Weekly Posting of the Conservative Cow Doctor


States Rights and the Hitch

A huge congressional vote affecting all Americans will occur before September 30th. I’ll explain why, but to follow my analogy, you must understand the basics of driving a mule team. (This information is pertinent even to city folks as harnessing and hitching a team will be useful skills if there is much more “hope and change” dumped on the American economy.) Here we go.

With your team hitched and your bottom in the wagon seat, your left mule is on the left while the right mule is on the right. (That sounds obvious, but with a green team and the noise from a chuck wagon full of pots and pans, accidents can happen so fast sometimes you can’t tell your left ass from your right ass.) In your left hand is a leather rein which splits over the mules back. One-half of the line snaps to the left side of the bit on the left mule, while the right half snaps to the left side of the bit on the right mule. When you tug on the left line, it pulls on the left cheek of both mules and turns the team to the left. An identical rein is similarly snapped to the right cheek of both mules and you pull it to turn right. (Picture yourself holding the standing leg of two “Ys”.) Okay, let’s hit the trail.

It was June in the late ‘90s and we were trailing cattle from Wolf Creek to the Little Horn Parks. We were leaving Columbus Creek the second morning and the cow herd, guests and cowboys had been gone an hour when Dad and I hitched the mule team to the chuck wagon. Dad crawled into the wagon seat and pulled the right line to direct Amos and Andy away from the hitching post for the steep climb off the creek bottom.

The road climbs straight up for a hundred yards before turning left to slab the steep hillside. Amos and Andy were lunging against their collars when they felt the hard tug from the left line, so they turned left. For a reason not yet discovered, the left line kept pulling their noses hard to the left, but they fought turning further because to do so meant a dangerous plunge off the steep embankment towards the creek. For the next 20 feet Amos and Andy drove straight forward with their necks bent painfully to the left while Dad tugged frantically on the right line and hollered obscenities in a language known only to mules. Suddenly, Amos and Andy surrendered to the taut left line and turned and crashed off the road. It was incredible.

It takes enormous energy to launch a 300 pound man over the bows of a chuck wagon, but between the spring steel on the wagon seat and gravity, there was enough to do it that Tuesday morning. My father is such an accomplished teamster; while he was airborne he kept tugging the right line and cursing in mule. I spurred my pony and we landed in front of the circling team to stop them before another left turn rolled the wagon.

With everyone panting, but thankful to be alive, we slowly unhitched the tangled tugs and then discovered the problem. In the darkness, someone had inadvertently run the left line through a keeper ring on the back band. When the line was pulled for a hard left turn, a buckle wedged in the keeper ring. Amos, Andy and Dad were forever stuck in a left turn and this brings me to my point.

The 18.3 cents per gallon federal fuel tax is set to expire September 30th and to reinstate it will require positive (key word) action by Congress and President Obama. This is phenomenal news. The federal fuel tax flows from the states into a 32 billion dollar slush fund the federal government redistributes back to the states if they submit to federal wishes. (It’s called a hitch because states will do anything for money…even if it was their money in the first place.) “Set your drinking age at 21 or lose highway funds—set your speed limit at 75 or lose federal highway funds—feed and care for 1500 gray wolves or lose your federal highway funds” are perfect examples.

I have personal experience with such threats after introducing HB321, an “Act nullifying the federal endangered species act”. Nowhere in the US Constitution does it specifically state the type and number of species each state must have, so a reasonable application of the “Tenth Amendment” indicates such decisions are reserved to the states. In response to my infallible logic the Department of Transportation said they would withhold $360 million annually in federal highway funds if Montana didn’t submit. Montana’s House Appropriation Committee collapsed to their knees and passively licked the hand that feeds them, so HB321 was tabled March 23, 2011.

More important than the immediate drop of 18.3 cents per gallon at the pump October 1st, the expiration of the federal fuel tax shifts enormous power and responsibility from the federal government back to the states just as our founders designed. Think about it. To reinstate the tax is like correctly hitching Amos and Andy to the chuck wagon and then stopping to purposely run the left line through the same keeper ring which nearly rolled the wagon. We don’t need to keep making the same mistakes over, and over again. All it takes is a simple majority “no” vote in either the US House or Senate to stop the federal fuel tax. Politicians who vote to reinstate this tax think average states filled with average Americans are best controlled by Washington D.C. Watch this closely and remember this vote in 2012.

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