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Herb Q. Lees
& the Lumber Company
Sagittarius

Herb Lees was teaching at a public high school and living in Portland, Oregon, and after many years of urban life, was looking to move out into a more remote setting. And there was this parcel of land available in the hills out past nearby Forest Grove where he was thinking of living, but it would require getting electricity hooked up if he really decided to buy the place.

A second, even bigger stumbling block: In the forest along the road, big gouges were leveled where trees had recently been cut and cleared. When Herb had gone to look at the real estate, he noticed there was a lot of garbage dumped on the side of the road leading up to the property: sofas, appliances, tires and the like. Besides the ugly human trash, none of the debris from cutting the trees had been cleaned up.

 

The land itself felt just right ~ great view with plenty of big nature ~ but there was this irritating matter of all the trash and the continued logging that threatened the beauty of the forest surrounding the land.

Herb decided to walk back to where he'd seen the closest neighboring house, up the same dirt road but back a ways, and find out what could be done about all the trash. There was a long driveway and he knocked at the house.

His would-be-neighbor came to answer. Herb introduced himself, and learned from Mr. Murray that the neighboring land, leading up to his property, was owned by the powerful Kentucky-Northwestern Lumber Company.

"They been dumpin’ all kind o’ trash ever since they been cuttin’ down those trees for pulp. Sometimes folks dump on my property too, and I have to go haul it up to the dump m’self."

Herb loved the setting, the view, and the price was right, but he didn’t want to buy the land if the eyesore leading up to it couldn’t be fixed. Determined to find resolution, he looked up the Kentucky-Northwestern Lumber Company. Turned out they were headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky and had only a small regional office in Eugene.

Phoning the regional office wasn’t productive, all they could do was confirm they owned property in Oregon. He then called the main office, and was told by a polite employee that they couldn’t do anything about trash, as they were responsible only for logging there.

He’d figured he would need to go to the local authorities, the county public works department for starters. "That’s private property, Mr. Lees. We aren't responsible for hauling refuge off of people’s personal land."

So he went to the sheriff’s office and spoke to the county prosecutor. "That's the law, Mr. Lees, we can’t do anything unless the county health department reports it as a hazard."

Disgusted by the dead ends and back in Portland, Herb wrote a letter to the lumber company in Kentucky and copied it to the editor of the Beaverton Valley News. He explained the lack of receptivity he’d been met with, and asked Kentucky-Northwestern to clean up their land since it was an eyesore to those who lived nearby as well as irresponsible to the environment in general. When he got the curt reply in writing saying what he’d previously been told by them on the telephone, he sent it on to the paper with a plea for advice on how to proceed.

It just so happened that the underground Earth First organization got wind of Herb’s plight. They had a lot of ongoing beefs with the Kentucky-Northwestern Company, and decided to take this on as their project. This meant an on-site protest, with network newsfolk and TV cameras.

What happened next was one of those media things. As luck would have it, the day of the protest was unusually slow, as news days go, so the major networks picked up the story and ran a long piece featuring protesters screaming in front of the piles of trash.

Back in Lexington, the Kentucky-Northwestern Co. began receiving telephone calls ranging from concerned to irate. Congressman Stan Phelan, who was running for reelection in the Portland district of Oregon, seized onto the news story and called a press conference at the protest site to blast "those outsiders ruining our Oregon."

At the site, Herb wasted no time approaching the congressman. Phelan was himself astonished to see so much disrepair and devastation. He asked his aide to check up on the lumber company's logging permits.

Two days later, Congressmen Phelan phoned Herb Lees with the news that Kentucky-Northwestern hadn’t bothered to renew a single logging permit, so would he please join him for another press conference to tell the media this company was in very hot water and possibly faced millions of dollars in fines.

Herb went ahead and bought the property. By the time escrow closed, Kentucky-Northwestern had lost the adjoining land. The fines added up to more than the total value of their property, so they cut a deal with the state and forfeited their entire deed. Eventually the state converted the scarred land into a beautiful open space nature reserve.

The End

 

Loosely based on the Sagittarius myth from Alice A. Bailey’s book, The Labours of Hercules

 

Click here to read the classical Sagittarius myth and interpretation, from The Labours of Hercules

 

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