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Spruced Up And Lookin’ In Me Prime

Christopher Cooper

The young woodcutter soon enough paid in the currency of public humiliation for the great feast of laughter he and his brother and their older-but-no-wiser troop leader had enjoyed when, just as a car appeared around the corner, there at the edge of the ditch, in the full and revealing light of a brilliant late April morning, I suddenly mounted him as though we were salamanders in a vernal pool, clasping and squeezing his body even as he squealed and squirmed and would have run away into the woods had I not exercised the tenacity and wiliness with which Providence so often sees fit to equip the experienced that they may overcome the admittedly greater strength of youth so as to instruct those leaders of tomorrow's world in proper behavior and right thinking.

You may picture as you are able and can tolerate the vile filmstrip your thoughts unspool, with what vigor I drove home my superior understanding of the finer points of our recent discussion, and how wildly and futilely the young man sought to escape the logic of my penetrating arguments. The consensus among the several sawmen, brush-draggers, chipper-feeders, and the excavator operator (perhaps the lone respectable businessman among the loose confederation assembled, and even he not necessarily someone you'd be comfortable eating next to at the counter at Moody's Diner) was that I had well made my point. No one thought to inquire if the motorists had enjoyed our spectacle.

Road Commissioner Trask, having inherited his father's delight in making a small hurt sink deeper and last longer (as well as all of the old man's municipal titles) warned the object of my instruction: "You guys want to watch out for Cooper-he could put you in the newspaper!" And so, if my allusions and allegations withstand the objections of my stern and unforgiving editor and her advisory committee on moral rectitude, I shall.

Because the rain falls and the sun shines and God has instituted among plants the miracle of photosynthesis, trees grow. And when they grow adjacent the roads of our town they shade and restrict and corrupt the full, free and safe passage of motor traffic, and this, as President George Herbert Walker Bush said about a less material matter, "Will. Not. Stand." So Commissioner Trask The Younger (and now sadly the only, his dad. having moved on to run a road crew beyond the River Styx, where the hot top is always hot and he can bulldoze sinners aside as casually as he once plowed down mailboxes), hired (he, the son) a cutting crew.

Our spiritual leader was the redoubtable Herman Lovejoy, bringing more years of woods experience into camp than our two youngest members had amassed years of living between them. They, the boys, twins so alike I cannot be sure which of them I molested in paragraph one, gave us enthusiasm and an image of how we ourselves might have appeared long ago, before mistakes and bad judgments and wrong turns ruined our lives and health and prospects for regular employment. Commissioner Trask chose our work site (The Rabbit Path, starting at the Dresden line) and cursed us as Kipling cursed poor old grinnin', gruntin' Gunga Din, though he knew better than to belt and flay us. David Seigars, just elected selectman, was comfortable working with Fire Chief Trask in the AVFD, although perhaps as yet slightly uncomfortable associating with him in the loftier realm of the town office complex. I am as capable a stem and branch handler as I am essayist. And Jon Bardo and his excavator pushed over the difficult trees and fed whole logs into the fourteen inch chipper, taking so much of the work load as to afford the rest of us ample time for jocularity and nature study and consideration of current events.

The most current (and alarming) event in the minds of the three employees who remember neither the Tet Offensive nor the Summer of Love turned out to be the possibility that gay marriage might take hold in Maine as it has in Iowa.

You've heard the arguments: When men are allowed to marry men, "The Family As We Know It" will be irrevocably undermined. A wedding with two brides will likewise ruin "The Traditional Family." Worse, when homosexual persons of whatever sex stand before a judge or notary and proclaim their intentions to love and honor until Death intervenes, one often hears, the courts will be forced to honor marriages between men and dogs. Given the high rate of divorce and the number of enduring but unhappy marriages in the land, and knowing something of the constancy and devotion of dogs, I wonder how this would be a bad thing. (And a dog will eat cheap dry food from a bag, unwarmed, and like it, never expecting a night out for dinner. In the unlikely event your chosen proves to be growly and disagreeable, a decade or so should set matters right-you'll simply outlive the bitch.)

State Representative Philip Curtis, a Republican from Madison, testified that "we will become a society governed by man rather than a righteous, holy God." To this statement those of us who have some small acquaintance with the Constitution might only add, Amen.

But that's the corner our Republican party has pretty much wedged itself into these days, isn't it? Not enough God in our courthouses and schools. Too much love and commitment among the wrong sorts of citizens.

My brush chipping friends, as we sat on a poplar log, shoulder to shoulder, thigh against thigh, exchanging opinions on the desirability of passing drivers (female), did not degrade themselves with arguments invoking God's plan for man or the inevitability of cross-species matrimony. They simply, clearly, and most vulgarly said how icky they found the prospect of sex with a man. And so, truth to tell, do I, although I recognize that there are a great many men who would find me to their liking, and some have even told me so. On the other hand, I've only, in my whole life, met one man who didn't salivate at the idea of a couple of attractive women enjoying each other, and he died recently, so perhaps there are now none so conflicted.

But let every man who wants a man marry one, every woman whose proposal is agreed to wed her female lover, let a thousand thousand gay couples in perverted, ungodly California, socialist Vermont and heartland Iowa say "I do", let our timid governor sign the bill making it so in Maine (this being by no means certain-he's a Democrat after all, a member of a party long unaccustomed to taking a stand or doing the right thing) and the Rockies will not crumble, Gibraltar will erode at its historic rate, and neither I nor any man I know will ever wed a dog. It just ruins them for hunting.

Let me say now a few words in support of my own representative, Mr. Leslie Fossel, as newly elected as Selectman Seigars. He has introduced a bill that would effect all the privileges and legalities of marriage without applying the term marriage. He says he believes this would reduce the objections from the defenders of traditional marriage camp. I doubt it, but let's say it might. So then we'd have stopped just short (or, if you're gay, perhaps considerably short) of full equality to preserve the tender sensibilities of some persons who perhaps spend just a little too much time wallowing in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

I do think my neighbor's bill is offered with the best of intentions, but I hope the legislators realize the time is behind us now for partial measures. We need to do this, whether it brings us good feelings or mixed, gives us great joy or the crawling heebie-jeebies, and blame our failed marriages on the fact that, as the great Ogden Nash succinctly said, "He's a sot and she's a shrew."

But I heard Les Fossel on the radio last week say to anyone listening, "I'm a liberal Republican" When, I ask you, has any member of either party been forthright and unafraid enough to say he or she was a liberal? Every person of whatever sexual proclivity in Maine can take renewed hope from that. I've had too many years of craven fools like Harry Reid running from the hint of possible contact with the words liberal, a good and proper word and a point of view most Americans agree with, when they shut off Rush Limbaugh long enough to think for themselves.

If the Catholics and the Pentacostalists won't perform gay marriages, the Unitarians will welcome the chance. No religions will unravel, no solid families dissolve, no tear appear in the fabric of the universe.

And I, inveterate heterosexual, liberal, atheist, vegetarian, iconoclast part-time essayist and occasional road gang worker, shall continue to hump the unwary young men who wear their nervousness so openly and proclaim their certainties so loudly, just because it feels good to so profoundly affect one's fellows, to make them recoil perhaps, but also eventually to think. And thinking, considerable efforts by the Republican party to outlaw it and the Democrats to avoid it notwithstanding, is still our right, our privilege, and our solemn duty. This I believe. So help me God.

Did you ever see a thirty foot hemlock tree stuffed whole, butt end first into a chipper? It is a beautiful, awe-inspiring sight. Any man, gay or straight, must be moved by the fierce beauty of such loud and violent destruction.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Mr. Cooper believes that while only God (or several billion years of evolution) can make a tree, a couple guys with a Morebark chipper can pretty quickly turn one into mulch. He will read your thoughts on tree grinding, homosexual marriages and  the suitability of dogs as wives at  And although he suspects he does not often enough tell her so, he appreciates the leeway Editor Gibbs gives him in slipping his condemnations of the conventional wisdom and pretty much everybody's version of god into his lengthy bucolic essays.

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