(Sing no more)
By the shores of Gitchee Gumee
By the shining Big-Sea-Water
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis
Daughter of the moon, Nokomis,
Dark behind it rose the forest
Rose the black and gloomy pine trees
Rose the firs with cones upon them
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water
William Wadsworth Longfellow, penned the “The Song of Hiawatha” and spoke of majestic, pristine forests and clear, deep blue waters.
How did we journey from there to what I see today?
Was it solely man's greed? Or merely his stupidity? Or his sadistic nature? Or does the answer lie somewhere inbetween?
The late philosopher, Alan Watts, once noted, “the world around us looks as if we hated
This is a tale of reminiscience, of times all but forgotten, of magnificent timbered forests,
and unspoiled beauty. It is a fairy tale, a once upon time story, but unlike in a childeren's
narrative, there is no happily ever after.
Please allow me one rant, one rageful outcry, then we'll begin. As I gaze at the landscape recently raped by man and machine, I cry aloud! How can we be treehuggers, if we have no trees?
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblence to people, places, or corporations is merely
Thus was born my Hiawatha
Thus was born the child of wonder
By the daughter of Nakomis
Hiawatha's gentle mother
Eleven One One---2002
Unconsciounable acts must be performed by men without conscience.
I awake to droning sounds of something big, something ominous!
I stumble out of out of my aerie, stir the bed of coals in the wood furnace, and slip into my sorells.
Out the back shed door I venture, to relieve myself in the crisp, early morning air.
The droning sound is much louder now. A tree crashes to the forest floor, carrying with it,
branches of it's neighbors, tearing limbs with loud, snapping, cracking sounds as it flails it's last.
Greed Paper Company has arrived. They said they might make it this fall. They had informed me that the rains to the south might send the jobbers here. Too much clay down there, they said.
I knew they'd eventually get here. But, like all bad things, any delay was a blessing.
I live in the middle of a national forest, until a decade ago, an old, second-growth forest.
Rich in maple and other hardwood, sprinkled with pine and spruce. Accented by the beautiful white birch forming a mosaic of delightful colors. The swamps and river's edge were home to giant cedar trees and the skraggy balsam.
But, above all, rises the majestic, colossal white pine, reminding all of days gone by. Days when Hiawatha roamed these forests and fished these streams. The magnificent white pine, scattered among this old, second-growth forest, a living history book for all to see!
This land is dear to me. My grandfather labored in the lumber camps at the turn of the Twentieth Century harvesting the giant white pine.
They selected the trees back then, although they over-harvested, they left behind a land-
scape that could regenerate. At least, Mother Nature stood a chance.
In the 1920's a rustic cabin was erected down by the river and it became a modest, family retreat. My father had joined the lumberjacks and knew the land like few would ever.
My earliest recollections are fond remembrances of the weekend trips to camp. It's where I learned to fish, to hunt, to pick berries, but most importantly, to appreciate what is here. Such a simple word, yet, who truly appreciates?
So our roots in this land trace back over a century.
And now this land of such magnificent wonder, is under attack, an attack so brutal and severe, I see no survival. This land is viewed now in dollar signs. The line on a profit sheet for investors to peruse.
“O my children! My poor children!
Listen to the words of wisdom
Listen to the words of warning
From the lips of the great spirit
From the master of life who made you!
“The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago, had they happened to be within reach of predatory human hands.” -----Havelock Ellis
“Come,” the voice whispered, “Come, I will show to you.” The voice was entering my sleeping brain and slowly lifting the fog of deep slumber.
With a start, I sit up and ask aloud, “Who are you? What do you want?”
I cannot see the image that is speaking to me from the darkness. But, the voice is re-
assuring, I am not afraid. Again, he insists, “Arise, and come with me.”
“Who are you?” I inquire again.
“Hiawatha, son of Nakomis.” “Soon the Gushkeway —the darkness will be gone. We must hurry.”
“Where are we going?” asking now in anticipation, sensing a great adventure.
“Hiawatha will show you the land of his people, before man come look for trees to cut and earth to move.”
I was dressed and lacing up my hiking boots as the first hint of light found it's way into the cabin's darkness.
He stood, slightly shorter than my six feet, but his stature could not be denied. A Chieftan, a warrior! Was it him in the flesh? No, more like a ghostlike form, out of a Dicken's novel.
I shiverered in the early morning November air, my breathe sending mists of clouds off into the dawning light.
The machines were silent, waiting for their operators to begin the day's destruction. “Come,” he said once more.
We headed south past the cabin clearing and stepped into the past with long, purposeful
strides. Hiawatha's forest was beckoning us forward! The kabibanokka, the north wind, was to our backs, as I leaped into the past!
Hiawatha led swiftly down a deer trail, angling us toward the river. I recognized the stream when we arrived, except I had never seen it like it appeared. Wider and deeper, with cedar trees hugging it's banks. A large brookie, 17 inches or better, rose from the water and flashed it's tail in greeting.
We headed south along the river bank, a partridge, flushed from it's hideout, startled me as it took flight in noisy, feathered fashion. “Mushkodasa, Hiawatha pointed, as the ruffed grouse disappeared into the thick forest.
A gleam of light beckoned, like the light at the end of a tunnel. It was the morning sun peeking into the forest darkness. We entered the opening and stood at the edge of a large
meadow, “Muskoday,” he said, waving his hand at the lush, green foliage that fed the deer that bounded off with our arrival.
We walked closer and recognition of past glories were filling my mind. “I have been here before,” I thought aloud.
“Yes, many times,” Hiawatha answered.
We crossed the meadow and stood at the river's edge and looked down. It was twenty feet or more to the water.
“Oh, I whispered,” realization setting in. “This is the site of the Graham Dam! The dam was being filled with the white pine logs for the run to their final springtime destination!
Slowly, before my very eyes, the transformation took place. Soon a logging camp filled the vacant meadow. Lumberjacks hustled about getting breakfast grub, sharpening axes,
pulling up their britches as they vacated the outhouses dotting the clearing's edge.
A man walked toward me. I cried out in recognition, “Grandpa!” But, the image and the lumbercamp disappeared as quickly as it had come.
Next, a bridge appeared, spanning the Sturgeon. Ah, the best hole in the river is right on that corner. A deep pool, over my head when I fished it as a boy. That 14 and a half incher was my childhood best.
Around the bend a figure waded into view, drabbed in flannel shirt and tattered straw hat,
cast his line into the black pool, protected from the morning sun by thick tag elders.
A howl of glee broke through the quiet morning stillness, as the large speckled trout
showed it's displeasure at the sharp hook in it's mouth. The boy yanked his rod and flung the large brookie toward the river's bank. Splashing and floundering, the boy and fish battled on the river's edge. “I gotcha,” the boy whooped, as his hat floated through the pool and into the faster water, waving goodbye as it sped along, leaving the boy hatless and soaken in it's wake.
The boy did not care. He had his trophy! Then he glanced up the bank at me.
“Oh, my god!” I cried.
Hiawatha replied, “Yes, my friend you were much younger then. Come.”
Soon, we were heading back the way we had come. After a quarter mile, we stopped again. Another clearing, with an old chevy parked off an old two-track road. A cabin stood at the edge. Smoke billowed from a black stovepipe sticking out of the tar-papered roof.I could smell the bacon frying as we inched closer.
The sound of an engine drew nearer as we stood and waited. Soon another old vintage auto pulled into the clearing. Two men, dressed in hunting clothes, climbed out of the buick and yelled out to the cabin's occupant.
Grandpa stood in the cabin's doorway and greeted his two sons. My dad and Uncle Willard, younger than I have ever known them marched right on by without seeing me! Big, strapping men, borne of the woodlands. Of a time gone by.
Again, much too quickly, the scene transpired.
“Come,” Hiawatha commanded once more, “we have much to see.”
Again, we were off. Traveling along the same trail, past the site of the lumbercamp and entering deeper into the primevil forest.
A majestic sight greeted us!!! The split trunk of a giant white pine, seven feet in diameter, struck by lightning lay there serving as the span across the raging river. The roots gave us footing, like a medievil ladder it took us to the top of the prone giant. I looked down at the forest floor seven feet below, and thought of my meager childhood tree fort.
We glided easily along the huge tree trunk crossing the river in record time. The thicker branches of the tree's top gave us pause to progress slower. Soon we were on the ground and free to find the path. The adjidaumo, Hiawtha's friend, the squirrel, scolded us for our rude arrival.
Off we were again, moving in a southwesterly direction. We seemed to be cruising at a pace much faster than normal foot travel. It wasn't long before we again heard the sound of rushing water.
So he journeyed westward, westward
Left the fleetest deer behind him
left the antelope and bison
crossed the rushing Escanaba
We started climbing at a rapid rate, the forest was thining and soon we arrived at a rock shelving. Our view was breathtaking in it's splendor. Above the tree tops lay a shining sea of blue water. It couldn't be Gitchee Gumee, Lake Superior, or else my senses were all warped.
Lake Michigan, the realization entered my trance-like brain. O.K., I know this place also.
Suddenly, the beauty disappeared, replaced instead, by smoke stacks and logging trucks heading toward a factory on the river. The home of Greed Paper Company!
“Bad men,” Hiawatha states quietly, “they put poison in river so it can kill fish and go into big water. Why?”
How do I explain to him about the chemicals being used to process and manufacture the paper? How can I describe to him that thousands of dollars are saved for the stockholders by polluting the lakes and streams with their toxic wastes? How would you tell Hiawatha that jobs are created and corporations get rich, and we only have to destroy unpopulated lands to do so? Hey, you tell him. I don't have the nerve.
Should you ask me
Whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions
With the odors of the forests
With the dew and damp of meadows
With the curling smoke of wigwams
With the rushing of great rivers
With their frequent repititions
And their wild reverberations
In unison, we moved north, silently, I followed the stoic, seething brave. The wind had changed, the shawondasee, the southwind was now to our backs. I sensed then, that Hiawatha always traveled with the wind at his back.
We stopped along another river bank. The current was crashing over large rocks protruding out of the boiling water. I looked questioningly at Hiawatha and he nodded, ever so slightly. Ah, he allowed me a glimpse! The Whitefish River near Trenary, where now resides a state park, he told me without speaking.
The quick travel lesson was over, due north we charged. Faster, ever faster was our flight.
At the door on summer evenings
Sat the little Hiawatha
Heard the whispering of the pine-trees
Heard the lapping of the waters
Sound of music, words of wonder
Minn-wawa! “said the pine trees”
Mudway—aushka! “said the water”
The forest begain thickening and our progress was slower. My senses alerted me once more, telling me of another treat in store. This time the sound was much louder, a roaring cacaphony of sounds.
We reveled in awe at the spectacular water works that greeted us. Torrents of bright blue lasers, sprinkled with white, foamy lather washed over the glittery rocks and sandstone to the canyon floor below!
A pool of cold blue water opened and swirled catching the falling water and dispatching
it over the rocky river bed like a Manhattan traffic cop.
From the water-fall he named her
Minnehaha, Laughing Waters
“Tonight,” Hiwathatha spoke, “You will tell me of the tree robbers.”
He guided us along the canyon wall and down a steep incline moving away from the din of the cascading waterfall. Soon we entered a large cathedral like cave. After gathering an abundant supply of easily accessible dry wood, a roaring fire was soon warming me.
We had nothing to eat. Although darkness was approaching and I had not eaten since Hiawatha had awoken me at dawn, I was not hungry.
Saw the fire-fly, wah-wah-taysee
Flitting through the dusk of evenings
Across the flames, he stared at me. Studying me. This would be the moment of truth! The
journey's purpose was at hand.
Still, he remained silent. Finally, he spoke, “Why do you alone care about the land named after me?”
Well, it never crossed my mind. Only I cared? Surely other people want this land preserved.
Before I could respond, he commanded, the voice of a warrior chieftan, “tell me all.
From first tree to fall 'till all are gone.”
And the whippoorwill, wawaonaissa
Sobbing, said, “O Chibiabos
Teach me tunes as melancholy
Teach me songs as full of sadness!”
The rest of the evening was spent while I talked and explained what I had learned of the “clearcutting game.” Infrequently, he would interrupt me with a question.
I was transported back to the cabin and stood in bewilderment! Had I been dreaming? It had seemed so real.
I felt my chat with Hiawatha had upset him greatly. I had held nothing back. It is the same story that I will retell to you. It is a story about making paper. Making paper by profiteers,
by uncaring land barons, who acquire these lands from other greedy, shortsided owners.
Joanie Mitchell once sang about a tree museum. Folks, the time has arrived.
From the headlands Hiawatha sent forth such a wail of anguish, such a fearful lamentation--------
“If you clearcut a forest, you'd better pray continuously.” Janisse Ray
In her novel, The Ecology of a Cracker, Janisse Ray explores the shortsided lumber practices that destroy the traditions and ecosystem of our ancestors.
The onslaught of our National Forests bearing the names of Hiawatha and others is increasing at a frightening pace. An uncaring political regime, backed by wealthy corporate coffers, is allowing woodland carnage like never before.
The assault on my neighboring woodland continued daily for three weeks. Only a few men were necessary to accomplish this travesty. You see, huge machines, with jaws of steel, rip the trees out by their roots and slice and dice them like the old veggie-matic on late night television.
Most of the manpower was spent on loading and hauling the logs off giant, tandem trailor
trucks, that race away at breakneck speed. Every year a few innocent motorists get in the
path of these logging truck jockeys. Tsk, colateroll damage, we're talking dollars here.
Sixteen huge piles of scattered tree tops dotted the barren landscape. I asked a fellow who was loading the final rig. “Whatcha gonna do with all those tops, bring in a chipper?
“Nope, was the non-chalant answer. Too hard on the equipment.” “How's that?” curious now.
“The way we harvest this timber, leaves too much dirt and stones in the tops.”
“Harvest? You were harvesting?”
“Yup, so it's too hard on the equipment to process these tops.”
“What ya' do with 'em.”
“Oh, we'll let them dry 'till next winter, then we'll burn 'em.” You're welcome to help yourself to some firewood.”
Some firewood. Folks, there enough here to heat a couple hundred homes, a couple two, three years!
A year passes. I took what wood I had room to store and told everybody I could about the hardwood tops available for firewood. People came out and took what they were able, hardly leaving a dent in the wood piles.
November 22, 2003---I peak outside on an early, sunny morning. I hear a faint crackling sound and look to the northeast! Clouds of smoke are spiraling up to the blue sky. Mingling among the scattered clouds.
I fire up my chevy pickup and head north to check it out. The billowing trail of smoke is easy to follow. I stop and watch a fellow wander around a stack of tops applying something as he went.
He completes his project and ambles over to me. “I thought you boys weren't gonna burn these stacks 'till winter,” I greet him.
“Oh, it snowed over an inch the other day, so I'm allowed to start burning now.”
“Really? There's no snow on the ground.”
“Doesn't matter it snowed an inch. Don't wanna havta' walk in.”
“I see that could be a burden.” I was still driving in around the middle of January.
Springtime, 2004. Lunch is interrupted by a rap on the front door. “Doors open,” I yell from the back shed, where I'm fetching a jar of homemade pickles.
I recognize the man who enters, “How are you doing, he asks, rather timidly. Like maybe he shoulda' tossed his hat in first to see if I shoot it!
“Besides, your harvesting tactics, I'm fine.”
“We received your letter.”
“Good. So you've decided not to poison us then.”
“Well, sir, our technicians assure us that you will be perfectly safe and unaffected by the spraying of the herbicides. The buffer zone we left you will protect your property.”
“Perfectly safe, that's great, so nothing dies then, right?”
“Yes sir, only broad leaf plants will be affected.”
“Why did your letter advise me to stay away during the day of the spraying?” If it's so safe, I mean.”
“Only, as an extra precaution.”
You see they bring in a helicopter on a flatbed truck, and poison the surrounding earth and hit only their targets. Last time they did this I didn't find berries for three years.
Changing the subject, I say, “Let me get this this straight, it takes 73 years before you harvest your plants. Right?”
“Yessir, that's about right. Why do you ask?
“And if you let Mother Nature do her thing?”
“Ah, that would take 130 years. Our reforestion methods are almost twice as fast.”
He chuckles, embarrassed, when I suggest the possibility that he and his co-workers are going to have a tough time hanging in there for the next harvest.
I add, “I would think most of your stockholders would have trouble lasting that long too.”
“The soil here is ideally suited for this type of regeneration. I am here to assure you that we will do everything we can to safeguard you and your property.”
Sarcastically, “Yeah, right, what wonderful neighbors I have.”
“Good day, sir, I'll be going, now. Please call if you have any questions,” ever so politely.
“Say take somma' these critters with you when you go. Seems I got more than I can handle since your clearcut.”
He looked at me questionly. “Sir.”
“All the chipmonks, squirrels, rabbits, and field mice lost their homes since your harvest.”
He departed without another word.
Under the Clinton administration, the Environmental Protection Agency created the “Roadless Area Conservation Rule,” that restricted road-building and commercial logging
on 58.5 million acres of national forests. Now the Bush administration wants to gut the Clinton-era policy to cater to corporate logging intrerests.
July 16—2004-- I return from a trip downstate.
Entering the clearcut from the north, death greets me. A bleak, black death. Living shrubs
and bushes, green and healthy when I left, lay drooped over, ebony in wilted death. Killed from above by a rotating machine, spewing it's lethal toxins without remorse.
I drive through this eye wrenching sight, swiping at the tears that threaten to impair my ability to steer. Blindly, I drive through the toxic wasteland.
Into the camp lot I charge. Sobbing now, I brake to a halt. I try to muster the anger that will replace the hurt. Only numbness tries to soothe.
And the heron, the shuh-shuh-gah
From her nest among the pine trees
Gave a cry of lamentation
Gave a scream of pain and famine
From the headlands Hiawatha
Sent forth such a wail of anguish
seven long weeks he sat lamenting
he has gone from us forever