Fellowship Of The Rain Gear

Greg Nagle

I always tell my students that they needn't call me "Dr." or "Professor" although I like it too much when they do....I always said that getting the Ph.D. never even held a candle to getting elected president of Hoedads. I feel caught between two worlds, memories of my woods working past always just below the surface. When I spend time with people I size them up as to how they might have made it on a planting crew. While in grad school and academia, I met almost nobody I could have imagined next to me on the line. For that matter, I only met one who saw combat in Nam .

Cece Headley, who has stayed in woods work, very aptly calls it "the fellowship of the raingear".

People with a more explicitly political bent might call it "class politics".

With a lot of working class people in the US getting ground down and thrown into the streets, as woods workers we had a sense of pride and a place in the world which seemed all the more unique after I spent years in the depressed post-industrial towns of upstate NY. I found myself most comfortable with that K-mart crowd while a lot of the that foo-foo new agey stuff in college towns struck me as silly and narcissistic.

Without a doubt, getting elected Hoedad president in 1980 was the single best thing that ever happened to me, giving me a whole other idea of who I could be in life. Before that I imagined myself as a hermit in a lookout. I spent months alone on foot all across the Rockies, went for weeks without a word with anybody. I liked that then, needed it, but not any longer.

Back before I had that faculty ID (And listen, I dress better back there now than you have ever seen me.) I spent 2 years in Kenya working on community forestry programs.

To the over educated white expatriates in the UN agencies driving their Mercedes, I was a nobody, and too often shown the door when I came in to try and talk about forestry projects. Being able to make people feel like crap seemed to come with their crappy territory.

It was a hard time but I had a dream.....

It was all those old Cougar Mountain crew people sitting around with their feet up on a table in their dirty shirts; beer bottles and fried chicken bones scattered over it; screaming at each other and waving their arms, carrying on with their usual loud mess and passion.

That green gem of a dream told me to remember who I was and where I came from.

Other dreams came soon after of us working on a line together, proud faces......and always with the backdrop of the forest covered mountains.

I have given more slide shows about Hoedads than I can count. I will volunteer to go to any class anywhere, anytime to do this. Young kids, foreign students, faculty light up like Xmas trees when they see it, like some dream of how life could be.

 I talk about things nobody else will talk about in public. Brings them to tears.....