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Illegally Cut - cellophane — LiveJournal
the story of an invisible girl
Illegally Cut
Along the highway on which I drive home from work every day, there is a sign. It looks like a normal Department of Transportation sign, a large one, white, with two legs. It is situated in a marshy, grassy area, just past an exit. In stern black letters, it states, "These Trees Were Illegally Cut."

Every time I notice the sign, it causes me to think. First, of course: "What trees?" There are no trees: like I said, it is a marshy area. But then I suppose, that's the whole point. There are no trees. Not anymore. They were illegally cut.

However I don't think the sign is grammatically correct. The phrase "these trees" should refer to trees, not empty spaces, after all. The problem is that correcting the sign gets a little complicated.

"These ex-trees were illegally cut."
"The trees that used to be here were illegally cut."
"The trees which you can no longer see were illegally cut"
"The trees that were growing here before they were chopped down were illegally cut."
"Before this sign was here, there were some lovely trees, but then they were illegally cut."

Even beyond the syntactical issues though, I don't really understand the sign. I mean, what is it doing there? What purpose does it serve? Most road signs I see are there for a reason. "Dangerous curve ahead." "Speed Limit 70 MPH." "Prison Area, Do Not Pickup Hitchhikers." Each of these has a clear and obvious intent, and they make sense to me.

The "Illegally Cut" sign though.... I just don't get it. Was it erected just so that whoever did the illegal cutting will feel guilty whenever they drive by? If so, then it seems like a lot of money and effort for a single tree-cutter. Is it supposed to serve as a warning, so that we others won't be inspired to do any illegal cutting of our own? If so, then it's not very useful, because it doesn't actually indicate which of the current trees we oughtn't cut, nor how you can identify a tree which may or may not be cut. Is it supposed to inspire me to pull over to the side of the road and go Johnny-Appleseeding in that marsh? If so, then it's not working...but perhaps I'll toss a few acorns over next time I drive by.

Why is it there? I have no idea. Basically, all it has done is give me plenty to puzzle over as I drive my way home after work. It's quite the mysterious sign, really.

Current Mood: puzzled

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guingel From: guingel Date: July 15th, 2003 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe you could contact the Department of Transportation and make inquiries. Now I'm all curious and puzzled! How very strange. (btw, Katie things "The Trees That Were Here Were Illegally Cut"--I had to share this entry with her.)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 16th, 2003 01:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
ooh, one of my friends found a link about it! See:
Not altogether helpful, but interesting.

Yep, Katie's suggestion is a good one. Although I personally am still fond of "There used to be some lovely trees here..."
joline From: joline Date: July 15th, 2003 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

i like trees and all, but that made me giggle.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 16th, 2003 08:03 am (UTC) (Link)
hee! I like trees too, but....there weren't any there see.... (-:
infernus1218 From: infernus1218 Date: July 15th, 2003 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it would have been better served if the sign had said, "The trees that were here.. were illegally cut down. Don't let this happen again call: 1-800-don't cut down trees illegally"

Or something like that. But I would imagine it would be hard to get all that while whizzing by at 80mph.

Or you could have a series of signs that said that...
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 16th, 2003 10:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah...or maybe "Cutting trees is punishable by a $500 fine, call MDOT to report", or something like that.

Something useful.
encorecrazay From: encorecrazay Date: July 16th, 2003 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Here's something I found. Check out Februrary 11th. of course, the respone from MDOT was for the wrong county!
jenx From: jenx Date: July 16th, 2003 03:50 am (UTC) (Link)
And the misspellings in their response are depressing.

I've seen the sign, too, and wondered about it. The MDOT response - to put up a sign and shame the cutters - is so *passive agressive* it makes me cringe.
(Deleted comment)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 16th, 2003 07:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Now that's an idea I hadn't thought of! Maybe they could trim my hedge. It's still only half-done...
jkling From: jkling Date: July 16th, 2003 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I wonder if the sign wasn't put up just to make people think. If so, I'd say it accomplished its purpose.

I kind of like it. Simple and thought-provoking. Would that all such campaigns were less preachy and more thought-provoking.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 16th, 2003 10:18 am (UTC) (Link)


This is true -- it certainly mades my day a bit more surreal and thoughtful.

runs_in_circles From: runs_in_circles Date: July 16th, 2003 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
thank you for posting this! I was questioning that sign the other day. I pass that intersection often and I don't remember there ever being mant trees. Do you?
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 17th, 2003 08:22 am (UTC) (Link)
No, I don't remember.... but then, I there are trees and plants and what-not all along the freeway, and I don't really notice them.

I think the sign's been there for a few months now....I'm not quite sure when it appeared.
From: nerdtech Date: July 16th, 2003 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have seen this as well - except that the trees were on US-23, and they looked like they had been cut in half - with only the bottom half remaining....
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 17th, 2003 08:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, that's much worse! Makes it uglier, to leave all the mutilated tree-remains.
babyteddy From: babyteddy Date: July 16th, 2003 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I noticed this sign back in February or March and got my friend to snap a picture of it as we drove by because it was confusingly hysterical. I still don't get it but apparently I'm not alone anymore.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 17th, 2003 08:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I'm going to take a picture of it myself eventually. Just weird!
From: krhn Date: July 16th, 2003 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've seen the sign you wrote about. Businesses along expressways will often cut down trees so that signs on the back of their building can be seen while driving by. That is probably what happened there. I am guessing the sign is a warning to other business owners not to cut down the trees.
From: hermansgold Date: July 16th, 2003 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's the most plausible idea I've heard yet. I've seen the sign too, in a fleeting glimpse of peripheral vision while blowing by...I was intrigued.
iamso1970s From: iamso1970s Date: July 17th, 2003 07:01 am (UTC) (Link)
i have seen the sign and i too wondered what trees they were talking about, for i never remembered trees growing in with those cat-tails... but who knows.

if it was suposed to be for a different county how did it end up there of all places where it isn't right?
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 17th, 2003 08:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I was just assuming they've put these signs in a bunch of places, which is why the email had the wrong county. But you know, it would be much funnier if there never had been any trees there, and they just erected the sign in the wrong place?!!

From: (Anonymous) Date: July 17th, 2003 08:39 am (UTC) (Link)

I ponder that sign too...

OK, I'm glad I'm not the only one who puzzles over that sign and spends way too much time pondering it. I assume it was a punitive measure, probably specified by some judge who thought "ah ha! this will teach those bad illegal tree cutter people!".

Instead, all the rest of us are punished by having to ponder this sign, using up brain cells that undoubtedly could be better used curing cancer or something...

--- Mike S.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 17th, 2003 02:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I ponder that sign too...

Apparently there are lots of us pondering it! Really I fail to see how it could be punitive. Stupid DOT people..

...and quite hoenstly, I don't think I'd be curing cancer on my way home from work even without the sign. So I don't mind its being there. It gives me something random to ponder, at least!
(Deleted comment)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: August 13th, 2003 07:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Yep, that is the sign...thanks for the link!

We might need two signs for that one....
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 24th, 2003 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)


I've often wondered about the same sign... in fact, I found your post because I just did a search for "These Trees Were Illegally Cut" - I'd be interested to find out more about this sign :-)
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