An Ax To Grind -- When It Comes To Skinheads And Nazis, Loggers, Gays Unite

It did seem an unusual pairing. The notice for the event said it was titled "Loggers and Gays Against Nazis." I called Steve Goodman and asked if we could meet. He was the logger scheduled to speak.

I told Goodman that a logger was about the last profession I'd expect sharing a stage with a gay spokesman.

"I suppose we don't have a lot in common. It's not like there's an annual gays and loggers picnic, you know?" he said.

The notice said Goodman and a reporter for the Seattle Gay News would speak "about why their communities have a common stake in opposing the Aryan Nations' latest attempt to build a Nazi homeland in the Northwest."

Yes, he said, some of his old buddies in Forks, the tiny logging town on the Olympic Peninsula, would have a few laughs when they heard about Goodman's talk.

"You gotta remember, they live in a small, rural community. It's a monoculture. In Forks everybody is pretty much the same," Goodman said.

"They get up early in the morning, they work real hard, and they go to bed at night, maybe go to the tavern and have a few brews."

Goodman was a logger in Forks before moving to Kent. Now, at age 43, he works for a temporary agency. As they say in the unemployment world, he's looking for new opportunities.

It all got started when somebody at United Front Against Fascism, the sponsor of the event, heard he was a logger and called Goodman.

At first, he didn't even know it was going to be billed as "Loggers and Gays Against Nazis."

But then, staying true to his loggers' philosophy, he decided, so what?

"Something that loggers have in common with gays is their dislike of Richard Butler and Tom Metzger," he said.

Butler founded the Aryan Nations; Metzger organized skinheads for the white supremacist movement. Butler has said that logging communities are ripe for recruiting as more and more loggers lose their jobs.

"What would happen if some skinheads came to Forks? They're gonna get shown the door," Goodman said. He remembered what happened when some bikers showed up in the little town.

"There were something like 200 or 300 of these bikers. They got the ---- kicked out of them," Goodman said.

Loggers do tend to be direct people.

That's why he became a logger in the first place, back in 1970, when he was 20 and driving the country in his van. He was at a campground in Forks when someone told him how to get a job there.

Those were the good times in Forks, when there were plenty of trees for the cutting.

Goodman stood on a sidewalk, holding a pair of logging work boots somebody had given him.

"A tree crew bus stopped and they said, `Hey, bud, you want a job?' " he remembered.

"From the first day, I knew I was going to like this job. I liked the outdoors. You're out there, and you look around, and you realize that people drive hundreds, thousands of miles to look at what you see every day," he said.

"I saw elk, rabbits, coyotes, mountain beaver, a few cougar. I liked the people I worked with. There were no politics. You said what was on your mind. I don't know, it's hard to explain.

"That's how you defined yourself. You were a logger. And now where is the compassion for these people?

"It wasn't just the logger who cut down the tree. It's also the people who created the market. We're all culpable, but the logger is the one who's paying the price.

"They've been robbed of their self-esteem, their heritage. And what's being done for them? Some counseling and some food stamps, and send them on their way."

That's some of what Steve Goodman planned to say at that loggers and gays meeting, which, by the way, is at 7 tonight at the CAMP Firehouse, 18th and Cherry.

No, he said, the loggers aren't going to pay much attention to some neo-Nazis.

He just wishes the rest of us would pay attention to the loggers.

"Like I told you, that's why I'm speaking," he said. "Nobody else ever asked me."

Erik Lacitis' column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Scene section of The Times.