Not Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

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Horse barn, Soldier Meadows Ranch, Nevada

 

It’s 2016, folks, and we are staring down the barrel of an election year, though for some reason I am having a difficult time mustering up any vigor for that slog–in fact, I’m already quite exhausted by it–given the abysmal slate of candidates on either side, and my growing disdain for the election method altogether.

I have voted for the loser in every election in which I have been eligible to cast a ballot.  I like to consider myself well-versed on the issues, an engaged citizen, compassionate, someone with an eye on the long haul and the greatest benefit for the continued greatness of our nation.  But apparently I suffer from bad judgment, because my candidate never wins.  Often, he never gets out of the primaries.  This cycle, I was quite prepared to vote for Jim Webb, former Marine, Secretary of the Navy, and US Senator from Virginia.  He lasted about three minutes.  The process killed him, he didn’t look fantastic on television, and that was that.

These days, the biggest hurdle is the feat of verisimilitude required to believe a single word any of them say.  Trump?  No, thanks.  Clinton?  Not on your life.  I can’t listen to Cruz, who in both his professorial manner and physical countenance reminds me entirely too much of The Count from Sesame Street.  I could go on about this, but why bother.  As each week of grinding hyperbolic nonsense drags out I retreat further from a place of confidence in the result, no matter who wins.  I suspect we are simply too big, there is too much money in it, and there are forces at work that I cannot begin to understand.

Last night, watching the movie Sicario–which as a former narcotics detective I found fascinating–the FBI character played by Emily Blunt asked the mysterious narco villain, played by Benicio Del Toro, to tell her what she needed to know about the narco trade.  He said, “You are asking me to describe how a watch works.  Better now to pay attention to the time.”  It was curt, condescending, and entirely true, and more importantly meant to expose her righteous mind to the notion that what she was facing was nearly incomprehensible.  I feel that way about our current version of representative government.  Rather, I sequester myself in the tack room of our barn–now complete, by the way–and hammer away on revisions of the mythical “novel in progress”.  The mere act of revising a novel is an almost herculean effort, a kind of metaphysical Gallipoli, in that it is an often futile act made in the name of hope and on thin promises of success, but still a much better way to spend my time than on the obfuscations, visionless pronouncements, and outright lies of today’s version of an election in our fair republic.

Perhaps it has always been that way.  I get nervous when people say to me, which they occasionally do, that these are terrible times, worse now than it has ever been, or that the sky is falling down around them.  The outfit currently sandbagging the Malheur Refuge out in Harney County apparently believes we have crossed the philosophical rubicon into tyranny, though their failure at delivering a sympathetic message, or any message, really, muddles that assumption.  And none of us lived through the Civil War, which is likely the worst it has ever been in this country.  Wounded Knee was no picnic for the Lakota.  The average citizen of Europe in the middle ages never travelled more than a few miles from their shack.  So it’s a matter of perspective, of course, as things usually are, given that if you blow your knee out on the touchdown play that propels your team into the Super Bowl, much of the potential pleasure from that moment is permanently erased.  Still, one can’t help but think we are skateboarding rapidly downhill, that we have the speed wobbles, and that there is nothing around us but asphalt.

So for us its the Figure 8, our tiny ranch in the dark timber and snow, and working toward that measure of self-sufficiency that will sustain us if the trapdoor actually opens up and swallows everything whole.  For us that means a healthy supply of ammo, food in the freezer, and treating our neighbors well.  It means faith, too, perhaps hardest of all to preserve and sustain, but we practice, and we manage.  And we sleep well at night because we aren’t afraid of the wolf outside the door.  We respect him, but we don’t fear him, and whatever wolves are released by the powers at work in this election, or the next, we will be ready, and focused, with a very clear message.  And if–heaven forbid–it one day comes down to a fight, we might lose, but the wolf will damn sure know he got into one.

  1. I totally agree with you… have never been so disgusted by a slate of candidates. Our future needs prayers. Another fine piece of writing, Craig. How did your interview with the newspaper go? Now, here’s something to get upset about… I see where someone is going to suggest that Newfoundlands be the official state dog of Oregon. Apparently, about 10 states have official dogs so Oregon is going to get in on the act. Newfoundlands are really nice dogs, but I sure don’t see many of them around. How about a Border Collie? They’re used extensively on sheep and cattle ranches; they’re popular in agility work; and they represent the independent, intelligent nature that Oregonians like to think they have. Date: Mon, 11 Jan 2016 02:43:34 +0000 To: cynthia_wall@msn.com

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    1. Newfoundlands? Surely yet another sign of the apocalypse. I agree about Border Collies. I’m heavily biased of course, but yes!

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  2. Please keep up the posts totally agree with you on this election. Please never stop using the highly entertaining and insiteful gift of writing.

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    1. Thanks, Sharon. More posts on the way…

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  3. Good blog ! Though the pickings may be slim in the political arena this go-around, the Republicans probably have their best shot to bring home the bacon. My take is like that of the young boy who when asked why he was so furiously shoveling out the barn stall, he replied, “With all this horse manure,…there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere. ” <

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    1. Once again, Ricks, you have nailed it. I believe there is a pony in there somewhere, and with enough shoveling, perhaps it will reveal itself.

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  4. As usual on point, thoughtful and eloquent! Keep it up and we’ll be electing you!

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    1. I have withdrawn my name from all consideration. I haven chosen to become the mayor of Munchkin Village. Easy gig, lollipops, and only the occasional wicked witch.

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  5. Those who see these as the “worst of times” are sorely lacking in historical perspective — which is not surprising given how little our culture values the study of history (sez the life-long history geek petulantly). Seriously… the Civil War and Reconstruction … my grandparents didn’t find the Great Depression any picnic. Etc.
    That said, we ARE on shaky ground as a civilization, with a whole lot of vulnerabilities, and it pays to be prepared. Self-reliance and resilience are virtues that carry their own rewards.
    Jim Cornelius
    http://www.frontierpartisans.com

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    1. Agreed. Reading a book now and then, and having, as Hemingway said of Beryl Markham’s writing, a built-in, shock proof, shit-detector, and perhaps a few thousand rounds of 556, goes a long way in this life.

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  6. BTW — what’s your connection with Soldier Meadows? I went down there several years ago with a buddy. Rode a bit and played music. I believe it is the furthest spot from a paved road in the Lower 48?

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    1. I lived there, running cows for a lunatic named Bob Roberts, who owned it, and several other outfits around NW Nevada and NE California. It was me, two guys from Guadalajara, 36 horses, a mule, and about 800 head. Best time of my life, without a doubt. Roberts was trying to piece back together as much of the old Miller and Luxe outfit as he could, and was in a low-intensity range war with another lunatic named John Casey. Bob was a heavy drinker, and diabetic, and the combination eventually finished him. I once saw him knock himself out cold with a handyman jack, when it slipped and the handle took him under the chin. Had to haul him back to the ranch–out cold–in the bed of a pickup. I was moved out there from my line camp job in Duck Flat, which is another story. This fall I went back to Soldier Meadows with some old pals and popped in at the HQ. It’s owned by an outfit out of Nebraska now, and is slightly worse for wear. And BTW, the best hot spring I have ever enjoyed is on that ranch. And you are right, 60 miles of corduroy road from Gerlach, though a bit shorter if you cut across the Black Rock Playa–which I don’t recommend doing at night, if you’ve had a few too many at Bruno’s Country Club. It’s proof that one can get lost driving in a straight line. Good times.

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  7. Great essay. I agree with you on who to vote for. None of them appeal to me.

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    1. Surprising, one thinks, in a country of 300 million people, this is the best we can do.

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  8. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Burns, Oregon, and it is an interesting place. A few years ago I was there and reading two obituaries who listed the infamous poacher and murder as an honorary pall bearer.

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    1. Ha! That is a fine rural tradition, isn’t it? There isn’t a family in Missouri who misses a chance to claim that their relatives once housed Jesse James, or sold him horses. It’s the way of things.

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