By Jack Cawthon|
I had stopped at one of those quaint diners down in the hills with its
sign blinking "e-t -eer," which the overly educated might interpret as
Latin, or those of lesser learning as a tribute to a football team in
the northern part of the state, but which I knew was "eat beer,"
putting me in the middle range of SAT and IQ scores. He was sitting
there, dressed in the garb of a man who earns his keep in the woods,
with a Stihl professional chainsaw on the table beside him.
Always on the lookout for a story for my thousands of Hur Herald
readers, a trait I learned from the late Jim Comstock, who always
seemed to find interesting characters alongside the road where I find
only dead possums, I sat down and engaged him in conversation.
He said his name was Hershel and that he used to work "fer thet there
company that drives orange trucks," but that he had found better
employment with the "states."
I asked what a man with a chainsaw could do for the state police,
putting my higher education to work in a literal translation of
"states," and he replied "I'm a hash and slash man." That sounded like
food service to me, but he patiently explained to my puzzled look that
he was a professional marijuana logger.
"Some of thet pot shoots up 40, 50 foot, three-foot through at the
stump, he said. "I far up my Stihl, bring 'em down, cut 'em in
joints"-and here he paused to giggle as if to an inside joke-"and the
cops bring in a John Deere skidder and load 'em on log trucks."
He asked if I had seen some of the prices the stuff brings on the
street, like 10 plants worth two million dollars. I admitted that
some of the estimates made by the authorities sounded a little high,
and I had wondered at the time what they had been smoking.
I was curious as to where the harvest ended up. He said he thought
that it went to Japan as the Japanese have a yen for high rises.
Come on. Was Hershel a good old boy putting me on, or was he one of
those college professors trying to experience a different life
As we talked he would occasionally run his tongue over the bar of the
saw, seeming to lick off accumulated debris, a trait I had never
witnessed before in the tree cutters I had known. When I asked about
it, he giggled, a little uncontrollable, I thought, and said he liked
to keep his bar clean, and it saved on "oral."
Hershel began bopping around, but there was no music playing that I
could hear. I had the feeling that he might be dancing to a different
drummer beyond my hearing, a trait often exhibited by punched out
boxers and burned out writers.
I had ordered an extra cup of coffee in the hopes of calming him down
but I had no idea what mixing caffeine with the buzz of the chainsaw
Suddenly, the waitress hurried over and told Hershel that there was a
police cruiser outside waiting for him. "Gotta go," he yelled over
his shoulder, as he grabbed his chainsaw and tore through the doorway.
Out in the parking lot I heard him cry "r-aa-id," the spinning of
tires as the gravel flew, and a high-pitched giggle as the siren
And I hoped that Jim Comstock, where ever he might be, would think I