“the forest is closed” & related hilarity: i can’t make this sh*t up.

This post is dedicated to everyone who prevented natural gas drilling in Moshannon State Forest earlier this month. Pennsylvania needs more people like you.

A few weeks ago, as you may have spotted in the news, a group of Earth First! activists concluded their annual Round River Rendezvous with a grand finale direct action: shutting down a natural gas drilling site in Moshannon State Forest.

Protesters arrived, filled the access road with logs like a bunch of epic beavers, and rigged two people into trees, one of them positioned so that the removal of barricades would result in a 70-foot fall for the tree sitter. Then they calmly fended off the cops all day on one end of the road, and bulldozers on the other, until the cops told them “the forest is closed” (actual quote) and made them leave. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. Here’s another side of the story that I bet you won’t hear anywhere else.

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I’ll start from the beginning. The Rendezvous was a great deal of fun, especially if you like learning about medicinal plants, silkscreening, climbing trees, and various strategies for direct action (this may include, but is not limited to, giving long hugs to people that haven’t showered in 5 days). It’s a great place to meet new people, and they are generally the kind that give a sh*t about what’s happening in the world around them. Oh, and you get to crap in trenches that have been named creative things like “the Haliburton hellhole” or “the Corbett crapper”!

It’s also a place so hell bent on being non-discriminatory and anti-oppression that the atmosphere can actually become oppressive. Allow me to give an example: I’m not used to introducing myself with a pronoun (eg., “my name is Kelly, I prefer female or neutral pronouns”) and then attempting to keep track of the pronouns that others prefer, especially when they are not necessarily the obvious choices. Hell, I can’t even remember names most of the time. And people can get REALLY offended over minor slip ups, like when you call someone a “man” instead of a “male-bodied person”, or any of the other more correct terms that exist for such situations. I found that it’s easier to just keep my mouth shut (the opposite of how I should feel in a place that is supposed to welcome everyone).

And then there’s the security culture. Trying to help someone write a press release when you’re not allowed to know any details of the upcoming events is awesome. Anarchy confuses me.

Anyway, let’s just say that I learned a lot …while walking on eggshells for five days.

This brings us to the morning of the action: After a nearly a week of accidentally offending people, Alex (my carmate/boyfriend) and I departed camp as part of the media team after the majority of Earth First!ers had been deployed. We traveled about ten miles in the dim light of early morning before we encountered a scene that I will be recounting to everyone that I know for years to come.

The gas station in a small Pennsylvania town had become the setting for a tense encounter between the Earth First!ers and the three most impressive rednecks that I have ever seen. We arrived just in time to witness the majority of our badass Earth First! friends fleeing the scene, abandoning the media van, (which ran on veggie oil and had sprung a fuel leak), the poor owner/driver of the media van, and three local rig workers so outrageous that they deserve their own paragraph:

One wore a T-shirt that proudly proclaimed “Boobs make me happy!”, accompanied by a drawing of a woman created by an artist who clearly had never seen boobs. The second fellow was dressed somewhat normally, but was periodically spitting blood onto the ground that he claimed had something to do with his liver. The third guy, I KID YOU NOT, was actually wearing a Ku Klux Klan T-shirt. Thankfully he would remove it later, exposing his confederate flag tattoo. All three were drunk.

From what I understand, upon the failure of the media van, our new friends had popped out of the woodwork in their big red truck (gas workers: the only guys out at 5:30 am) and come to the rescue. They had offended/angered/terrified our sensitive activist friends, who clearly needed the help of some regular Pennsylvanians who could speak both languages. Enter Alex, who, together with the driver of the van, handled the situation in a matter of minutes while dodging Arab and Italian slurs. I lurked around the town looking for auto repair. No luck on a Sunday.

Ultimately our new rig-working friends insisted on following us to our undisclosed destination (need I point out the amazing irony?) to make sure that we got there without running out of fuel. (We didn’t, but at least they got distracted and turned around before too long. They must have seen something shiny… or perhaps boobs).

In the end, we ran out of gas about ten miles outside of that town. We laughed until we cried, called AAA, then documented the KKK shirt, which had been left hanging on the side view mirror of the van, forgotten by its owner. That horror of a T-shirt is no longer of this world, but these photos remain for novelty’s sake.

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7 comments

  1. Gloria

    This is very funny & on a whole host of levels I’ve had very similar experiences. Whether you’re going forwards or backwards in life, it’s a funny trip, right? Loved the report.

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