Wednesday, March 18, 2009

If I Wanted Then What I Want Now

My grandfather told me a great story once, a Romeo & Juliet tale about the son of a cattleman and the daughter of a sheep herder. A true story, taking place several decades ago in Idaho. If you go back to your Droopy Dog cartoon archive, you will remember at least one cartoon about a fierce rivalry between a powerful cattle owner and Droopy's ravenous flock of sheep. Yet another cultural document: that was a serious and relevant issue, back in the day.

As I understand it: Cattlemen owned great expanses of land, and their herds could graze and meander for miles, sustaining themselves easily, rotating patches of land and letting them grow. The sheep men came in and their flocks grazed the sparse Idaho brush down to the nubbins. They needed territory, sheep were profitable in their own right, but they were frequently in competition with the cattlemen for land. Sometimes the sheep owners would let their flocks drift over a boundary, sometimes the flocks would wander further than they should have. It was a bloody and emotional war for territory.

So, yeah, imagine how well it could end for a cattleman's son and a sheep owner's daughter to fall in love. History repeats itself all the time, and there was no happy ending this time either.

When my grandpa told me about this story, I didn't have any recording equipment with me, not a tape recorder, not a book and pen, to my deep regret. Now grandpa's not mobile, his condition is declining rapidly, and even if I could muster another round-trip ticket to visit him, he's not in the best shape for me to hassle a long story from him. I've wasted a lot of opportunity: many interests in the past would have been facilitated by advances in technology--most notably, photography--and I had no appreciation for the other resources at my disposal. Now I'm older and filled with regret, a pattern I expect will play itself out for the rest of my life.

No comments: