Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

DA*DI offers contemporary reports and commentary on culture; its aberrations and its heroes.

Drunken Husband & Bambi of the Forest Service: A Dichotomy

Gerald L. Rowles, Ph.D.
June 24, 2002

The strange saga of John and Terry Lynn Barton just keeps getting more extravagant. At the risk of being run out of the pun-writer's union, what we have here is a dichotomy of trees and underbrush - the sublime and the ridiculous.

First the sublime; there is a devastating fire of more than 137,000 acres raging through the forests in the northeast corner of Colorado. More than 2500 heroic souls are placing themselves in harm's way to preserve life and land, both humankind's and nature's. Nearly 9000 souls have been evacuated. And the associated costs are mounting to a corrected figure of nearly 20 million dollars.

Not everyone can appreciate the awesome majesty of the rugged peaks and gentle valleys through which gorgeous trout streams wind. But then, not everyone can appreciate the man-made canyons of New York City where another disaster was visited. If you're looking for G-d, both the grandeur of the Rockies and the heroism of the New York canyons are manifest points on the compass - nature and nurture.

Now for the ridiculous; in the foolish underbrush of the Colorado cremation, just as in the terrifying ash of the Twin Towers inferno, we are witness to the folly of G-d's human creation. Setting aside for the moment the enigmatic madman who would wantonly destroy a nation, we are now faced with the quandary of a woman who, it seems, would wantonly destroy her corner of the world.

Terry Lynn Barton is probably not a world-class villain. As we are cautioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, "Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by ignorance." But history also teaches us that malicious ignorance may be nearly as dangerous and damaging as malicious cunning.

Ignorance has many cousins; recklessness, incompetence, casuistry, uncertainty, and superficiality.

Almost all of these elements seem to be playing in the Barton fiasco. And over the past week since her arrest, it seems that everyone connected with Terry Barton wants the public to believe that she is the reincarnation of Bambi. On the other hand, her husband, John Barton is becoming the epitome of the evil hunter who burned down the forest pursuing her.

Forest Service co-worker Stephanie Howard, a wildlife biologist, said, "He didn't know how to love her,... He had a drinking problem. He had just a huge amount of issues with trying to deal with loving someone, loving his daughters . . . He was a very difficult man to live with." When Howard was asked, "You're not suggesting that John Barton caused Terry Barton to set this fire, are you?" "Or are you?" Howard replied, "Indirectly, I am, yes."
Now, I have to admit that my clinical antennae began to resonate when I read this Rocky Mountain News interview with Barton's "co-worker," and her comment that 'he didn't know how to love her.' That seemed just a bit too intimate. But then it got even more bizarre.

"Connie Work holds up photographs of veteran U.S. Forest Service worker Terry Barton when Barton was younger, during a news conference Wednesday June 19, 2002, in Squaw Valley, Calif., in reaction to Barton's indictment."

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Connie Work, a family friend and former neighbor, a teacher who years ago hired Barton to babysit her five children, has been at the forefront of the informal "Bambi defense team," speaking on behalf of Barton's mother, Wanda Haddock.

But then she showed up at a news conference with photos of a much younger Terry Barton, one of which was a cheesecake shot of the younger Barton lounging against a rock. There was that level of intimacy again.

On different occasions, Connie Work has reported: "Knowing this girl, knowing the kind of person this is, this has got to be tearing her to pieces." Work also reported that Barton once befriended a sickly couple in Colorado, drove them to Oklahoma to visit relatives and often helped them with chores. But she refused all attempts at repayment for her kindness. "She was doing it from the goodness of her heart, because that's Terry."

Calling the Hayman fire an accident, Work insisted Barton has taken responsibility for her misjudgment after initially claiming, falsely, that she merely came upon a runaway campfire. She said Barton lied to investigators at first only because, as her family's sole support, she was afraid of losing her job. Reports that Barton had set the fire intentionally in order to be the hero who extinguished it are "absolutely absurd."

Speaking of absurd, isn't it considered demeaning and potential harassment for a man to call a 38 year-old woman a "girl?"

The interviews with co-worker Stephanie Howard and former neighbor Connie Work have that Oprahesque quality of intimate, sticky sentimentality that has become the replacement for condemnation of wrong-doing by women.

Let's review what we know about the wrongdoing of Terry Lynn Barton thus far:

  • She lied about smelling smoke that led her to discover the fire.
  • She then attempted to place the blame for the fire on a camper driving a gold van, even going so far as providing a license plate number.
  • Then she concocted the story of a 2-page "Dear Jane" letter that she said she burned at the campfire ring. That's when the news media got on the Bambi bandwagon, and the husband became an object of unsubstantiated scorn. Even the usually even-handed Jane Chastain of WorldNetDaily couldn't restrain her feminist Oprahfuscation:
    We've all done dumb things. Some of the smartest people do the dumbest things when they are in love. Otherwise good persons often will do dumb, hurtful things when they are rejected or otherwise betrayed by a lover.

    By all accounts, Barton loved the great outdoors where she has worked part-time for the past 18 years and especially Pike National Forest. Last fall, she was made a permanent part of the workforce and was well on her way to realizing her dream of becoming a full-fledged forest ranger.

    Divorce represents the worst kind of rejection or personal failure. It is a terrible blow to one's self-esteem. With the bulk of the long fire season ahead of us, and a plentiful supply of jilted lovers, I offer a list of 10 better ways to deal with an unwanted epistle and relieve your anger:

    That letter from her husband hurt Terry Barton. Whether she deliberately staged the fire to look like a hero or simply illegally burned the letter in a no fire zone, it was a foolish thing. As a result of her action, she has hurt her neighbors and co-workers.

    However, apart from the clean-up and the rebuilding and replanting effort, the biggest challenge for the people of Colorado will be to find their own ability to forgive.

  • There was no "Dear Jane" letter. In fact, if the "real" story can be believed, Barton's daughters had placed a two-year-old love-letter from her husband in her backpack. In that letter, John Barton is said to have made a plea for reuniting the family. He also says that he wrote no new letter.

    Nevertheless, the pop-psych Bambi apologists provided their diagnosis:
    "(A)fter the court hearing, (Robert Scott) Riebel claimed that troubles between John and Terry 'was the catalyst that put her over the edge' and prompted Terry to burn the letter. Riebel said John Barton left the home three months ago, but recently returned and refused Terry Barton's request to leave. Terry Barton burned the letter in a form of emotional protest, and the fire was set accidentally, said Jerry Panek, another witness at the hearing. 'She might have lit paper on fire,' said Panek, also of Colorado Springs, 'but I don't think it was arson. I don't think it was deliberate or malicious.' Panek said Terry Barton had served divorce papers to John, but he burned them. Panek said Terry's burning of the letter was a 'symbolic' response to the divorce papers being set on fire. - The Denver Post
  • Terry Barton said that she attempted to douse the fire, but "U.S. Forest Service Special Agent Brenda Schultz testified that it appeared Mrs. Barton had moved the rocks to allow the flames to leap from the campfire ring into nearby brush." - The Washington Times
  • She reported that she lit the two-page letter with only one match, but investigators say that three matches were found at the site of the fire's origin. They also report finding no trace of paper at the origin.

    The only fact that remains intact at this point is that Barton has admitted that she lit the fire ... but in the same breath she claims that it was an accident.

    Now another dilemma has arisen in relation to the Hayman fire that "Bambi" Barton set, but was really her husband John Barton's fault.

    On Saturday (6/22), Megan Helm, 21, was the driver of a van carrying herself and 10 other relief firefighters coming to the aid of the Hayman Fire crews. Unfortunately, she became distracted causing the one-ton van to careen across Interstate 70 and then back, rolling over four times before coming to rest. Four of her co-workers were killed, and seven including the driver were injured. The driver, Megan, was treated and released.

    We have yet to hear the apologists for Megan Helm, but surely she must have known John Barton, don'cha think? Or maybe she was having her own husband / boyfriend troubles? But her license had been temporarily suspended at some point in the past, according to a spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol.

    Nevertheless, according to the The Denver Post she has been charged with "six misdemeanors - four counts of careless driving causing death and two counts of careless driving causing serious bodily injury."

    In another The Denver Post story, Megan Helm's driving could cause Terry Barton's defense some trouble, because she could "be charged with murder in Friday's deaths of four firefighters, but legal experts unanimously agree such charges will never be filed."

    And so it goes. The strange saga of John and Terry Lynn Barton just keeps getting more extravagant.

    Just what are the odds that two "distracted" women would bring such ridiculous, devastating events to both the eastern and western slopes of Colorado? As cautioned by the emperor Napoleon, we should not infer malice (although it does sound like Terry Barton may have been feeling a bit malicious), so we are left with a motley assortment of ignorance's cousins.

    It goes without saying, almost, that both of these women behaved recklessly. It is also true that they both exhibited incompetence. And at least in Terry Barton's case, we have witnessed an endless supply of casuistry and superficiality. The casuistry emanates from attempts to portray an act resulting in great harm as a mere accident. It springs as well from the salacious attempts to pass blame to the husband. Both of these arguments are superficial in that they fail to take into account the sublime - the transcendent reality of the resulting catastrophic wrong.

    These events should restore perspective rather than obscure it. And it is shameful if we allow ourselves to be diverted from another Napoleonic truism, "From sublime to ridiculousness there is only one step."

    What we are not dealing with here is a daytime soap opera. Nor are we dealing, in reality, with mythology of the patriarchy, old-dead-white-men, less-than-perfect husbands, male battering, or the repression of women. Far be it. From the more than three-dozen stories on the events leading up to and resulting in the Hayman Fire, it is clear that women are playing a substantive, if not dominant role in the conduct and management of the Forest Service.

    What we have come face-to-face with is willful, reckless incompetence - willful in the sense that it is self-determined and self-enacted; reckless in its application; and incompetent because it is completely contrary to the professional mission of the service. And the primary actors are all women.

    But just as in most other theaters in the sex-wars, we are being browbeaten to take that dichotomous step to the ridiculous.

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