Sunday, December 4, 2016

Signs of the times from the New York Times (the times being 1916)

On today's 100 Years Ago Today Subreddit we learn a couple of interesting things.

 Horse drawn fire engine, New York City, 1916

One is that the head of New York City's fire department was proposing to convert the last horse drawn engine companies to automobiles.  Most already had been in NYC, but 700 fire horses remained with an average age of 13, apparently.

End of an era.

Secondly we learn that a study at Columbia University had found that it was perfectly possible to work your way through university.  Interesting to see that concern then, when many fewer attended it and they tended to be from classes with means as a rule.  Clearly the times were truly changing.

 Columbia library, 1915.

The study listed various jobs finding that shoveling snow lead the pack but posing as an "art model" came in second, although only one woman opted for that job.  Of various occupations listed, one curiously labelled one was "companion", which was a role performed by one female student.  Quite a few women worked as stenographer and typists which, although we hardly think of it that way now, were jobs that were actually new to women.

Female typist, 1917.  In this case the typist is 15 years old.

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, Tulsa Oklahoma

Churches of the West: Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, Tulsa Oklahoma




This is the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The church combines Gothic features with Art Deco features, reflectingits construction in 1929.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Cheyenne State Leader for December 3, 1916. Carranza sets to take on Villa and Teachers take on booze.


On Sunday December 3, readers in Cheyenne were perhaps a bit relieved to find that Carranza's forces seemed to be rallying, perhaps meaning that National Guardsmen at the border wouldn't be finding Villistas crossing back over into the United States.

At the same time, teachers came out in favor of Prohibition. 

That doesn't really surprise me, and indeed strikes me as natural.  I'm not a teetotaler but its rather obvious that alcohol creates a flood of societal problems, quite a few of which teachers have to deal with daily. 

Along those lines, it amazes me that in our current era we've not only come to regard the concerns that lead to Prohibition as being quaint and naive, but we're out trying to legalize ever intoxicant we can.  Related back to the concerns of the teachers in 1916, just this past week a 19 year old died in this town of, it appears, complications due to the ingestion of an illegal drug.  It would seem that the intoxicants that  are legal now are quite enough really.

Poster Saturday: Italian Red Cross Matinee.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Injured players get full pay for their contracts in baseball.


On this day in 1916 the National Commission in baseball ordered that injured baseball players get full pay for the duration of their contracts.  Prior to that the injury clause in their contracts allows clubs to suspend players after fifteen days.  The Players League had pressured for the change.

The Cheyenne State Leader for December 2, 1916. American Troops Ready to Stop Bandit Villa.


Things were starting to look increasingly dangerous on the border.

The Laramie Republican for December 2, 1916: Maybe there's nothing to worry about on the border.


Residents of Laramie would have been less disturbed by border news today than those in Cheyenne would have been.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Casper Weekly Press for December 1, 1916: White Slavery and Boom on in Casper






While the Cheyenne papers warned of bodies burning in the streets of Chihuahua and Villa advancing to the border, as well as the ongoing horrors of World War One, the Casper Weekly Press hit the stands with tales of white slavery.

White slavery, for those who might not know (we don't hear the term much anymore) was basically the kidnapping of young women and forcing them into prostitution.

Headlines like this are easy to discount, and seem lurid, fanciful, and sensationalist, but in reality they give us a view into the hard nature of the past we'd sometimes completely forget.  White Slavery, i.e., the kidnapping of women and the forcing them into prostitution, was actually a bonafide problem, and to some extent, it remains one.

I've spoken to one now deceased woman who escaped an attempt to kidnap her on a large East Coast city when she was a teen and who was convinced that she was almost a victim of such an effort.  And it wasn't all that long ago that it was revealed there was an Hispanic white slavery ring in Jackson Wyoming, where very young Mexican teenage girls were being brought up to that Wyoming resort town as prostitutes, working in an underground economy there focused on single Mexican laborers.  That one was discovered, oddly enough, through the schools.  Still, the evil practice, fueled by money and drugs, is with us still, although with advances in technology, and just more knowledge on such things, it wasn't what it once was, thankfully.

We don't want to romanticize the past here, so we've run this, although with all the news on bodies burning in the streets, etc, we probably can't be accused of romanticism anyhow.

Meanwhile an oil boom was on in Casper causing housing shortages.





Page two of the Casper Weekly informed us that a Ford had become a necessity.  If it wasn't quite true at the time, it soon would be.





The Wyoming, a store apparently took a shot at Prohibitionist by advertising that they had "everything a Prohibitionist likes."


The Wyoming Tribune for December 1, 1916: Carranza prepares to fight at the border



Just a few days ago the news was reporting that US forces would be able to withdraw from Mexico and an agreement with Carranza was on the verge of being signed. Today the Tribune was reporting fears that Villa would advance to the US border.

And former Governor Osborne, presently U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, we're told, was contemplating running for the Senate.

The Cheyenne Leader for December 1, 1916: Grim scenes in Chihuahua


Aerial view of Motor Truck Group, Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, Major F.H. Pope, Cavalry, commanding, December, 1916


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Movies In History: Flyboys, The Red Baron and The Blue Max (and The Great Waldo Pepper).



Sometimes the only purpose a movie serves is to remind you how good an earlier movie actually was.

Drama in the air, biplanes, war, romance. . . how could you go wrong?

Well, apparently you can. At least if Flyboys and The Red Baron are any guide.

Let's start off with a really good film fearing all of this, however.  The Blue Max.

The Blue Max was a 1966 movie featuring George Peppard as Lt. Bruno Stachel, a German commoner who is elevated to officer rank as a pilot during World War One.  It's based on a novel by the same name, which I have not read.  Stachel finds himself elevated out of the trenches, out of the enlisted ranks and into both the infant Luftwaffe and to the company of German nobility, the latter of which he does not mix well with.  Highly competitive and not entirely likeable, Stachel's story is well developed and the film does a nice job of exploring a world that was being killed by World War One.  The title of the film is taken from Stachel's pursuit of the Prussian award for valor, the Pour le Merit, an award that was given to quite a few German aviators during World War One.

The film features a nice collection of aircraft built for the story, which in some ways are as much the stars of the film as the actors. Period aircraft were not available so they built them for the film.  Fortunately, I suppose, aircraft of that period were relatively simple.

This is an excellent film.  In terms of material details, in regards to aircraft, its superb.  It's good also in regard to German uniforms, which were a mix for aviators.  It's one of the few films regarding World War One aircraft that demonstrate how filthy of job it was, given that the engines of the period spewed oil back on the pilots.  A film history buff could pick a few complaints with the use of British small arms for German ground troops, but as that's a secondary aspect of the film, it shouldn't really detract much and it was common at the time.  Otherwise, it's excellent in every way.  It's by far the best modern World War One aviation film every made.

Before moving on to the lesser films, we should mention The Great Waldo Pepper, which is a film in which Robert Redford plays the title role, a barnstormer in the 1920s.  The barnstorming era is romantically remembered, but off hand this is the only film I'm aware of that features it.  Again, the story is a good one, the planes are also the stars, and the material details are excellent.  Concerning those planes, quite a few of them from this 1975 film were made for The Blue Max, so the accuracy of the aircraft shouldn't surprise us, perhaps.

And then there's the others.

Recently I've been posting a lot on the year 1916, so it's only appropriate that both Flyboys and The Red Baron would be on television.  For really lightweight entertainment, I guess their okay, but only barely so.

Flyboys is a 2006 film featuring James Franco in an early role as a pilot joining the French military in a squadron loosely, and I do mean loosely, based on the Lafayette Escadrille.  It's pretty bad.

This is the first film of which I'm aware that CGI was used for the aircraft.  A viewer who is familiar with The Blue Max will be disappointed as the aircraft look fake, at least to the experienced eye.

The story is fake, to the knowledgeable viewer, and more than a little odd.  For example, one of the American pilots in this squadron is portrayed as highly religious and sings Onward Christian Soldier as he flies into battles.  This story takes place in World War One, not World War Two, and therefore there isn't an intelligible religious element to the story.  I.e, the Germans were Christians too and no matter what you think of their cause they weren't being lead by Hitler (indeed, their sovereign, Kaiser Wilhelm, would disdain Hitler in exile).

For some odd reason, in addition, every German fighter in this film is a Fokker Triplane  Weird.  And they're all painted red save for the black one flown by a real baddy.  This contrasts with The Blue Max which correctly shows that German squadrons flew a real mix of aircraft and those aircraft tended to be painted in all sorts of different ways, all within a single squadron.

The only saving grace, really, to the story is the portrayal of a French farm girl by the improbably named French actress Jennifer Decker.  She does a nice job in a story that's otherwise a mess.

Even worse, is the 2008 film The Red Baron, which is currently showing on Netflix.  A German made film, but in English, it's best just flat out skipped.  The basic plot could be summarized as; young boy dreams of flying his whole life (improbable given that aircraft had existed for only eleven years when WWI broke out), becomes flyer, flies in a noble airborne game of chess, falls in love with nurse who exposes him to war, became anti war.

Bleh.

A lot of this strikes a person as sort of an excuse to try to make a film that really romanticizes a German officer who was really deadly at his craft and make him into sort of anti war hero in the process.  Well, Manfred Von Richthoffen wasn't awarded the Blue Max as he was an airborne pacifist.

This makes of this film also seem to have been compelled to take the concept that the war in the air was chivalrous, a somewhat doubtful or at least overdone proposition, a bit further than the bounds of reality will tolerate.  Every modern World War One aviation film does this to some extent, and the proper extent is likely that depicted in The Blue Max, but this one is really over the top in these regards.  Developing a personal relationship, for example, between Manfred Von Richthoffen and Canadian pilot Roy Brown is really a bit much.

So, skip Flyboys and The Red Baron and rent The Blue Max and The Great Waldo Pepper instead.

The Cheyenne Leader for November 30, 1916: A National Guard Casualty


Only meriting a small entry at the bottom of the page, we learn on this day that Wyoming National Guardsman Pvt. Frank J. Harzog, who enlisted from Sheridan, died in Deming of encephalitis.  He was to be buried at Ft. Bliss, so he wold never make it home.

Too often soldiers who die in peacetime are simply forgotten; their deaths not recognized as being in the service of the country. But they are.  Indeed, the year after I was in basic training a solider who was in my training platoon, a National Guardsman from Nebraska, died in training in a vehicle accident.  A Cold War death as sure as any other.

Thanksgiving Day, 1916

November 23 was Thanksgiving Day in 1916.  Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation to that effect on November 17, 1916.

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation
It has long been the custom of our people to turn in the fruitful autumn of the year in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His many blessings and mercies to us as a nation. The year that has elapsed since we last observed our day of thanksgiving has been rich in blessings to us as a people, but the whole face of the world has been darkened by war. In the midst of our peace and happiness, our thoughts dwell with painful disquiet upon the struggles and sufferings of the nations at war and of the peoples upon whom war has brought disaster without choice or possibility of escape on their part. We cannot think of our own happiness without thinking also of their pitiful distress.
Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do appoint Thursday, the thirtieth of November, as a day of National Thanksgiving and Prayer, and urge and advise the people to resort to their several places of worship on that day to render thanks to Almighty God for the blessings of peace and unbroken prosperity which He has bestowed upon our beloved country in such unstinted measure. And I also urge and suggest our duty in this our day of peace and abundance to think in deep sympathy of the stricken peoples of the world upon whom the curse and terror of war has so pitilessly fallen, and to contribute out of our abundant means to the relief of their suffering. Our people could in no better way show their real attitude towards the present struggle of the nations than by contributing out of their abundance to the relief of the suffering which war has brought in its train.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this seventeenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixteen and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and forty-first.

It must have been a stressful one for a lot of people.  War was raging in Europe and a lot of Wyomingites were serving on the border with Mexico.  The local economy was booming, and there were a lot of changes going on in the towns, but due to the international conflict.

Big Metal Bird Episode 10 — Tarmac



Because I've watched them out the window of the plane so many times.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Natrona County Closes Schools. . and the upcoming State Budget.

From the Casper Star Tribune:
The Natrona County School District Board of Trustees voted Monday to close Grant Elementary School as a mother and the school’s principal sat in the back and cried. The approval means that Grant and Mills Elementary will likely be removed from inventory — preferably sold but potentially demolished — by Sept. 1, 2017. North Casper Elementary, the old Roosevelt High School and the Fairgrounds should be disposed of by July 1. The Star Lane Center will be closed no later than the end of the 2017-18 school year.
I haven't been running many articles on the economy recently, I guess the election drowned them out, but obviously the economy hasn't been doing well.We're now going to see some school closures locally, partially due to this reason.

The Tribune also reports that Governor Mead's upcoming budget will see "steep program cuts", given diminished state revenues.

One of the victims of state cuts could be the Wyoming Veterans Museum in Casper, which may find its three employees reduced to two part time ones, the Tribune reports.

 

Could be a rocky session for more reasons than one.

The Wyoming Tribune for November 29, 1916: Villa in the headlines


Scary headlines in the Tribune, which reported that Juarez, on the Mexican border, might be Villa's next target.

The Cheyenne State Leader for November 29, 1916: Chihuahua in Villa's hands = Carranza agreeing to Protocol?



The Leader made the curious assumption that Villa taking Chihuahua would cause Carranza to agree tot he draft protocol with the US that was designed to bring about an American withdrawal.

Now, why would that be the case? Carranza had been opposed to American intervention, but as it was, the American expeditionary force amounted to a large block of troops in Villas way if he really intended to move north.

A curious assumption.

And the US acting on behalf of besieged Belgium was also in the news.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Chicago Tribune: CO-EDS SHOULD SET FASHION Nov 29, 1916

From the Chicago Tribune for November 29, 1916 (courtesy of Reddit's 100 Years ago Subreddit:
Nov 29, 1916
CO-EDS SHOULD SET FASHION
Prof. James of Northwestern Is Against Domination of Paris, London, and Michigan Avenue.
Woman's dress criticized yesterday by Prof. James A. James, professor of history in Northwestern university. In a lecture to a class in American history in Harris Hall.
"How long are we to be dictated to by Paris, by London. or even by Michigan avenue?" he said. “How many of you in this class leave a store having purchased just what you wanted in the way of clothes?
“I am willing to-say that our descend- ants a hundred years from now will look back on our time with contempt for, our slavishness In matters of dress. Why can’t our college women set the standard of dressing? The simple dress of the college girl of fifteen or twenty years ago was attractive but above all sensible.”
Interesting comments from an age when apparently college co-eds dressed more sensibly than women of fashion.

Perhaps they still do?

Women's fashion would, FWIW, really change in this era, courtesy of the Great War. As noted here previously, women went to work in large numbers during World War One in factories and on farms and this in turn mean that restrictive clothing that had been fashionable had to go.  Indeed the war brought about a permanent change in women's undergarments, according to the Roads To The Great War blog, which goes to show the truth, once again, of Holscher's Fourth Law of History.

 Women war workers in dormitory, 1917.

Lex Anteinternet: The tumult and the shouting

 The day after the election I posted this:
Lex Anteinternet: The tumult and the shouting: I wonder if there's any chance that Facebook shall return to normal tomorrow or later this week. . . . to the extent it was normal. Hm...
I knew better, but I did sort of hope.

By this point, after the oddest election in anyone's memory,  I think most people are so burnt out and tired they'd like a political break.  I know that I would.  Indeed, I'd planned on more post election commentary, but I'm so tired of it all already that I haven't done it, and likely won't much.  I can hardly even stand to listed to the weekend political shows right now.

None of which, I'll note, stops the real diehards. 

Maybe that's part of the problem.

We've endured eight years of comments from people who thought Barack Obama was the worst thing ever.  While some are now denying it, a lot of that commentary got extreme rather quickly, and quite a bit of it bordered on racist. 

Not racist, but an example of this, is that I have a dear friend who was just appalled by President Obama's election as he was so much further to the left than my friend, who took up calling Obama a Marxist and who meant it.  Whatever he was, President Obama was not a Marxist, nor a closet Muslim, nor a Kenyan.  It was all too much.

Now we're going to see four years of the same thing, I fear, with Donald Trump.  One liberal friend of mine seriously takes the position that Trump, in order to make good his suggestion that he'll work with the left (which I don't recall Trump making) needs to surrender on the Supreme Court. That's a little like Custer demanding a Sioux surrender at Little Big Horn as a show of good faith.  It isn't going to happen as its absurd. 

I've now seen a Facebook meme with a photo of a tired US soldier in World War Two claiming that those who voted for Trump are traitors, having betrayed the cause the soldiers fought for by voting for an implied fascists.  Oh come on.  That's the same thing as calling Obama a Marxist.

Enough for awhile.

Trying to figure out public domain? Maybe this will help.

Public domain explained, with dates, by Cornell.

Monday at the Bar: Salaried Labor Contest

Unless you are a lawyer you likely didn't notice that this past week a fairly epic event happened in the area of salaries.

Now, I don't mean hourly wages, this must be noted from the onset.  No, I mean those individuals who are paid on salary, i.e., $X per year, not $X per hour.

Not too surprisingly, this is a topic that's fairly extensively, and somewhat confusingly, regulated by the Federal Department of Labor.  One of the things regulated is the threshold at which a person can be regarded as a salaried employee.  Why does this matter? Well, below that threshold you'll be treated as an hourly employee and entitled to overtime if you work overtime, as overtime is defined in the regulations.  Above it and you are not.

Note, there's a lot, lot, lot, lot more to this than just that the overtime threshold for the salary "exemption" that exists in this area would have gone rom $23,000 per year to $47,476.Quite a change.

But a Federal Court in Texas enjoined implementation of the new rule on a temporary basis so that it will not go into effect on December 1, 2016, as planned.  That doesn't mean it'll never be cleared as legal, but it will be postponed at a bare minimum.

Things like this turn out to be incredibly complicated and have all sorts of peculiar effects.  It is, therefore, hard to know what to make of them.  Fro example, before the big boom in the Western economy to be followed by the big Weed boom in the Colorado economy the average salary for lawyers in Denver was about $45,000 a year, much smaller than many would imagine.  I don't know what it is now, but my guess is that its quite a bit higher.  Be that as it may, there's actually a fair number of professionals that make relatively small wages when starting out or, frankly, just make small wages.  Some, I agree, would look at $45,000 and say that isn't small, but if you are trying to raise a family on it and have a ton of student debt it isn't large.

But if you are a small time operator yourself, with an employee who is salaried, then what?  It might now seem like a problem, but again, if you are in the law, for example, and are working 60 hours a week or more, and have a new associate who also is, then what?  I suppose your options are to boost him or her up over the salary threshold or pay overtime, either of which might not be a financial option for you.

This dilemma, by the way, isn't a new one.  Here's a New York Times cartoon from 1916 on the plight of the Salaried Man.  FWIW, as the captions are hard to read, the umbrella on the left says "Bigger Wages" and the one on the right says "Bigger Profits".  This came in the context of a boom in both during World War One.

The Cheyenne State Leader for November 28, 1916: Villa captures Chihuahua and moves north.


Villa was appearing quite resurgent, grim news for those hoping for a resolution to the border situation.

And a sugar plant was going in at Worland. . . where one still exists.  Elsewhere, the State Engineer was arguing for aid to settlers in an early economic development effort.

And the state's water contest against Colorado was making daily news.

Today In Wyoming's History: November 28: Cody patents a bit.

Today In Wyoming's History: November 28:

1916:   William F. Cody granted a patent for a design for a bit.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lex Anteinternet: The November 1916 Election in Wyoming

Lex Anteinternet: The November 1916 Election in Wyoming: Today is the centennial of the 1916 General Election, and of course the eve of the 2016 General Election. We have the advantage of the 1916...
Posted late, due to a pre posting glitch.

Laramie Daily Boomerang for November 27, 1916: ROTC established at the University of Wyoming


ROTC comes to UW, and the big water case advances.

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: First Baptist Church, Yale Oklahoma

Churches of the West: First Baptist Church, Yale Oklahoma:



This is the First Baptist Church in Yale, Oklahoma. This particular church style is surprising in this context. The town of Yale is fairly small, and this is a substantially built Greek revival style church.  I
don't know the age of the church, but Yale was obviously a fairly substantial town earlier in the 20th Century and this church likely dates to that period.

Tampa Florida, 1916


Tampa Florida, Copyright November 27, 1916.  The Church is Sacred Heart Catholic Church, then almost new as a 1905 structure.   While I shouldn't be, I'm surprised by how modern Tampa looked a century ago, prior to the advent of air conditioining, I'd note.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Poster Saturday: The Doughboys Make Good


Note the artist's use of a Vickers machinegun.

The Cheyenne Leader for November 26, 1916 (but with a date error): U.S. Ready to Ratify Protocol With Mexico


We need to note here that the Leader made an error on its date on page 1.  To show that, we've uploaded page 2 as well.  This was the November 26 paper, note the November 25 paper.

Woodrow Wilson, the Leader reported, was ready to ratify the protocol with Mexico. But was Carranza ready?  The battle appeared to be turning for Carranza's enemy, Villa, in Chihuahua.

In Washington, John E. Osborne, former Wyoming Governor, appeared to be pondering leaving his Assistant Secretary of State position in the Wilson administration in order to head back to Wyoming. 

And sad news was reported regarding the death if Inez Milholland Bossevain, who had been in Cheyenne during the Presidential campaign.

And the Governor put out a Thanksgiving message for the upcoming holiday. 


Friday, November 25, 2016

A Legislative Session to watch and the dynamics and culture of trying to grab the public lands.


 Bureau of Reclamation sign on public land used for fishing, hunting, and cattle grazing.  In the context of the times today, protecting the "your land" means basically opposing your legislature.

The Star Tribune informed its readers on Sunday last that Eli Bebout and Steve Harshman shall have the leadership positions in the upcoming Wyoming Legislative Session.  Bebout takes the place of Phil Nicholas in the Senate and Harshman the place of  Tom Lubnau in the House.

Both of them will have pretty big shoes to fill.  Lubnau, a Gillette lawyer, in particular was a voice of reason in troubled times, but he's left the Legislature.  Hid did so with a bit of a lament on the state of Wyoming politics when he did so, which I share.  Here's what he said to WyoFile on this way out.
Nicholas, a Laramie lawyer was a very active Senate leaders and also a moderating force, although he was a backer of the Quixotic effort to raise the retirement age for Wyoming judges, which I thought a bad move, and which failed.

I don't know much about Harshman's positions, although I should as he's from my district.  He's a teacher and coach at NCHS, one of the local high schools..  Bebout I know much more about.

Bebout is a really decent guy, in my opinion.  At one time he was thought a shoe in for Governor but he lost to Governor Freudenthal to everyone's surprise.  That should be a bit of a red flag to everyone in the Legislature as the Democrats have been in real trouble here since Bill Clinton, but the voters favored the more moderate Freudenthal over the very conservative Bebout that election.

 Painted wall in Hudson Wyoming, from when Eli Bebout ran for Governor.  Right across the street there's another for John P. Vinich, who ran for Governor as a Democrat.  Hudson was Vinich's home town, Bebout's, Lander is just about fifteen or so miles away.

Oddly, Bebout himself was once a Democrat.  But perhaps that's not surprising. At one time you had to be a Democrat in Fremont County in order to get elected, a legacy of its mining days.  Those days have now passed and with it a serious Democratic Party in Fremont County.  The County still has some good Democratic politicians in it, but they're mostly on the Reservation where the fortunes of the Democrats have always been higher.  More recently it's been solidly Republican otherwise and has had one of the most conservative members of the legislature otherwise in office.

Anyhow, Bebout is very conservative, which would presumably be a good fit for Wyoming.  He's reliably conservative on social issues, perhaps a reflection of his Greek Orthodox faith, he's a successful businessman who has weathered the storms, and he's generally both likable and responsive.

He's also one of the Wyoming legislators whose hugely in favor of Wyoming taking over the Federal Public Domain. And that's going to be a problem.

Now, he doesn't view it as a problem, and he's indicated to the Press that he thinks the dangers have been overblown. To try to address  those misconceptions, in his view, he's one of the members of a committee that's trying to back an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution that would promise that there'd be no net loss of lands newly acquired from the Federal government in this fashion (nobody ever seems to suggest that maybe we ought to do that with the existing state lands, which are slowly being lost in overall acreage).

Wyomingites, overall, hate the idea of the Federal Government transferring the land to the state, as they don't trust the state.  At a recent meeting of the committee teh overwhelming majority of the speakers spoke against the concept. The committee, rather than tank it, decided to work on their proposed amendment anyway, a really insulting "we know better than you" type of view that will either result in a real reaction against the Legislature, which has happened before on similar topics, or a "in your face" type of effort to push this through.

All of which causes me to consider how on earth this can come about? That is, how can one body of Wyomingites be so brashly in favor of doing something the majority of us detest?

Well, in thinking on it, I think that my conclusion is a lot different than what people generally suppose.

If you read (and I haven't for years) articles in the High Country News of rind your ancient copy of Sam Western's Pushed Off the Mountain Sold Down the River: Wyoming’s Search for Its Soul (which my late mother liked, but which I've never read, as I'm reluctant to accept that relocated authors from The Economist have much to tell me about my neighborhood) you might be tempted to come to the conclusion that this is all emblematic of a conflict between the "New West" and something else ("Old West"?).  It isn't.  This fight has always been with us. At the end of the day, it has always pitted the apostles of money and industry against everyone else,, but I don't mean for that to sound as harsh as it does, as many of those apostles truly believe in the Gospel of Money, and almost all Wyomingites are in that congregation, somehow or another.  That's in part why its such a long running fight.

And its a multifaceted one as well.  I think that there's at least   1) the extractive industries and their fellow travelers; 2) agriculture; 3) the dazzling urbanites; 4) the forces of distinct culture and 5) most of us, the regular folk.

I don't know of anyone else who looks at this as a five way struggle, but I do.  Let's break it down a bit and see if it fits. And lets' do that by looking at each of the five.

And in doing that, let's keep in mind that this struggle hasn't played out and isn't playing out in the big rectangle that is  Wyoming alone.  No, it's being fought, and has been fought, throughout the entire west.

And finally, in doing that, let's concede right off the bat that this struggle is the epitome of blurred lines, which is why it keeps reoccurring.

So on to the five.

1.  The extractive industries and their fellow travelers. 
 
 Grass Creek, Wyoming Oilfield in the early days, before World War One.  At the time of this photo, oil entrants could still patent their claims, in the same way that mining claims could be patented, and indeed as "placer oil claims".

Wyoming my call itself the Cowboy State, but even since its earliest days, it's looked to the extractive industries, oil and coal, and mostly oil, as what was going to make the state rich.  You can go back at least as early as the 1890s and find newspaper articles just gushing about oil prospects.

The Wyoming Oil Observer, an energy centric newspaper published in Casper as least as far back as 1918.  Today, the Casper Star Tribune follows in its wake by publishing its energy edition every week.

The concept that there's wealth in oil is hardly misplaced. The same is true of coal, and uranium.  Early in the states history, and from time to time throughout it, there's been other minerals that would likewise fit the bill.  Gold and heavy metals, for example, have had their eras, although they provide a cautionary tale, just as uranium and coal presently do, about the fickleness of mineral wealth.  I suppose the same cautionary tale can be told throughout the nation and even the globe.

The point isn't, as some who would be hurling their copies of the High Country News at me right now  would maintain, that the extractive industries are bad (hey there. . . yeah, you in the espresso shop in Ft. Collins, I can see you getting ready to hurl your copy of the High Country News at me, stop it).  They aren't.  But their nature can blind those in deep in them to other things, which is true of everything.

This has always been the case, however, to a distinct degree with the extractive industries and other local industries, and again for a real reason.  The reason for this is that almost everyone in Wyoming has come connection with the extractive industries.  Many people do very directly. That is, they work for coal companies or oil companies.  Others do more remotely, but there's still a connection.  Companies that supply oilfield equipment, or vehicles, or even just people who work for grocery stores where a lot of the population works in the oilfield.  This is pretty obvious to most people.

This leads to the "a rising tide lifts all boats" type of theory, but in actuality that's a really poor analogy as the energy money doesn't really act like a rising tide. That is, it doesn't lift all boats equally, like a tide does, at least not directly.  Indeed, if we're to use an aquatic reference, it lifts boats more like a wave, or even a tsunami, with everything lifting at some point, but a person's craft not necessarily lifted to the peak of the wave.  And some crashing goes on.  This type of thinking, however, is also additionally problematic as the way this impacts the average person isn't as focused on the profit aspect of life as people who are captains of industry, no matter how small or local that industry may be.  This is how people in industries like the extractive industries can get lost and baffled by the fact that most people, even people who work for them, aren't all that receptive to their arguments.  "We'll all make more money" actually doesn't motivate people that much, particularly if that more money equates with the destruction of something they value more, which this sort of thinking can.  Its sort of a secular application of Mark 8:13:
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
A lot of average Wyomingites grasp this in an instinctive way that applies directly to them. That is, most Wyomingites don't see the value of gaining more employment or bringing in more money wealth if it means the destruction of their fishing hole.

Another reason that the arguments of the industry focused fall flat is that they don't tend to contemplate industry, let alone the extractive industries, as we know them to really be, and as most Wyomingites have direct personal experience with this, their arguments aren't convincing.

Right now, as back in the 1980s, the big argument is that if we only could get direct control over the public lands ourselves, i.e., if the State of Wyoming could get them, we'd roll back regulation and everything would be super.  But we know that this is very unlikely to be true.

We know this in part for the reason discussed immediately above.  If we have long enough lives to have experienced it, most of us agree that some of the regulation was pretty necessary. We might not agree on how much of it was, but few would maintain that we should return to the conditions of the 1950s and 1960s.

More than that, however, this argument falls into an erroneous assumption that there's stability in the product to be produced, but we know that is not true.  Basically, arguments about the mineral products that are supposed to gain us perpetual wealth are subject to the myth of the beaver pelts, although not in the way that people like to cite it.

Free trapper Bill Williams, 1839.

Everyone has heard this myth. The myth is that there was a beaver felt craze, this sparked a trapping boom in the west, all the beavers were trapped out, and the end of trapping was the result.

The reason that this myth, and that's exactly what it is, is relevant is that it is similar to the myth of mineral production in the West, and its a Western based myth. The central thesis is that a) we have a limited scarce commodity, and b) its valuable, and c) as it can't be replaced, the price can only go up.

None of that was true, however.

What was true is that the beaver trade was industrial in nature, but relied upon local, and rustic, folks for the raw product.  In that fashion, it's very much like the modern petroleum and coal industries.  Us local folks are on the trap and swamp end, and we like that.  The commodity is produced, as a raw product, and shipped elsewhere for refinement and use, for the most part.

But what really occurred is more instructive.

The beaver were never trapped out.That is simply a myth.  Indeed, you can buy beaver felt hats today, and I have several  Really good cowboy hats have a high percentage of beaver felt in them, and for a really good reason.  It's darned near impervious to water in any form.  It's the perfect felt.  That's what made it valuable in the first place.

 

But that's what made for the competition as well. What really occurred is that as the price and demand went up, competition developed from other materials, some of it radically different. Some was similar, like rabbit and nutria felt (Army campaign hats of the 19th Century were usually nutria).  But silk, which was simply a material of style, competed equally well in terms of the whims of style.  So when beaver felt ran its course as a matter of simple style, or simply became too expensive, perhaps, silk stepped in and replaced it.


That may seem like a pretty poor analogy, after all beaver is a renewable resource and oil is not, but it really is pretty close, actually.  Beavers were trapped by the hardy of the Frontier, just as oil likewise tends to be produced by hardy men, and fewer women, who are willing to engage in the risky business of producing it. Both were products that were shipped out for refinement, and largely for use, elsewhere.  And when the market developed, competition did as well.

That's what booster of the extractive industries seem to have failed to learn here.  The petroleum industry isn't in trouble locally due to regulation from Washington D. C.  It's in trouble as Saudi Arabia turned on the tap.  We can do almost nothing about that.  And coal isn't in trouble because of Washington's heavy had, it's in a century old decline that has been headed in one direction.

Indeed,  the fate of coal is particularly instructive and should be closely examined on this topic. Coal isn't in trouble now because Washington suddenly started picking on it.  It's been in trouble since Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, ordered the Royal Navy to switch from coal to oil.

Oil, you see, doesn't blow up, taking the ship with it.

The wreck of the USS Maine. Stuff like this give you the "war on coal".

Its' been one long downhill slide for coal ever since the Royal Navy decided to the replace it with oil. Every Navy did that shortly thereafter.  By the 1940s diesel locomotives began to make inroads as well and by the 1960s coal fired locomotives were a thing of the past.

Diesel electric engine, 1943.

Starting in the same time frame, houses, many of which were heated by coal furnaces, were switched in many locations to fuel oil furnaces, something that's still  used in many locations (although a curious reverse example of this was once one of the most popular threads on this site).  Coal furnaces for houses are now a thing of the past.

Lennox "Torrid Zone" coal furnace.

This last item is particularly instructive, as oil furnaces are now becoming a thing of the past.  They're being replaced, in many places, by natural gas furnaces, which burn cheaper and cleaner.  In other regions of the county people went directly from coal (or even wood) to natural gas.

The United States has natural gas in abundance.  Indeed, the practice of simply flaring it off remains common in the US, although it has to be wondered how long that will be allowed to continue.  At any rate, it's natural gas that's finishing off coal.  Coal's last bastions were power generation and industrial coke and furnaces.  Power generation is switching to natural gas and the price of the gas is driving that.  No amount of deregulation will change that.

And that should be instructive for petroleum as well.  We will, quite obviously, be suing petroleum oil for a long time to come, but the evidence is that it's on the same production curve as coal.  And combined with that, the price has dropped due to foreign actions we cannot change.  So at the present time we're witnessing the change in transportation to viable electric motors, something that no amount of deregulation will now be able to impact greatly, and a pricing regime determined by the House of Saud, not the White House.

Nonetheless, as is so often the case for people caught in these economic revolutions, it's not possible or popular to face them square on.  Facing this situation square on would require us to concede that coal is likely in its final stages of being regulated to coking use only, it's just not quite there, and the coal in the  West won't be part of that.  That's the hard reality of that.  Eliminating regulation won't impact that.  And petroleum's price drives employment in petroleum, and it will not be rebounding soon. When it does, new technology will mean that employment in that field will not return to historic levels.  But here on the ground its much easier to imagine that Happy Days Will Come Again and they'll be just like old times.  They won't be.  But there will be those, including those with honest motives, who believe that employment is everything, the only employment we have is that which we just had, and we can get it all back.  We can't.  We can wreck things in the meantime, however.

Which brings me too:

2) Agriculture.

 Nebraska homesteaders, 1886.

The last time we went through this here in the 1970s ranchers were the motivating force behind it. That go around it was termed the Sagebrush Rebellion, and the ranchers were the rebels.  While not necessarily remembered this way, it was really the average folks, the last category (Category 5) we will look at here, who put that rebellion down, with the last shots being fired here locally when agricultural interests attempted privatize the state's wildlife, which sparked a huge counter reaction.

This go around, however, farmers and ranchers have been relatively quiet locally.  And where they have been in the forefront it is a qualified participation in that it may have more to do with Category 4 than this Category, Category 2.  There's probably a good reason for that, and that reason is that its becoming to be obvious to farmers and ranchers that if the Federal lands go to the state, at a bare minimum the state may be a worse landlord than the Federal government, and at the worst, the state will sell the land to the rich who live elsewhere.

Ranchers fueled the Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s because that was really the first time that they really faced much in the way of any kind of regulation.  They hadn't been happy about the Taylor Grazing Act all the way back to 1932, however. Ironically, and something they should learn from, the Taylor Grazing Act saved ranching in the West.  It saved it as it eliminated new homestead entries, which were chopping up and wiping out grazing land so fast it wasn't even funny.  Indeed, the Wyoming Supreme Court actually threw its hands up in once case in the 1920s about homesteading entries as it stated that the land was being homesteaded so fast that whatever the ranchers cause of action was when he field it the damages couldn't be determined as his public domain lands were disappearing so quickly.  Had the Franklin Roosevelt administration not stepped in, the land would have been chopped up into tiny pieces and overgrazed rendering ranching as we know it a thing of the past.

That didn't keep ranchers from being mad about the Taylor Grazing Act as they didn't feel that they should have to lease the land at all. And this gets us back to something noted above about the extractive industries.  It isn't that they were greedy, its just hat they were in the business and too close to it to appreciate that their few was flawed.

Indeed, however, it was highly flawed, and remains so to some extent, in the case of land.  Most ranching had only gotten a start in the West because the Federal government aided it through the homestead acts.  Had the Federal government kept its pre Civil War approach to things settlement of the West would have been much, much, slower, but it would also have been of an entirely different character.  Recognizing that farmers of any kind were not stopping in The Great American Desert Congress  decided to do something about it by trying to make acquiring an agricultural unit as cheap as conceivably possible.  Ranchers of the early 1930s, if the had in business for awhile, had forgotten that they were the descendants of people who had accepted the Federal government's helping hand.  It's really been forgotten now.

And they were also the beneficiary of a much more distributist economic view on the part of the Wyoming people at the time.  Viewed through economic lenses, the Johnson County War was an effort at appropriating the Federal domain violently at the expense of smaller ranchers.  The large ranchers lost that war, and the ranchers of the 1930s, and today, are the heirs of the efforts of the small ranchers, not the large ones.  Efforts to force the Federal government to hand over the land today are really very much akin to what the Invaders of 1892 sought.

 
The Invaders of 1892

As noted, many ranchers sympathize to some degree with the take the Public Lands movement, but not nearly to the extent they once did. Something has definitely changed  and what it is, I suspect, is that the Invaders who tried to take their lands in 1892 are back in the form of out of state interests that buy land to be a playground.

Back in the 1970s, when we last saw this effort, it was still possible for ranchers to acquire ranch land. The reason had to do with the hideous  economy of the 1970s.  A lot of land went back to banks locally and local ranchers, via loans and foreclosure sales, were able to expand. This was really a blip in the long term economy, but it lasted quite awhile. As late as 1990 or so my father and I were in this situation and came very close to buying a small ranch.  He took ill, however, and died, and we did therefore not do it.  

Those days, however, are gone.  Now when large ranches go up for sale they go to monied out of state interests or real estate developers. Ranchers are under siege and they know it.

They also tend to know that the State of Wyoming, and any other Western state, is not trustworthy with the land.  When the State talks about land, it talks about oil and coal, something that may be under the land the ranchers have but which often benefits them in no real way at all.  Just because its under your land, they know well, does not mean you own it.

Indeed, amongst all the proposal to extract the land from the Federal government there is not a single one to require that the minerals that are under the surface owners lands should go to them. And there is not going to be.  Should the state acquire the lands, it's going to keep the minerals no matter what.  And that's something that doesn't help agriculture at all.

Indeed, the state even owning land doesn't help agriculture. There's no reason to believe that the State will be as generous to ranchers as the Federal government has been.  Pinched for money, the state would feel free to raise grazing rates.  It'd also feel free, at some point, to sell them to the highest bidder and that won't be any local rancher.

Ranchers have been pretty quiet this go around.  This is an interesting, and hopeful, sign.

And let us keep in mind what they already know. .  there's a group that they have to fear, and for which this entire movement is nothing more than opening an Pandora's Box.  Oddly, the extractive folks haven't been able to grasp this, but at some point they will. That group is:

3) The dazzling urbanites;
 Spacious interior of the current REI outlet in Denver.  That's a climbing rock.  And that's how urban people view the public land.  Proceed with caution, legislative bodies.

I'll confess that I stole the title here from Blazing Saddles, the irreverent Mel Brooks comedy that insults everyone.  Amongst those insulted are rural people, in the line where where Gene Wilder asks the new sheriff how a "dazzling urbanite" became the sheriff.  The film was made in the 1970s, fwiw, during which city life was undergoing a strong attraction in the nation.

Anyhow, one of the things that gets improperly noticed in this debate is that there are now, and have been for some time, a collection of large cities in every region and the residents of those cities have a completely different view of this topic than anyone else.  Because they outnumber everyone else their views have to be taken into account.  Poke them and basically you are awakening a sleeping bear.  The Wyoming, Utah and Idaho legislators are getting close to really poking them.

That's an easier thing for the Wyoming legislature to do, or perhaps a more unthinking thing for it to do, than it is for Utah.  Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana really have no large metropolis's.  Utah does have one.  Indeed, that makes the fact that Utah has been the center of this movement even more surprising, but we'll get to that in a moment.  Wyoming's big metropolis, although we don't think of it that way, is Denver Colorado.

The Colorado Rockies playing the New York Yankees, 2016.  The Rockies don't have a "Wyoming Day" for no reason at all, and it isn't accidental that every Wyomingite except for me is a fan of the Denver Broncos.

Denver is our regional hub.  Anyone in business knows this.  For those in the southwestern corner of the state, Salt Lake City is.  If you are in Montana you'll look to Denver as well, or Minneapolis, or Calgary.  In the context of modern communications these big cities are regional capitols.  As a Wyomingite I hate the thought of Denver being the regional capitol, but it is. And for that matter,I'd rather have it be, given the gigantic city its become, than have Cheyenne or Casper be that.

The residents of these cities live in the West. These cities have been features of the West, along with a host of others, for decades or even, in the case of cities like Denver and Salt Lake City, for well over a century.  But they aren't cow towns or even oil towns anymore.  They're business centers with Western, but urban, populations.

Those populations have a playground view of the public lands.  Going to depositions with lawyers from them, who have no other connection with the West, really makes this obvious.  While those of us from the rural West hunt and fish, or hike, etc. the dazzling urbanites ski and mountain bike.  Indeed, not all that long ago I sat through depositions in which two lawyers, one from Salt Lake and the other from Denver, spoke endlessly about the mountain biking options in Jackson Hole.  Wyomingites do not speak about mountain biking in Jackson Hole. They might mountain bike, but going on a high speed grueling ride for fun would not be their first priority.

So far, this group has been relatively quiet, although it does make up and feed an element of radical environmentalism and, therefore, people in Category 1 need to be very cognizant of what they are going.  Dazzling Urbanites have, so far, generally tolerated or ignored extractive us of the public lands, and agricultural use, but only barely really.  And as noted, they form a strong percentage, perhaps the overwhelming percentage, of radical environmentalist.  It does little good to point out to people in cities that they depend on petroleum or agriculture because if they don't' see it, it isn't real.  And to many of them, quite frankly, they don't.  People making money in the financial sector in Denver or the Weed sector really don't depend upon coal or oil in any significant way.

Which is why, I suppose, that you don't see a "take the Public Lands" movement in Colorado.

At some point, and that some point is soon, these people are going to get really mad and start backing efforts to simply shut the public lands down to extractive and economic use. Don't believe it?  Pick up a copy of the High Country News.  And there's a lot more of them than there are of anybody else we're discussing here.  If urban Coloradans and urban Salt Lakers get mad this movement isn't only done, the counter movement will be hard to work with.

By the way, this gets into something that Americans fail to really grasp.  In most of the Western world public reaction to access to the land has been to cause the recognition of the "right to roam."  I'm convinced that day is coming in the Untied States. The right to roam wipes out trespassing on rural lands as a concept.  In Scandinavia a right to roam has long been recognized as an inherited right and Scandinavians can camp, hike, hunt and fish where they like.  Even in densely packed England there's a right to roam, although its provided statutorily.
 (1)Any person is entitled by virtue of this subsection to enter and remain on any access land for the purposes of open-air recreation, if and so long as—

(a)he does so without breaking or damaging any wall, fence, hedge, stile or gate, and

(b)he observes the general restrictions in Schedule 2 and any other restrictions imposed in relation to the land under Chapter II.

(2)Subsection (1) has effect subject to subsections (3) and (4) and to the provisions of Chapter II.

(3)Subsection (1) does not entitle a person to enter or be on any land, or do anything on any land, in contravention of any prohibition contained in or having effect under any enactment, other than an enactment contained in a local or private Act.

(4)If a person becomes a trespasser on any access land by failing to comply with—

(a)subsection (1)(a),

(b)the general restrictions in Schedule 2, or

(c)any other restrictions imposed in relation to the land under Chapter II,

he may not, within 72 hours after leaving that land, exercise his right under subsection (1) to enter that land again or to enter other land in the same ownership.

(5)In this section “owner”, in relation to any land which is subject to a farm business tenancy within the meaning of the M2Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 or a tenancy to which the M3Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 applies, means the tenant under that tenancy, and “ownership” shall be construed accordingly.
This this can't happen here?  It already has.  In Oregon and Washington states this has been fought out in regards to beaches, and there are recognized rights to public access to them in some circumstances.  Its not much of a leap from beaches to mountains and the prairie.  It particularly isn't much of a leap when you tell a Denver mountain biker that he can't use a mountain trail, or a Salt Lake skier that he can't cross your empty woods to the back country.

Beyond that, in the urban areas, there are  a lot of people who do not believe that there should be any, and I mean any, industrial use of the land.  Any effort to "take back" the Public Land will be regarded as an effort to take it away by industry, and that's going to include in their minds the extractive industries and agriculture, and they'll argue in turn that these entities should have no access to the public land.  Indeed, that argument is already being made but so far not successfully.  Efforts to "take" the public lands will inspire those groups and gain them adherents.

So, Wyoming legislature, be careful.  You are poking a sleeping bear with a stick.


Well, we've been mentioning Salt Lake City, so perhaps we should go to this next

4) the forces of distinct culture

 
The Utah state house, the epicenter of the "take" the Public Lands movement.  But why?

Now why would the last sentence lead to this.? Well, as has been fairly obvious, Utah, Idaho, and the ranching areas of Nevada, have been particularly active in the "take back" movement.  Indeed, Utah really got it rolling, while other states, like Colorado and Montana have sat it out.  So, what's distinct about Utah, Idaho and the ranching regions of Nevada?

They have a high percentage of Mormons.

Now, already, I can feel people's hackles come up and I can hear the "you are bigoted as you are saying . . ."

No, I'm not, I'm making a demographic observation in the context of this story.  And it won't, fwiw, be limited to the cultural view of Mormons (or rather some Mormons) in this context, but of others as well.

So the question is does this have something to do with the support of the "take back" movement in these areas, and if so, why?

I think it does.

But I'll note that this isn't the only cultural group we'll look at here.

I've pointed out before here that cultures have very long memories. This is pointed out in Holscher's Third Law of History, which provides:
Holscher's Third Law of History.  Culture is plastic, but sticky.








And I think that plays into the popularity of this movement in the areas mentioned, and the absence of it in others.

Most Americans are completely ignorant of Mormon history, but Mormons aren't.  People in Manhattan are dimly aware that Mormons moved to the Salt Lake Valley in the 19th Century, maybe, but they know little more than that.  What they don't know is that the Mormon's immigrated there in the process of basically fleeing the mainstream, Protestant, American culture of  mid 19th Century.  Indeed, Mormon polygamist practices were found so abhorrent that even John Stuart Mills, who wrote On Liberty, in the United Kingdom, mused on the British landing a military expedition in Texas to march on the Salt Lake Valley to stop it.

And amongst the forgotten that in 1857 to 1858 the Mormons fought a war with the United States.   This followed earlier local conflicts and became a full scale effort to ensure Mormon dominance over the newly colonized territory and perhaps to even wrest control of it and sever it from the US entirely.  The Mormons lost and an uneasy peace was restored which included the posting of Federal troops in Salt Lake.

Cultures that win wars often tend to forget them or to place them in the permanent past.  Cultures that lose them do not.  All anyone has to do to be reminded of this is to bring up the topic of the American Civil War to southerners, many of whom remain bitter about it and many of whom have a distinctly alternative history view of it.

This is not to say that the Mormon's have an alternative view of the Mormon War. They do not, but they do know that an armed effort they backed, and which was solely made up of their faith, failed and was put down.  This followed, as they recall, distinct oppression in the East, their support of the US in the Mexican War, and bitter fights to colonize the region early on.  Indeed, the extent to which Mormon militias were involved in really bloody battles with the native Indians is also largely forgotten, except by Indians, a group we will get to in a moment in this same category.  But t his plays into a cultural view as well, in that they are both a defeated, and colonizing, people, and recall that.

Having colonized the region in a dedicated effort that commenced before the Homestead Acts, and having fought a failed war in an attempt to separate it, and consisting of a distinct culture, Mormons, I suspect, have a cultural heritage that doesn't trust the Federal Government much.

Mormon farmers, Oneida County Idaho.  The Salt Lake Valley was the center of outward colonization from there, which is fairly unique compared to the settlement of the rest of the West.

Whereas most Americans don't really distrust the Federal government, in spite of what they may say, and have a generally favorable outlook on the American military past, Mormons share with Southerners a feeling of having been conquered, but I suspect the cultural heritage is even deeper.  They're generally culturally unique in being about the only religious group that was put down and even modified their beliefs as a result, in the face of the larger culture.

I'm not saying that they are not patriotic. But when the Utah legislature votes to "take back" land form the Federal government, in some ways its hearkening back to the failed effort of the Mormon War.  Or when the Bundy's strike out in Nevada or Oregon against the Federal government, the fact that the effort is made up of men who are almost all members of the Mormon faith, and heirs to its rural colonization, isn't an accident.  There's a different view here at work, and one that's deeply ingrained and likely not easy to overcome in spite of the bad idea that seizing the Federal domain is.  This should be kept in mind by people when they oppose these ideas as they may not understand the cultural context.

It also be kept in mind by those boosting them in those regions.  Already in Salt Lake the demographics have shifted so that the LDS faith does not claim the majority of residents. Being too close to a movement that has cultural roots, but which does not claim a religious element, is dangerous.  Indeed that seems to be known already as certainly most Mormons do not support the Bundy's and have made that clear, even if the national press hasn't really listened as it hasn't picked up on the under currents of the story.
 
 Mural of the Virgin Mary in downtown Salt Lake City.  This isn't a Mormon image, but a Hispanic Catholic one, showing how Salt Lake has already changed enormously.

What may be less obvious, however, is that things are changing fairly quickly in Utah due to Category 3, it just hasn't hugely impacted politics yet, but it will.  Salt Lake City, the major city in the region, has a minority of Mormon residents now, the majority being other things.  This does not mean that they are not influential, they are hugely influential, and it does not mean there's a majority of some other faith, that would be in error.  But Salt Lake, the seat of Utah's government, isn't same city it was in the 1970s.  So things are changing there.

Which in some ways may emphasize these movements.  Cultures under the stress of changing conditions tend to grasp towards old ideals.

And turning to old ideals, we also see this playing out, I suspect, in regards to the entire Dakota Access Pipeline story.  Here too, culture is at work.

On this, I'm continually amused by my (white) friends from outside the region who perceive this in terms of an environmental movement, or perhaps as a generalized Indian rights movement.  It may be both of those, but it's hugely cultural as well. 

 Red Cloud.  Just because he converted to Catholicism and became quite devout, and recognized the futility of trying to carry on with wars against the United States, doesn't mean that he adopted European American views.  Nor does it mean that Sioux protestors at Standing Rock today are Starbucks sipping granola's from Berkeley, even if Starbucks sipping granola's thinks so.

Now, the area we're speaking of is one that doesn't have a lot of public lands. But western North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska do, so it's part of the story.  And its all part of the West.  And what's going on is native cultures are using this as a focal point on their discontent with being a conquered people.  It may have other elements, but that's a big part of it.

Cultures do not simply get absorbed in 100 years, and the native cultures, highly stressed, are still there.  The Dakota Access issue has drawn a lot of Indian attention as Indians are still here and they're still stressed. That's the point, more than any other.

That plays into the conflict over what the Tribal Court is going to be in Wyoming as well.  This story hasn't been well covered by the news, but the dispute between the two tribes, and the one tribe and the US, is a deeply cultural story.

That, once again, may raise the issue of what on earth does all of this have to do with the Public Lands, but it does.  On the latter story, there are large enclaves of native people that hold a completely different view of how benevolent the state is likely to be towards them, and what their rights on the land are.  This past year we saw a Crow game warden tried in Wyoming for shooting an elk, who cited the 1868 Treaty.  That says something.  Back in the early 1980s the pueblo people around in the Sangre de Cristo's of Colorado reacted so negatively to an effort by an East Coaster who bought a ranch in the area to close access to it for timer and hunting sparked an effort by some to kill him by shooting through his roof at night.  On the Standing Rock Reservation right now a group of native people are essentially telling the entire modern American economy to stick it.  These things can't, and shouldn't be ignored and there will be a reaction to anyone state trying to run everything on its own, when  the states are less trusted than the Federal Government is.  Wyoming, it should be  noted, hasn't fared well in recent litigation with the Tribes or Federal Government and it might want to factor that cost into trying to grab lands that were themselves grabbed from these very same people only about 150 years ago.

Indeed, Wyoming is already fighting a losing battle with the Wind River Reservation over who owns the land that Riverton sits on.  Is it in, or without, the Reservation.  We may be in a period of time where the Reservation is actually expanding for the first time ever.  If the state acquires the land, why would the Reservation not seek to control as much as it could.  It's easier, much easier, to take on the State than the Federal government.

Conversely, when those who back this idea make heroes out of people like the Bundy's, or admire the Utah legislature thinking its just super Republican, they may be participating in a back story that they don't understand and in a cultural matter that they don't even conceive of.  You cannot make fun or diminish a people's culture, but you should understand that people's motivations are dictated by culture quite often.  Just because it sounds like "we can manage it better" doesn't mean that deep down there's not another deep seated and perhaps unacknowledged motivation that looks back to losses of the 1850s as much as the economy of the 2010s.  Efforts in Utah may have much less to do with a "let's get Federal regulation off our backs" viewpoint so much as it might "we haven't forgotten that you forced things on us in the 1850s and we still don't really trust you now, U.S. government".   That view may be wholly legitimate, but it doesn't apply equally to everyone.  Indeed, ironically, the protesting Sioux at Standing Rock and the Utah Legislature have more in common on this point that the backers of this view in Wyoming do, even if they hold polar opposite views about how they'd approach industry on the land, maybe.

And then there's: 5) most of us, the regular folk.

 


The irony here, I'd note, is that the "regular folks" category here includes the average folks in every single group I've noted above. The Mormon welder in town, the Indian truck driver in Ft. Washakie, the regular derrick hand in Riverton.  Everyone. Every average person, that is.

It was Arlo Guthrie, son of the famous author of This Land Is Your Land, who lamented:

Just last week I was on my bike
I run into a friend named Mike
Run into my friend named Mike
Mike no longer has a bike. He cries:
I don't want a pickle
Just want to ride on my motorcycle
And I don't want a tickle
'Cause I'd rather ride on my motorcycle
And I don't want to die
I just want to ride on my motorcycle


What's that have to do with anything?  Well, sort of the same thing John Prine meant when he sang:

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.

And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away

Eh?

Well, most folks aren't all that interested in super wealth, or even progress.  Truth be known, progress itself isn't all that its cracked up to be, and a lot of progress is pretty darned non progressive.  Quite a few people would regarding reversing progress as real progress.

Now, what does all that mean?

Just this.

Most folks want decent lives.  And for Wyomingites, that means getting outdoors,  hunting, fishing, camping, and just enjoying the country.  People view the land as theirs, and it is.

Quite a few Wyomingites work outdoors.  Quite a few of them work outdoors because they like the outdoors, not because they're enamored with a particular industry.  So, quite a few guys driving those oilfield service trucks, for example, are doing it as they like driving outdoors.  Geologists may read journals that deal with oil and gas production, but mot of them were granola's in their  twenties and still are.   I know, as I was a geologist.

Lots of people would be ranchers or farmers if they could be, just to live and work outdoors.  They can't, because they're living in the 2010s, not the 1910s.  But that doesn't mean that in their heart of hearts, that's not where they are.

So, it gets back to Wendell Berry's famous question, "what are people for?".

Economics isn't it. Economics only serves people.

Which is why the last time this occurred, it was put down by angry locals.  And they're angry again, and getting angrier.

All the argument about Federal regulation and how nasty it is, and how the economy will be revived, etc and resume its old (1970s?) form is not only inaccurate, it's just so much unconvincing babble if it doesn't address the issues that really matter to the people who are really from here.  The state is our life.  We have sacrificed just to stay here.  Giving it away, and that's what will occur, on the pretext that we will all have more money in our bank accounts doesn't mean much if we give away the state to do it. 
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