My two latest stops have been at the Idaho and Montana loggers’ annual meetings. Great events, well done!
I got a pleasant surprise in Kalispell; an old friend was on the agenda. We didn’t get a chance to visit; he was on the run as usual. So on Sunday morning, on my way back to Enterprise, Sandy and I met PJ and Bruce Vincent for breakfast in Libby. It was like old home week. We reminisced about times gone bye and trips to DC, kids and grandkids and old friends.
In the old days of the “Alliance for America” and the “Fly In for Freedom” we had shared many of the same venues. We, along with countless others, spent our time and treasure trying to convince urban America that the rural culture is not only worth saving, it is essential to the survival of our Republic.
We marveled that it was nearly 30 years ago that we started this fight for rural survival. In the beginning we were idealists, thinking that: “If only urban America would get to know us and find out that they actually depend on us for their opulent life style. That toilet paper does grow on trees and milk doesn’t come from a carton it actually comes from a cow.” They would understand and help us.
In those days we stayed at Holiday Inns’, ate hotdogs from street vendors, walked everywhere we could, took the subway. Occasionally we got lost or ended up in the middle of a gay pride parade or a Cinco de Mayo celebration. We took our kids so that they might see how a representative republic worked or didn’t work as the case may be
We saw each other in passing a couple of times in the last few years but neither of us had enough time to share anything more than a hug and a quick ‘How’s it goin’. He was on a mission to save the world one person at a time and I was just trying to get the Forest Service to do what they are paid to do.
The furrows in his brow were a little deeper than I remember and the little crows’ feet in the corner of his eyes were more pronounced. A few strands of silver now laced itself through his mop of hair. His step was a little slower, comes from “riding a million miles on cramped airplanes” or so his story goes. But more than anything his eyes told the story of broken promises and missions unfulfilled.
We talked of what is going on in America today and how it is the direct result of the erosion of family values and the collapse of the concept of work for reward. How the divide between urban and rural has never been greater. We talked of the politics of red and blue.
We laughed about feeding our kids chocolate sundaes for breakfast in DC; how one morning there was a chalk silhouette on the sidewalk in front of our hotel that hadn’t been there the night before.
We talked of the reality of mill closures and their devastating effects on rural communities. We wondered out loud if they would ever come back. We talked of wolves and how they were being used as a tool to end grazing in the west.
Then we talked of hope!
A sparkle returned to his eye when he spoke of our children’s generation and how they held great promise for returning sanity and balance. I told him about some of the enthusiastic young loggers I had met recently as I traveled around the country. I detected a hint of mist in his eyes when he spoke about his son Chas that was running for the Montana Senate.
Then Bruce started talking about “Provider Pals “. How it was a tool to bridge the urban/rural chasm using modern technology, introducing urban students to the people that make their comfortable lifestyle possible. He explained how loggers, miners, ranchers and fisherman directly interact with urban students and become instant folk heroes.
Our visit was too short. We had a ten hour drive ahead of us and Monday was a work day. We promised to keep in better touch and said our good byes.
You know as I think back on our visit I believe Bruce was on to something. It might actually be easier to save the world one person at a time!
To find out more about “Provider Pals” go to www.providerpals.com
Mike Weideman is the President of the American Loggers Council, which represents over 50,000 logging professionals in 30 states. Mike’s operation, BTO Logging, is headquartered in Enterprise, Oregon. For more information please contact the American Loggers Council office at 409-625-0206 or e-mail at email@example.com.