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Fighting Forward...For Us All


I see myself in a snapshot from a summery day in 2001 where I am standing amid a small forest of flags, and I wonder, will my family some day come to the wrong conclusion about it, thinking this was after the World Trade Center bombing? Will they remember it was Klamath Falls in the last few days before the world changed?

Even now, I ask myself, is all that over?

Surely, the flag means more to freedom now than ever. It will not soon again be confused by some claiming it represents only a political agenda. There is no doubt and no shy pride attached to a symbol that after September 11 was impossible to produce in sufficient quantities to meet the demand.

But does it mean now the same as what it meant in Klamath, when at least in some part it called for defiance of

©Larry Turner
Investigative reporter Tim Findley amid “a forest of the last few days before the world changed.”

the government it also represents? Of course it does. It flew for freedom on that day as surely as it still flies in oceans of that same expression today. Not so much for “our” side against “theirs” at Klamath, but for us, for all of us, in the name of long-lasting liberty and freedom.

The West was fighting back then to preserve a way of life as threatened by the arrogance of a few and the ignorance of others as has the freedom of us all now been challenged by a suicidal plot of envious murderers.

None of us who are part of the West, not one, would today consider it our obligation to “fight” the leadership of the United States.

But what was achieved in the months before dimming into September 11 should be remembered for the courage of

character seen not by defiance, but by unity in a purpose that still defines us all.

Backs bent, dust swirling with sweat, hundreds of backs strained in concert to pull aside a monstrous boulder blocking the South Canyon Road near Jarbidge, Nev., the Fourth of July in 2000 (Range, Fall 2000). “Liberty,” they grunted in unison. “Freedom.” And in May 2001, neighbor by neighbor, stranger to newfound friend,

thousands passed buckets of water, hand to hand, along miles of streets in Klamath Falls, Ore. (Range, Fall 2001). Convoys of trucks rolled across the country, bringing attention and support to a “brigade” of Americans willing to support shovels for Jarbidge and buckets for Klamath. From Rhode Island and from Malibu Beach came contributions.

In little western towns from the scorched borders of Idaho and Montana to the canyons of Utah and New Mexico, people struggled to save themselves from the disaster brought upon their economy and then on their abandoned forests by misguided policy. From the grasses of the high plains to the foot-sawing volcanic ground of the Mojave, ranchers and others enlisted the support of their local representatives and sheriffs to resist the elimination of their livelihoods in the name of the shallowest evidence of “science.”

They did these things not as a political movement that anyone can identify for its ideology or party. What was done was most often in small groups not supported by anyone or anything more than a personal sense of justice, or in small towns overwhelmed by

©Tim Findley
Hundreds of backs strained in concert to pull aside the Forest Service’s “Monstrous boulder” in Jarbidge, Nev. “It seemed the work of an ever-larger family helping each other.”
people who asked no more than to help. It was not the effort of an organized “cause” nearly as much as it seemed the work of what grew as an ever-larger family helping each other.

Nowhere was there gunfire. Nowhere were there even arrests. But all over the West in the last two years, people did, at last as many said, fight back. Always behind that same flag. Always with the same meaning.

Range will go back to Klamath this spring. We will watch to see that justice is restored to the farms of the Klamath Basin. We will drive up the South Canyon Road near Jarbidge, proud of who built it. We will see how it all works out in Owyhee and in the Mojave and in coastal California and along the Rio Grande, and in so many other places where people—families—still face being driven from their homes and from their productive livelihoods.

It’s not over. And although our hearts will be with our nation as much, if not more so, than most Americans, the West will also know that at least from the success of bringing the simple honest truth to public attention in the last two years, more people now understand. More Americans recognize now that the strength of we the people is in the trust we have of each other and the ability we have together to face any challenge, foreign or domestic.

We can all learn from what has happened, and we all have. The West will acknowledge that.

We should only ask that those so willing or determined over recent years to sacrifice us and our way of life for some other future reconsider what the past has shown and what the present means to us all. We would hope to stand in that forest of flags together, if not always as friends, then always beyond that as fellow Americans.

Winter 2002 Contents | Git Home!

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