The Trees In Yurp

Standing around at the Tremblay’s as the old man rushed about getting the tractor ready one cold Saturday morning, one of the old dwarfs piped up, by way of making conversation, “You know in Yerp you gotta have a license ta cut down a single tree! There’s some surveyor works for the government comes out and looks at it and decides if you can cut it down. Har har har!”

The old man shook his head, “Ridiculous!”

They had a good laugh.

I felt myself going through a bit of a revolution. That was the answer right there. Rambo to protect the forests. Europe used to be covered in forests and then people used it all for fuel in their despicable hovels for millennia and so now the few trees left required protection.
Why were these people so unable to see this American west bison-shooting-free-for-all for what it was? Well, the answer’s easy to see, free, it’s free, it is free! Every tree was a virtual dollar sign in our mind’s eyes. And if there was just one left, the old man would be yanking the recoil on that little McCulloch as he raced toward it counting his lucky stars, imagining he’d just found a bag of money on the sidewalk.
It was the same story with over-fishing, I’d read that as the fish become scarce the fishing fleets worked harder than ever to fish them into non-existence, they never backed off. Industry had to meet its bottom line on each trip by any means possible. The mortgage on the boat didn’t skip a month if you had a bad month of fishing. I also read in the Yankee Swapper, or some other junky magazine, that the logging of the forests torn down in Michigan were more valuable than all the gold that California eventually farted up to fantasy laden prospectors back in those gold-rush days. Those forests were destroyed and sold to the American industrial complex, box turtles bull-dozed under the earth, bird’s nesting sites forever flushed away into the Great Lakes. But what gave them those rights? People thought nothing of the total exploitation of resources. They thought they owned them. Do they think any differently now? Like some crazy story of buying the land from the natives with beads, digging it all up and selling it to enemies abroad who come like cancer and never stop growing and invading and killing. . . the Sioux called us “wahseechus” which translated meant a persistent irritation. They were right.

I kept my mouth shut, your opinion is only valuable when you’re paying the bills. That’s why rich people tended to get to do the most blathering. The guys signing your check tells you what to do, whether or not he’s right. This system allows them to maintain their power and interests so no one else can climb the ladder. And of course, this is why we’re all doomed.

In the end it’s because we can’t keep from shitting in the rivers. Rivers look to us like nature’s way of making our lives perfectly simple, flowing by, taking the things we don’t want, the shit, the poison, the bodies of the dead, away . . . away . . . away, and never back, never.
The flush of a toilet being the end of our concern about what we’ve put in it. Then one day the salmon or the shad no longer come up that creek, no longer spawn in the inland ponds. But let’s face it who wants to change the way we live. Who wants to spend money on crap like that?

But wait, when was this old Lord Of the Rings character, Tremblay, in ‘Yerp’? What the heck did this Tolkien dwarf know about the old country? I shot him a narrow-eyed look, summed his swamp-yankee attributes.

“Stevie!” came a shout from behind me, it was old lady Tremblay, coming down off the front porch in her flower patterned moo-moo. Her helmet of black hair solidly in place over a face that looked for all the world like pictures I’ve seen of Sitting Bull. No kidding.

“Yes ma’am,” my old man straightened up from fussing with the choke, getting ready to crank the old machine over, suddenly at attention as if he’d been roused by a sergeant.

Old lady Tremblay made her way across the yard in her slippers, her exposed heels as wide and horny as draft horse hooves.
“We prayed to God for help, we did, and He sent you!” she turned and looked over at her middle-aged son, “Isn’t that right, George?” The way she said “George” as if to insinuate a plan, something unfolding.

“It sure is,” said George, a half grin on his thick lips through his beard. Then I saw him put down his tool box and step forward as if to intercept the old lady, but not too fast.

“Well, ma’am, I don’t know about that,” Pop had a loose embarrassed smile playing on his lips, he was stuck. I rarely saw him off balance like this.

“Well I know!” shouted the old lady, “And you come straight from the good Lord!”

Holy shit the old lady was planning to plant a big kiss on pop, and there was no place for him to run.

“Now, now,” he said, giving his best aw, shucks, his famous other-people smile on his face, eye a’twitching. Pop rarely smiled in the home, it was always for non-family members, and when he did it was a surprisingly unusual expression. It’d be like seeing George Washington doubled-over laughing from smoking a bowl with Vin and Ty.

Old lady Tremblay threw her arms up, kinda t-rex floppy arms, “Now you come give old Marry a big hug!”

I was rooted to the spot, watching the horror unfold. The old man put the crank handle on the iron seat and embraced the bell-shaped old lady as she laid a big smooch on his cheek.

I fled to the truck, got the door open and threw the seat forward and busied myself gathering our tools, my head down. I found the machete and the bow saw—yup, there they are—picked up the machete and put it on top of the bow saw readied them for moving over to the tractor, kinda peeking sideways to see George helping his mom back up onto the porch. The old lady was smiling over my way but I don’t know if she could actually see me.

“I want to thank that boy too,” she said with a bit of sorrow in her voice.

“Now he’s just fine, he knows you’re all grateful and such,” George said, helping his mother back up the steps.

I hauled the saw and machete over to the tool box on the tractor and grinned at the old man who refused to make any eye-contact.
“Well, I didn’t realize we were on a mission from God,” I joked.
“Yup,” said the old man feigning a kind of discipline, service rendered, from God.
“How was her beard?” I ask softly, “pretty scratchy?” I think I’m hilarious, but he doesn’t respond to this one.

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