla, there will be Bishy, and dear Fiona. This is a new one that no one has seen yet. We’ll wait until the rest of the forest defenders arrive, and then we’ll have a nice audience.”
Later that night the neighboring Madrone camp filled up with the new exhausted hikers. Some were familiar faces, and many new ones who had never been out here. Boy, were they in for a surprise. At least our poo culture had kind of mellowed out with our anxiety of the unknown future of the events to come. We were much more concerned with looking up and beyond the road than we were with our own personal issues at this point. The newbies can worry themselves with crinkling and cracking all over the place, most of us had already broken through a lot of those inner barriers and we were working on a whole new layer. A heaviness in our heart, a numbness behind our shoulders, a slow tremor beginning with the anxiety of the prospect of what happens the next time they come. We know it is inevitable, and the idea of cops is a lot more comforting than the idea of loggers with chainsaws just being able to waltz in here and cut the trees. The sound of the chainsaws and the creaking and crashing of these giant trees falling still haunted our memories, we were not in a position to imagine that happening again. One tree, eight trees, thirty-four trees that is absolutely enough. We couldn’t handle the idea of losing more. Something had to happen, and with these new hikers, with Sawdust’s spool of trucker’s rope and ATV hauling machine, we were bound to come up with something.
“You know that they still probably would have taken the Mono-pod down even if you were sitting in it, right Tribe?” I said trying to help his conscious.
“Yeah, well I would have given them one hell of a fight to remember,” he said. “I would have gone out on the traverse line and they never would be able to get me out. They’d have to get one of their climbers, see. This might still be a Free State if I had been up in the pod.”
“Or you’d be in jail,” I said.
“Yeah, that’d be fine. At least it would have been manned. What do you think the next tactic will be? Do you think any of these new hikers will want to lock down?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said as we walked in the dark back down to the camp near Skunk camp. “Now that there are more people, we should probably move camp again. I might just start sleeping in my debris shelter. I’d hate to get caught being in a group camp. Where did Sawdust put the ATV?”
“I think he stashed it in the small trees down near the clearcut, but I’m not totally sure. Let’s make a new camp tomorrow, maybe on Brushy somewhere, or that might be too far and it’s the same direction as these camps, maybe below 031 again,” Tribe suggested.
“Yeah, that sounds good,” I answered as we reached the camp and quickly took our shoes off and slid into our sleeping bags. Coast had already come back and had lit a small fire.
“I wonder if the hikers will bring any good stuff,” Coast said hopefully.
“I don’t know, I guess we’ll see in the morning,” Tribe said as he fell asleep nearly instantly.
That morning the ATV was put directly to work. The boys were in heaven. At lunch we watched the Puppeteer make his magic. His puppets were made of paper machete and wires. They were painted, and had arms and hands. They were not marionettes; they were controlled by short stiff wires attached to their hands and legs. The Puppeteer and his movements and expressions were just as much part of the show as his puppets. He had great voices too, not squeaky puppet voices, but very funny and his villains were very creepy. It was very political too. His heroine was a soft voiced girl named Fiona, and she was like a forest defender, I felt like I was her. She would stand up to the corporations. He had Dick Cheney as a large oil sucking mosquito that would destroy anything in his path way. Bishy, was a megalomaniac baby faced little doll who wanted everything his way. There was a crow who would scavenge any remains.
We were successfully infected by puppets. The cops had made a huge burn pile in the middle of the road, so the next day, a couple of the new girls helped me sift through the burn pile, looking for the old baling wire. It was brittle, but most of it was not brittle enough to break, it made it malleable enough to work and much easier than when it is new and fresh. We began to make our own puppets inspired by the Puppeteer’s show. If we can become puppets for the forest, than we can create our own as well. We found great comfort in creating art as a release while on the road lookout, which had begun to get slightly boring. It was still hot and we were getting very dusty living on the dry road, the forest was so much cleaner than it was on what I called an e-rode, since where ever the road went erosion was sure to follow, above and below.
We made a bird that could flap its wings. We sewed old ripped cloth on its wings to give it physical texture. We made a snake that chased a mouse. Someone made a unicorn head and neck that she could wear on her shoulders. We made a squirrel that would jump and bounce around, just like a real squirrel. What I mostly worked on was a life sized wolf. I got it so I could control his head and neck, shoulders and front legs with one hand, and with the other hand control his rear legs and tail. I could make him walk, trot, run, jump, turn his head, bow, sit, lay down. He was made of a lot of spiraling wire and lots of joints. We were working on a skit to be able to perform when the cops or loggers inevitably came back. We wanted to share the Puppeteer’s magic and show them what we saw: That they are part of the play as well. That fantasy, the wildlife, the energies of the forest, it all exists, and we felt like we needed to create some of these into reality to be able to show them into this other world that we are able to see. A testimonial on the podium, you can arrest my body, but this is what is truly in my soul. The forest is not only made of trees and ferns, the older the trees are the more ghosts, energies, memories, things that we have no understanding about actually exist, even if we don’t see them. Even if the cops don’t believe in them, ask any of the loggers and they have seen some amazing things, I’m telling you.
It is funny these superficial differences between the hippies and the loggers, stereotypically some either are health nuts and have money or anarchists and don’t want money; others are the working man who are ‘just trying to make a living.’ Okay, so we have different pasts and futures, but we are all so much more alike than we are similar to most other people in this whole country. Our similarities are mainly that we would rather be out here than anywhere else on earth. That we are not sitting at a desk job, working as a computer programmer, a surgeon, a cashier. Most of us are fairly antisocial, this is why we are all having such a hard time communicating. I’m sure many of the loggers would work in the woods doing restoration and operating their big machinery for good, if that is where the funding was coming from. The fact that the cops are in the middle of it is the most frustrating thing of all. Okay, another difference is that we are non-violent and the loggers are pissed as shit and they would love to kick our asses ‘til high noon, and for that we as activists are more than thankful for the cops to drive all the way out in the middle of nowhere, they are here for our own safety. We do understand that, though when the sheriffs come out with pepper spray in the woods, it kind of puts a damper on things. The cops on the other hand, a lot of them do not relate to even the majority of the loggers. Granted perhaps a few of the loggers are good chums, coming from a good ol’ boy network that we wish we understood, but others are definitely just a working class man who is trying to feed his family, at least that is what they tell us. Some do try to relate to us, and that is what the cops try to prevent. That is what Carl Anderson, the head of P.L. security is trained to stop. Do not engage with the protesters, he says. Well, if you cannot engage with us, let us give you a demonstration of what our world looks like, in puppet form!
We practiced our little play, just as it would play out in the forest. The loggers come and the animals explain that this is their home. Mostly we just practiced all of the movements. Really it was just a therapy for our own nerves. I don’t know about the other girls, but I really appreciated them being around. It was nice to be able to relate to young women that I could laugh with. The boys are great, but I’d been around them all winter. The girls were a new kind of warmth to be able to be around, kids who knew how it is to be a girl. It was interesting to hear about town and college, and the outside reality which only confirmed my purpose to live within this intensity. To survive in this wilderness beyond the reach of most civilization, behind locked gates and rough terrain, it was way easier than trying to exist in a bizarre college scene.
Patreek had sprained his ankle really badly. He couldn’t hike out. We talked with the Golfballogist and he said that he could drive him out if we needed. We had planned on meeting him in the early afternoon. Felicity and I walked behind the ATV and we saw a truck come down through the fog in the distance. As we reached the small wall replacement we helped him off of the back of the ATV and as Sawdust sat there Felicity and I helped Patreek hobble up the road and around the blockade, he had the digging bar as a walking stick. When the truck was half way down to us, we noticed that it was not white but gray, we also noticed another truck coming up through the fog behind it. The second truck was white, though it had a dark emblem on the front door.
“Oh shit!” said Felicity. “That isn’t the Golfballogist, that is Carl!”
“And the cops, hurry! Take me back!” squealed Patreek. He dropped the digging bar down the hill and started hopping ahead of us. We ran to keep up with him and yelled for Sawdust. The ATV backed up quickly and we loaded Patreek onto the ATV facing backwards. The motor died suddenly as Sawdust shifted gears. Felicity and I continued running down the hill towards the old Spatula area above Sulfur creek, blowing our whistles as loudly as we could three times to alert the rest of the group that we had some serious company. We kept looking back at the stationary ATV, Patreek had shrunken into himself helplessly yelling at Sawdust to hurry up. Sawdust kept jumping up and down on the ATV trying to get it to turn over. Carl Anderson had stopped his gray truck on the other side of the slash pile as the sheriff truck parked behind him. They were pointing at the ATV and began to walk towards them, climbing around the slash pile. The ATV fired up as they approached and Patreek almost fell off as they sped away. Carl & the sheriff quickly threw the largest poles off of the pile and climbed back into their truck. The ATV sped past us, Sawdust and Patreek’s eyes as big as they could get. There was the look of sad betrayal in Patreek’s expression. He was nearly on his way to town and safe, but here they were rushing off in the opposite direction, his ankle not allowing him to run. He could only hope to hide, and wait another day to get a ride to safety, if that was still possible. Carl’s gray truck rumbled right over the slash pile, and was followed by the sheriff’s truck, as well as a couple of other smaller trucks.
“Shit here they come Sawdust!” Felicity yelled. “Who the hell are those smaller trucks?” she asked me.
“I have no idea. I sure hope they aren’t loggers. Maybe they are surveyors or road assessment people,” I said really hoping that they weren’t logging today.
“Hurry hurry!” yelled Patreek, totally panicked at this point. “Hurry up! I can’t get arrested,” the ATV sped down Brushy as quickly as it could go, while Felicity and I dipped down off of the road into Sulfur creek towards the Puppet camp. I heard a dog bark. Felicity quickly disappeared into the shadows of the forest. Is that coming from one of the trucks? I ducked down into the branches and watched the ATV drive in circles with the line of trucks directly behind it. Were they on the Brushy Connector? They appeared again, with the trucks right behind them again. Oh man, they must be freaking out. Another circle, high speed ATV chase, I sure hope they don’t spill or something, poor Patreek. Then all was quiet. I met up with the Puppeteer and Storm. They asked what was going on.
“Ah, man, I should probably go back to town. I sure hope Sawdust was able to stash that ATV,” the Puppeteer said.
“Yeah, I hope they didn’t get arrested. Did you guys hear a dog?” I asked. “I wonder what they are doing out here.”
“Hopefully just some surveys. I haven’t heard of any other THPs getting approved. You said there are only two other trucks besides the sheriff’s vehicle and Carl?”
“Yeah, at least there was once Felicity and I jumped into the woods. Do you have a radio? We should let the people know what’s going on down in the THPs. Maybe they can see what the vehicles are doing. If they are loggers we need to help them in the THPs.”
“Here’s the radio, but it doesn’t work down here. We need to get up on the ridge.”
“Dang. Okay, maybe if I go up into the meadow they won’t be able to see me south of the Fortress. I might still be able to get a direct line of sight with somebody, probably not all the way down Long Ridge though.” I climbed up the hill and out of the forest. The meadow was wet and it was still foggy out. The radio crackled. I heard the trucks again.
“Hey lookout, what is going on?” I asked the radio.
“The road is clear, only the four trucks came in.”
“We haven’t seen anything down here,” said Long Ridge.
“I hear the trucks,” I said. “Anyone see a chainsaw in one of the smaller trucks?”
“Negative,” the lookout said. I climbed the hill towards lookout, if it was all clear up there, at least I could get a better view. I didn’t go all the way to lookout, Cashew was with Mouse and Bong Dung on top of the hill above the Fortress. We stood watching, waiting, speculating. A half an hour later the trucks came through the fog and drove away.
“Very suspicious,” said Cashew, as Mouse nodded his head in agreement.
“We really need to do something about this open road policy,” Mouse said. “I don’t like it. Nothing is fun anymore, and next time they just might have chainsaws.”
“What happened to Sawdust and Patreek?” I asked.
“Sawdust checked in on the radio, he said that they were okay and that they stashed the ATV, though I’m sure it scared the shit of them,” reported Cashew.
“Yeah, I’m sure it did. The stupid ATV wouldn’t start when Carl and the cops were coming at them. We were up there to meet the Golfballogist so Patriek could get a ride out,” I told them.
“Oh, shit. Do you think the Golfballogist set this up?” Bong Dung asked.
“I doubt it, Steve is such a nice guy,” Cashew replied. “He took us on that tour, remember?”
“Steve is so cool, it was probably just a coincidence. Bad timing,” suggested Mouse. “But the cops probably scared him off for the day.” We all nodded our heads, wanting to believe the best of our only friend other than Micky Brown way the heck out here. Cashew blew our favorite whistle sequence of all time, the All-Clear. People slowly began to come out of the wood works as we yelled at them that the vehicles had gone. They could see us up on top of the hill and were reassured that it was safe.
“What are we going to do?” Alphaea asked, obviously shaken by nerves.
“I’m gonna call town and tell them what happened,” said Aliento.
“Yeah, yeah bro. That’s what I’m going to do,” he said as he came down from the hill. Aliento said that town had some plans, but that they didn’t want to talk it over on the phone. “It’s okay darling, we’re going to stay busy getting prepared,” he said to Alphaea. “We can keep organizing the supplies so they are ready to be moved easily. We still need to find some more buckets. Town said that more people are coming out and some of those people are going to be people that have been out here before the raid, so they can help us unstash a few buckets as well.”
“I’m going to hike out tonight,” announced the Puppeteer. “So, anyone that wants to send a message to town or anyone who wants to hike out meet me here before dark. I think Storm might come with me.” Storm nodded.
“I have some writing and drawings maybe you could give to Jack,” I said. I’ll go get them right now; they’re stashed in a bucket fairly nearby.
“Okay Ituri. I won’t be leaving for another couple of hours.”
(This concludes what I have edited so far. There are many more stories within these first few months of the Free State that I will fill in as I continue writing. There are 6 more months that haven’t been written yet. The Free State was a time of stagnation and personal growth, the ongoing raids and our continual attempts to block the road, tie together and sit in trees, talk with the loggers continued all summer and it was very action packed. Here is a snippet of a few exciting things that continued to happened in April…)
I crept down into the forest, and then saw one of the smaller trucks slowly driving up the road and then stop. I leapt into the forest not looking back any longer. I zigzagged down to the creek, if they have dogs, then I am going to stick to the water I suppose. I crossed a couple of times as I followed Sulfur further down. The creek was getting deeper and wider. I stepped on a wet round rock and slipped into the icy creek.
Moving lightly along the path, the dense ground underneath not making a sound, we traveled quickly. My eyes weaving an intricate panorama, telling tales of life’s gifts through awareness, and the dangers that hold the hands of survival. Glancing about the endless forest, each step changing the view. As we pass a large tree to the other side, a deer, motionless watches the small group pass behind another tree. Mossy branches crossing the path, ducking below a thick branch trunk, the side long view is obstructed briefly, so an instant hop forward and up to another switch back returns the comfort of knowing there is no one watching. No other humans have heard or followed us to this point.
The coyotes, the bear, they may steal our food, but we eat their berries, fish, and crickets also. It is a balance of sharing, and to learn to stash enough for everyone who is going to be hungry during those months when a certain desire is scarce. Learn that with enough places put to hiding food, maybe there will be a fall back stash when times are rough in those specific spots.
But the humans, the humans are after our free spirit. They will destroy not only our stashes they would need to satisfy their winter’s hunger, but they will destroy all they can find, to create hunger within us, to destroy our natural health and will. They do not like us to see the earth’s truth. Any means possible must be done to prevent that knowledge. That is the sole purpose to destroy the natural land. The domesticated world must dominate. Force is needed to control what cannot be controlled, which cannot be tamed. To whip us hard enough with an oak branch, to push rocks down the landslide, to pepper-spray us while we stand full heartedly upon the crumbling rock, until we crawl shaking, shivering, with our head submissively to the side, no more words, no sight, only a deflation in our heart. Then, surrounded in concrete, they will take us away.
So, we watch cautiously, for that unmistakable breath. We listen intently for the hum of a truck that may be searching the roads above.
Each movement from one of the little black-headed Juncos receives a twinge in the eardrums, a twitch of the head. The mille-second glance tells me what it is and my heart returns to maintaining pace. While sleeping, feet are firmly on the ground, and still the ears are wide, extra-wide open to compensate for the lack of sight. Dreams are interrupted continuously with the outer sounds of the evening.
The awareness becomes us, overwhelming. Creating the whole body to shake. To convulse in terror’s tremors, like an earthquake of the soul. To travel with even one other person is risking much. No verbal converse, and steps that are out of time with each other causes too much noise and movement. To stay in a few spots, through out, alone, while keeping watch of where they are, the whole confusion of trying to figure out who they really are. Cops, security, loggers, the rumored Game wardens of Fish and Game, or Bear Poacher Trackers? Which one of them have dogs.
I lay, clothing wet, within my debris-shelter. My wonderful, cozy den, that has served me so many hidden nights. Right now, the ground was wet though, and I was wet. I carefully scooped up twigs and small branches from the nest a Wood-Rat had recently built at the foot of my bed. It was a nice addition, finally level ground, with drainage. It was also nice knowing I wasn’t fully alone, listening to the bustling below in the nest, probably shifting the tunnels due to my added weight. I smoothed out some of the branches into the cold dirt higher up, to try and warm myself slightly. My wool cloak wrapped over me, huddled in the tightest spot, trying to stop shaking so hard of cold, of fear, of loneliness. Thinking way too hard, my mind exploding, I weep, shutting my eyes to the darkness, seeing light swirling behind my eyes, I cry, bawling silently. The tears sometimes are the only way to create warmth. Letting go of all life’s expectancies. How can I know for sure what lies ahead? My self-determination teaches me how not to let go of hope, of knowing I can survive. But for how long, and why must I be so alone, hungry and cold all out in the middle of so faraway.
I lay there, eyes open now. The cold has paralyzed me into numbness, apathetic of the oblivion that I await. Staring through my little window of roots, I hear howling and hooting. My ears prick open wide. The jarring sounds of ATVs and trucks mixed with voices sounding like our calls. I sit up. The blood pressure of my body is suddenly aware of its lack of movement. My whole body is tingly with memory of motion and the physical need of warmth. I rotate my feet made of ice blocks underneath me. Crouched: for the debris-shelter is not nearly tall enough for me to fully sit up straight in. I wonder when my shoes will ever dry. A fire to warm my fingers, stuck in their recalling of frostbite from last winter’s Alaskan adventures. It warms my heart just thinking of a fire. I move my fingers, crinkling and crackling with stiffness. I pull them back into my sleeves and under the dark green cloak, my face hidden from the heavy hood.
A deep breath, quickening my heart, warming to my knees and elbows, I peer out into the darkness. The hooting has began again with the chorus of howling. It sounds like my people, but why would they be so close to loud rumblings of gasoline powered vehicles…unless, there was a new drop off of supplies, and people. They are looking for me. They need support and help, too! What they really need to do is be quiet and wake up early tomorrow with the last planets and stars of the morning dew. Well, with my delirium in a shifting state of physical motion, and the fact that I at least have to get up and take a piss, I might as well scout out all of this racket.
I slink slowly, carefully, like a large cat. Moving one hand far in front, then a silent leg, up to my torso. I listen, and look all around me in the darkness. Eyes wide like an owl, my ears move like a deer in one direction then the other. I move my other hand, shifting weight on my raised shoulders, then the other foot. Sitting at the entrance of the debris-shelter, I watch patiently, loving the newness of blood returning to my limbs. I sit on my shoes, waiting. I close my eyes, and listen to the distance. Nothing now near. The vehicles sounded way down Long Ridge, probably not a re-supply, but why all of the calling? Maybe just a trap they are trying to set. Silently I make my way to the edge of the trees, slowly, and cautiously I peer out into the dark meadow. The clouds have covered all of the stars. Oh, it’s been so nice without the rain just for a little time. But it felt like something was coming in. Well, damn, I sure hope I can find people tomorrow, because I can’t stay in my shelter during the day, and I’d really rather not stay in that blasted old Madrone root on the tan crumbling landslide again. It’s a nice shelter and all, I just get nightmares of hypothermia thinking about it. And it doesn’t protect any if there is wind.
Not seeing or hearing anything, I take one step into the meadow, still below a tree, and I bare ass to the crisp air to relieve my cold bladder. Just as I start to pee, an ATV, down hill, in the meadow along the tree line, lurches forward towards me!!! My head fills with all the slang swears I can conjure up in a second. The bright headlights fill my eyes with blindness, as I leap back into the forest. Pants still around my shaking knees. I hadn’t heard a vehicle down there, only up, from the road. Now from the road I heard people hooting, and then laughing in gruff male voices, yelling. I veer away from my shelter, determined not to lead anyone toward my heart’s comfort, no matter how damp and cold it may be. A few trees farther down the hill, I stop. Still needing to finish my business. I squat and pee. All nerves on reflex, panicked that someone may come barreling down towards me again, while I am in such a naturally vulnerable position. I pull my pants up, complete finally. Shivering and shaking, I decide I should go back to my shelter.
Back to my comfort of invisibility, I curl up into as tight of a ball as I could, not wanting to let go of my knees. Warmer than before, but spooked to madness, I finally close my eyes, with out sleep, I laid there motionless, my arms wrapped around my face, fingers through my hair. My jaw clenches hard as stone, and my nose wrinkles. Why did that such a simple task, have to be so traumatizing? They will not make me crazy. I think again of how much of a challenge it is for them to know that I am here. How simple to just take me to jail, but to be able to find me, to catch me. That is the fun of it all. Those security guards who sit on the ATVs, they don’t really want to cause a chase (well who would guard their ATV, if they weren’t with it). In the dark? They are much more happy to cause alarm then to stumble into the darkness. But how did he see me? I was in the shadows of the tree the whole time. People talk of night-vision goggles, he only shone his head lights for a moment, then drove in the dark. Maybe just coincidence. Oh, I must just get some sleep…
A gentle rustling came from the huckleberry bushes near the stream. My head jerks up instantly. My head aching from fret. The unmistakable crunching of damp leaves and duff in a slow human walk, coming closer, my heart beats in time with it. Definitely two people. Now, deafeningly close, I poise myself towards the escape door, down into the steeps. I listen, my head cocked, mouth open, eyes staring into the darkness of the root window. They sit down, near the annoying new kitchen, dangerously placed too close to my secret. Maybe it is one of us. The notion is so surprisingly exciting and positive. I take care in not letting my heart fly. Nearly out of control, I shiver, now an energy I’d been bundled in begins to burst. I hear their sweet hushed voices full of caution. I carelessly throw out my freedom, toss my heart through my impulsive throat, after tonight what shall I loose. I can’t sleep anyway, might as well take a brave security guard on a nightly jaunt.
I quietly whistle a welcoming, and the voices stop. Maybe I don’t want to get chased any more tonight. Well, too late now. I whistle again, and they quietly whistle an answer. I crawl out of my shelter, and step a safe distance away from it, as to not give the location away, even if it is one of us. I ask for a poo-name, and it is the ol’ Sewage Manager! Oh, what an unbelievable relief. I dash silently to the kitchen and squeeze up to him a big endless hug. I sit cuddled to the warmth, still escaping the trauma of a scared alone mind. He speaks of a mission to move the kitchen, for it is in a bad place. I couldn’t agree more. Hornet is the other, with him. The plan is to move it across the meadow and the road, down into the Alwardt Creek’s drainage once the trucks and ATVs leave. I told them of my experience that night, and they stiffened. We figured out which buckets and boxes we each could carry, and stashed the rest hidden out of any view.
Sitting there amongst the mess of boxes and buckets, mostly covered in a tarp, we waited. I certainly felt 20 hundred times different knowing I was part of a group, we had a plan, now we need the opportune time. Vehicles from Long Ridge, and Brushy Ridge seemed to all congregate at the bottleneck. Our hearts beat fast. Does this mean they are finally leaving. Phew. What a long night.
We gathered our duties, and poised ready to run through the moon lit meadow. The engines faded away, some leaving Monument and some…
Wait, some are leaving, but others are coming in. They just loaded ATVs to take with them, but now, they are unloading more. Slight confusion, mostly denial clouds our reality. What is happening? Why? Oh, no. This is not moonlight; it is dawn. Security was not only leaving, they were merely changing shifts. Twenty-four hours, no joke. What now? I guess we are not moving the kitchen that way. We’d better move it NOW though, before they start creeping around the forest again in the light. Before it rains. We’ll have to go farther down Sulphur still. We can stash this stuff incrementally, until we are truly ready to make the move across the road, because today is not time. With the storm coming, and our lack of sleep and knowledge of the others, we’d be best off to take this tarp, our sleeping bags, and the turbo charge on the souls of our feet, and skiddadle to an unlikely setting for the return of some warmth to our exhausted bodies.
Further down the watershed we ran into Aliento. He agreed with the necessity of moving the kitchen camp, he thought that the supplies were keeping us from where we really ought to be.
“Do you ever wonder why we are stuck hovering at the top of the road? There is no blockade anymore, there hasn’t been since Easter.”
“That was just last week,” I said, defensively, because I really liked the Free State blockade area, it had become our home, my debris shelter, but I understood that it was super sketchy at the same time, I just didn’t know where to go.
“It is because the food is here. We are all staying up here because this is where our supplies are. If we start moving them closer down Long Ridge, like you guys are talking about, then we can get out of this hot ass police state. We can’t start camping closer to the units if our food and supplies are marooned all the way up here,” Wind had a point, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it was totally true. We were enslaved by our supplies, they were what meant the most to us.
“How are the others going to find us?” Hornet asked.
“We’re just going to have to find everyone at some point and have them relay it to whoever they can find. I don’t even know who all is out here. We’ll tell town to meet us somewhere that they would recognize, and keep someone there to meet up with them until we can get enough guides who know where our new camps are.” We didn’t even know where our new camps would be, but at least it is a step in the right direction and I finally had found people to talk to. I wasn’t alone any longer. I never wanted to be alone, even with food, the thoughts in my brain were much better when I knew that there was a plan.
That day we met up with Coast, Tribe, Cashew, and Aqua. As soon as the sunset we began carrying the buckets and boxes across the road and down onto the Brushy Connector, we hopped down off of the road, where Coast, Cashew and I had herded the cows with the commy bicycle, the Trusty Steed. I wondered where the Trusty Steed was now, in a cop storage room? We found a nice low grove of Oaks, and Bay Laurel trees in the meadow. Wind thought we should call it, Utopia.
“More like Mootopia,” said Cashew having stepped in a fresh cow pie.
In the wet darkness I reach the top of the ridge, nearing Look-out, I hear a pair of light footed shoes. A dark invisible shadow of energy in the black air moves silently. Exhaustion within each bone, communicating deliriously to my mind numbed with paranoia, I shake the warnings of danger from the top of my head. From the deepness of my heart and trust of telepathic intuition, I whisper… “Who lives in the golf ball?”
Instantly my soul and taproot of instilled fear from the last couple of weeks, grasp out uselessly to the spoken words. Screaming inside my head, What are you doing!!! You will get arrested!! Dragged to town! With the idea of overwhelming overhead lights, soft pudgy cops speaking demeaning messages, other women sleeping on cushy beds, clean, do they have warm water? Heaters? Dryness. I can’t let them take me away from this natural world!!! This reality of realness, I will forget this awareness. Even if it means my mental collapse, cracking away from society into survival naturally, is better than smoking crack to receive that same heart throb of life’s danger. At least here I know I can slip off a landslide and the coyotes will be able to feed their families for one more day. A reality of eating miner’s lettuce and feeling the effects of lack in protein whirling inside my sensitive ears, rather than eating nothing but candy acid for a week to appreciate some “cool” music, wondering if sobriety will create intense boredom or confusion. Here we panic for reasons of belief. Complete belief, and understanding. I am only lonely, cold, and intensely frightened.
The dogs were out again today. Come from Mississippi. Instead of the local German shepherd dogs, they began to use these Blood hounds from the South to track us. Why, if we are only a mosquito buzzing at a sleeping dragon does the spiked tail whip so hard, so determined? When will it relax and realize we are not infected with West Nile encephalitis. We are merely mosquito hawks, perhaps larger than expected, strong wings, but not searching for blood from the dragon, preparing to eat the true mosquito with the deadly disease. Digest it within, tearing cobwebs as we fly through. We are only attracted to the dragon’s head due to the intense swarm of mosquitoes only higher, above the crown. The true fire will burn the entire cave within. The rocks will remain, but if the dragon is not careful it will burn itself from existence. Instead, exhaling brief nose smoke hits, it may extinguish the buzzing, only coughing, creating slow death for itself. If it allowed us to eat the mosquitoes in partner-ship, council ship, or just in peace, we may be able to manage the mosquitoes at a rate where they will not disappear forever, only to continue existence without extremities.
I remember to breath, to push through the cobwebs of this slow motion existence. Time and moments go so slowly, As if in a time warp, I inhale the crisp oxygen once again, and in response to the brief muffled mumble, realizing the invisible shadow, as slightly more physical than I had expected at first, I whisper again, “Who lives in the golf ball?” The response this time fills me with immense joy, my knees buckle, he says quietly, though louder than I’d expected, for I hadn’t heard the voice of a human all day, “M. C. Hammer…” I jump back; my buckling knees land me on a four legged crouch. Every muscle, ligament, and tendon shivering overwhelmingly in the common emotion of the time, ready to fling my self into the darkness of disappearance and flee the present reality. Leaning forward with my shoulders, consuming the physical being with my ears, I whisper boldly, swirling my intuition around his, following each slight invisible movement, “What is your poo name?”
“Sewage-manger John Juan Von … …” I rush towards him, scaring the all mighty willies out of him I’m sure, while I speak louder than I want to, “It’s me Ologist John Nanka droppings 14! Oh, I’m so glad you are here.” He mumbles approval, as soon as I reach him on the other side of a large Douglas fir, we embrace strongly until the world returned to its right position of comfort.
“We must get out of this rain,” I mention to him. “Shall we search for those sleeping bags that we can never find, stashed under the giant old log?”
“Yes,” he replies. “I think I know where they are this time.”
“We just need to look for that baby tree near the start of the meadowy creek. You know I don’t have a flash light,” or at least I refuse to use mine since batteries are reserved for emergencies. I mutter as we begin the dissent away from the most highly anxious area, near the road. The deep thick darkness of the woods encompasses us into its comfort. It is in that deep color black that you can see everything perfectly. At least see it with in your mind’s eye. I usually walk with my eyes closed. You run into things, for sure, but you just go around them. I always keep my chin bent to one of my hunched shoulders or towards my chest. If I were to keep my head up, my shoulders straight, and my eyes wide open, I would instantly get some stick or branch stuck into my pupil, or my throat, and a scratched or popped eye ball is a thing worth preventing if possible. I walk with my hands out searching for what may be, glancing at the sky can tell you a lot while walking forward. In these woods, forward either means straight down, side hill, or straight up. Going up requires often at least 3 legs, or even all fours to help climb the roots. Going down, the safest way is side hill. You can tell a lot about terrain if you watch the glow worms. If they disappear you know there might be a large tree between you & it, you can also tell the steepness of the hill due to how far below the glow worms are. The flashlight is good for once you get near your stashes, to be able to confirm location. The crank powered flashlights are the best since they don’t use batteries, though they are very loud in the silence of the forest, so not ideal during these hot times of the raids. They also attract Sasquatch, or at least critters that sound as much. Water it is the only one who has a Solar Charged flashlight. It looks expensive & certainly not commie.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Part two is the exciting part!