From the September 2000 Idaho Observer:
Montana activist recounts Darby demonstration
Darby foreshadows gathering storm of property rights activism
By J.B. Stone
I left Kalispell in hurried anticipation, following the same track that had led me to the Roadless Initiative rally in Missoula, MT 6/21/00 and the South Canyon road opening ceremonies in Jarbidge, NV 7/4/00. Little did I know just how much this particular journey would henceforth shape my thinking.
The historic Darby Plains were beckoning from Ohio with the same urgent message. My countrymen were losing their rights and freedoms again at the hands of a regime gone power mad and prone to property seizure. It was billed as East Meets West on the banks of the Little Darby and S.O.S. for S.O.D.
Shovels of Solidarity from the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade were to be convoyed across the country to the Stewards of Darby in support of the No More Federal Land Grab stance being adopted by concerned citizens throughout the land.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife has once more overstepped its bounds, arbitrarily mandating a new wildlife refuge against the will of hundreds of highly productive farmers north of London, OH. Many of the same families have tilled this reclaimed swampland since the Revolutionary War, having created some of the richest acreage in the U.S.
Foolish land policies have been the hot topic of late in Montana and the catastrophic forest fires were still raging. I was pickup pooling it to Ohio with Tom Farrenkopf of Victor, MT who had had a major forest fire stop two miles from his log home in the charred Bitterroot Valley. The thickening, sickening smoke was still freshly pungent when we headed out well before dawn. We'd have to drive the length of Montana until we escaped the brown haze from the huge smoke plumes blanketing the region and there was fresh roadside evidence of extensive range fires well into Northeastern Wyoming. Then it got hotter.
As we shed altitude across the Corn Belt and sank into the muggy Midwest river bottoms, we acquired a new respect for humidity. Vast, relentless crop fields perspire their own wicked haze in that sweltering clime. We were withered but willing when we finally found Dale Rapp's farmhouse in the evening heat a short, winding jaunt from the Interstate.
A vanguard of rally participants were already gathering in the soft pool of porch light and they quickly made us right at home with introductions and refreshments all around. Throughout the evening and all the next day this unifying scenario was repeatedly played out: A car with out of state plates would pull up and a new friend would emerge, mouthing the exact same question, What can I do to help?
Dale and the bulk of the Stewards were expounding at a public comment hearing with the feds and so we stretched our legs and passed the time in lively conversation. The Rapps soon returned home with Julie Smithson in tow and we were shuttled to our respective bunks and some very welcome rest.
Duty calls early when you're on farm time, but not before we met more of the Darby's patriot farmers and spirited helpers from across the land. Missouri, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee: the list was rapidly expanding and there was plenty of work for everyone. The oppressive heat helped forge new alliances as the day quickly passed. Cold water assumed elixir status.
The tents, at least eight, were up. Twelve hundred chairs were unfolded in the big top. The signs and traffic cones were up; the reefer truck was stocked with goodies. Sound checks went well. Two flags previously flown in DC were installed on the stage. Philomena Row, San Gabriel, CA, sent her son to install one she had donated through Senator Larry Craig's office and the second was of the Don't tread on me design that had been carried by another volunteer in the Second Amendment Sisters march earlier in the year. Anticipation hung dripping in the late summer blanket of sweat that had enveloped us all.
Attendees and attention were converging on this pasture become national cross roads. Samantha, news gatherer from KSFO radio in San Francisco, flew in just in time to see the convoy roll in and the shovels from Elko unloaded and placed around the stage in silent testimony. More hellos and howdies were exchanged amidst news from the road gang. Fox News was there too, filming a new segment for their wildly popular Vanishing Freedoms special report.
Someone remembered name tags as last-minute preparations were listed. Somehow Lena and Donna and Larry and Brian and Linda made sure the volunteers were fed. We were all ready for the showers.
Saturday morning arrived bringing a palpable fog to the landscape. We all cut pieces of it to take home as souvenirs, savored our coffee and headed back to the freshly mown pasture to meet the rest of the stalwarts come to learn of the locals' plight and to fight for what's right.
We signed in and placed the name slips provided on a large map, showing the locations from across the land from whence we originated: Diane Foster, Reliance, WY -- People For The USA -- drove from Rock Springs with the convoy. Mouth of South came by from the Free Republic national convention just down the road. Jeffery J. Cole, March For Freedom organizer, was there taking it all in and arranging for T-shirts to be worn soon in protest. Sheila Davis and her cohorts, Sisters of the River, came bearing witness of yet another Federal Land Grab in West Virginia. Vicky Noykos, Stone Mountain, GA and Richard Franklin, Wolcottville, IN read the name tags of two Waking Times Web activist group rally-goers who had just met in person. Kevin Neal, Junction City, OH had been in Jarbidge also. Diana White Horse Capp, Curlew, WA had probably come the farthest of those I met. She strode up, delivered a firm hand shake, fixed her hawk-like gaze on my name tag and said, I've read some of your stuff, You've got a mouth on you. What a kidder! When Elwood Mose, Jarbidge Shovel Brigade principal and Shoshone tribal elder, strode down the grassy incline, I knew we were in for quite a treat.
Jay Walley, Paragon Foundation, had helped greatly in promoting the event and acted as M.C. Tom Farrenkopf led the Pledge of Allegiance, an encore from his Jarbidge appearance. We were off and running -- well, sauntering was more appropriate -- just enough to keep one's forehead glistening. Early on Jay, a retired Marine, summoned the Veterans forward for recognition and an opportunity to retake their oath of service to the Country and defense of the Constitution. A panoply of fine speakers took to the mike that day espousing unity and the American Way.
Dale Rapp and other locals recounted for us the immense amounts of labor and love exerted to create the lush fields surrounding us as well as their firm resolve to keep them in private hands. Henry Lamb of Eco-Logic expounded on the U.N. machinations we all face. Helen Chenoweth, U.S Congressman from Idaho, offered hope of a winnable battle through perseverance, grass roots organization at the County level, and self-reliance. She urged us to, Never, never, never give up. Her new husband Wayne Hage chronicled the advance of an ever-increasing national debt load for which our natural resources have been mortgaged. We all came away with a better understanding of the depth of the meaning of our cause and a much deeper commitment to continue holding the line in defense of our individual property rights and basic freedoms.
This confrontation was predicted long ago as the following quote reveals:
If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. Thomas Jefferson
It's not about the ducks, coyotes, mosquitoes and other endangered species for which U.S. Fish & Wildlife would snatch up and destroy the farms. Since the Civil War we have seen repeated and growing nationalization of the lands collateralized for various war efforts and a consumptive but thankless flood of federal bureaucracies. Perhaps if we all convinced Ralph Regula of the Appropriations Committee to pare down government a bit this rampant Lands Legacy pogram wouldn't be so urgent.
Our federal land management agencies have been far removed from their chartered goals to care for the land and serve the people. Farming, ranching, grazing, oil & gas exploration, mining and logging are all under attack because they diminish the natural wealth held in bondage by largely multi-national corporations and foreign investors. Our position as the largest debtor nation in the world could cause our demise as we blindly celebrate the rapidly thinning bubble of our e-trade economy. Without the internal ability to feed, house and clothe ourselves, will Russia and China rush to our aid? Not bloody likely!
The Millennium Forum is underway at the U.N. Our Commander and Thief is hell-bent on making everything off-limits outdoors. Senseless devastation of Western livelihoods, communities and property is spreading into America's heartland. We all need to take stock of what we cherish and determine that we are willing to protect it in perpetuity. Now, more than ever, we need to stick together and keep a clear vision of the principles upon which this great nation relies. When our freedom is gone and our property rights have vanished, we'll have little left to defend. Our once great nation will be listed among the petty, despotic dictatorships lining the indexes of so many history books.
I took the opportunity to address those who had braved the cauldron of patriotic fervor on the banks of the Little Darby on September 2, 2000. I was the last speaker. Just before we were led in a spirited rendition of the National Anthem by convoy participant Dave Skinner of Montanans For Multiple Use, I implored the crowd to pray for us Westerners who have suffered a very long summer at the hands of incompetent fire bosses. Watching our wonderful timber resources become a charcoal-toned wasteland has not been entertaining. It's been raining, thank God, off and on since Saturday and now the mop up can commence.
On the 2,000 mile return trip the weather was mercifully cooler. Still, in our absence, more fires had further blackened portions of the Black Hills in South Dakota and licked at the base of the Devil's Tower in Wyoming, our first National Monument.
Had we accomplished anything by trekking most of the way across the continent and back other than a hurried, blurry geography review and confirming that fast food is equally dismal everywhere?
Indeed. We joined forces with some of the finest, most down-to-earth human treasures this country has produced on the banks of the Little Darby. My new brothers and sisters are fresh in my heart and mind. They are all around you, too.
Step forward and be counted as the roll is called.
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