Thank God for 5-year-old Carver and his gift Baby Yoda to the yellow-shirt firefighters working so hard to save trees, save homes, save lives and whole communities from the devastation of recent forest fires, as reported by Pamplin Media Group last week. Maybe for a moment the air got easier to breathe with a green-clad friend with monstrous ears, with a note from a sweet little soul who knew just what he had to do, where Yoda needed to go and help.
And who's to say that little stuffed being filled with 5-year-old love didn't actually turn back flames, or bestow superpowers on someone, the man or woman wielding those long-barred Stihl chainsaws, the tools that can get so heavy after hours of hard work, when weary arms and muscles can become too tired and dangerous in the heat of a forest in flames?
For the last two weeks I watched that red line on the evacuation map swallow up Colton and Molalla and my beloved Beavercreek Road, my home for 23 years. I was worried sick. And then I read about the brigade that rose up off the farms and out of the forests of Molalla, where only the tiny local firehouse and a handful of volunteer firemen were on hand to try to save the small town. Fire crews were busy working on other fires raging elsewhere, so the locals came out to save themselves, the town with one lone bar and the huge white stallion rearing up over the door, balls and all, the town where I bought my own Stihl chainsaw from Dan's saw shop in the mid '90s to clear trails and cut up firewood, the town where the grandma made tasty perfect-crusted pies in the old restaurant, the place where all the walls were lined with bronc and bull riders, sequined queens and princesses, and barrel racers from the Molalla Buckeroo, foggy shots everywhere from the 1920s and '30s clear up to more recent riders, ropers, mostly locals with a few out-of-town hotshots thrown in. It was the rodeo I watched for many summers when I lived out there in their midst. I still have a great felt cowboy hat I bought at the Buckeroo, but it seems I never wear it in Portland. I only wore it once a year in Molalla at the rodeo, but that hat is never going to Goodwill. My chainsaw and tractor and tiller are all long gone, but that cowboy hat is going nowhere.
So it was with some lingering pride that I read about my former neighbors, the woman clearing a fire line with her bulldozer, those guys in their logging shirts, white with thin vertical blue stripes, often covering big bellies, like that guy who tucked Yoda inside his shirt for safekeeping, possibly his own as well as protecting the green-like-trees mascot. These were all people well known to each other, one guy calling another and asking to meet up where another neighbor shot a buck the year before. They are that familiar.
I get those folks out there, hard-working, down-to-earth ethics, even if our politics could not be more opposite, but maybe we were a good example in my time there, how people with very different beliefs and voting records could still love and admire that grandma's pie and a smooth, well-running chainsaw. I had a Tawanda bumper sticker on the rear window of my old beat-up '66 Chevy pickup truck, knowing full well that the gun-rack guys in big four-wheeler trucks could run me off the road if I had "No on 9" signs on Homer, my truck. I did my politicking and protesting in Portland, singing at rallies, marching in Pride parades, but sticking to pie and chainsaws in Molalla.
So I am glad my neighbors and their homes are safe. I know they helped each other trailer horses and cattle and all the multitude of critters that live on the farms and in the homes of Molalla. I admire that community still, even though the forest will never be a crop to me, and Round-Up is not my friend. Maybe we could be a model, though, for finding ways to make peace in the middle of difference. Maybe that little boy, Carver, needs to bring Yoda to D.C. and into the halls of Congress, or carry him up the stairs of that big White House to see if there is any heart there, anyone with a shred of decency who might smile, tuck Yoda in his shirt and look around for what might be possible when people work hard, together, for the common good.
Hey Carver, are you busy?
Former Clackamas County resident Nan Collie is now a resident of Southeast Portland.
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