We were on a roll, and when you’re riding the wave of the rollercoaster, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. I’d been so engrossed with cutting down the billboard, so flushed with the sustain of excitement that I hadn’t been paying attention to what might happen if we were actually apprehended by the cops. I really didn’t believe in my minds of minds we would be caught. Ed Abbey had never been arrested, so of course I thought I wasn’t about to be, either. Still, the sirens jarred me out of my jail-like slumber.
Pot and the Environment
My truck was parked about a mile away on a dirt road. We didn’t dare make a run for it, so we waited, hidden in the trees. I peered out from behind a bough, lit a joint and passed it around, all of us shivering. I wondered about pot and environmentalism. How had the two become entwined? It seemed to me a natural fit, these two bedfellows. The people I hung around with who smoked also talked about the environment, and in a different way than our parents did. Actually, most parents in those days didn’t have conversations about the state of the planet. We, on the other hand, cared about what we called the Rape of the Earth.
I remember vividly, while visiting my home town in Appalachia, the desecration of the land around the coal mines that dotted the hills. I remember the filth of the cities, steel mills fouling the air in and around them, blanketing the streets and turning buildings black from soot. I remember one day my father driving me into Pittsburgh for a doctor’s appointment when I was a teenager. We neared the city and descended into the blackness of the day. Pointing at a gigantic mill belching black smoke, he proclaimed, “Now, look at that, son! Isn’t that a great sight?” Jones and Laughlin Steel Works rose like a dragon, growling, sending fire and brimstone into the air. I imagined each spike on its tail as a smoke stack, adding heat and fire to the sky. A stink like what I thought the dragon would disgorge hovered around me, even when I closed the windows of the car. To put it mildly, I was confused at what my father had said. I turned and asked him why? Why was this so good, fouling the air like this? He answered, because of the jobs. It’s progress, son. He had a point. But at what cost? Look at the mess, I said. I mean, you can hardly breathe! He shrugged and drove on into the bowels of the dirty city, didn’t have an answer to that, but I think he just pushed it back into the recesses of his consciousness and drove on, merrily drove on. Yeah, jobs but no planet left. What the hell? Yeah, that’s right, looked as though we were already there, driving into Purgatory. Didn’t anyone out there, I wondered, realize this? Well, there were some.
Earth Day was hatched from a need for a cleaner environment on March 21, 1969, the first day of Spring. Proposed by peace activist John McConnell (no relation of Mitch, thank god!) in San Francisco, it was sanctioned by the United Nations and proclaimed as such: Earth Day. It is no accident that the environmental movement of the 1970s dovetails with the dates of the 420 Marijuana Festival—Earth day is now celebrated on April 22 annually. Even the Paris Agreement was signed on this day in 2016, which Trump, the talking yam with blueberry jam for brains, is reneging on. Go figure! The 1960s elevated our consciousness and knowledge of pot, along with concerns about our planet. Now, for better or worse, the two go hand in hand. Marijuana is a water-intensive crop, and there are environmental concerns about the water used to sustain these plants. Still, marijuana and the environment are wedded. The problems that must be solved will be more easily attainable, as I’d like to think the pot industry is more environmentally educated—that is, if greed doesn’t interfere.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
The sustain of my Stihl 22-inch barred chainsaw must have traveled far and reached someone’s ears, enough to call the cops at three in the morning. I wished I had a muffler for the machine in my hands, or a silencer. But chainsaws have their own ways, and they are not about to be silenced. Like Ed Abbey and the rest of us. Do not go gentle into that good night. No, not for us.
A Billboard the size of Texas
The billboard in question was a gargantuan edifice, standing on the side of I-25 between Denver and Colorado Springs. Must have been three stories high and as long as a city block. At least, it looked that way to me. I can remember what it was advertising, because it struck my funny bone. It blocked out a section of the Rockies as you drove south, like a piece of the mountains had been wiped out by the toilet paper it was trumpeting. Farts by the wayside, smudging the view.
As far as I could see, there weren’t any houses in the vicinity. This was high chaparral country; desert, rock, moonscape. How could anyone have called the cops? But who was I to question. Informers were everywhere, even out here in the middle of nowhere. Paranoia was footloose and fancy free. The patrol car slowed and came to a halt. A light came on from the side of the car, shining over the billboard. Back and forth. We held our collective breaths, extinguished the joint and waited for the cops to get out and search the area. When I examined the posts, they looked normal. No one could see the cuts unless you were close up. The weight of the billboard kept them in place. The cops certainly couldn’t see them from the side of the road. We waited. Then the cops turned their light off and drove south. We sat down in the dirt and lit another joint. My heart was pounding. We had to leave—it was getting late and the sun would soon be up. I thought maybe we’d come back when it was snowing. Heavy snow would deaden the sound of the machines. Snow was in the forecast for the next couple of days. Yes, time to fight another day. We skedaddled out of there, tails between our legs, the sustain of my ideals keeping me warm.