In hindsight, it was clearly a mistake to pass a law against tying one's horse up in what has often been called our little "one horse" town. A bad precedent, a portent of scarier things to come. Of course no one wants to step in pile of steaming horse biscuits on their way to pick up a few things from the store, but as far as I know there was only one regular transgressor hereabouts anyway, a pleasantly eccentric fellow who thought the log curbs in front of the bar were hitchin' posts. It's time to fear, when a Western town known for being situated "in the middle of nowhere" starts prohibiting horses and putting up street signs in a bid to be like everywhere else.
Don't get me wrong. As a self styled visionary, artist, author and gadfly, I am forever hungering to create something new, to leave a mark and affect the world. I am terribly disgusted with the status quo, mystified by intolerant rote behavior and blind obedience, alienated by the uniformity of fashion, dissatisfied with all dogma, and intolerant any reasoning that begins with "because we've always done it that way." I'm fond of derivation and diversification, individuation and innovation, alteration and agitation, a truly determined practitioner of idea bending and rule breaking.
But that said, I remain in a deeper sense what you could call a "traditionalist." I've even come to wear this mantle proudly, in spite of having heard the word "tradition" used to justify everything from bad government to bad hair, from goofy neck-biting bow ties to the binding and deforming of Asian women's feet. To my mind, things like looking for handouts, putting money ahead of quality of life, or allowing self-enriching politicians run our lives aren't tradition so much as what you might call bad habits. The same is true of burdensome federal taxes, government subsidies, patented vegetable seeds, treating corporations as people, and passing laws undermining our Constitutional Bill of Rights. Rural tradition is rustic countryside and tight knit rural communities, not their devolution into crowded and tasteless developments filled with cookie-cutter aluminum and sheetrock residences. What's traditional in this area is keeping family ranches intact instead of subdivided, passed down like an old gun, antique doll and a remembered and well-sung song from generation to generation. And the building of homes of adobe, log or stone.
Structures made out of local materials have the old timey look that honors our past, while linking us even closer to the natural world that supports and sustains us. They contribute to the appearance and feel of a place proud of its wild inheritance. I've never understood why our County Courthouse wasn't fashioned with a Southwest adobe appearance instead of institutional brick. Or why a certain village motel wasn't built with an appropriately frontier look instead of replicating every other budget, freeway-side box warehousing weary travelers. This is "Reverse," New Mexico I'm talking about for gawdsake, not some generic "Anytown, USA." We should be thinking about building classic wooden boardwalks, as well as the restoration of remaining historic structures. About an agreement to forever ban illuminated billboards. About support for the youth rodeos, tree plantings on Main Street, and horse and buggy rides for the handful of West-loving tourists.
After all, the character of the county I live in is determined not just by its isolation but by its rural nature, the surrounding wildlands and its distinctly Western history. The majority of the folks who have moved here in the last few decades or so came not just to get away from an unrewarding lifestyle, but also in a heart-driven search for the archetypal Wild West of unrestrained freedom and uncluttered skylines. They spent a big part of their lives longing for a place as beautiful as the mountains and vistas they've only read about in books or seen in movies. For these latter day arrivals, this county is both their refuge and their delight. They found here a population more honest and forthright than most, pleasantly outnumbered by the rampant wildlife, housed on the scant percentage of private land, surrounded by mostly publicly owned forest. They may have arrived with big ideas about the various changes they hoped to instigate, but over time most have come to see... how wonderful it would be just to have things back the way they once used to be.