Thursday, August 30, 2007

Don't burn my history!

My family called that plant “Wiregrass” and it was used as a sure indication that there was water in the ground year around. It was used to identify where it would be logical to develop a spring-box for water. But, we all knew the other term and we had no reason not to use it, it was aptly descriptive. It has only become offensive in modern times, and I agree with all the reasons, so save your rhetoric! We had a large spring on our family property in Laytonville and we called it “Wiregrass spring”.

The newcomers were instantly offended by our “rough” (polite term) language. The reason that you don’t hear too many old logger stories is that they would have a five x-rating. Racism, sexism, x-rated sign language that goes way, way, beyond “the finger”, nationalism, statism. In fact the best way to describe working in the woods is “nothing was sacred“. Most of the equipment that was used was named after body parts. The language goes so far back that some of the terms are archaic. Has anyone heard of a “Schoolmarm tree”? That’s a tree that has two forks that looks like a naked schoolmarm upside-down. Do you Know what a “Bull-Pr*ck” is? How about a “C*nt-splice”? I apologize to the sensitive, but it gets even more raw. That’s only three expressions, the rest I’ll forgo, because I would only embarrass the sensitive among you. Some of the things in the woods had to be talked about in that fashion, because there was no other terms for them. But, wouldn’t you like to know, with a completely open mind, what it was like to work in the woods back in the fifties?

There is a weed that grows in well used paths, that looks similar to a green doily. That weed is called “Whitemans Footsteps”. it was called that because white men always made trails where ever they walked. The Indians didn’t like to leave trails because they didn’t want people to know where they were, or to follow them. So it was a great source of amusement to the Indians that the white people were that dumb, that they would leave trails. Should we banish that word also while we are burning our legitimate history?

I think that it is more important to preserve our history, and the words that got us to where we are today. I always lose this argument because there are so many pain-in-the-butts out there that take “the high road” and spout that we should just burn our offensive history in deference to sensibility. I always said that; “We can’t judge what happened in history by today’s standards, and to ignore history is to repeat it.”

Wouldn’t it make more sense to allow our children to know these terms and the history of how they became used? And, explain the reasons that they are no longer used, because they have become offensive. “Whitemans footsteps” was a real lesson to me in my youth, the story caused me a lot of thought. I wouldn’t deprive my children that opportunity.

It always distresses me to see us consider “book-burning”, but it distresses me even more when you talk of burning MY history.

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