(Yet Another Appalachian Allegory?)
By a strange set of circumstances, that I refrain from going into here, I was contacted by the representative of a “person” to see if I would do an interview. I was given a list of rules, mostly come alone and in no way shape or form was I to bring a camera or recording device. I was given a compass bearing and an approximate distance to travel from a parking spot in a local State Park on a certain date.
Intrigued by this I agreed to do the interview, at which point I was told by the representative that it would be a good form if I brought a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale and a bag of oranges for the kids. Said “representative” then took off in a swirl of black feathers cawing maniacally. Hmmm…
Being no stranger (yes I know I’m a bit strange as well) to the weirder ways of the woods, I had an idea of where this might be going, so I got the ale and a big bag of Clementine oranges and headed out on the appointed day.
After a long walk through some rather unpleasant underbrush I ended up in a beautiful stand of hardwoods surrounded by old pines.
A deep voice said to me “Hey over here! You bring any beer?”
Surprised, I looked to the sound of the voice and was taken aback a little by the eight foot tall hairy guy beckoning me over to the fallen log he was sitting on. I said “How ya doin” and walked over, (what else could I do at this point, plus my overly large curiosity bump was taking control, perhaps I should check into having it removed).
He stood up as I approached took my hand and shook it vigorously, and said, “Welcome to the forest, I’m Green Oak Leaves Under the Snow, leader of this band, we know who you are, we read your stuff, you can call me Green for short”.
I shook his hand and said “Very pleased to meet you sir”.
He said “No, the pleasure is all mine.”
I could think of nothing else to say, so I said “How ‘bout a beer?”
“YASSS!” Green replied.
So I opened my pack and brought out the six pack of Bigfoot Ale, popped off the caps of two and handed him one.
“Ah yes, the good stuff!” Green exclaimed.
We sat enjoying our beers for awhile and I said “Bigfoot Ale, isn’t that a bit silly?”
“Well they do kinda make it for us, that’s why it’s sometimes hard for you guys to get” Green replied.
“Ah, I see” says I (not really but I went with it anyway).
Green looked at me with a serious look and said “I suppose you are wondering why you are here?”
I said “Well yes, I am a bit curious”.
“How about another beer before we start?” my hairy companion said.
“Sounds good to me” I reply, and popped the caps off two more and handed him one.
Green struck a thoughtful pose, cleared his throat, and said. “Sometimes my people make the choice to talk to one of your people; someone who we think will do the right thing, and not flip out or run screaming when we show up. Every so often we have a strong opinion of what is going on in your world and sometimes we feel we really need to communicate with you. Much of what happens with you guys affects us; we may be very different but we are all in this together.”
“Well, Green, why pick me to talk to, I figure I may have been kinda annoying to you guys over the years.” I say.
Greens reply was, “Well, I will say that has certainly been true over the years, but you should understand that we, at least most of us, enjoy being looked for, you guys are entertainment for many of us and you unknowingly help us to train our young ones. You, in particular we look upon a little fondly as you don’t care if anyone believes you or not, you just look for us out of curiosity and nothing more. Plus your treatment of Princess Yellowspot Longtail Salamanicus1 and the Salamander People speaks highly of your character, and those crazy toads² down along the river think you are the best thing since chocolate covered grubs.”
“I have to say I’m very flattered to be thought of so highly, I just do what I do. I learned pretty early on that everything in our world has value and worth, even if it’s just by being a bad example. How we deal with these things shows that we really are. By ‘we’ I mean all of us creatures out here, we, all of us, are connected”, was my long winded reply.
“That kind of thinking is exactly why we are talking” said Green.
“So how would you like to proceed with our interview?” I ask.
“How’s about you just start asking questions, anything you want, and we’ll go from there? There are some things I can’t answer, the council gave me rules to follow, but let’s see what happens.” He replied, with a twinkle in his eye.
What follows is what we talked about.
Interview with Green Oak Leaves Under the Snow of the Forest People, Spring 2020
TC – “So Green, this is a question for myself, mostly, I’ve always wondered what name do your people like to be collectively known by?”
Green – “We prefer to be called Forest People, that’s what all of the others critters out here in the woods call us and what we call ourselves. We don’t really care for sasquatch, bigfoot, booger or any of those names. We really don’t like the name skunk ape because we don’t smell bad most of the time, and when we do it is a defensive scent used to annoy things with ill intent.”
TC – “You said earlier that you have read my writing before, how, exactly do you do that?”
Green – “On the internet, of course. No, don’t ask. But know that we have a very good grasp of what is going on in your world.”
TC – “This begs the question, why?”
Green – “Well, you said it yourself, we are all connected, and every life has value, no matter what that value might be, whether it is sitting down on a log and having pleasant conversation with a beer to share information, like we’re doing, or serving as a sustainable food resource such as a deer. Your people, though, are a study in contrasts.
“Your bunch has always mostly been this way and it seemed that until lately you guys have been improving and being more mindful of the world we all share. It seems, though, that recently, with your disturbingly partisan politics and the utterly selfish reaction that some of your people are having to the dangerous virus assailing your folk is really quite frightening to us.”
TC – “I already think I know the answer to this but it should be spelled out for some of my readers, why don’t you guys come out of the woods, take your place as citizens, and join in society? Organize yourselves, run for office, and change some things.”
Green – “This is actually a complex answer so I’ll try to keep it simple. The first thing is, we have seen how poorly you folks have treated our friends the Native Americans.³ We really don’t think that we would be treated any differently. Should we jump out from behind a tree and say here we are, we would quickly be shuffled off to a reservation. Poked and prodded by scientists, grudgingly given welfare checks and food stamps, our young would get addicted to video games and alcohol then start robbing liquor stores because they can’t get jobs (being an undesirable minority and all).
“The worst part of all, some of those yahoos you guys elect would see us as a burden on society and do their very best to keep us on the reservation and ignore us. Then you would have that growing segment of willfully ignorant morons that chose to live in constant fear, who can’t get over the stupid idea that someone who is different than themselves must be a ‘lesser’ life form and needs to be controlled and separated from the ‘right thinking people’ for their own good.
“Second, we perform a few functions in the world, and we take these functions very seriously too. We are that bit of the old wildness that is a part of everything, reminding other creatures that not everything is as it appears, nor do they know everything. We are also the bulwark against the dangers of the unseen world that surrounds and influences us at all times. We don’t just hide from you guys, you know.
“So, integrating ourselves into you society is probably not a good idea. Besides we are bigger, stronger, faster, and good at being unnoticed. We would not take to being ‘oppressed’ very well at all. Plus they’d probably make us wear clothes, just not happenin’.”
TC – “Great answer, echoes my thinking exactly except about the clothes thing, I don’t have nearly as much hair as you, ‘nother beer?”
Green – “Oh, yes please!”
TC – “So Green, what message would you and your people convey to us?”
Green – “Mostly pay serious attention to what is going on around yourselves, both locally and globally. It is important that we keep the world healthy for all of our sakes. Don’t submit to fear, face your fears and crush them internally. Constantly fight oppression, injustice, intolerance, and unbridled greed. These things kill more of your kind than any disease or war.
“Make an effort to be good to one another and all living things, cultivate kindness and never be afraid to fight for what you know to be right or to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Know that we will help if we can but the responsibility is on you guys to straighten out your own mess.”
TC – “Thanks Green, many of us know these things, but most of us don’t or simply won’t care. They just want their worthless stuff and baseless opinions. They want someone to tell them what to do and unfortunately the ones they pick to tell them are the ones pushing for their own agenda: oppression, injustice, intolerance, and unbridled greed. You’re right, we need to change this!”
Green – “How ‘bout we stop the interview now, I’ve passed on my message, were both gettin’ a little tipsy, I don’t think either one of us is used to drinking more than one beer at a time at our age.”
So at this point we kicked back and enjoyed each other’s company for awhile. I got out the oranges and was treated to a couple of young Forest People children rolling about eating them. I also met Green’s teenage daughter, Monkey Whistle, who shyly introduced herself and cautiously shook my hand. (I raised my eyebrows about the name, but Green gave me a look and quietly whispered don’t ask).
After a bit I made my farewells, Green and I agreed to meet again soon, to talk some more, and have a few more beers, and work on solving all of the world’s problems.
“Did this really happen?”
Now you may ask yourself “Did this really happen?” I’m not saying one way or the other. But I will say whether Green is a figment of my imagination or not, what he says is true. Should we, as a civilization, suddenly be confronted by the fact that we are not the only kind of humans around what would happen?
I think Green is correct; we would poke and prod them, complain about supporting them, and shuffle them off to a reservation as quickly as possible. All of this without bothering to ask them what they want or how can we get along with each other? We have collectively done this to our own kind plenty of times in the past. I’d certainly like to think we have gotten better at these kinds of situations, but I have very little faith that most of my fellow humans would see it that way.
Oppression, injustice, intolerance, and unbridled greed are very real problems. Frankly at this point it’s truly absurd and somewhat frightening what some folks think is acceptable behavior and turn a blind eye to. They support obviously immoral acts by mentally unstable people because their prejudices and twisted beliefs are catered to. These people are not even close to understanding that they are so easily being controlled and manipulated for nefarious purposes, mostly just plain greed and a desire to control others.
Most of us humans are lazy, not only do these folks want to be told what to do, they want to be told that they are doing ‘righteous’ things whether it is from some absurd faux moral standpoint or based in the manipulation of social media or by selectively pushing religious beliefs to affect secular affairs. Turning religion, no matter what religion it is, into a weapon for controlling others is, in my opinion, about as big a sin as you can commit.
All religions are guilty of this in some aspect. In Christianity, one of the most profound things that Jesus taught was that we should simply love one another. This, on the surface, is a simple idea, yet it is also a highly complex philosophical statement that needs deep thought to understand and it is the true essence of Christianity.
Bring about what the powers-that-be detest: think for yourself, make wise choices, and take care of others, especially those weaker than you. Choose to oppose oppression, intolerance, and unbridled greed. It is much easier for them to control people with hate and prejudice, than it is to support love and kindness to others.
Metaphorically speaking, there really is a guy behind the curtain; tear off that curtain, drag him out kicking and screaming, and hold him accountable.
We’ve all heard that old saw “ignorance is bliss”, but I say ignorance, especially the willful ignorance practiced by so many, is a greater threat to us than anything else going on in the world at this point. Don’t put up with it.
T. Carbaugh, Spring 2020
- The Rescue of Her Royal Highness, Princess Yellowspot Longtail Salamanicus (Or Another Appalachian Animal Allegory) www.186milesproject.org
- The Toads, Another Appalachian Animal Allegory, www.186milesproject.org
- Our poor treatment to each other, especially to indigenous peoples, is well documented throughout history and continues today. In America alone, both in Colonial times and in the United States, Native Americans have been subjected to genocide, forcible removal from their homes, extreme prejudice, and biological warfare, just to name a few things. Native Americans are still persecuted at times by our Federal Government for no real reason.
Don’t forget about the New England witch trials, these were mostly done to make sure independent thinking women were kept in their “proper” place. Also keep in mind that the Spanish Inquisition went on until 1832.
To this you can add the blight of the enslavement of Africans and the denial of African American rights after emancipation, this is a fight that is still going on.
As we move forward into history, we have the denial of the rights of Chinese Americans in the late 19th century. Women’s Sufferance, the horrific Greenwood Massacre, Internment camps for Japanese Americans during WWII. Forced chemical castration for gay men in the 1950’s. Segregation and civil rights abuses to African Americans. The list goes on and on, and continues today as we are protesting (or should be) in large numbers the unimaginable treatment and suffering of African Americans at the hands of many law enforcement officers.
On the world stage in modern times we should never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, Stalin’s Purges, the Cambodian Killing Fields, 9/11, the Taliban’s oppression of women in Afghanistan…that list just keeps growing and growing.
If you want to know more, look it up, though I’ll warn you it can be very, very disturbing.