News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel What's the value of a good story?

This being the anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, we are likely to see many visitors traveling our prairies looking for remnants of things described by the explorers.

Those people will not find the real rare and precious gems of our lands. The gems are found by many but recognized by only a few.

You can find clues to them in stories like the following dialog between a West River rancher and his grandson as they take a horseback ride to look over the ranch.

GS:�Grandpa, why does this horse keep jerking his head?

GP: You are holding the reins too tight. It hurts his mouth.� Just give him a free rein. He's old and will just follow along.

GS: What's free rein mean?

GP: Move up here and I'll show you. (Grandpa leaned over and tied a knot in the reins and hooked them over the saddle horn.)�There. Now the reins are hanging loose and not pulling on the bit. Just leave them there but keep your hand on them in case something unexpected happens.� When you are old enough you will get a free rein too, but someone will always have their hand on the reins just in case you need a little direction.

(They rode to the highest hill on the ranch and stopped to view the green landscape dotted with cattle.)

GS: Grandpa, what are those white spots on the other hill?

GP:�Those are antelope.� What you see are their white rumps.

GS:�I see something else moving toward them. It looks like dog.

(Grandpa reached in his saddlebag and pulled out a pair of binoculars and examined the scene.)

GP: That's no dog. That's a coyote.�

GS: Take your gun out and let's shoot him.

GP: What for?

GS: It would be interesting to look at and we could take him home to Grandma. Wouldn't she be surprised!

GP:�That she would, but I don't shoot coyotes unless they are bothering the cattle. If you want to impress your Grandma with something, there is a pasque flower you can take to her.

(The boy was not impressed.� After a few minutes of silence, talk turned to other things.)

GS: You sure have a lot of cows, Grandpa. In school they tell us grazing is bad. Is that true?

GP: No it's not true. A few folks think so, but not anybody who lives here.

GS: Where did you get all this land and cows, Grandpa?

GP: My grandpa bought this land from the government many years ago. It didn't cost much, but it didn't look like much back then. I can show you some pictures when we get back to the house if you want to see what this place looked like in those days. There was hardly any grass at all, and no trees or shrubs, just bare dirt mostly.

GS: Why was it bad back then?

GP: It was a lot of things.� There was long dry spell about then. The land had way too many cattle on it and it didn't have fences for rotating the grazing and giving the land a rest. But mostly it was the lack of people living on the land. Only the people who live on it really take care of it, because it takes care of them.

After thinking about it for a while, the boy said, "Let's just leave the flower. I can show Grandma where it is if she wants to see it."

The grandpas who still live out here are getting to be a rare commodity. That makes each one you run onto all that more valuable.�We should try to pay attention when they talk. We never know what gems of wisdom we might find in their lives.

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