God, Guns and Guts

I had no column a while back because I quadruple booked my weekend. Friday evening, I spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at the Park County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Powell, Wyoming. Saturday, I spoke at a fundraiser in Broadus for the fledgling Powder River Farm in the Dell; a Christian based ranch home for the mentally handicapped. Well after dark, the trophy wife and I zoomed out of Broadus headed to our third commitment at our ranch out of Parkman, Wyoming. On the nearly deserted highways south of Busby we vaporized a deer. Thanks to the grill guard on my old Ford crew-cab, my pickup versus deer score is two to zero.

Sunday morning, my son, Tyler, and I saddled and rode up the TR Bench on the east face of the Big Horns. My brother, Dana, had recently secured a grazing permit including the old Charlie Miller Cow Camp; a cabin we frequented in the 1970s. The cabin, corral and barn need substantial repair, something in which Tyler expressed interest for next summer’s project. I showed him two poorly marked trails leading to the cabin; routes I hadn’t ridden for 37 years. On our return trip, we crossed the North Fork of West Pass Creek and followed the Dana Ditch from the canyon bottom to the top of the TR Bench. Theopholis Rice Dana, my great, great, grandfather built this ditch around 1887 so as to both irrigate hay ground and fill the cistern at his homestead; a house in which his wife, Deborah, refused to live. Apparently trophy wives of the 1800s, had higher standards than those of today. As we plodded along, Tyler and I agreed the ditch construction on the steep, rocky hillside was a remarkable feat considering it was done using only horse and man-power. We surmised the ditch never ran water due to the crumbling granite soil, but later learned we were wrong.

Back at the ranch over bowls of chili, we asked my father about the Dana Ditch. Dad is 82-years-old and is the last of the generation to have actually harvested hay on the TR Bench. A few years back he developed an interest in local history, so he is our go-to guy for questions which stump Google. Note to readers: Do not let your family’s senior members quietly take their memories with them when they pass. As a young boy, my father spent hours drying dishes with his grandmother, Rose; an area pioneer who in 1886 as a 14-year-old, walked behind the Power’s family wagon as they ventured from Half Rock, Missouri to Parkman, Wyoming. My father regrets never asking his grandmother about her personal experiences on her September walk to Wyoming and I vow to not make the same mistake. Now, back to my story.

Dad explained the ditch was built with teams and an iron drag called a Fresno. In 1946 as a 14-year-old, Dad tried operating a Fresno pulled by a tractor, but every time the blade hooked a rock the long operator’s handle launched him over the drag much to the amusement of his two older brothers. The effort it took to build the Dana Ditch is numbing and contrary to our previous assumptions, the ditch did run water and crops of native hay were harvested for several decades. TR Dana’s generation was all God, guns and guts; traits foreign to many Americans today. Karl Marx published his Communist Manifesto in 1848, and although his principles were gaining traction in Europe 40 years later, the idea one person is due the bounty produced by the sweat of others was lunacy to America’s homesteaders.

In the century since, Americans softened by government programs incrementally and completely bought the lie of Marxism. However, the recent mid-term elections indicate an awakening has occurred with the unwashed demanding a change back to the founding principles of limited government. We will not tolerate politicians buying the leftist lie this election was about compromise and we fully expect expect the GOP to undo the damage President Obama and his ilk have done to our republic. Regardless the probability of success, if the GOP fails to engage there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in 2016.
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