Environmental News, Opinion, and Art                                                                   August 24, 2006

Is It Still Rape If a Horse Does It?

By Julie Crist

I am standing barefoot on my hill in the woods greeting the morning as the sun rises behind the trees.  Hands outstretched, I soak the solar energy up into my cells and through my eyes.  The birds sing brightly, a woodpecker calls, laughing in the distance, and squirrel scolds me and throws pine cones my direction, like, “Hey, dipweed!  I’m working here.  Don’t you have somewhere to go?"


Snap! Crunch crunch crunch crackle.  Snap! Snap! Snap!

CRASH BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The ground below my feet shakes.  This is the sound of my neighbor buying an ATV and paying off his trailer. He is murdering most of the trees on his property to that noble end. 

To hear the century old cedars fall, to feel them hit the ground, makes me sick, sad, seething and furious all at once.  I hate him.  I hate everyone.  I’ve had it with hunters, loggers, jet skiers, and supporters of the troops.  People suck, especially Americans.  They don’t deserve this beautiful country, these self-absorbed, spiritually and morally retarded freaks.  A frickin’ ATV AND A TRAILER FOR GOD’S SAKE!! 

I am not a stereotypical tree-hugger.  I did grow up with hippies, I will give you that.  But I also spent 12 years in the military, own lots of guns, ride a motorcycle, believe in the Constitution, don’t want anything from the government except for them to get the hell out and give us our country back (that’s why I have guns.  Liberty teeth and all that), own a ¾ ton diesel pickup (although we rarely drive it), you get the picture. I even have 2 chainsaws, which I use to cut up dead trees for firewood.  I live in the real woods, not the Disneyland woods.

On the other hand, I am an acupuncturist and a writer, I do sun yoga in the morning, I garden and talk to the plants, I get excited every time I see a wild animal, I do hug trees, and we have promised our trees they are safe as long as we have any say about it.

So I am something of a contradiction.  Well, so is my neighbor’s logging operation.  Sure, he’s raping his property, but he hired a horse logger to do it.

This means that the grinding, squeaking, roaring heavy equipment racket is missing from this particular event.  It’s a little weird.  I live in a remote valley in the woods.  Lots of logging goes on here for the usual stupid reasons that people log and you can hear everything really well.  I hate logging.  But I love horses, and I like a lot of things about the old traditions.  So I watch to see if this will turn out any better than the usual slam, bam thank you ma’am process.  Like maybe his forest gets taken out to dinner before it gets violated.  I don’t know what I’m hoping for.

Oh, and I’m suddenly reminded – no one calls it “logging” anymore.  Let’s see, what do they call it now?  Let me just take a look in my Orwellspeak Dictionary.  Hmmmm.  Oh, there it is, under “M”.  Managing Your Forest.  Right after “L”, Liberating Iraq.

And the latest scam in the Book of Forest Management for You and Screw Your Kids is the disease card.  A “consultant” informs you with great gravity that your trees have a disease and you need to cut them down in the interest of a new fishing boat and pick-up, I mean for the health of the forest.  It’s good management. 

I never cease to wonder how the hell this poor, lame planet limped along without us here to manage it for all those millions of years.

Sometimes, when you live in the woods, you have to cut a tree or two down.  I know that, and I’ve done it myself.  We did it to make a space for our house.  We cleared a little in front of our solar panels.  And let me tell you, I HATED every second of it.  Clearing for the house was so painful I couldn’t look.  I apologized to the trees.  My husband flat out couldn’t do it, so when we had to clear in front of the panels, I had to be the murderer.  In fact, we built our house in kind of the wrong spot because we couldn’t bear to take out any more trees to move it back.  If you live in the woods and never learn that the trees are conscious, you are a crippled mutant.

To cut down most of your trees to buy toys is, well, unspeakable.  There are just not words for that absurd, stunning level of idiocy.  This guy is in his sixies.  He lives in a trailer house.  I’m sure he’s thinking, “F__ it.  I’m almost dead and you can’t take it with you, so I’m gonna grab all I can get now.  Screw the future.”  No kidding – this guy shoots coyotes because he’s afraid they’re going to kidnap his dog.

Anyway, I watched this horse logging for over a month.  I jog past that place whenever I go running, so it’s not like I was lurking in the woods spying.  I’d say hello to the logger, a pleasant looking chap in those dopey looking short pants and suspenders.  Should I hate this guy?  On the one hand, he’s a professional tree murderer.  On the other hand, he is very kind and gentle with his team of matched percherons, and they are obviously well-treated and like the work.  I love to watch a well-matched draft horse team work.  Aww hell, a gray area.

Oh, and look, here’s a bonus!  The property line that we share with this gomer HAS NOT BEEN SURVEYED.  And rather than leave the customary buffer zone of untouched trees that polite folks do in these parts, he logged right up to the imaginary property line.  Swell.  He may have taken out some of our trees, too.  But it will cost us a couple thousand dollars to find out.

So we go over and talk to him.  He never mentioned to us that he was planning to log, so this is the first conversation we’ve had about it.

Approaching his trailer, er, manufactured home, we notice that the area around it resembles ground zero except for a handful of trees right next to it with blue marks on them.  He comes out and we, in a demonstration of our superior willpower, manage not to strangle him on sight.  In fact, we even pretend to be civilized people, good neighbors and all that.  He explains, as if it was the most brilliant frigging plan in the world, how they decided to leave a few trees around the house for a buffer.  I guess that’s buffer, as in, “There was a beautiful forest here buffer I hacked it all down.”  So now he can look out his window and pretend there’s a forest there thanks to his buffer.  Genius.

So we mention something about the property line, and long story short, he and his bitchy southern wife are not, hallelujah, talking to us anymore.  But I digress.

As the days wore on and on and on and I had to listen as tree after tree fell, I observed that not only did this guy’s property look like Hiroshima after the bomb, but that the horses were tearing the crap out of the ground and taking a long damned time to do it.  If you think about it, a dozer probably spreads the weight out a little across it’s tracks, versus a horse putting about a ton of weight on it’s relatively small hooves and digging in to pull logs.  There was slash and debris everywhere.  You can use heavy equipment to drag the trees to a limbing area to contain the mess somewhat, but the horse logger didn’t really have the option, so he limbed them where they fell.  Now Mr. Forest Manager can spend the rest of his summer cleaning up the mess with his new ATV.  

So while horse logging may look all environmentally hip and probably pleases the carbon minimalists, I would have to say that it is just another chapter in the “Forest Management Book of Bullshit.”  No matter who cuts them down, or how they are skidded out, they are dead and gone, and no amount of Orwellian obfuscation changes that fact.  Poof!  Hundreds of years of natural beauty traded for little pieces of green paper with diminishing value.  Adios.  Fallen to the pustulent policy of pathological greed hosted and nurtured by multinational corporate fascists  posing as “government”.  “Managing” you trees by cutting them all down is encouraged.  It “creates jobs”, and besides, trees are a “renewable resource!”  Especially if you have the lifespan of, oh, say, a turtle.  Or maybe Satan.

Julie Crist likes to blow off steam for the benefit of Lowbagger readers.



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