Chris’s compact pick-up had bounced into a depression of soft sand. No big deal, thought Choker. He returned to his truck and grabbed a length of chain.
“I really appreciate this,” Chris said. “I understand we don’t agree about everything.” He waited a moment. “And I heard about the lay-offs today.”
“Bad news travels fast, like they say.” Choker really wasn’t interested in conversation. “Though, I don’t suspect you consider it bad news.” He lowered himself under the front axle of the small truck and wrapped the chain around it. Chris watched with his hands in his pockets. “It’s not that I’ve got anything against you personally,” the younger man said. “These are different times. If we don’t protect our environment today, it won’t be here for tomorrow. Species will become extinct.”
“Yeah,” Choker shot back, “species like me!” He continued to work at hitching up the two vehicles as fast as possible, wanting to get away from the jerk before his temper got the best of him. “Get in there and steer.”
Chris did as told and with little effort, the F-150 pulled the small rig back onto the road. He craned his neck out the window. “Thanks a lot, can I give you something for your trouble?”
“Damn right,” Choker said, getting out of the pick-up to retrieve his heavy chain. “You can give me my life back. You and your friends from the city can take your flatland ideas back where they came from.”
Chris got out of the truck grabbing his tire iron and jack. “It’s easy to blame me,”
he said. “But I’m not the one who’s destroying spotted owl habitat with a chainsaw. It’s too many years of logging without regard for the environment.”
Choker started seeing red. He wasn’t about to stand there in the dark on a dirt road and debate environmental policy with a snot-nose kid he’d just pulled out of a ditch. “Don’t make me sorry I stopped,” he said and dropped down to unhook the chain from his truck. “I’ve been out there in the woods with those damn owls since before you were born. Don’t even start to give me no lecture about the environment.” In disgust, he dropped the heavy chain on the ground.
Now out of the ditch and more confident, Chris positioned a flashlight to focus on the flat tire. “This isn’t about you. This is about corporate greed. They don’t give a shit about the environmental future. All they want is to clear-cut trees and make money.”
Choker stood tall, in the dark resembling a bear. “Son, this operation has been owned by the same family for nearly a hundred years. You don’t have a clue what you’re talkin’ about. That family has given a paycheck to thousands of other families. They made jobs and a way of life that you and your kind just plain don’t understand! I’m going home before I say or do something that I’ll regret in the morning.” Choker crawled behind the wheel, locking his jaws like a vice grip.
“I appreciate the help,” Chris shouted again. “Especially since you’re apparently blaming me for your bad luck.”
Choker sat there for a moment thinking … bad luck? Bad luck? The layoffs had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with people like him. Choker really wanted to teach this kid a lesson.
He started the big engine and gunned it for effect. He took a deep breath and headed slowly up the road, feeling his blood pressure rise. Even with a few drinks under his belt, he could make mincemeat of that green whiner. And, son-of-a-bitch, he’d left his chain back there on the ground.