Years ago, when I was still kicking in doors for a living, serving search and arrest warrants and chasing dopers of various sizes, shapes, and ethnic origins, I began keeping a book of personal debriefs. I did this because I cared deeply about — and still train scrupulously in my civilian incarnation — small unit tactics. When I was in the big leagues – the regional Narcotics Task Force — I was generally number one through the door on warrant services, which is both an art and a skill, and in every case extremely dangerous because one never knows what awaits on the opposite side, and also because narcotics enforcement is not synonymous with good tactics.
We can, sometimes, be forgiven for falling in love with ourselves. That’s only true because at the end of the day we are all we’ve got, and as a pure survival mechanism, pouring a little love on ourselves may actually be a good idea. I hadn’t contemplated a life or death situation in some time when I set out on our first morning to hunt an elk out of the towering mountaintops that surrounded our little drop camp. I hadn’t contemplated 18″ of snow overnight, either, and so as a debrief point its good to remember that complacency can be, and often is, deadly.
My wife and I were down in Bend, Oregon, the other day, to visit with some friends and to spend the afternoon watching the Oregon Ducks smash helmets with the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl. I had no dog in the fight – my alma maters are both mired in long-term football mediocrity — so instead of pulling for one side or the other I played the role of annoying snarky guy while munching on some terrific jalapeno poppers and perfectly smoked – and I really do mean perfectly — short ribs. It was a great afternoon full of delightfully low-brow conversation.
On the same afternoon that I zipped my grandfather into a body bag – he was fortunate to die at home, in his own bed, and the last words he heard on this earth were my grandmother saying she loved him — I inherited one of his old rifles. It was a single shot .22 with a scope from the old regime – decent glass in its day – that he used to teach my father and uncles to shoot in their sprawling back yard in North Hollywood. Under the house he built a pistol range.
At 0700 it is dead calm and coal-mine dark here on the Figure 8 Ranch. I’ve got a cup of tea on my desk and just came in from feeding the horses. My face is still cold. From the window where I work I can see the merest outline of the ponderosas, and a soft yellow light spilling out of the barn where I leave the stall lights on for the horses. The light glows yellow on the ice in the paddocks. I can’t prove it, but I think that light works for the horses the same way a night-light works to settle the nerves of children afraid of the dark.
It seems to be that, at some level, the Happy People of the taiga have made a lasting peace with the notion that the challenges and inconveniences of life are natural, and healthy, and can even be fun. Hunting cabin in the middle of nowhere collapsed? No problem, I’ll just build a little fire and whistle a little tune. It’s hard not to love a mindset, a richly lived nonchalance, like that.
There isn’t anything magical about regenerative ranching. The theories put forth by the gurus of holistic management, guys like Allan Savory, Johann Zietsman, Gabe Brown, and others, just make sense. It’s possible to build and repair our soils while raising food and actually improving environmental conditions over time. We know how to do this. But our models for worldwide economic growth all collide with doing anything that is healthy and endlessly repeatable.
It’s interesting that so many politicians and bureaucrats, apparently lacking the strength of their convictions, are assuming noms de plume and making their little pithy appearances in the digital realm. Romney’s “Pierre Delecto” is a particularly daft touch, joining some other recent classics such as James Comey’s “Reinhold Niebuhr” and Anthony Weiner’s “Carlos Danger” as instant splashes of cowardice and evidence of active mushbrain.
If you are one of those rarified Americans who still believe, as this space fervently does, that natural rights are bequeathed to us by our creator, rather than granted to us by government masters, you will perhaps appreciate the gift of Robert Francis O’Rourke.
The common denominator in school killings isn’t what you think it is. It isn’t guns, and it isn’t mental illness. The only common denominator in mass school killings is long-term, dissasociative exposure to violent media.
Whether its violence in films, violent lyrics, violent television shows, violent novels, violence depicted across social media, or the endless flood of violent imagery in first-person shooter video games, those countless hours steeped in images of interpersonal violence are damaging the minds of our nation’s children.
“You aren’t going to quit.” It was not the reaction I wanted from my father. As we drove to little league baseball practice, he looked straight ahead without emotion as I sat tearfully next to him. The practice would bring more torture for me. The year before I was a strong contributor to a solid, developing team, now I wanted out and to be free from the hostile environment.
Last week I took some time off from working the colt, writing, and fixing the myriad things around the Figure 8 that broke in the last big snowstorm. I put all that away for a three-day fishing trip down the Lower Deschutes. I went with my friend, neighbor, and legendary guide Steve Erickson, and an old cop colleague who has spent much of his adult life working violent crimes – a grueling career that has left his armor severely dented by the sword and axe-blows of human behavior.