In 2005, my dad posted this short story on Big Green Wheel, a website he made to highlight important environmental issues. On the site, the few posts ranged from simple photo albums of hikes he’d taken in the outback to art he’d created in response to the massive environmental changes he was witnessing, literally all around him.
“The Very Last Owl Tree” was, according to him, unfinished, but I feel like it’s complete as-is. It’s a children’s book, as told with Dan’s unique voice, which I often think of as Terry Gilliam meets John Muir.
Having seen, first hand and in slow motion, the complete ‘suburbanization’ of the area where he took these photos—’4S Ranch’—I assume that he had intended this story to end quite differently than how it is here. I do appreciate the open optimism of this ending, but it does imply a fair amount of cynicism: confronted with a fake environmental impact report, are the owls and their intrepid escort doomed to wonder some bureaucratic purgatory as the Last Owl Tree is fed to through a wood chipper?
The Very Last Owl Tree by Dan Filtz
There was peace and tranquility in the land of the Owl Tree. The sky and the water and the things that grew upon the land were all in harmony. The Owl Tree was there standing tall and proud, as it always had been, as long as Owls could remember.
Peace and serenity was here. It was a place where time ran slow and green. Where water flowed and Owls flew.
Then one day a fence appeared with a sign. The animals couldn’t read the sign but they all agreed it wasn’t something that was good.
Big, loud, smelly, metal monsters were suddenly eating all the green and flower things. The water turned dark and it really didn’t look very good at all
Houses began to grow where the slow green hills and flowers had been. It was the end of Owl time and the beginning of people time.
The Earth-eater machine waited in the dark night for the final day to arrive when the very last Owl tree would be taken away
It was the last night before the last day of the last Owl Tree. The Owls flew in the dark night sky and wondered why those awful metal creatures wouldn’t go away.
The Owl was the most clever of the animals and went to City Hall with a friend that could plead to those in charge to stop the terrible destruction that was going on in the once beautiful places the animals had been living.