Sunday, January 19, 2014

Burning Beetle

Yesterday, I got to witness something ... unique.

A year and a half ago, I posted a little bit about the pine beetle infestation going on out here in the Hills. In the time since then, I've seen nothing but spread -- more hills taken, more trees wiped off the face of the earth, more and more cleanup necessary.

For several years now, it has been as constant a source of conversation and vexation as the weather. And it has been interesting to see the steps taken, from professional control companies to tree thinning, from the battles over what can be done in the national forest areas to the arguments made by private landowners.

It has been equally interesting to see the region's population pull together on this one. While we can recognize the cycle, no one wants to see their Hills wiped out by a dang bug.

As such, yesterday there was ... a funeral.

It had been a year in the making. A group of residents had gathered to form the Bark Beetle Blues with the aim to "create awareness of Custer community's response to the pine beetle infestation," via discussion and workshops, along with various community events. Through this group, the region was made aware of the reactions to the bugs, control, and what could come from this shifting landscape and piles of blue-stained wood.

Then, from one such stack of blue beetled pine emerged a massive bark beetle.

The day's events began with a wake. Within the CHS auditorium was music, poetry, excerpts from such known names as John Muir, and an interpretive ballet focusing on the life of a forest with bugs.

And then ... the walk.

Outside, volunteer fire fighters were lighting torches.

["A riot is an ugly thing ... and I think it is just about time we had one!"]

As several members of the local drum line led the way, the crowd followed.

... The rather large crowd followed...

And there, at the base of a hill, sat the subject itself.

A beetle.

Atop his funeral pyre.

And then...

Every once in awhile, I get to see something that reminds me that I live in a place unlike anywhere else I've ever seen.

This ... Yeah. This was one of those.

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