Bad Man’s Music


Bad Man’s Music

Life would be a lot less complicated if the events and the people comprising them were accompanied by appropriate background music. Like in the movies. Think about it. You’re watching a favorite episode of GUNSMOKE. You can bet your bottom dollar on the light-hearted, silly composition to precede the appearance of a beloved Festus. A symphony of dramatic sonata might usher in the stoic, no-nonsense figure of Marshal Dillon. Listen for the oeuvre of melodramatic depiction of a love un-culminated as the lens zooms in on the lovely, forlorn face of Miss Kitty. Fancy yourself the villain? Good luck with that. You were tagged the moment the first two howling notes of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” pierced the screen.

Reality is far more complicated. There are no sound bites to warn us of pending doom. We are obliged to assess the situations and people we encounter based on…what? Their spoken words? Written words? People can say or write anything whether they mean it or not. There’s only one written Word I put faith in and it was written LONG before the first episode of The Sagebrush Burns.

I use the two extreme opposing views of the situation occurring in Harney County as an example. The general public has been presented with few actual facts. Media of all formats including news, independent, mainstream and social, have been on fire touting opinions and “facts” regarding the situation. Who’s right and who’s wrong? I certainly have my opinion, but it is just that…my opinion. My opinion is one based primarily on my gut instincts. I would be foolish to present otherwise because I have not been given all the facts. That is where I see the problem. We live in a society rarely presented with pure, unbiased fact void of ulterior motives or political agendas.

It’s easy to be an arm-chair “opinionator.” We all do it. We sit behind our keyboards cutting, pasting and sharing the latest “fact” that supports our opinion. Justification for any stance is a mere Google click away.

I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer to the unfortunate situation in Harney County, but I do know a tell-tale track of background music isn’t going to mysteriously appear….directing us audibly down the safest path. I must base my opinion on gut instinct built on a foundation of what I do know.

Two people were imprisoned for arson; allegedly setting fire to their own property and subsequently setting fire to less than 150 acres of leased BLM land. Such action, according to the courts, is a crime punishable by five years in prison. To my knowledge, the evidence presented to the jury in that court room have not been publicly disclosed. Did father and son intentionally back burn to save their own land from wildfire? Did they set the fire to cover up an alleged poaching?

Questions come to mind. Why would cattle ranchers need to poach deer? Anybody that would fill a freezer full of gamey venison when they have fatted, grass fed beef might have messed up taste buds….hardly justification for five years in prison. If the poaching, of which they were not convicted, did occur, why? I doubt they were going to eat the animals. It makes more sense to me that if poaching occurred – it may have been done to eliminate nuisance vermin. Bambi and friends can wreak havoc on a haystack faster than piranha on a dead cow. I don’t really know if piranha can strip a dead cow to the bone in under 2 minutes, but if it’s good enough for Theodore Roosevelt, it’s good enough for me.

Regardless, it is my gut feeling the Hammon family did not maliciously set fire to public land. The scenario that makes more sense to me is this: The federal government has wanted to acquire the Hammon ranch and the surrounding area. According to local citizens of Harney County, the BLM has harassed the ranch for over 30 years. I have no proof of this – but I am more apt to believe my neighbors than I am a bureaucratic entity.

Why is it difficult for us to trust the autocracy? Because of their track record. I’ve seen it in action. Stealing land from citizens under the guise of “preserving” it for…what…I’m not really sure. Possibly to sell off the mineral and natural resource rights as collateral for the national debt? Sound like a conspiracy theory? Perhaps. According to Barack O’Bummer – ( the American’s tendency toward conspiracy theories have been ingrained in us by our forefathers. Huh…I guess we inherited it. Fortunately for O’Bummer…it’s a trait he doesn’t have to worry about inheriting – being it’s an American trait and all.

Call it what you will –it is a theory more plausible to me than a couple of hard working cattle ranchers running around willy-nilly shooting Bambi and playing with matches. And what about the disgruntled young “witness” who claims his grandpa gave him a box of matches and told him to light the place up? I’ve raised three kids. One of them still talks of the alleged gigantic 2×4 wooden spoon I broke over his backside.

Right or wrong – two people are now in prison for a little bit of nothing. I’ve heard some say that’s justice. Really? Does the punishment fit the crime? I read another article “on-line” supporting the actions of the courts to imprison the Hammons. The document stated the Hammons negotiated the dismissal of certain charges in exchange for a promise of a minimum sentence as mandated by law. I suppose to some, that puts a new twist on the Hammons culpability. Not me. Many cases involve a plea bargain of some sort. I would go so far as to say that most do. When you’re negotiating with the devil – I guess you take the lesser of two evils – either way, your ass is going to get scorched.

Will we ever know if the Hammons maliciously torched 135 acres? Maybe…maybe not. I don’t think it matters anymore. Two wrongs don’t make a right and those people and thousands like them have been wronged by the very government that was designed to protect us and work FOR us. It is a fact the federal government is “acquiring” private land at an alarming pace and seem to stop at nothing in their endeavors to do so. I have my opinions on that as well…but I’ll save it for another episode of “as the conspiracy theory turns.”

Guilty, innocent, justified or not – the Hammons have been tried and sentenced…twice actually. I watched a movie once that called such an illegal practice “double jeopardy.” I guess that’s another one that only counts in the movies. It is beyond sad. Prisons are for serial killers and rapists. Not for people trying to eek a living in a world determined to consume their way of life and toss them aside. Prison is not a place for people who may have made a mistake in trying to protect that way of life. As the Hammons sit in prison, the world will go on without them. Their ranch will likely end up in the very hands they fought so hard to keep it from. Maybe not today or tomorrow – but eventually.

The America that once was, is an America that is becoming harder and harder for me to recognize. Is there hope? I so desperately want to believe so. I don’t believe the majority of the American people can possibly remain oblivious to what is going on around them forever. Our freedoms are being chipped away bit by bit, chunk by chunk…acre by acre. I hope that what has occurred in Harney county (and other counties across our nation) will force us all to open our eyes – unbiased and outside of political and religious boundaries.

Say what you will about the protestors at the Wildlife Refuge…their action has opened the eyes of this nation and drawn attention to what they and countless others see as a gross overreach of the federal government. Yes, they are protestors! They are not terrorists – they are not militia – they are protestors. No different than the protestors that occupied Wall Street or the protestors that march down the center of town shedding light upon various causes. Just because they wear cowboy hats and camo does not make them any more of a terrorist than someone in a beanie and rainbow suspenders. How many protestors have chained themselves to a giant redwood to prevent it from being cut down? Were they labeled terrorists? Was the FBI and the S.W.A.T team brought in to protect the locals? And don’t try to tell me it’s different because some of them exercise their second amendment right to bear arms. You can bet the S.W.A.T team didn’t arrive with bags of candy to throw at them.

History is bound to answer my questions and more. I pray that same history finds us a free people living in a nation we can once again be proud to call our Country. A history which may well prove we have people like the Bundy’s to thank for some of those freedoms. People who are willing to take a stand and fight for the constitutional rights this country was founded on regardless of personal cost. People with the backbone and fortitude some of us wish we possessed.

No, life is not a television episode or a Spaghetti Western. The good guys don’t always wear white hats and Marshal Dillon won’t be riding in on a buckskin to save Dodge. I sure wish he were. Our country could use a Matt Dillon. Heck, it could use a Festus and a few more Miss Kitty’s, too. In the real world, a person must wait for the scene to play out before them. The only Toccata and Fugue warning us of what is to come may be the one beating within our hearts.