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Dawn In The Redwoods IV

After nearly a week in the Humboldt Hilton as Jane Doe, my pregnant girlfriend, Maggie, was finally released. She joined us at Earth First! Base Camp in the redwoods at a park south of Carlotta. By then my new friends and I had dubbed her with the forest name, "Mirage," since up til then she was still a figment of their imaginations. The reasons for letting her go seemed nebulous to me as those for locking her up non-compliant for going Jane Doe, originally, but beyond laid-back speculation regarding legalities, all I cared was she was free and could get cozy in our tent, finally.

Sprout and Kathy, the vegan kitchen managers, convinced Mirage that the half gallon jars of un-homogenized milk from the Strauss Creamery we'd been purchasing on account of her pregnancy were utterly disgusting, so I started plunking down cash earned earlier in the summer doing roofing work in Indiana for boxes of soy milk. In the communal spirit, Mirage bought a whole case of Eden Soy cartons up in Eureka, and it was gone by the next day, sucked down by scores of voracious vegans. After that we resorted to hiding it in our late '70's Chevy wagon, Lucy, in the compartment with the spare tire and jack, and people like Sprout and Kathy would try to nudge in on the hot commodity.

"We need a couple cartons for the butternut squash soup," they said. "Actually four. No, eight. It's in the recipe."

You'd have thought it was cocaine. We literally had to be surreptitious. Everone knew that Lucy harbored soy milk.

The next main project at Earth First! Base Camp was to organize a tree-sit in a grove known as "Owl Creek." Although I had nothing to do with the organizing, it was common knowledge that the plan was to occupy about ten strategically-located old-growth redwoods that only remained alive because they were rooted in a remote spot that had been too difficult to remove back in the 1950's when new technology had basically clear-cut the whole continent. Now the global corporations were equipped with helicopters to airlift the logs if necessary, each tree worth neighborhood of a hundred grand, supposedly sold to Tokyo whose economy was raging hot in the mid 1990's.

At night, Mirage would drive Lucy up the mountain roads, loaded with tree-sitters and suppliers like Sprout, a girl named "Timber Wolf," a chubby country kid from Montana who went by "Skunk," and dozens of others on several missions as they set up in the trees. Most of us had no clue where we were going, including the leaders of each outfit, at times. Of course we had to hike at night, so it was still difficult to recall the trail on subsequent trips. I spent one moonlit endeavor with Timber Wolf, another girl, Rabbit, and Skunk, lost, spooning under stars and sleeping bags like Civil War soldiers.

"I'm not afraid to cuddle," said Skunk.

"Hope Mirage doesn't get jealous," said Timber Wolf.

None of us slept that night. I was still only about two weeks out of Indiana, a country person from the religious, olden days, and considered Mirage to be my virtual wife since she was pregnant, so I stayed out of the frisky episode and probably put a damper on the thing. All they talked about between giggling was how much better blow jobs were if you had a tongue piercing, stuff like that, but the whole time I was tripping out on how we were sleeping on a south exposure up high, above the fog, the naked constellations blinking, while nearby, further down the mountain, you could hear rain falling from the redwoods.

"That's fog drip," said Timber Wolf. "You're new out here, huh?"

When the sun finally rose, we spotted the Owl Creek banners from our position on the mountain, and jubilantly made our way to the Tree Sit.

Dropping ropes like Rapunzel's hair, the sitters hauled up their goods, returning the bags empty as more personnel showed up, including the Humboldt County Sheriff's deputies who also, incidentally, were decked out in camo.

It was probably difficult for both sides to distinguish friend from foe, based on uniform, though the dreadlocks were a dead give-away. Chaos ensued. Several screaming women got tackled by the sheriffs. I actually witnessed, oddly, a deputy, decked out in camo, aiming a rifle at the tree sitters from a vague distance, while I was pissing beside some huckleberry bushes. The deputy never became aware that I was watching him, and might have been embarassed if he had. Kids and cops scampered along the hillside, this game favoring those with athletic skills and forest experience, also chickenshits like me who didn't want to get hauled off to jail. Somehow I ended up hiking a logging road as the sun set, alone with the vegan kitchen guy, Sprout.

"I brought a five pound bag of sugar," he confided.


"We could dump it in a bulldozer's fuel tank. Seize it up."


"Well? What are we here for? Tree-sitters get all the glory, but think what we could do with a simple bag of sugar!"

By now we were hiking in the moonlight.

"First of all, bro, Earth First! is not about actually destroying shit. This is show business. It's the image in the public's mind that matters. Second, what good is it going to do to seize the motor in a Cat? For real? Insurance will cover it to the tune of about a hundred grand. Obviously they will blame it on vandalism, which, if you get fingerprinted for, will smear your name not only with the feds as a serious offense, but nobody in Earth First! will defend that kind of action," I said, or something to that effect. I couldn't believe Sprout was suggesting such a deed. "You're starting to weird me out."

"Sometimes I wonder where you stand on things," said Sprout. "You act hard-core, but then you're chickenshit when it comes to real action."

"I like diesel motors as much as redwoods, for different reasons, but just saying that D-10 Cat is worth about the same as an old growth tree in today's economy."

"Those statements contradict each other. Whose side are you on?"

We argued all night, somewhat starving and thirsty, with sweaty socks and not much in common but that we were both walking, and ended up on the other side of the hill in a cow pasture on the edge of a road about dawn. A herd of rufus-coated, white-faced Herford cows and calves grazed nearby. Woodpeckers and squirrels caroused in oak trees, quarrelling, making rackets. California Quail with their funny tufts followed the cow herd in a covey, pausing to dine on grass and bugs. Sprout and I took a seat in the warmth of the rising sun, passed a last carton of Eden Soy between us like a wino's streetcurb bottle.

"Man, I like being around a herd of cows," I said. "Just makes me feel peaceful."

"Humans weren't evolved to eat meat."

"What about canine teeth?"

Both of us, vegan or not, were starving, worn out, and cross. The soy milk carton was down to backwash. All we had was the five pounds of Domino sugar in Sprout's backpack.

Just about the time we were about to start hiking again, we heard Lucy magically chugging in need of a tune-up, and soon beheld her like a miracle, Mirage at the helm of the relic, red station wagon, hauling another round of fresh, green, forest defenders ready to do battle with the Humboldt County sheriff's department, the loggers, and the evil corporation, MAXXAM.

Back at Base Camp, some organizers directed me to the pay phone they had back then and said that Darryl Cherny wanted to interview me live from the public radio station, KMUD.

"So, Mulberry, you were at Owl Creek yesterday?" Cherny asked.


"A lot of pressure on the sitters, from the loggers and cops. I hear they're bringing Dan the Climber out."

"I didn't see Climber Dan yesterday."

"You were in the woods when Spirit was arrested, right?"

"I think that's all on a need-to-know basis."

"How about when Freedom had her wrist sprained by the arresting officers? You witnessed it? You saw the way they were using military tactics to apprehend our forest defenders?"

"I saw some of that. Honestly, I didn't think the cops used excessive force in that case. Freedom sprained her wrist, but the whole scene was chaotic and the hill was hella steep."

"But you saw them take Freedom to the ground? Other witnesses said she was screaming for them to stop, and they went aggro on us."

"Yeah, she was screaming, but she was already screaming before they got her. A bunch of people were screaming. They were calling the cops murderers, corporate slaves, and shame on you, so the sheriffs finally grabbed them. It wasn't very organized."

"But they did sprain her wrist."

"I don't know. I wasn't watching too close. I lit out."

"I heard that you witnessed some of the deputies carrying rifles?"

"At least one was. It was sort of weird. He was sitting on the hill, aiming it at the tree sit but maybe he was just bored, screwing around, getting paid. Maybe he was aiming at a squirrel."

"So there you have it. Cops aiming rifles at tree-sitters at the Owl Creek Grove. Okay, Mulberry, well thanks for reporting live from Headwaters Forest!"

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