There’s a reason that Old Men send Young Men into Battle… but, I get ahead of my story….
Among the dramas playing out here is an interesting/frustrating conflict between youth and age, between ‘law’ and experience. I hesitate to write about it, but I am more moved by the humanity involved than I am about the propriety — so I’m going to share the story anyway.
One of our volunteers is now 67 years old. When they were 23 they had just moved into The Big Apple, had taken their first apartment in the Big City and gone out for a walk. Being a hormone driven male, when they came out of their apartment block and saw a couple fine looking women his attention was captured and he walked up to them. This little scene was observed by a local drug pusher who decided to take advantage of a country-bumpkin come to the Big City and he drove over to the 23 year old NYC transplant and ‘invited’ him into the car for a drive. The invite wasn’t all that gentle and our some-day volunteer was forced into the car where he was told that he was going to ride with them while they delivered drugs to several of the Pusher’s clients and that after that the 23-year-old-transplant was GOING TO make the deliveries for the pusher and that was all there was to it. This ultimatum was delivered with the show of multiple guns and much threatening.
When he got clear of the car the young lad thought about this for about 5 seconds and went off in search of the closest constabulary where he explained to the desk sergeant what had happened and asked what to do. He was summarily told that without evidence the Police could do little and did he want to sign a formal complaint and be available to testify against these people?
Our some-day-to-be volunteer didn’t like the sounds of that, he vacated his apartment that same day, (in the end the landlady sold all his furniture too) and ever since he’s been a bit skeptical about how laws are enforced in this wonderful country. I think it not all that surprising that not too long after that he gave up his Big Apple dream and moved to …. you got it … Oregon! And he’s been here 40 years …. you do the math he’s only 67.
Why am I telling this story?
It seems that he is troubled by the neighbors in his campground ‘neighborhood.’ He rules his campground with an iron hand and shortly after taking on his duties there he inadvertently had an only-too-real run-in with someone who lived across the highway from the campground. He was a bit pushy to this person who was just visiting ‘his campground’ but as the run-in proceeded he realized he had not made a friend who was interested in preserving the pristine condition of the campground, but had made an instant enemy — or at least someone who did not much like him.
Fast forward a couple years. The cross the road neighbor goes away for some time on drug charges — arrested by one of our L.E.O.’s. And then he returns. And he’s into and out of the boat landing at the same campground. And our host is aware of his regular presence. And Law Enforcement tells him…. duh… ‘There’s not much we can do without evidence…’
Can you see where this might lead?
Right now we have a scared-to-death volunteer. But does he really have reason for fright? Or is he being paranoid? Or is he making his own nightmare by his chosen behavior; you see he told me just three days ago that without realizing it he had another run-in with the same guy because he did not recognize the guy when wearing different clothing and sporting suddenly lessened facial hair! He was trying to ‘run’ his campground and the neighbor was there doing something …. and next thing you know he was seeing daggers-in-his-eyes from the neighbor.
Now, there’s no denying the fact that the nice old guy (if 67 is old enough to be considered old — in my boat it’s not, but opinions vary) is just trying to be a good campground host.
And there’s no denying that Law Enforcement — who have been getting regular phone calls from our volunteer — are just doing their best to do their job correctly.
But there is a significant difference in how the two participants view the value of life. And I think it is ever thus. There is a reason that OLD men send YOUNG men into battle. The young seem to feel invincible. The median age of these OHV’ers is incredibly young. Their passions are sometimes fueled (and financed) by parents and grandparents who purchase the machines — and perhaps who wish they had the nerve to drive the way their kids drive. But in your teens and twenties and into your thirties most folks are pretty unaware of their own mortality. Unless, of course you’ve just spent time in Iran, or Afghanistan!
And by the time you’ve reached your 60’s you are painfully aware of the fact that life doesn’t go on forever. By age 60 you’d be a rare bird not to have already seen contemporaries precede you in death. By age 60 you have already known a few people who have been seriously hurt in accidents, seriously troubled by life-threatening illness — and life has taken on a much sweeter savor than it had at age 19. It’s a savor made all the sweeter by the fact that there are now things you once did that you might have enjoyed which you can no longer do — or can no longer do as well. And it’s painful, humbling, and frustrating.
I have written that we gave this volunteer an immediate flight-for-life solution… If he is willing to acknowledge how frightened he is there is a place for him to go where he will be safe. To date he has not acted. I have been told by him that he has ‘decided’ that he needs to separate from the Forest — but such conversations can have immediate effect, and they can also mean that something MAY happen in several MONTHS.
However, I’m hoping he doesn’t make up his mind for three weeks because I don’t know what to do about finding a replacement. I spoke to the District Ranger about this a couple weeks ago when the situation was still less volatile. His point of view was that if the fear is great enough to cause the current volunteer to leave that when we recruit a new volunteer we need to fully disclose the circumstances of the last volunteers departure. Sound thinking. But when you think about what that suggests…. just what do you SAY to anyone who applies for that position? I’ll be doggone if I have any idea what to say. I’m glad I will probably not have to be the person to make that decision. I know for sure that with my personality and my mouth that I would probably say TOO MUCH. And if I felt that who ever had made the decision about how much to say had not said enough…. well, you can see where this too is going…..
Life is precious, don’t take needless chances. Yes it is.
You can’t stop living just because of a few minor risks… No you can’t.
But where those too philosophies meet is a very obscure line which we each must draw ourselves. This one has me puzzled. The Forest is a wonderful place. And the Forest belongs to all the citizens — it’s YOUR National Forest just as much as MY National Forest. The idea that not all users of the Forest might to be using it for legal activities sort of slides under the carpet and doesn’t get spoken about. I know people here who keep animals — horses and such — at clearings and compounds within the Forest and abandoned by former mining or logging operations. The property doesn’t belong to them, but no one minds because there’s nothing terribly illegal about letting some horses graze on Forest Service grass and such. But if the same person were growing Marijuana, or operating a prostitution ring or a cock fighting ring the level of tolerance would be different.
I want MY volunteer to be safe. I know what it’s like to have fears for my own safety and I don’t want him living in fear of reprisal for some un-realized offense. But on the other side of the coin — other than his word (which I tend to trust) — there is no hard evidence to indicate that anything untoward is going on. Someone is going to have to make a decision. I suspect it’s not going to be me. I’m glad. But I still want my volunteer to be safe…..
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow. Just think, in a couple weeks I’ll be talking about something other than the Forest. Hooray!
P.S.: Our volunteer has given us a departure date. I’m sad to see him go, but for his own peace of mind this is something he has to do whether or not he’s paranoid and whether or not there’s anything to his fears & observations.