LIFE ON THE FARM
Several months ago we purchased Wagon Train DVDs, boxed set that has 48 different episodes of Wagon Train. It’s first show aired on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 1957 on NBC. During its time as a favorite TV show it had two wagon masters, Major Seth Adams and Christopher Hale.
Cantankerous Christopher Hale usually began his show with a few comments in his growling voice.
What would he say if Hale were narrating in the 21st century?
Picture the unsettled U.S. western plains. There are 60 Conestoga wagons gathered at the starting point in Independence, Mo. Astride his horse Hale begins his introduction:
“In earlier years it was usually families, looking for a new start, a chance to build new homes, businesses or farms. Today, I see more idealism – more advocacy participants. Well, I have some registration and paper work that needs to get done before we begin. My scout Cooper Smith should be back soon with the necessary fire and travel permits. I wonder how much they have increased in prices this year.”
Hale set out to inspect each wagon. It wasn’t a fun job, because a certain percentage would not meet the governmental requirements that change monthly. His assistant scout Duke Shannon checks post stations along the way to make sure the wagon train is “up to snuff.” At the end of the day he was to refuse admittance to seven wagons for not meeting fire code, or they had too much weight on the axles or had neglected of file their waste management plans.
He then attacked a mountain of paperwork. Each wagon’s weight, contents, and passengers had to be recorded.
“WAGONS HO!” he shouted, once documentation was completed. The train began with all the excitement of a new adventure and hopes for a new life running high. After three hours of travel he halted the wagons, explaining the animals weren’t used to such hard work. They needed to rest. Two families left that day, determining that they could make better time on their own.
The next day they came to a very large river. Giving instructions on how best to cross, Hale met with opposition from four wagons who refused to cross, opting to wait for a bridge to be built.
This, despite the fact that Hale told them they might as well set down roots because Congress will either act hastily, making a stimulus decision before objections could be made, or it would need multiple studies assuring there is no threatened mouse, if there is enough traffic to warrant a bridge, and study last year’s voting results.
The next wagon train rolled just a half of a mile. Hale said he had to stop because they were making too much dust.
The next day Hale had to remove four wagons from the train. They had had their chickens caged too long each day. Pursuant to code, this was a misdemeanor, he explained. Hale acknowledged protests that cages were necessary because of wild animals eating the chickens or that the chickens would get lost on the prairie. However, he said, “chickens can not be caged for extended lengths of time. I don’t make the rules, but I have to enforce them.”
With more than half his wagon train gone, Hale asked the remaining travelers for being on the trail.
One reply was I am out to ensure the prairie dog population is strong and thriving. “There is a portion of the prairie without the prairie dogs. My job is to dig holes to help them repopulate.”
Another said, “I’m from the EPC to make sure he does it right.”
A third responded, “I’m from the government to make sure the EPC guy does his job and that tax payer dollars are not wasted.”
“And you, sir?” Hale asked at the last wagon.
“Since livestock contribute greatly to global warming, I am here to count the buffalo and collect taxes from them. Cattle and pigs are taxed, buffalo surely can’t be exempt. They breathe and do, you know what.”
Hale thought to himself. “Here all these years I have looked at buffalo and livestock as necessary food. How I have been so misled to think that breathing and eating were natural and that buffalo chips were food for the prairie.”
Didn’t Thomas Jefferson once write: “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”
Vander Schaaf is a Farm News staff writer from northwest Iowa. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com
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