Mud-Dust-NEWBy Patrick McGann

I know, I should be haranguing the county commission on their ATV bulldozery, but I kind of feel like it’s a waste of time. They’re not listening, and I don’t think they are very concerned about the things the rest of us are concerned about. That much is obvious. I’m not sure it is a total disaster. But I am so inclined.

Giving a small number of ATVers carte blanche over the Methow Valley’s county roads, possibly driving away the tourists that make up the base of our tourism industry and depriving residents of their peace and quiet – those who appreciate it, anyway –  is just a bad idea. I think that’s the case. I’m not so sure that I’d tip over the apple cart or anything, but the county commissioners sure seem amazingly sure of themselves for three people who don’t really have a lot of information.

Maybe we should open up the ATV/ORV floodgates at some point. Or maybe we should open up a road at a time or better yet, maybe, in parts of the county where people are more comfortable with flying dust, engine noise and blue smoke. Then maybe the people who are driven to despair over all this will see it was never anything but a big fat unfounded fear. Or maybe not.

At any rate, there was a sense of urgency. It was like getting away with something before the cops showed up. It was a wide-eyed stampede, maybe to greener pastures or maybe right off the cliff. People who use power like that make me nervous, especially when operating dangerous equipment, like government.

It’s like, have you ever been around somebody cutting a tree down, a very big tree, who doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing? They just whack haphazardly away without any regard to where the darn thing is going to fall or how it’s going to fall and who it’s going to land on? And the nick, hinge and back cut are all kind of kittywampus? It might be OK but it might not. And you get that queasy feeling that this is just not going to turn out “good?” That’s how I feel about this. I think the county commission is kind of that guy.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s more like my first real boss, the late great J.L. Wade, of Griggsville, Ill., who combined his passions and talents for manufacturing, marketing, nature and art into a small fortune and a regional empire. I was 21. He was in his early 70s and had been the guy in charge all his life. It’s hard enough for a whippersnapper to tell anything to a successful old warlord but with J.L. it was almost impossible.

Ever know someone like that? You say, “J.L., I think your …” And you get brusquely interrupted and thoroughly lectured before you can say, “… house is on fire.” And then you’re an irresponsible idiot.

We used to go duck hunting a lot in a big oxbow lake of the Illinois River. He’d drive the boat, a tiller-steered jon boat. He’d kind of stare off into the wherever and the boat would steer for one death trap or another and I’d escalate, “J.L. …  J.L! … J.L.!!!!” And he’d correct his steering just in time and pretend it never happened. It was starting to take the fun out of all that carnage.

And then one day I just got tired of it and clammed up. Sure enough, we slowly veered and bonk! And you know what happened? I got yelled at. “You know, you have to pay attention out here,” he said sternly as he untangled the prop. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t think it was funny. I didn’t think anything at all. I just looked at him.

I’d like to say that we never again ran 50 yards into lily pads to collide with a beaver lodge, but that would not be the truth. Almost every day during the season, all the way up until ice forced us off, we’d slowly meander in the predawn gauze all over the lake slicing decoy lines, tangling tules, bending props on deadheads. And then we’d just glare at each other silently. And then go kill ducks. I imagine he would have fired me if I weren’t so good at talking like a duck.

That may be what we have here. I’m not really sure. I do know there is a new kind of politics in the land. A bunch of people who feel deep in their bones that they have been denied and downtrodden and tyrannized and victimized by smarty pants elites for far too long. They hunger for liberty that may never have existed, to be free to annoy, disrupt, destroy and otherwise trample over everyone else no matter the cost. It could simply be a confusion of the terms “libertarian” and “libertine.”

Whatever it is, this sort of thing happens from time to time. You can talk your own leg off and it won’t matter. The application is not responding. I guess all you can really do is pay attention and try not to step in it. Then again, you can always get yourself a lawyer and sue.


Patrick McGann lives in Twisp.