Grit Blogs > Mosquito Mountain Montana Homestead

Politics and Rural Life

Steven GregersenI was pleasantly surprised to see an excerpt from my book, Creating the Low-Budget Homestead, in the blog section of Grit Magazine.  

"...Country people can be awful stubborn and that's a good trait, but from personal back-home experience when it comes to religion and politics, not being open-minded is a trait that some country folk could work on. It's also common sense and consideration if someone is of a different religion, race, citizenship or political opinion comes to live near you, that we not block them out as foreign, and hate them outright. Open-mindedness, warmth and and (sic) an open hand of friendship goes a long way toward neighbors living together in a wonderful peace and community that living in the country brings. ... "  

I've pulled these comments out because they bring up some important points for those moving to rural areas.

First, close mindedness is not a trait limited to "country folk." Second:  if a person moves to a rural area and immediately starts trying to "reform" the people around him, his acceptance level is going to plummet. Third:  those "political issues" often mean the difference between employment and bankruptcy to those "close minded" locals.

A couple of years ago we assisted some people who were riding the Continental Divide trail on bicycles.  Upon meeting the group we noted one man surveying the mountains with a puzzled look.  We asked what he was looking at and he exclaimed that “There are lots of trees here!”  Now we were puzzled so we asked him why that surprised him.  He explained at length that he’d been active on some environmental websites and had been convinced that all of the forest had been obliterated by the logging industry.  He left as an educated man after a quick introduction on the realities of logging, sustainable yields and reforestation.  He also realized that he’d been duped by organizations interested more in political idealism and financial donations than truth.

Loggers are no different than anyone else with an agricultural based business.  They aren’t going to destroy their children’s livelihood for short term gain.  Logging is carefully managed for sustainable yields.  The forest is their livelihood.  They have more at stake in keeping it healthy than some quasi-environmental group whose leadership has never been outside of New York City. 

In this area the logging industry has been heavily impacted by misguided environmental political activity. Most of it’s been done
by people living thousands of miles away who are totally ignorant about logging.  This "industry" is not a faceless corporation but it is families who've been making their living in the woods for several generations. They are the people who cut the trees that were milled into logs so that you could have a house to live in.  They are (or will be) your neighbors.  They take politics very seriously.  

Wolves are another example. To those who reside in the city and urban areas and educated by Walt Disney Studios, wolves are a majestic icon of freedom. To the rancher and farmer they’re killing machines that were eradicated for some very good reasons.   

The family whose children watched their dog being ripped apart by a pack of wolves while it was trying to save the calves the wolves were attacking are not going to feel “warm and fuzzy” when the topic is wolves.  Likewise the herdsman who’s seen his sheep disemboweled and their bodies left to rot after wolves decimated the flock for the sheer joy of killing.   

These are not isolated incidents. 

Those who live in the city and the urban areas around them, need to understand that political actions personally (and often, negatively), impact the lives of those who live in rural areas.  

Politics is not some benign subject to be lightly discussed over coffee and donuts.  To put it in perspective, how warm and friendly would you be to someone who voted to terminate your livelihood or advocated building a maximum security prison, a half-way house for gang-bangers or child molesters, or a nuclear power plant in your neighborhood?  How would that affect your quality of life?   

In many ways, it’s like being subject to a distant, tyrannical government run by those who haven’t a clue (or concern) regarding the realities of rural life. 

It isn't just country folk who need to open up their minds a bit. A lot of city folk could do with it as well. The thing to remember is that you (meant collectively) are the "intruder" entering into another culture.  You are the “white European” arriving in a strange, new land.  Do so carefully and respectfully...not like a missionary trying to convert the "heathen" to the way of "civilized" man. After opening your mind to the ways and reasons of rural life you may see things a lot differently than before. 

steven gregersen
1/30/2013 5:44:45 PM

Dave: Most Montanans do not want the wolves wiped out again but wolves must be managed. One of the greatest frustrations of living here is that too many non-reidents think Montana, Idaho and Wyoming should be giant theme parks. They are our homes too and while we don't mind sharing we get kind of cranky when the quality of life goes down to satisfy the whims of those living thousands of miles away. There is so much misinformation regarding wolves and grizzlies. How can anyone actually make an informed decision if they've never heard both sides of the story? A few months ago we had a grizzly bear feasting on our chicken feed. The dog was barking her fool head off around midnight and I went out to investigate armed with a shotgun loaded with bird shot. I was expecting a skunk but instead rounded the corner to find myself 10 feet from an adult, male grizzly bear. He ran the other way but stopped at about twenty to thirty feet away to turn and watch me a few seconds before he left for the night. I got some good pictures on my game camera the next night when he came back again (I had the food locked up in a building by then). We dont' mind having grizzlies, mountain lions, black bears, and even wolves sharing the woods with us but we're always armed when we go outside armed at night and often during the day if the dog's acting up. Anyway to get back on the subject, politics is serious business. This area in particular has seen a lot of harm done by decisions made in Washington DC. Any newcomer would be well advised to steer clear of politics until they have a thourough understanding of what's at stake. And they should never, ever come with an attitude that the locals are closed minded.


nebraska dave
1/30/2013 4:02:19 PM

Steven, we as a country have migrated to far away from country living. Pioneers knew the balance of nature and tried to live in it. Modern man has moved into the cities and tried to change nature to fit their needs. Nature is a force that will correct itself if given the chance. Untended land will revert back to the wild in just a few short years if left uncultivated. Survivial of animals will balance out due to food chain effect or disease. It's sad to think that policies are made and laws are passed without regard to the balance of nature. When man steps into the picture and raises fresh meat on the hoof, of course wild life will love to take advantage of the situation. When farmers grow crops, of course the critters will think it's a wonderful smorgasbord. I am in the midst of taming a neglected piece of land and turning it into a garden. Wild life abounds and I suspect that a goodly portion will be to feed the animals. To put things in perspective, I've never had to deal with vicious dangerous animals so my views could be a little different if bears and wolves were destroying my income. Have a great day.