By then the noise of the bulldozers had grown
louder, and the ground began to tremble, and the great pines began to shudder. And when I
looked up I saw that the slender needles on the trees were shivering. Towering firs that
had bravely stood against four hundred years of fire and lightning, against flood and
drought, against pestilence and windstorms, giants that were already tall trees when
Patrick Henry lauded the virtues of liberty, began to groan and tremble. The forest's
throat was seized in terror. The jays ceased their chattering. The crickets, the frogs,
even the mosquitoes, were silent as dry stones. The faces of the people were clenched
fists. Photo: Patrick Bishop
Yet I preferred the earthy description of the dozer operator who drove the first
tractor into the forest, because I could understand the human experience more readily than
the experiences of the collective forest to which I had ascribed human attributes. The
driver's [description] came out of pain and was more credible. The driver's name was Billy
Joe Wheeler. Billy Joe was struggling to explain the human dilemma he faced as the first
man to strike out at the helpless forest. He began to weep.
Good people work growin' tobacca and makin' cigarettes, an' good people work in them
whiskey distilleries an' in bars an' all. Good people work makin' A bombs. And there's
good people that drive them Cats into the woods, too...You oughta try raisin' a family
once. If I didn't drive that tractor somebody else woulda. It's easy ta have them high
ideas when ya got money." He wiped his nose in his red bandanna. Finally, he
whispered, "You should hear the sound of one of them old firs hitting the ground.
Some of 'em is over four hundred year old ya, know. It's horrible ta hear'em come crashing
down. It's a sound a man never fergits.
Then the driver of a logging truck who also took part in the massacre chimed in. His
name was Cap. "Us humans ain't the only ones killing trees ya know. Bugs kill trees
and porcupines kill trees. Sometimes me and Georgia haul logs. [He was referring to his
truck, which he called Georgia.] Man's gotta make a livin'. I met Jimmy Hoffa once. Now
there was a true...criminal. But I'll say one thing fer Jimmy. We had jobs! If them
'viormentalists had their way we'd all be on welfare along with them.
What about the old-growth forests?" someone asked.
The way I got it figgered, man is like a tree beetle. He's gonna eat himself outta
house an' home an' keep [messin] things up, an' after the human race is gone things'll get
good again. Ya can't talk no sense inta tree beetles, an' ya can't talk no sense inta
human bein's neither. Me--I'm gonna get my share while the gettin's still good. Spence, G. (1995).