10 years since death of David “Gypsy” Chain
A decade has passed since David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain died in the redwood forest above Grizzly Creek State Park while trying to halt a Pacific Lumber logging operation that he believed violated state laws.
1998 was a volatile time in the Humboldt County Timber Wars — the Headwaters negotiations appeared on the verge of breaking down, a world famous tree-sit was underway in the hills above Stafford, and Pacific Lumber became the first timber company in California to lose its license for repeated violations of the Forest Practice Rules.
But none of the events of that time exposed the ugliness of the rift in Humboldt County as the death and aftermath of September 17, 1998. It started with the outrage of the logger, A.E. Ammons, who threatened to aim falling trees at activists if they didn’t get out of the woods — and then did exactly that.
Ammons said he didn’t know the activists were still present when he fell the tree, but admits he would have beaten them with a stick if he’d caught them. Shortly before cutting the final tree, Ammons wished aloud for his pistol.
No charges were filed against Ammons, but then-District Attorney Terry Farmer considered filing manslaughter charges against the activists who witnessed the death — until he realized a jury was unlikely to convict.
A civil suit by Chain’s mother settled in 2001. A memorial near the death site that was established as part of the settlement has been repeatedly vandalized.
The story of Chain’s death and the legal actions that followed were chronicled in the 2004 book, A Good Forest for Dying.