It’s Business Just the Same

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(c) 2010 W. A. Kostelec

There were fires in the forest in the Summer of 1910
The biggest forest fire ever and it killed a hundred men
A hundred years later We don’t know the dead mens’ names
But down in the towns and cities, it’s business just the same

The drought had dried the forests from the needle tips to the ground
And smoke rolled in like a fog bank with a panicked hissing sound
Black soldiers formed their blue lines to try to save the white man’s town
While city fathers crowded the last train as hot embers were raining down

The train was lurching forward and the train was lurching back
Trying to find a way out with the townsfolk on its back
Up ahead the bridge was burning the rails were red upon the track
Eyes watering in the smoke that wasn’t coming from the Stack

Pulaski was the assistant ranger with no ivy league degree
A good man in the forest though, that’s what they all could see
Both the rangers and the town folks on him they did agree
As solid as the forest floor as sturdy as a tree

He put his tools in his pack he was a working man
He gathered up his fire crew from whoever was on hand
He turned his back to his wife and daughter; there were tears in his eyes
But there was fire on the mountain and smoke was in the sky

In little Taft they drank in their taverns and gambled in their saloons
The whores worried at their windows when the darkness fell at Noon
They poured down whisky like it was water but it could not break the gloom
Nor quench the Devil’s flames that telegraphed their Doom

Then from the South came a Palouser, a mighty rolling wind
It fed the little fires and they fed it back again
Rushing ever faster Fire upon fire and flame upon flame
Till it smashed its way through the forests like a white hot hurricane

Pulaski saw it coming and his crew saw it as well
He led them down a rocky slope as the forest turned to Hell
A raging screaming demon horde of fire heat and sound
Pine tops exploding over head flames leaping from dry ground

One man could go no further he called out to them in vain
Cursing them all even as his skin burst out in flames
Pulaski was looking for a miner’s cave, a hole for the crew to hide
At a last chance miners tunnel he forced them all inside

That greedy fire sucked out the air as they lay face down in the cave
Pulaski blocked the exit— his revolver drawn his men to save
Panic turned to resignation as one by one they fell to faint
Even the big man fell hands and face blistered in the flames

And then the big fire left them it had taken all that it could find
Its appetite for destruction left the blackened world of death behind
The crew crawled out from their common coffin their leader burned and blind
Stumbling down to Wallace leaving their dead behind

Wicked Taft was left in ashes but Avery still remained
Wallace was a shell of itself: Half had gone up in the flames
Hundreds of the men had gone missing and a lot of them were dead
A heroic battle against the firestorm that’s what the Eastern papers said

In the days and weeks that followed the dead were buried where they lay
Heroes turned out of hospitals because they could not pay
City Fathers rebuilt their mansions: there was still silver in the hills
Half-blind Pulaski went back to work: He had to pay his bills

There were fires in the forest in the Summer of 1910
The biggest forest fire ever and it killed a hundred men
A hundred years later the Dead still have no names
But down in the towns and cities It’s business just the same.

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