A Tree Is Saved in Ohio Page 2 of 5
Well, to make long story short, Mike was able to stave off the chainsaws for that morning through some tough talking on the phone. But it that wasn't the end of the battle, by far. No, it wasn't long before Mike received the lawsuit from the Franklin Township Trustees saying they had a 60 foot right of way onto his property. And the right to cut his tree. And they would see him in court.
Well, it was a good thing Mike had an old school chum who became a lawyer and agreed to defend Mike and Darlene, who was also named in the suit. Surprising they didn't sue the cows and the corn while they were at it. It was a good thing she agreed to work for a freezer full of beef. And it was a good thing, as well, when in July, the TV station from Columbus showed up. And then another one. And then another one, along with the Columbus Dispatch and the Newark Advocate.
And then the people started coming. The tree gained a following. Folks would pin notes of support on the tree. Calls of encouragement came on the phone. That little dirt road really did have some traffic for a change. By August, the Wolfinger's tree had become the most famous tree in Licking County, Ohio and possibly Perry County as well.
Still, the lawsuit raged on. For some reason the Licking County Prosecuting Attorney started pouring some heavy resources into it. And that's when Mike started thinking. Maybe there is more to this than just the tree. Maybe they're trying to seize a 60 foot right of way from every piece of property on every public road in the state of Ohio. Mike Wolfinger was on the cutting edge of a giant land grab. All of a sudden the stakes got really high. And as if to affirm that, the next thing Mike got in the mail was a 2 inch legal brief with a dozen sworn affidavits, a pile of receipts for snow removal, and a vague letter from the previous owner of the farm who died 25 years ago.
That's when Mike's steelworker buddy, Billy Harmon e-mailed Darryl Cherney of Earth First! in Humboldt County, California and asked for help. "Can you get Julia Butterfly involved with this?" Billy wrote. Julia, of course, has been sitting 180 feet high in a redwood for almost two years. She has become an international spokesperson for the forest and a fan of the Kaiser steelworkers. Both Julia and Darryl, along with hundreds of their friends, have been battling Charles Hurwitz and the MAXXAM Corporation. The Humboldt County folks have been trying to stop Hurwitz's redwood slaughter and the Kaiser steelworkers have been on strike and locked out over working conditions and benefits. "Send me some material," Darryl e-mailed back.
Several weeks later it came.
The first thing Darryl recalls after opening the envelope was a flash that seemed to leap off the xerox copied article with a picture of the tree on it. "I'm going to Ohio," the northern California resident and supporter of the United Steelworkers thought. "I'm going to Ohio."
By the time Darryl got to Newark, Ohio it was late September, but it wasn't too late. In fact, the timing seemed perfect as it was fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the Kaiser strike and lock-out. A good time to generate some press. A good time to gather a little political pressure. A good time to bring the environment, the labor movement, and property rights all together into one big, sappy issue.