Monday, November 06, 2006

the town, part 1

The town ran on trees. The men fought in wars. The sons cut the grass. The daughters did the dishes. TV was family entertainment. There were no tits and ass. Old fashioned black and white morality. It snowed hard in the winter, but everyone had a very nice garden.

Though the growing season was short, the gardens were prolific, the gardens were productive. A sizable portion of every back yard devoted to the straight rows of agriculture.

The squash, the sweet corn, the chard.
Cabbage, cucumbers, green beans.
Tomatoes, potatoes, rhubarb.
Zucchini and spinach and greens.

There were apple trees, pear trees, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes sometimes. They made jams and pies and wines and cakes and casseroles canned the rest.

The men hunted. They shot deer and bear and duck and rabbit and geese and squirrels and elk. The occasional woodchuck. They fished for trout and walleye and perch and pike and bass and musky and catfish. They ate most of it.

All the homes were heated by wood stoves. The trees were felled, the logs were split, the cold cast iron boxes glowed a gained red.

The land yielded.

A bountiful harvest.

Skinny and Boots Gorski were typical town folk. Funny nicknames. Right ancestry. Skinny worked in the paper mill. Boots raised the kids.

Skinny Gorski’s parents came from Poland in 1913. Shoemaking was his father’s trade, but in the town he worked at the mill. Just like everyone else. Just like Skinny would. He turned a particular set of valves or threw a particular set of switches or hauled a particular type of load for almost forty years.

The paper mill was like a fat, sweaty, swaying, drunken man squatting over the Clarion river trying to shit; his torso a gigantic, smoking, clunking, sputtering, leaking vacuum cleaner with various complicated attachments erupting from the shoulders where the neck would be; noisily and odiferously slurping the magnificent northern hardwood forest off the Allegheny Plateau. Manuum vacman, model T-4JY98. The trees went into the shredder, the digester, the black liquor, single nip, shoe nip, Larry car, pusher car, two felts, open draw, watch the wet end breaks now boys! Just so long as everyone hauled their load and threw their switches and turned their valves with perfect synchrony a single large tree could span the entire hulking mass of machine: every Saturday evening roots dangled from one end while Norman Rockwell’s sentimental America was posted at the other. A fluid, seamless gradient from rough wood to smooth paper.

The marvels of modern industry.

Terrific technology.

The mill smelled bad. Made the entire town smell like rotten eggs. Sulfurous and lecherous for the tight virgin land. But the oft repeated refrain amongst the good townspeople went a long way to justify their lives amongst the stink: “That’s the smell of money.”

And so the town prospered under the generous but smelly tutelage of the paper mill. Old growth forest stretched south into Maryland, north into New York, west to Lake Erie and east to Wilkes-Barre. Penn’s woods. Still mostly intact here in the hinterlands. It’d take at least a hundred years to use it all up. And by then, well, by then we wouldn’t even need paper anyhow.

And so the town grew. Its citizens were good and productive and friendly and generally na├»ve and uncritical. They were Americans goddamit. All the women were strong, all the men were good looking, and all the children were above average. The boys were Eagle Scouts crammed full of physics. They all went to college to study engineering and chicken breeding. Make a better egg. Before we know it, before we know it there’ll be a colony of humans on the moon, harvesting cheese at their leisure and generally living a very fine life. We already split the atom for Christ’s sake, it’s only a matter of time. So keep them clean cut, crew cuts. Make sure they’re polite. Yes sir. No ma’am. Please mister, I’ll have your daughter home by 10pm. The girls will need a curfew. Better make it 9pm. If we didn’t keep an eye on those little sluts they’d be out fucking the first crew cutted Boy Scout this side of Salamanca, come home pregnant at 15.

Johnsonburg was ripe and lusty.

A busy baby boom.

Boots Gorski’s father was some sort of Swedish. Nordic blue and silver. Her mother was from Tidioute. Native gold and amber. Born on the banks of the Allegheny river. She sold eggs to the raftsmen on their way to Pittsburgh or Cincinnati or Louisville or New Orleans.

The raftsmen rode the trees.


D Hanks said...

Applaud!!! Fantastic!

Pell said...

She's good.

Leigh said...

Are you coming to the New Year's Eve party?

Anonymous said...

Oh, hell yes I'm going to the New Year's Eve party.