Cy Whitling illustration.
At the far end of town where few flakes fly and the wind smells sour of the city when it blows
and no birds ever sing excepting old crows…
is the street of the Krazy Kook. And amidst the few flakes, some people say,
if you look hard enough you can still see, today,
where the Kook once stood just as long as he could before somebody lifted the Kook away.
Who was the Kook?
And why was he there?
And why did he go somewhere from the far end of town where few flakes fly?
The old Once-ler still lives here.
Ask him. He knows.
You won’t see the Once-ler. Don’t knock at his door.
He stays in his condo on top of his retail fur store.
He lurks in his condo, cold under the roof, where he makes his own clothes out of miff-muffered moof.
And on special dank midnights in November, he peeks out of the shutters and sometimes he speaks and tells how the Kook was lifted away.
He’ll tell you, perhaps… if you’re willing to pay.
On the end of a rope he lets down a tin pail
and you have to toss in fifteen cents
and some kale
and a can of hand crafted American ale.
Then he pulls up the pail, makes a most careful count
to see if you've paid him the proper amount.
Then he hides what you paid him away in his Snuvv,
his secret strange hole in his gruvvulous glovey.
Then he grunts, "I will call you by Whisper-ma-Phone,
for the secrets I tell you are for your ears alone."
Down slupps the Whisper-ma-Phone to your ear
and the old Once-ler's whispers are not very clear,
since they have to come down through a snergelly hose,
and he sounds as if he had smallish bees up his nose.
Now I’ll tell you, he says with his teeth sounding grey,
how the Kook got lifted and taken away…
It all started way back…
Way back in the day when the trees were still green
and the mountains still white
and the clouds were still clean.
One morning, I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the mountains!
The beautiful slopes!
The beautiful trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.
And, in those trees, I saw skiers in the little ski suits
as they played in the snow and skied chute to chute.
But those mountains!
Those snowy mountains covered in trees.
All my life I’d been searching for views such as these.
Their valleys and hills offered all kinds of thrills,
with continuously falling free refills.
I felt a great leaping of joy in my heart.
I knew just what I’d do! I unloaded my cart.
In no time at all, I had built a small shop.
Then I chopped down a tree with just one chop.
And with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed
I took the planks and my world was freed.
For the first time, I had skied.
The instant I’d finished, I heard a gaZump!
I looked. I saw something pop out of the stump
of the tree I’d chopped down. It was sort of a man.
Describe him? That’s hard, I don’t know if I can.
He was shortish. And oldish. And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice that was sharpish and bossy.
‘Mister!’ he said with a sawdusty sneeze, ‘I am the Kook. I speak for the mountains.
I speak for the mountains and trees, for the mountains have no tongues.
And I'm asking you, sir, at the top if my lungs'
- he was very upset as he shouted and puffed
- 'What's that THING you've made?' he said in disgust.
'Look, Kook,' I said. 'There's no cause for alarm.
I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm.
I'm being quite useful. These things are skis.
Skis are a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
They’re for fun, for sport, to not make you fat.
But mountains have other uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use them for metals. For gas! For gold!
Or Timber! There are fortunes to be made, I’m told.
The Kook said, ‘Sir! You must be keyed.
You cannot take and exploit this land with your greed!’
But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.
For, just at that minute, a chap came along,
and he thought the skis I had created were great.
He happily bought them for six ninety-eight.
I laughed at the Kook, 'You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy.'
‘I repeat,’ cried the Kook, ‘I speak for the mountains and trees!’
'I'm busy,' I told him.
'Shut up, if you please.'
I rushed cross the room, and in no time at all,
built a radio-phone. I put in a quick call.
I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts
and I said, 'Listen here! Here’s a wonderful chance
for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!
Get over here fast! Take the road to Jackson Hole.
Turn left at Yellowstone. Sharp right towards Bridger Bowl.'
And, in no time at all, in the factory I built,
The whole Once-ler family was working in full tilts.
We were all building skis just as busy as bees,
To the sound of chopping trees.
Not only skis, but condos, spas and gold mines.
All to the sight of ever growing lift lines.
Oh! Baby! Oh!
How my business did grow!
Now, chopping one tree at a time was too slow.
So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker
which whacked off four trees in just one smacker.
We were making skis, and condos, and roads
four times as fast as before!
And that Kook?... He didn't show up any more.
But the next week he knocked on my new office door.
He snapped, ‘I am the Kook who speaks for the mountains and trees
which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.
But I'm also in charge of the ski bums
who played in the trees in their ski suits and happily lived, sliding chute to chute.
NOW... thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
there's not enough snow to go round.
And my poor ski bums are all getting the crummies
because they have real jobs, and food, in their tummies!
They loved living here. But I can't let them stay.
They'll have to find winter. And I hope that they may.
Good luck, boys,’ he cried. And he sent them away.
I, the old Once-ler, felt sad as I watched them all go.
BUT... business is business!
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.
I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my highways. I biggered the loads.
I was bringing the tourists in from the South! From the East! From the West! From the North!
I went right on biggering... selling more skis and more land deeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.
Cy Whitling illustration.
Then again he came back!
I was fixing some pipes
when that old nuisance ski bum kook came back with more gripes.
‘I am the Kook,’ he coughed and he whiffed.
He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.
‘Once-ler!’ he cried with a cruffulous croak.
‘Once-ler! You're making such smogulous smoke!
My poor ski friends... why, they can't shout stoke!
No one can sing who has Salt Lake smog in his throat.
And so,’ said the Kook, ‘-please pardon my cough-
they cannot live here. So I'm sending them off.
Where will they go?
...I don't hopefully know.
They may have to bum rides for a month... or a year...
To escape from the smog you've smogged up around here.
Maybe Washington.’ He says with disdain.
‘Nope, just kidding, no snow, just rain!’
‘What's more,’ snapped the Kook.
‘Let me say a few words about these condos and towns,
They’re popping up left and right and up and down.
Real estate prices are jumping higher and higher,
Far too high for any local to acquire.
So out they must go, leaving the places they wished to retire.
So I'm sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary.
They'll stay in the cities and get woefully weary
Or head North. That’s my theory.’
And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Kook, "Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say, 'Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!'
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I'm telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Kook, I'm figgering
turning MORE Trees into skis.
Which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs."
And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the slopes came a sickening smack
of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.
The very last tree of them all!
No more trees. No more skis. No more condos. No more work to be done.
So, in no time, my uncles and aunts, every one,
all waved me good-bye. They jumped into my cars
and drove away under the smoke-smuggered stars.
Now all that was left 'neath the bad smelling-sky was my big empty factory…
snowless, treeless slopes…
The Kook said nothing. Just gave me a glance...
Just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance...
As he lifted from the brown snow with his final advance.
And I'll never forget the grim look on his face
when he heisted himself and took leave of this place,
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.
Spinning to future with otherworldly grace.
Behind he left a world of dryness and drought,
there was no more winter here without a doubt.
Tress gone and dead in the land where flakes once flew
now sits a city in pollution stew.
And where Lake Tahoe used to be blue.
Look to the hills and you won’t see much,
the mountains are bone dry to the touch.
The land that was once beautiful and treed,
can now barely be skied.
And all that the Kook left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks, with one word...
Whatever that meant, well, I just couldn't guess.
That was long, long ago. But each day since that day
I've sat here and worried and worried away.
Through the years, while my buildings have fallen apart,
I've worried about it with all of my heart.
now that you're here,
the word of the Kook seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It's not.
“SO... Catch!" calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
"It's a Seed. It's the last one of all!
You're in charge of the last of the Seeds.
And the Trees and mountains are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Tree. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Kook and all of his skiing friends may come back.