Terry Barton might not be a very good forest ranger, but she
certainly is a good observer of contemporary social attitudes.
Having committed a crime, the US Forest Service employee knows
that the best way to arouse public sympathy and deflect
attention away from what she has done is to blame a man.
First she tried to pin the crime on a male camper in a gold
minivan. Luckily for this individual, who was facing the
possibility of a stiff prison sentence, meticulous and ardent
Forest Service investigators exposed Barton's claim as false.
Confronted with this evidence, Barton decided to switch male
scapegoats, saying that she caused the blaze when she burned a
heartbreaking letter from her estranged husband.
Remarkably, some people are buying it.
"It's her husband's fault! If he hadn't tried to mentally
anguish her by sending her cruel letters, she wouldn't have
burned it," wrote one Coloradoan in response to a newspaper
editorial critical of Barton.
"Barton should be given leniency and help," wrote another.
"Don't take [Barton's] whole life away for one moment of
despair," pleaded a third.
Those more credulous might be skeptical that an 18-year veteran
of the Forest Service is incapable of burning a few sheets of
paper without starting a forest fire which would ultimately
destroy over 100,000 acres and lead to the deaths of several
firefighters. Investigators now believe that there was no such
letter and that Barton set the fire in order to put it out and
make herself a hero.
Predictably, Terry Barton's estranged husband John is now coming
under fire. Reportedly he felt that her career--which often
required long periods away from home--was interfering with their
family life and the welfare of the children. In modern speak, he
was a chauvinist who wanted his wife at home and subservient.
The fact that he may simply have wanted what was best for their
children is little mentioned.
John was no slouch around the house either--according to
reports, he took care of his daughters while Terry was away, and
sent money from Arkansas where he had gone to find work. He has
even put their house up as collateral for his wife's $600,000
bond so she can get out of jail.
John is also being accused of being emotionally abusive towards
Terry, and talk show callers have noted ominously that
"emotional abuse often indicates that there was physical abuse,
In reality, there is no evidence of physical abuse, and
emotional abuse has become a catch-all phrase used by some
unprincipled women in order to justify themselves legally or
morally in whatever they do vis-a-vis men. A man can defend
himself against a spurious charge of physical abuse, to some
degree, by demanding physical evidence. But emotional abuse can
be anything and everything--how can any man effectively counter
Is there a husband who has never yelled at his wife? Maybe, but
he is as rare as a wife who has never yelled at her husband.
Now everything John Barton has ever done or said is under a
microscope, as we look for evidence that he was an abusive
husband who drove his poor wife to do what she did.
For example, at Barton's bail hearing on Thursday Terry's friend
Stephanie Howard, a Forest Service biologist, told prosecutors
that John Barton is "indirectly" responsible for Terry's crime
because he had arrived uninvited at their home the week before
the fire and rejected Terry's request that he leave. In other
words, John is emotionally abusive because he went to and then
refused to leave his own home. The judge then released Terry on
In reality, the evidence is greater that Terry, not John, was
emotionally abusive. Terry put the lives of thousands of people
at risk, and then attempted to frame an innocent man for it,
knowing that he could go to prison as a result. In the context
of a declining marriage, and with child custody issues looming,
who knows what such a manipulative and unscrupulous person might
have put her husband through?
In some observers' rush to excuse Terry and condemn John, it's a
question few people are asking.
This column first appeared on
Sacks' columns on men's and fathers' issues have appeared in dozens of America's
largest newspapers. Glenn can be reached via his website at
via email at Glenn@GlennSacks.com.