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Earth First! - IWW Local 1

“Sprayed Loggers” Tom Fales, Arlene Rial, Frank Fales, Wayne Thorstrom, Rick Rial, and Rod Cudney

Interviewed by Beth Bosk - New Settler Interview, Issue #3, April 1985

Were the loggers surprised that they had been sprayed?

That’s the story—it’s [Louisiana-Pacific’s] attitude towards them. When they arrived at the site they were told they were going to be sprayed—that there would be spraying. When they asked, “was it safe?” the LP people sort of laughed at them and said, “Well, the only, thing that happens is that 20 years from now your teeth are going to fall out,” and they laughed at them. And then they said, “Well, if you smell it, don’t breath.” And then the last statement was, “If it starts coming towards you, run like the dickens!”

—Dr. Mills Matheson, physician

Beth Bosk: In times to come, they will probably call Arlene Rial the ‘Rosa Parks’ of Fort Bragg.

Rosa Parks was the tired black housekeeper from Montgomery, Alabama who after working hard all day, refused to relinquish her seat at the front of a city bus. Remember what followed?

For the past twenty-four years, Arlene Rial has worked hard raising herself a sturdy son.

She was not about to see him damaged by a suspect chemical. And when unbeknownst, he was sent to work at a site where G-P was spraying the herbicide Garlon-4 and subsequently fell ill—along with every other logger working along the perimeter of the spray site—she refused to let it go unheeded.

The following interview is actually portions of conversations that took place on a Sunday afternoon at the home Arlene Rial shares with her son, Rick, and her husband Wayne Thorstrom. Thorstrom works as a hook tender for G-P.

The other voices belong to four other men who found themselves working adjacent to the spray site...Tommy Fales, Tom Fales, and Frank Fales.

“They do not look like the kind of men who complain,” is the way Fort Bragg Advocate reporter Martin Hickel summed up his impressions of these loggers.

The interview picks up in the middle of Arlene Rial’s story. She has related how she started putting two and two together when none of Rick’s slow pitch ball team showed up for practice. They had all worked around the spray site and they were all home sick. She then began making inquiries as to what chemical had been sprayed and what was known about it...

Arlene Rial: … I called the toxicity center in Texas to find out just what Garlon was and the gal there told me it was one atom removed from Agent Orange and I almost had a heart attack at that time. After that, I immediately called several different newspapers and I said, “Are you aware that they are spraying a dangerous chemical not only in our community, but around people who are working”—and that’s how the whole thing got started. I called Okerstrom logging and told him, “Get the men out of Juan Creek because it’s contaminated.”

This is in the morning. In the afternoon my son came home from work and said, “Gee, thanks a lot, mom. The boss came out and said, ‘Your mommy called’. And you know, with the loggers, that looks really bad.”

I told him, “Never you mind, I’m going to do what I have to do.” Anyway, Ricky was sicker and sicker and I finally found out that Mills Matheson knows a bit about toxicology and I called him and made an appointment for my son and I was going to drive over to Willits with him to see what was going on, instead another boy got sick on the job that day and so I said, “Both of you go,” and I’ll have a conversation with Dr. Matheson later.” Which I did and Mills said that nothing had ever been proven about Garlon and it does look like flu-like symptoms. He took a urine and blood sample and froze them—because the only people evidentially who can find out if Garlon is in the blood or the urine is Dow Chemical Company and this is the fox again guarding the hen house.


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