Sunday, June 29, 2008


Like ants swarming a hill they scurried past the waiting area, busily moving from one place to another, yet very much like humans they seemed unconcerned with working towards a unified goal and oblivious to the others surrounding them. Only when having to resort to collision avoidance measures would they acknowledge another, and even then in terms of a terse word or a blatant look of disgust. Some understandably were in a hurry to reach a connecting flight and had no desire to deal with the inconvenience of rebooking.

Primarily most appeared firmly focused on business and dressed for success, carrying with them laptops, cell phones, and Blackberries. Twenty years later the means to an end differed, but he could see through the flimsy disguises just as he had then. Stiff collars and power-ties could only go so far in concealing the cutthroat, self-absorbed nature they so embraced. The slow degradation of society had made no miraculous turnaround. Not for even a millisecond did he regret his decision to abruptly severe all ties with such a civilization.

Barry Wienhelm had virtually withdrawn and disappeared from society on July 18, 1988. While working his shift for B & L Logging Corporation it appeared that once again the boss had ordered them into a restricted area of the forest to start clearing. Due to the companies’ huge spurts of growth, the fines for such infractions amounted to little more than a hand-slap. The value of prime, pristine logs that could be extracted proved to easily override the tiny amount scruples that Joey Buford possessed.

Joey was the third-generation “B” in B & L Logging and Barry worked as a team-supervisor that reported directly to him. This arrangement provided for constant tension that Barry could never quite put his finger on. Perhaps Joey’s condescending attitude and lack of respect for any and all rules contributed to his unlikable demeanor. Barry generally had the ability to dismiss his arrogance with a smile, hoping that ‘what comes around goes around’ would soon come, but this particular confrontation started ugly and finished worse. What should have been a discussion regarding business and legality soon degraded into a bout dedicated to personal attacks and eventually into a contest of physical blows.

To this day Barry enjoyed the satisfying thud of his right fist connecting with Joey’s smug, square jaw. Not even the sound of his unconscious body crashing to trailer floor stirred any feelings of regret. However, even Barry realized that in hindsight he should not have fired up the largest bulldozer and either crushed or otherwise debilitated every piece of equipment on site, bringing the operation to a halt for several weeks. Barry could have peacefully protested his employers’ transgressions had he been constructed from different fiber. A cardboard sign just didn’t seem to carry the fury that boiled from within. Barry found the visual impact of a seventy-ton Fiat Allis 31 raging out of control more to his liking.

In the back of his mind, Barry knew the distinct possibility existed that the authorities would someday locate him and bring him back to civilization for prosecution. Although he did take pride in the fact he eluded them for almost twenty years.

With only a few hours separating them Barry already missed his cabin, whose construction required him to fall indigenous pines with only his bare hands and an axe. Those trunks had been stripped by manual means and hewn by hand to fit together perfectly. He missed the serenity of the river, his steadfast companion; a friend which provided fresh fish for his nourishment and more importantly each peaceful morning offered to carry his troubles and frustrations to a destination far downstream.

While it remained fact, Barry had destroyed a few trees in a restricted zone, but the act had been to serve a genuine purpose. Those that had fallen remained on the very same mountainside that had given them birth. In his own mind Barry made a great distinction between creating a shelter for himself from God-given resources and ruthlessly logging vast amounts of acreage in the name of greed under the guise of logging.

The burly officer emerged from the restroom and without speaking a word reached down and unlocked the handcuffs, freeing Barry’s wrist and ankles from the chair. Other than reading his Miranda rights and a brief compliment as to the cabins’ fine construction, Officer Vanderhorn remained a man of few words.


Barry sat calmly aside his public defender as the jury made their way back into the courtroom. These criminal acts had occurred so far in the past it remained difficult for him to summon any remorse. During years of isolation nature served as judge, jury, and executioner. In his mind, had God interpreted the infractions to be serious enough he would have fallen victim to the great predatory wolves or been mauled by an eight-foot tall grizzly looking for a meal. Since none of these forms of natural justice had befallen him, he assumed he had been pardoned.

Judge Harriet Feldman made her predictable announcement.

“All rise as we hear the verdict read for Langerfeld Corporation versus Wienhelm. On the first count how do you find?”

“On the count of destruction of company property with malicious intent, we the jury, find the defendant guilty as charged.”

“And on the second count, how do you find?”

“On the count of first degree manslaughter, we the jury, find the defendant guilty as charged.”

“So says the jury, sentencing will be scheduled for one week from today. Court dismissed.”

Barry’s face showed no emotion. The public defender had dismissed his suggestion that the murder charge could have been refuted as self-defense, but the defender did have a point. It would be difficult proving that a man with a small pocket knife posed a lethal threat to a man wielding a double-bladed axe. Especially considering that Joey had not drawn the pocket knife until a swift blow had severed his right leg at the knee.

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