The passage of thirty years goes unnoticed in the vast wilderness. Time has little authority in such places. When man’s abuse and consumption is absent from its indigenous existence, natural symbiosis ensues. The world spins in harmonious splendor. This tranquility however, is short lived as the reach of man’s progress encompasses further breadth into serenity and gives way to turbulence and decay.
The bright afternoon sun shines down on virgin soil, as majestic pines fall away in succession. The cacophony of revving engines, spinning chainsaw blades and various other twentieth century constructs reverberates in the air. The sweet smell of sap and fresh dew gives way to diesel fuel exhaust and scorched saw dust. Those magnificent specimens of arbor, having weathered storm and strife over hundreds of years, offer little resistance to tungsten carbide blades. They are designed specifically for the demolition and tearing of bark and they are efficient.
Logging foreman Duke Taylor stands amidst the chaos. He barks out order after order, attempting to get his logging crew to operate in the most efficient manner possible. His company, ZeroScape Logging prides itself on speed and efficiency with a smile. The last sentiment, coined by his ex partner before a hostile takeover months back will soon be abandoned under Taylor’s new management. His belief is that if you smile in the forest, no one sees it, so get back to work. With his no holds barred, can do attitude, he forced out much of his competition and gained a strong foothold in these mountains. He has been cutting down trees and the opposition his whole life. Along with knowing the right people and holding leverage over others, he was a force to be reckoned with. It also didn’t hurt that he was 6’4’’ and weighs 265 pounds of solid muscle and gristle. He is as impressive in person as well as on paper, and he knew it.
Duke is overseeing the removal of a particularly large pine. His men cut and gnaw away at it. One worker is meticulous at penetrating the tree in specific locations, essentially punching holes, weakening the tree’s structure. The other goes full beast mode at it, splintering the hardened inner most portion. The goal, to buckle the base of the tree so it leans and falls into a predetermined area without incident. But as in life, the unexpected always occurs. The mammoth tree begins to lean in the direction of the Duke’s mobile office unit a few hundred feet away.
“Damn it boys… you’re gonna lose her”, yells Duke as he races to the mobile office trailer.
The boys, his workers, are a mixture of locals from the town, a handful of Natives from the nearby Reservation and a few walk-ons from a temp agency. When the season picks up after the snow melts, demand is high and the seasonal tree jockeys show up looking for beer money.
Duke reaches the office unit and throws open a large storage container that sits just outside its entrance. Stored inside the case is a grappler gun. It’s a large powerful compressed air harpoon-like device that the men use to tether a rope to a tree. Duke grabs it up along with the compressor hose and runs back towards the teetering tree. The workers struggle with the tree, its base snapping and splitting under its own sheer magnitude. Duke fastens the grappler hose to a near compressor and readies himself to shoot. From a squatted position he aims the harpoon upwards towards the canopy of the tree some 40 feet up.
“Take this you son of a b***h!” he bellows.
From an explosive blast, the tethered harpoon arrow soars high into the air. It strikes the tree dead center just below the first set of branches. The blade pierces the thick trunk of the tree with a huge thud, fracturing the dry cracked facade. Grasping the tied off rope from the grappler, Duke pulls it over his shoulder and locks it down under his opposite arm.
“Push Dammit… Push!” He shouts.
He runs in the direction opposite the trailer unit and forces the tree, under his direction and sheer will to follow. His men assist and push the tree as best they can. Pulling with all his might the tree submits, and plummets towards Duke. The tree’s immense shadow engulfs him. Dwarfed by the giant Redwood, he never felt so inadequate.
It falls heavily under its own weight into a dense area of timber. Slamming into the ground wiping out numerous smaller pines and various other growth, it misses Duke. He is able to dive out of the way just as it impacts the earth. As the dust settles, unnatural rock formations of the ancient Penutian forefathers burial grounds come slowly into focus.
The Penutian tribal workers still active in their ancestry immediately stop working upon the discovery of the site. They stand in awe of this century old hidden site, confused as to why it was lost from the teachings of their history. They kneel and begin to pray. A few in the native tongue to the fathers of their land, others to the Lord God Almighty.
Joseph, a large well built lumberjack, in his late twenties, a Penutian Indian by ancestry, yet more modern in his dress, behavior and traditions, rises from his penitent position closest to the ruins. His wardrobe reflects the youth of present day influence, but he still displays the traditional Indian jewelry and body markings signifying his tribe. He steps forward to meet Duke who his weaving through his now interrupted and invaluable crew.
Despite his sheer size, Joseph approaches Duke as a child might approach the principle when called into the middle school office. Having learned at an early age that he was often not treated with sincerity due to being viewed as intimidating, he would often have to consciously make himself appear to be meek, so those he dealt with would not immediately shut down.
“We must not disturb this ground, for it is a sacred area to my people.” Joseph humbles himself to Duke by bringing his clasped hands to his lips in supplication.
Duke takes an even closer step towards Joseph, getting right up in his face. Joseph takes an acquiescing step backward in return.
“Sacred my a*s! The only damn thing I’m paying you for is your labor, not your opinion, not a history lesson or any other Indian mumbo-jumbo. So shut up, get back to work and clear that tree. We need to get into that zone.”
Duke deliberately and forcefully bumps Joseph as he walks past in a testosterone fueled attempt to display his physical and influential superiority over Joseph. The attempt is null. The mountain of a man does not move.
Duke continues his tirade on the other men, as his attempt at physical domination has just taken a hit to his ego.
“That goes for the rest of you as well.”
Duke grabs a few of the “more” untraditional workers from under the arms and hoists them from their squatted position.
“Every G******n thing in this world is sacred to you people.” Duke tosses his ballcap into the dirt and begins herding the men forward into the clearing.
“I warn you. If you don’t stop, there will be much to pay for.” Joseph’s voice rises in tone and directness. His demeanor begins to change as pride begins to stoke dry kindling in the furnace of his gut.
Duke lumbers back to where Joseph stands in defiance.
“Are you threatening me boy? Please tell me you’re threatening me!”
Remaining collected, Joseph enrages Duke by not succumbing to a proportionate volatile temperament in response.
“Not a threat. No. But a promise. Serious actions lend way to serious consequences, and from those actions, payment must be made. I don’t think you understand the price you will…”
Joseph’s soliloquy is interrupted by the loud blaring sound of a chainsaw. Duke grabbed one from the ground, not with the intention of cutting the man, but of shredding his inciting words. Reving it louder, the more Joseph continued, Duke won the battle, as Joseph finally gives up, throwing his work gloves to the dirt and walks off. Following him are a dozen or so of the older natives. The younger natives, less traditional in the old ways stay back, considering the paychecks they rely on to makes end meet.
Arriving by patrol car is Sheriff John Packard with Mr. Greyfox as his passenger. Sheriff Packard, having recently moved to Silver Falls less than a year prior, stands out amongst the weathered and persevering men of the mountains. His work, having come from numerous decades on the streets of Los Angeles followed by a eighteen month stint desk bound due to an incident on the job, had softened the normally hardened cop. The last three years had hit him hard. He often questioned what he was still doing on the job and if he made a difference to anyone. He was nothing more than a washed up cop, holding on to the last bit of integrity he had in law enforcement, in a quiet logging town where his services were never needed and often not appreciated. Arriving with Sheriff Packard is the town elder, Mr. Greyfox, one of the oldest living Penutian Natives in the area. Time and wisdom had taken its toll on the 70 year old man. Spending most of his years amongst the pines and nature of this land, living and breathing its life force, he had coalesced seamlessly with his surroundings. He is as well known to the deer, bear and squirrel that habitat these lands as to the people of the town. They refer to him as the old wise one and hold him in high regards in the community. He is from the original descendants of the Native Council which has owned much of the land they stand on now.
Mr. Greyfox approaches Duke and hands him a manilla envelope.
“What the hell is this?” Duke questions as he fumbles with trying to open the parcel.
Sheriff Packard motions with his hands the proper way to open the sealed envelope.
“You just take that little red string, and unravel it.” He explains.
“What string?” Duke questions, examining the envelope.
Pointing to the little cream colored spool, Packard motions. Duke finds the little red string and twirls it until it disappears through his fat calloused fingers.
“Yes that one, but unravel it the other direction.”
Duke’s left eye begins to twitch, agitated by the stoppages and interruption of his job. He tears into the envelope and retrieves the documents inside. Packard shrugs his shoulders in disfavor.
“This is a court order mandating you stop work immediately. I’m here to make sure that you do not overstep your boundaries.” Mr. Greyfox explains to Duke in an amiable soft-spoken manner.
“I don’t recognize your authority in this matter old timer.” Duke responds. He resorts to his typical intimidating reflex of approaching an individual and invading their comfort zone. He takes the court papers and shoves them into Grey Fox’s chest, where they crumble and fall to the softened muddy earth at the pairs feet. Sheriff Packard bounds and forces himself between the two men.
“Don’t be taking their side Sheriff, remember who you work for!” Duke demands his position, loud enough for the others nearby to hear his assertion.
Much of Duke’s rise to dominance in the logging business came from his uncanny ability to persuade people his inferior, to follow him without hesitation, and without question. He would lead them to success in whatever form he promised them. Much as in a court proceeding, the comment can be redacted, stricken from the record. It can be found to be inciteful by a Judge or a Lawyer, but once heard can never be fully ignored by the jury. Duke operated in these such ways as well. His men heard him talk with superiority to Sheriff Packard, even if he would soon make amends in secret. Sheriff Packard was no fool though. He recognized the game, but he wasn’t playing.
“Back off Duke! I certainly don’t work for you. I’m here to keep the peace, not take sides.”
Recognizing his opportunity to leave as the other two men hashed out who was in charge, Mr. Grey Fox walks from the logging site. He accomplished serving the court orders to Duke, even though they now lay half soaked in the dank mud. He also managed to piss off the remaining workers, as he disrupted work and possibly cost them all a day’s work. Should Duke follow the court mandate, though the chance of that possibility was slim, they could lose the whole season.
As the remaining workers use the downtime to rest, sitting in the shade of the large evergreens, enjoying the cool crisp air that blows down the slope of the mountain, Duke and Packard continue to argue the validity of the court papers.
“Hey John, what the hell is all this s**t anyhow? These areas are supposed to be researched and flagged by the government so I don’t have to deal with these stoppages. You know how much this is going to cost me, to relocate and start up again?”
Dukes demeanor has completely changed, choosing a casual buddy buddy approach now that his audience has grown tired of the show and are pre-occupied with catching some rest before set back to work.
“Look Duke, some overpaid bureaucrat dropped the ball on this one, but nevertheless it’s all legal, so you have to stop immediately, or i’ll be forced to arrest and hold you, and get a whole another crew up here to impound your equipment…. I don’t want all that work.”
“We’ll see about that Sheriff!” Duke bellows, shoving the court papers into the mud with the heel of his boot.
“I’m serious. Don’t make this an issue. Your work here ends now.”
Turning, Sheriff Packard walks off towards his truck. A shadow catches his eye amongst the trees. An uneasy feeling comes over him. Had he been back in Los Angeles back in the day, when he was most happy and proud, excited about what he was accomplishing, he would have acted on his instincts and investigated that what was pricking at his attention, but he was no longer that young cop, he no longer cared.
The sun begins to set in the valley far below. Darkness falls over the area like a blanket, shrouding all that wasn’t already in the shadowy grasp of pines. A whole new level of isolating tenebrosity ensues, concealing the large presence that witnessed the uncovering of the burial grounds and the commotion that followed. The moons soft silky glow replaces the reddish blaze of the setting sun. A pair of black dead eyes stare from forests edge.