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Gaian Hero Twilly Cannon and the Origins of the Ruckus Society

Twilly

Back in 1995, things were looking bleak for the Northwest Forests. The pro-logging, exempt from all environmental laws, Salvage Rider was signed by Bill Clinton and tens of thousands of acres of Ancient Forests were suddenly at risk.

In response, Mike Roselle and Twilly Cannon decided that there should be an Action Camp where young activists would be trained in all the Non-violent Civil Disobedience and paper monkey-wrenching tools necessary to fight against it and other abominations. Between them Mike and Twilly were involved in most of the creative 20th Century Greenpeace and Earth First! non-violent CD actions you’ve ever heard about and then some. The great Civil Liberties attorney Lauren Regan once noted, “The truest test of an activist is how well they prepare for others to follow them.”

The fellas sought a Permit from the Forest Service to hold a “Forest Education Camp” over the July Fourth week. The Forest Service assumed it was a bunch of bird-watching butterfly advocates or some such and gave the Permit for the site: an old staging area from past logging that was right on the boundary of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area of the Willamette National Forest.

The site along the South Breitenbush Wild and Scenic River had also been the site of seven Concerts in the Forest in the 1980s that grassroots activists put on to draw attention to the on-going Ancient Forest liquidation in the area. The Detroit Ranger District where it was held was Ground Zero in the Ancient Forest Campaign – the peak area of such forests like those at nearby Opal Creek and it was the District cutting more volume of timber (125 million board feet per year) than any other District in the 48 states for 12 years straight.

Roselle laid down the rules – all work for the first five days and “absolutely no sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya.”

After the work week, it was finally time to play. The Full Moon rose over Pahtoo (Mt Jefferson) behind a huge scaffold that was used to train Banner Hangers. They had caught on quick – big, colorful banners hung in Old Growth trees around the site.

Alabaman Lamar Marshall lit up the campfire. Twilly broke out some gawd-awful Mexican liquors – Tiswin and Mescal. Oregon’s finest was passed around. Someone arrived with drums. The Squirrel Monkey broke out his flute and shed his clothes. Soon, he and dozens of young activists were playing instruments, singing and dancing naked around the fire. Someone jumped the fire naked – the party was on!

It was a superb Gaian scene.

I turned to Roselle and asked, “Damn, Mike. What do you think would happen if the Wise Use Movement got hold of a video of this?”

Sans hesitation, Mike jumped up off the log we were sitting on; waved his arms around and shouted, “We’d win! We win! Their kids will be joining us!”

Twilly Cannon passed the Regan Test with flying colors!

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MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

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