Big Sneaky Burl Elephant



Oh, burl! The L.A. Times has managed to feature Poor Orick in an economic-fallout story and deftly dodge The Answer To Why Has Poor Orick Gone Doggone Belly Up?

No, it isn't the writer's thesis: The slow housing market, which led to the closure of the town's last mill on Oct. 15.

The slowdown is hurting communities throughout Northern California, including tiny Orick, population about 300. Life here in rural Humboldt County is marked by the sudden appearance of a herd of elk in a clearing and gentle tides on the rocky seashore a few minutes outside town.

Many residents have never ventured the 700 miles south to sprawling, smoggy Los Angeles, and don't much care to. Yet their fate is inextricably linked to the construction of subdivisions, apartments and condos in Southern California.

OK, sure, the mill closure's a damned shame for the 48 employees and for the town itself. Devastating, in fact. But it's more the door slamming into the timber industry's backside there than the actual booting that launched it toward the exit.

Come on, you know The Answer To Why Has Poor Orick Gone Doggone Belly Up? Any old-timer will rant you: Redwood National Park. Killed logging, killed beach burl gathering, killed beach fishing, killed beach RV camping, killed town, killed hope. And the town's been living on burl fumes ever since.

So, what, are Orick people finally letting the park off the hook? The story features Ron Barlow, who worked 34 years at the mill.

Barlow is thinking of applying for a job at nearby Redwood National Park, which would keep him out in the woods where he has spent most of his working life. Still, he knows his old company's departure will mean big changes for Orick.

Oh, damn. Not a whiff of irony? Not a single spitting dig at the park? Either the L.A. Times writer really did manage not to get trompled by the elephant in the room, or Orick really has lost all of its spirit.

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