Timberati on the Graveyard Shift Draft #1

Lee Lofland over at the Graveyard Shift has asked if I’d like to do a guest column. Lee’s a retired detective who’s “solved cases in areas including narcotics, homicide, rape, murder-for-hire, robbery, and ritualistic and occult crimes. He worked as an undercover officer for several jurisdictions, and he even spent a few years as a narcotics K-9 handler.” He’s written a first-rate book on police procedure, Police Procedure and Investigation, that I turn to when I want to make sure I’m in the ballpark with my descriptions.

Below is a first draft. I want comments.


For 35 years, I worked amid the chaos of life and death competition where only the strong and cunning survived.

Did I mention? We rarely wear body armor or pack our weapons.

Did I mention? We rarely wear body armor or pack our weapons.

It’s a place where no mercy is given, a place where no remorse is ever displayed, and a place where greed is the norm. Some of those where I worked plot overthrow of the status quo, then amid the scorched earth, move in, taking advantage of the devastation they helped create. Once in place, they create conditions for another catastrophe. Others insinuate themselves into the mix while siphoning off resources, biding their time, waiting for those above to die off so then they can takeover the top spots. Some poison competitors. Everyone uses the carcasses of the former inhabitants without regard.

And those are just the plants. Toss in people and you have a really interesting mix.

Makes ecology and forestry look a bit more intriguing doesn’t it?

The Dark Woods

The Dark Woods

What I wrote about the forest is all true. Plants exhibit survival strategies. Each order, family, genus, species, and variety has a way to survive and reproduce. Like the climate and weather, nothing in nature remains static.

In the Hero’s Journey, entering the (mythological) “woods” symbolized leaving the familiar and fully committing to the adventure. This part of the myth is called “the Initiation.” It is during the initiation the hero meets allies and enemies. I met both in my work in the forest.

I have been a forester all my adult life. My career started in 1973 with a summer job working for the (then) California Division of Forestry (CDF) on Mountain Home State Forest (MHSF) in the southern Sierra Nevada. I was hired on a permanent basis with the Forestry Division of Los Angeles County’s Fire Department for a couple years, and then returned to CDF (now the Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection, a/k/a Cal-Fire) in 1977. I returned to MHSF in 1979. Since it was so far from any sheriff’s response, the full-time staff handled basic law enforcement. I went through our department’s Peace Officer Academy, which is certified by California’s Commission on Peace Officer’s Standards and Training (POST). When I was sworn in, I was bestowed with the same duties and privileges of any peace officer in California. I have training in all the usual evidence gathering and enforcement procedure given to police, plus wildland fire and structure fire investigation, forest practice rule enforcement, wildland fire behavior, silviculture, forest mensuration, wood technology, etc.

But, my bona fides don’t float my boat like what goes on the woods; I just happen to have worked for a regulatory agency that tries to enforce the laws of man to keep the laws of nature from going too far off the rails.

In Humboldt County, a friend of mine was walking a skid road (a path along which logs have been dragged by equipment) checking to make sure the erosion control measures were correctly installed. A man with an assault rifle walked out from behind a tree, poked his index finger into my friend’s badge and said, “the shiny badge looked awfully tempting in my sights.”

If Lee invites me back we can talk about Cal-Fire, forestry, the logging controversy the Boy Scouts seem to be involved with, or anything you like. And, while I have checked guys with guns who claim to be hunting, I’m not a fish and game guy. Game wardens are truly crazy.

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Well, is it good enough?

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