Red is Dead

I was his foreman on a large
Tree planting crew in Northern California
In the early 90s a mix of hippies,
& working men, contracted to Big Dog Steve
Who was a mixture of both, &
Who planted with the crew, we were planting a large burn
That had been allegedly accidently started by
Pot growers, in their nightly clandestine
Kitchen duties deep in a National Forest
In 1986 & we had half the contract done, I’d lost 25
Pounds, had a sense of how to get trees
To everyone & do the quality control for
Inspection, I’d planted for six years myself
& it had been going well, we
Called him Red, I think his name was Robert
& he was likeably strange, walked on his hands
In front of the camp fire,
In the evening where we were all spiked out at
Camp & for some reason for a while I thought
He’d been burying trees, & I sought to figure this
Out & found he was completely innocent, which
Would have been stupid since we were being paid
By the acre, & he was getting an hourly wage, however
It was happening sometimes & I’d catch guys stashing trees
& burning weed in slash piles & taking up the line later
After 20 minute breaks, while everyone else slaved
In our reforestation Gulag, but I realized after awhile
Red didn’t ever do that & kept his head down, &
He started hanging out with Stomper, a Eugene Hippie
Who blew weed hard every night, but Red began to get
Weirder, than normal & after the job was over, I accidently ran into a guy
Who was Red’s roommate & he told me Red was schizophrenic, but OK
If he did not go off his medications, & when he did he had
A pension for fire, walking around the house saying, “Its gonna burn,
It’s gonna burn, Its gonna burn,” & Red did have a shave in the pen for starting a fire,
But that was ten years before that, & the meds were supposed to take care of it,
& Red had been on the straight & narrow of getting well, but
Later that month I was told Red was dead,
I’d heard he and Stomper went on a job in western Idaho
& Red who had been off his meds for a month
& blowing a lot of weed with Stomper, had poured gas on himself
& sat himself on fire, then as a burning man,
Jumped into a holding pond meant to provide
Water during Forest fires & Red broke his neck
& drowned as the flames were quenched in the pond
& Stomper came back to their camp from town &
After smelling a lot of gas, & walking around for an hour
He found Red & had to go back into town
& call the State Police who did not exactly figure all this out.

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