After two years, it got to a point where I was daily trying to rationalize my employment at the company. In my mind, worthy arguments seemed to come from both sides. I told myself that even tree-huggers lived in houses framed with two-by-fours. Or did they? Maybe they all lived in wickiups. Or wigwams. Or geodesic domes of steel and plastic. Or dwellings of adobe, sod, or straw bales. I thought of my first company picnic. Sure, it included the executives decked out in finery likely from L.L. Bean or Eddie Bauer. But it also included the denim and T-shirts of sawyers, shipping clerks, fork-lift drivers, receptionists, lumber graders, stackers, kiln operators―the salt of the Southwest earth. And their spouses. And, especially, their children. Children who were eager to be blindfolded and told to whack at a papier-mâché cabron engorged with a rainbow of Jolly Rancher candies. Children who now played with doll houses, Big Wheels, and toy dump trucks operated by remote control. Children who were covered by medical and dental insurance. Who would deny these children? Ah, but was the company clear-cutting, and could I stomach the sight of this? And these were Western forests. Their vastness notwithstanding, they were arid and thus slow-growing. Perhaps America should get all of its “forest products” from the dark and dripping woods of Maine, where trees grow like weeds. Perhaps the timber companies should be required to harvest timber only from private land. Perhaps the Forest Service should stop taking an outrageous loss on each and every one of its timber sales. Yet, what about that handsome 40-foot-long footbridge across the Rio Grande north of Taos, its $5000 tab paid for by the lumber company, used by grateful fly-fishermen and hikers like myself? Yes, but have I lately heard the bark-like call of the threatened spotted owl in the chill of a November night? Or seen the imperiled goshawk coast silently through the dim understory?
Meanwhile, I hoped. I hoped the company and Forest Guardians would reach some kind of amicable compromise. Not a chance. Forest Guardians continued to challenge every timber sale.
After two-and-a-half years, I left the company. My moral crisis had something to do with it, the trees having won out, but I also left because I couldn’t see myself writing code for the rest of my working life, regularly attending seminars and training sessions in an effort to keep apace with a constantly evolving field. Although opportunities for performing challenging software maintenance and development were rare at the company, when they did occur, I would come home from work mentally drained and headachy. Furthermore, while I liked the distinction of my position at the company and the attention it garnered, and I liked the salary, there were many days at work in which I was bored. One afternoon in July, members of the data processing and accounting departments and several salespersons treated me to a going-away lunch at Sadie’s restaurant.
I didn’t look for another job. Shortly after leaving the company, Linda and I, after living together for a year in a rented townhouse in northeast Albuquerque, married at the chapel on the University of New Mexico campus. Meanwhile, I had been accepted in the university’s graduate program in English. I planned to attend the university full time. I wanted to get the education I felt I had squandered at Hobart. I wanted to read books. I wanted to write books.