We're out inspecting some of our properties, as Donald Davis the storyteller once put it. I'm writing this in our teardrop trailer, parked on Bureau of Land Management land just above Norton Lake in Southern Idaho. Since leaving the Central Valley of California near Auburn we've hardly left our property.
Together we own 47 percent of the land west of the Mississippi. There's a lot more than national parks, national monuments, and state parks. As the United States expanded west in the 19th century it purchased or took the land. This amounted to the same thing, of course. Britain, France, Spain, and our national forefathers all took the land from the Indians. To the extent we "purchased" some of it along the way, we were all trading in stolen goods. We might say the land has been fenced from the get go.
Our property is vast. And we can criss-cross through much of it on paved roads and good dirt roads with our '99 Passat and our Little Guy Trailer. Only a fraction of the whole can be reached this way, but enough for us to get a sense that "Wow, this place is really big," and "Boy, they don't always make access easy, do they?" Maybe we should talk with management.
As we travel down these roads, all the while spying for a good camping spot, we note there are a lot of actual fences of the barbed wire variety. Too often they block our way to an attractive river nearby. It's enough to make us wonder, "is it o.k. to go down there?"
We asked a local couple out for an evening drive about the fences. They live in Twin Falls, but go to Jackpot, a casino town to recreate. They had a one year old baby with them. It's a second family for them they say. They looked in their 50's. "We just go anywhere we like," they said. "When there are gates, we just go through and make sure to close the gate behind us."
We've been following their lead. Still, the fences are annoying. Mostly they keep in cattle. As we learned during the stand-off between ranchers and anti-government radicals with the federal government in Oregon last year, the government leases most of our land to ranchers at below market rate rents.
The ranchers have the attitude "darn right these fences keep in cattle, our cattle, and we'd just as soon keep you city slickers out!" I can see where they're coming from. When we're out here in the land, standing in it, looking at the basin and the range, we feel connected to its vastness. The fact that we're here alone, makes us feel like we own it, not in the national park sense, but, in the sense that we own our house in San Francisco, in the sense that would give us the right to keep it all to ourselves. Standing here, alone in the vastness, makes us forget that we're accountable to 321 million co-owners.
Tonight we went down to the lake, and we ran into a herd of cows. The cows live down there, and they've turned the lakeshore into a cesspool. We felt put off. It smells, it pollutes. We'd rather have this beach pristine for swimming, and floating on inner-tubes, and kayaking. This is our land, how dare they muck it up so.
When inspecting our land out here, alone, not finding anyone else, it's easy to forget about our 321 million co-owners.
|One of my 321 million co-owner's enjoying some of our Properties|