I have known enough of these kinds of men to know why they did it. They did it because these are men who can fix anything themselves, who have never called 911 or a plumber in their lives. These are men who’ve lived most of their lives in the wild ranges of the West, where the open carry of firearms is common and the freedom to live as one chooses is still possible. They did this because they think they can fix it with their hands, like they fix everything else.
I learned how to drive in a foot of snow. I think I was 14, on my family’s ranch, feeding cows in our old Toyota pick-up.
I know how to use a horse to work cows, use a lariat (although I do not claim to be a roper, that is for people more skilled than myself) and fix a fence. In college I spent more of my summers on a horse than on my feet. I’ve watched sunrises and sunsets from the beds of pick-ups and the top rails of pole fences. I’ve ridden horses who scared me, done things I didn’t think I was strong enough to do, watched in awe as calves were born. The land is part of what it means to be a country girl – without these broad plains of sagebrush and grassland, without miles of dirt roads, without the deep dark of night and the bright blink of stars away from city lights, none of this is possible.
I say all of this because I think too many of my friends are completely removed from what a ranching life looks like, and they think that their mockery of country people is harmless, that these bumpkins are too stupid to understand their highly clever hashtags and memes.
I’m here to tell you that there’s at least one cowgirl over here who’s heartbroken by the current situation at the Hammond Ranch. Not only is it a crying shame that a family has been bullied and victimized by a bloated bureaucracy, but it’s simply horrible to see how many are cheering for the bureaucrats and jeering the individuals fighting for the right to private property. Has culture fallen so far that we cheer for the suits instead of the cowboy? Will next year’s movie be all about how the Empire is doing the right thing by taking over the galaxy, instead of the desperate freedom fight of the Rebel Alliance?
To be clear, I think showing up armed and dangerous to stake out in a lonely range office was a terrible idea. It doesn’t play well from a PR perspective and it’s an untenable situation. But I have known enough of these kinds of men to know why they did it. They did it because these are men who can fix anything themselves, who have never called 911 or a plumber in their lives. These are men who’ve lived most of their lives in the wild ranges of the West, where the open carry of firearms is common and the freedom to live as one chooses is still possible. They did this because they think they can fix it with their hands, like they fix everything else. They think that this is a battle that can be fought on the plains of Eastern Oregon, not realizing that it should be fought in classrooms, on Twitter and in politics instead.
But, despite the unwise choice of an armed stand-off by some supporters (which, by the way, the Hammonds do not condone) the Hammond family should have our support. Because honestly, if we don’t side with the Rebels, we’re siding with the Empire – an Empire, which, in this case, is taking private property and bullying individuals using loopholes in an old law.
The derision the Hammonds are receiving in pop culture makes me especially glum because there’s nothing sadder than people who cheer their own bondage, or who mock another person’s struggle. You may not know what a frosty early spring morning feels like in an open pasture, or how good grassfed beef from your own land tastes. You may not own a gun, or have ever felt the warm wet tongue of a newborn calf on your hand. You may not know how to stretch a barbed-wire fence or jump your horse over a creek. But if this trend continues, no one will know any of these things. All we’ll have is stories of the good old days, when ranching families raised meat for their communities and little girls got to dream big dreams from the back of a horse.
Further research and provocation on this issue:
A Handbook for Ranch Managers. In keeping with the “holistic” idea that the land, the livestock, the people and the money should be viewed as a single integrated whole: Part I deals with the management of the natural resources. Part II covers livestock production and Part III deals with the people and the money. Not only would this book make an excellent basic text for a university program in Ranch Management, no professional ranch manager’s reference bookshelf should be without it. It is a comprehensive reference manual for managing the working ranch. The information in the appendices and extensive bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.
You might also be interested in the supplement to this Handbook: Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual.