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Git Home!



Like a rock.

By C.J. Hadley

Bob Seger wrote a song that an American car manufacturer uses for its truck advertising. The chorus is:

Like a rock, standin’ arrow straight.
Like a rock, chargin’ from the gate.
Like a rock, carryin’ the weight.
Like a rock.”

Sounds more like a description of ranchers and farmers. Who else could stand the pressures they are under and barely flinch? Who else could be polite for so long to bureaucrats and do-gooders who one old cowboy claims “don’t know they don’t know”? Who else would keep their guns in the truck? Who else would own so many dogs? Who else would keep their language within the realm of the acceptable and pay no attention to Mark Twain’s perfect quote, “In certain drastic circumstances, profanity offers relief denied by prayer”?

I don’t have the inner strength I find in rural communities in the West so I cuss a bit, weep often, and sometimes aim this magazine toward the strident. &Mac253;he Rhe RangeNet mob are talking about getting $3.3 billion from Congress to buy off ranchers who have grazing permits on federal land. This is your tax money they want to use. Why do Andy Kerr, Mark Salvo and friends talk about paying for what they say is a grazing privilege when it is a plain and simple right? Why does activist Martin Taylor say that only two percent of the nation’s beef cattle comes from federal land when closer to 20 percent are born and raised there?

For several decades these mobsters have tried to steal constitutional rights by intimidation, embarrassment, political manipulation, propaganda, and good plain bullying. (For five opinions on this, see pages 52, 53, 61, 62 and 63.) Do they know they were wrong? Hell yes. Have they changed tactics? Hell yes. Will they win this one? Maybe...if ranchers want to take their pittance and run, and give up on the generations of love and labor that has built their ranches.

Is it the ranchers’ right to accept? Hell yes. After years of abuse, lessening interest by the next generation, and urban ignorance about food production, that’s a choice that might look good. But it will be then that real suffering will begin. If they choose to sell out western culture and custom for RangeNet reasons—money—it’s over. Over for the land, over for the resource (unless ranchers’ cows and sheep are replaced by other ungulates), over for wildlife (many of which prefer to follow or live with bovines and ovines), over for rural communities that depend on the ranches, over for hunters who covet and help control the wildlife (in Montana alone over 80 percent of wild game feast off private ranches and farms), and over for future generations who will lose the ability to be self-sufficient.

Producing food isn’t easy; it takes talent, patience, time. Why do ranchers and farmers do it? Maybe because of where they live. Their places of business are desired by groups who want to “preserve” the country and “make it

“And I stood arrow straight,
unencumbered by the weight,
of all these hustlers and their schemes...”

Bob Seger

better.” That is, made better by them, who don’t know how to manage land or animal; that is, made better by them, who say “Don’t use renewable resources in national forests, let ’em burn”; that is, made better by them, who say “We’ll do something for you if you just step aside.” Is that caring for the resource? Is that an apolitical heart?

I want to hear from conservationists and scientists with a broad view in the BLM and Forest Service, and from caring resource managers in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal agencies. Many of you have helped us with stories of land management and resource use. What can we do, together, to keep this lovely rural West healthy? What can we do that does not trample private property rights, ignore personal freedom, and trash families already under stress, financially, emotionally and mentally?

My sister was offended by my last editorial—where I suggested she was a socialist and member of Australia’s Green Party. She thought that was strong language from what she reckons I am—a right wing capitalist. Does a less-than-$10,000-per-year salary from RANGE qualify for capitalist? Does being a registered, professed liberal democrat who cares about appropriate resource use and users make me a right winger?

Bob Seger’s powerful and simple “Like a Rock” includes this verse:

“And I stood arrow straight,
Unencumbered by the weight.
Of all these hustlers and their schemes,
I stood proud, I stood tall.
High above it all,
I still believed in my dreams.”

That song sounds like applause for America’s ranchers and farmers.

Now it’s time for us to dream and stand tall. It’s time for us to be counted.

Spring 2002 Contents | Git Home!

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