Thursday, May 31, 2012
An Invading Army
When I went away, in 1916, it had the look of something ravished and deserted. The Vinton Lumber Company had cut the second-growth pine, the first-growth hemlock, the sugar-maple and, leaving birch and beech as unworthy of attention, had torn up its twenty miles of railroad track and moved into Kentucky. Fires had followed the lumbermen, turning thousands of acres into black meadows where ashes stirred in the breeze like the pollen of infernal flowers. Mine-tipples and culm-banks were toadstools on the bare hills. The poisoned creeks ran orange with sulphur water. It was as if my country had been occupied by an invading army which had wasted the resources of the hills, ravaged the forests with fire and steel, fouled the waters, and now was slowly retiring, without booty.