The Musings of a Simple Country Man
(Brookfield, NY – Feb. 2013) This simple country man respectfully disagrees with family friend poet Robert Frost’s observation that “the land was ours before we were the land’s.”
In A. B. Guthrie Jr. epic award winning series of books on the opening and development of the American West, I have mined important nuggets of wisdom—and also warnings—that I find germane and very applicable to the highly controversial natural gas fracking issue currently being hotly debated all across New York State.
In Guthrie’s The Last Valley Ben Tate, a small town Montana newspaper owner is having a heart to heart talk with Mike, a young journalism student aspiring one day to be a similar small town newspaper man.
When Tate became the paper’s young owner many years before, he was only slightly older than the young man sitting in his cluttered office. Tate reminisced about those early years and how enthusiastically he supported any change, new jobs and progress, whatever the cost. Change being in those days synonymous with progress, growth and prosperity.
As Tate grew older his unbridled Chamber of Commerce optimism and change at any cost significantly changed as he observed the numerous negative ramifications in his community and even state. Ben Tate’s “big picture” concerns also reflect mine regarding the long range dangers of allowing natural gas drilling/fracking in The Empire State.
At one point Tate tells the young man “The land doesn’t possess us…we abuse it every day so long as abuse brings a profit.”
He goes on to say,” We still have to learn to love and cherish and protect it….We can’t keep digging and cutting and polluting. We can’t keep poisoning and exhausting our top soil or giving it to the wind. We can’t if we want to survive.”
To the young journalism student Tate warned, “Just remember the earth is all we have. Her riches are limited. When she goes, we go…But in the name of progress we keep drawing on an account that can be overdrawn ….Progress leaves no retreat. What is called progress doesn’t.”
Tate’s final advice to young Mike was to educate and inform the public and to speak as an editor with concern for the future. And finally, the greatest challenge and advice for all of us today: “If only we can get people to love the earth.”
This is the “Big Picture” question that every New Yorker must seriously ask himself. Do I love Mother Earth enough to protect it now and for the future? Will my love help trump profit and exploitation with its false and temporary progress? Always remember that our Earth is our only home. If it goes we go.
But these are only the musings of a simple country man and his thoughtful and beautiful wife Lois who earnestly hope that their concerns for the sacredness of Mother Earth are shared by many others and we will all continue to loudly and forcefully fight for the future of Mother Earth.
Hobie Morris is a Brookfield resident and simple country man.