Saturday, October 13, 2012

Down Among the Dead Men

The past couple of weeks I've been working on a project just inside one of the Olympic National Park areas. It's located on the southeastern edge of the great wilderness, just at the toes of the mountains and close to the inland waterway of Hood Canal.
It's a terrible project, really; the contractor was chosen (as usual) based on their willingness to low-bid the job, and (as usual) this means that everything is cheap and on the down-low.
The work I'm involved in requires this contractor to perform a rather difficult technical task and because said contractor was chosen not on their ability to perform said task speedily and well but (as usual) because they were the cheapest fucker willing to actually bid on the work - several people in their line of work looked at the job and walked away saying that they did not think it was technically possible.
Anyway, the reason I wanted to write this wasn't because of that.
Or because the place we're working is of a monumental and almost frightening beauty, a bit of the old wild lands that has only been superficially tamed; domiciled, not domesticated.

The fierce unwelcomingness of the untamed land is not far from the edge of the works of Man, not far beyond the edge of the trail or outside the light-circle of the camp cabins. The woods are dark, and deep, and they seem to remember the times before the firstcomers ventured up from the strand line eyes wide with the fear of the forests; panic fear, the terror of the gods of the twilight under the boughs.
But this is an illusion.

The land was settled, and logged, generations ago. All along the road north from the central valley, in the little hollows along the great water to the east are the remnants of the little logging towns still lingering on after the great days of the caulks and the timber fellers have passed away.
I have been staying in the little town of Hoodsport, which was so small as to never have even had such days. But not far south is the seat of Mason County, Shelton, which is one of many such here in Washington and Oregon.

If you stay on Railroad Avenue you might mistake the place for a solid little rural community. But venture too far off the main street and you come across the sad remains of what once was; the shuttered shops and sagging little houses long past the day they should have been painted and roofed. The plain brick woodworker's union hall is empty and stares out on the broken street with its glass eyes hollow and haunted at the way of life that has passed away in the last of its lifetime.
The people, too, look a little lost and a little sad; tough men with the slightly dazed look of a defeated fighter who cannot hear the bell, women wary and tired, looking faded and slightly irked as though they have half-heard something that has displeased them mightily.

The pickups are getting old and haven't been replaced with newer models. The clothes are looking slightly dingy and frayed. The only things shiny and new are, viciously, the "Mitt Romney" campaign signs, as if the plutocratic candidate would be caught dead in the dying mill town except to drum up votes and hoo-raw the rubes for pocket change. The locals don't seem to get the irony; they are sincere and rough-edged in their belief that the man with the overseas bank account will be their champion.
Here is unemployment, and disability, social security and Medicare and Medicaid, aid to families with dependent children and food stamps; here is the 47% and they are all voting, it seems, for the man who would ensure that their lives will continue to be pinched by the reality that a man can fell and dismember trees far faster than they can grow tall enough to log.
The nights are growing colder now, and the days clear with the hard crispness of late autumn. Yesterday the first rains of winter fell, and soon the fogs of November will creep up from the cold waters of the Sound and wrap up the dead leaves of October and the summer will have ended, dead as the leaves, faded and brown as the raveled edges of the little towns dying dreaming of a yesterday that never was and a tomorrow that will never return.

6 comments:

basilbeast said...

Beautiful pix, great writing, spiritual if I may say so.

As for the R&R supporters hanging on by their fingernails, we have that too here in central Kansas, "What's the Matter with KS" has its subdivisions everywhere. I don't see much hope for them or my neighbors whether Obama or Rmoney wins next month. But if we have another brutal summer here next year like the last 2, the world will notice.

On topics ancient and mysterious, one puzzle from your area seems to have an answer now.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-kennewick-man-20121011,0,4731328.story

bb

Podunk Paul said...

Beautiful post. I think that working people well understand the contempt both parties have for them. Social beings, we have very delicate antennae where respect or the lack of it is concerned. Not trusting either party, working people either don’t vote or else vote for the smoothest liars.

FDChief said...

The thing is, guys, that while the almost complete-lack-of-substantive-differences-between-the-parties-on-most-foreign-policy-issues flat out infuriates me, there really IS a significant difference between them on domestic issues. Not enough to save these little timber towns - like I said, the simple fact is that the timber companies aren't going to leave enough profits on the table to log the timber tracts they own or lease conservatively enough to allow a steady supply of timber that would keep at least some of these towns alive.

(Mind you, I'm not sure how much of that has to do with our economy's insatiable demand for wood products versus flat-out greed, but YMMV...)

But in terms of slowing their descent back into Gilded Age servitude there IS a difference between the D's and R's, and what makes me sad is seeing these folks all wrapped up in how the GOP is gonna save their guns and preserve little aborted babies and force kids to pray in school and it's completely blinded them to how guys like Romney - hell, Romney himself - are gonna sell their jobs and rape their companies and leave them nothing.

Lisa said...

It is stunning that on the only issues where D & R's differ -- those that will affect the well-being of inhabitants of such areas -- said inhabitants seem utterly clueless.

I cannot understand what appears a willful self-flagellation. Are they so naive as to imagine that when the R's tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they will achieve what they have thus far been unable to achieve?

Is that what religion hath wrought -- a belief in some imaginary savior who will heal what ails you, a savior-as-punishing parent? Is this a form of confessional, where the voters enter the booth to take responsibility for their abjectness?

Like I say, I can't figure it out.

Your last line is poignant:

" ... the raveled edges of the little towns dying dreaming of a yesterday that never was and a tomorrow that will never return."

mike said...

I don't know Hoodsport, but the 6th Congressional district that it is part of votes solidly Democratic. Obama is favored, as well as Maria Cantwell (D) for Senate, and Kilmer (D) for Congress are all heavily favored. Unless of course the polls lie, or the Florida voting machines have been moved to Washington.

So I suspect that the Romney Ryan signs you saw were an anomaly. Hoodsport make most of its money off of tourists so perhaps the signs are from small businessmen Or perhaps from Navy personnel living off base not far from Bangor Sub Base. Now that is a crime also that small businessmen and sailors would vote for Romney. a corporatist and draft dodger. But then he has a 'mighty wurlitzer' working for him to convince small bizmen - and John Lehman, former secdef who is still looking for his 600 ship navy. Lehman btw and them aerospace companies where he is a board member stand to gain significantly if Rom-Ry are elected and adopt his plan

FDChief said...

mike: I don't know about what the locals will do come November, but all the lawn signs were red; I didn't see so much as a peep of an Obama sign or a even many WA State Dems. The saddest had to be this ginormous Romney sign on the nastiest beat-down looking shack on the Rez south of Potlatch. I had to laugh, it was so ridiculous...