Thursday, January 8, 2009


Billy Ray Barnwell here, I saw the strangest thing in Florida recently, or rather I saw three strange things, I was driving along on an interstate highway minding my own business when in the space of a hundred miles I passed not one, not two, but three, count ‘em, three billboards with exactly the same message, a very odd message if you ask me, which you didn’t but I’m just saying, and what those three billboards said was “Reduce the risk of bark beetles: Thin Your Pine Forest” and underneath in little print was which to my feeble mind’s way of thinking ought to mean the Florida Department of Transportation but given the message on the billboard it may mean the Florida Department of Trees, I don’t know if there even is such a thing as the Florida Department of Trees but why would the Florida Department of Transportation be spending good taxpayer money to ask the driving public to reduce the risk of bark beetles in their pine forests anyway, which leads me to my next thought, exactly how many of the hundreds of thousands of drivers driving along interstate highways in Florida each day do you suppose would even own a pine forest, let alone one that needed thinning because of the apparently terrible threat of bark beetles?, well apparently there are enough of them, drivers I mean, not bark beetles, to warrant erecting billboards with exotic and esoteric messages along our public highways, and this was a real eye-opener for me because from the nightly news on the TV a person might conclude that all Floridians live either in those expensive high-rise beachfront condos in Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale or in trailer parks in places like Palatka and Sebring and Tarpon Springs, what exactly is a tarpon anyway? and wherever they live, Floridians I mean, not tarpons, they seem to need more help with interpreting their presidential voting ballots than with thinning their pine forests, and it just makes no sense at all to me for the fl-dot, whoever they are, to go to all the bother and expense of erecting billboards every fifty miles just to embarrass the comparatively few pine forest owners into doing their duty, or maybe the fl-dot folks are trying to drum up enough indignation among the passing motorists that we will march on our seats of government or at least deluge our elected officials with letters and phone calls demanding that something be done about those thoughtless and ignorant owners of pine forests, or maybe the fl-dot folks just sit around all day thinking what kind of idiotic billboard can we put up next? hold the fort, I may be having a satori, you know, one of those Buddhist-type enlightenments where you suddenly know something you didn’t know before, like the sound of one hand clapping for instance, or like the time I met Sam and Clara Medlin, the parents of our pastor’s wife, Jimmie Sue Rathbone, and it came to me all in a flash that if Jimmie Sue ever left Brother Rathbone and went back home to her Mama she would have quit preaching and gone to Medlin, and in my current satori it has suddenly dawned on me why the fl-dot is telling us to thin our pine forests and warning us about those dreadful bark beetles, the reason the fl-dot people want fewer bark beetles is so that there will be more trees so that there will be more lumber so that they can put up even more billboards, but if you try to figure out how thinning your forest ends up giving you more trees you will have a big headache along with your satori, and this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.

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