Our Neighbor’s Logs

We are convinced that the difference between our [present misery] and the happiness we seek lies in a stranger’s pocket. – Doug Pascover’s The Prattler.

I heard the story I’m about to tell many moons ago, from the pulpit of a church in Friday Harbor, in Washington State, USA. The story could have originated in any one of a hundred communities along the rivers and streams of the American Pacific Northwest, down which the logging companies raft their logs to (for example) the great sawmills on the shores of Puget Sound.

The good citizens of this particular community, so the tale begins, had taken to collecting the logs that had broken free from the rafts and washed up along their shoreline, and using them as sources of fuel and lumber.

branded log
branded log
Trouble was, each of these logs bore the brand of the logging company (or the company that had purchased the logs from the loggers). So, technically, each log was property, and, technically, the good citizens should have been returning the logs to the logging company. Or, be guilty of stealing. And, as you probably know, stealing is one of the thou shalt nots of the Big Ten.

Now, a Judeo-Christian theologian of a disputatious turn of mind would likely turn to Leviticus 19:9-10, and start lecturing on the applicability of its provisions to the situation of branded logs washing up on the shoreline of a needy town downstream of its “fields”.

But the preacher that blew into town one fine day didn’t do that. For whatever reason, he bypassed verses 9-10 and went straight to v. 11. “Do not steal.” Upon which subject he preached, his first Sunday behind the pulpit. To loudly-voiced approval by the townsfolk.

So loudly was he acclaimed that he was certain his message had gotten through, and the logging company would soon be getting back its escapees. To his chagrin, he discovered that branded logs were still vanishing from the town’s shores and winding up in stoves and treehouses.

A month later, therefore, he strode to the pulpit and, more powerfully than before, preached “Do not steal.” The acclaim was deafening. The preacher’s fame, already considerable, skyrocketed. His mastery of the Word of God won him a seat at every table in the town, a voice at every debate.

And the logs kept disappearing.

The preacher was amazed. “What part of do not don’t these people understand?” He resolved that he would try once more, and this time, he would make sure that the good citizens got his message.

The fateful Sunday arrived, and he declaimed, with all the homilectical skill and emotional force at his command, “Do not steal other people’s logs.”

The next morning, the preacher was riding one of those logs downstream, wearing nothing but a coat of tar and feathers.

He eventually settled down and raised a large family. His children migrated far and wide.

But they gained their greatest fame in California. Where they preached how state budgets could not be balanced unless each citizen shared the burden of increased taxes and trimmed services, unless all citizens stopped taking anything they could grab from the stream of state spending and “returned the branded logs”.

And they suffered their father’s fate.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.


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