Perspectives: The American cowboy, a symbol of defiance

OPINION – The banishers of symbols have been awfully busy lately getting rid of flags, statues of generals, and names on roads or buildings. They’re eradicating anything that could remind us of historical defiance to oppressive, centralized federal power.

We can only wonder when they’ll get around to burning the textbooks that still speak of such things. While they’re busy abusing history to further their own agendas, new symbols are replacing the now-forbidden old ones.

A growing symbol of defiance today is the cowboy.

Here in the American West, he represents freedom-loving Americans who are willing to stand firm for their natural rights in the face of an unreasoning, heavy-handed federal government.

The symbol banishers will find that demonizing the image of the American cowboy is going to be a lot more difficult than stirring up resentment against the losing side in a war from 150 years ago.

This past week, I had the honor of interviewing LaVoy Finicum on my radio program. He and his family have been ranching on the Arizona Strip for generations. He is, without a doubt, one of the most sincere and authentic individuals I’ve ever met.

Finicum is also a principled man who understands that there are moments in each of our lives when we are called upon to stand for what we believe. That so few Americans still have the courage to do so does not mean that making a stand is radical or wrong.

During our interview, Finicum explained how a rancher’s grazing rights are established through being claimed and recorded at the county level. He described how they become personal property rights through being used continuously and defended as necessary.

This type of beneficial use falls under natural law meaning that these rights do not exist because of a written law or even the Constitution. Written laws are supposed to help protect us in the exercise of our natural rights.

In the case of the lands being used by cattle ranchers and others, there are multiple rights that exist on the same lands. These include mineral rights, hunting rights, rights of access and rights of recreation.

Considering that the land where Finicum’s family ranches is far off the beaten path and a fairly harsh desert environment, there is seldom any conflict in the exercise of these rights.

Finicum has a good working relationship with many of the BLM personnel assigned to manage the area where he ranches. He considers them friends and has remained current on all of his fees and in compliance with his terms and conditions.

However, Finicum, like other ranchers, has seen the federal government overstep its proper limits time and again to the point where unelected bureaucrats are creating and enforcing laws that harm ranchers and other land users. These bureaucratic actions are often cloaked in the cloying sophistry that currently represents American jurisprudence but it doesn’t change the fact that ranchers are being ruled without representation.

Finicum points out that this is a violation of the letter and intent of the Constitution which was written to limit federal power to the task of upholding our natural rights.

For this reason, he is severing his association with the BLM and will instead pay a 2.5% yearly production tax on the gross sales of all livestock to Mohave County’s supervisor. He has called upon his county and state officials to find a way to legislatively create a way to pay his taxes to them.

Finicum has threatened no one nor has he called for others to take up arms in his defense. He simply recognizes that our federal government has become a prime source of lawlessness in that it will not abide by the supreme law of the land.

Legislative or judicial remedies are no longer an option since the issue will ultimately end up in the courts of the federal government that is creating the problems. This is why Finicum is standing up as an individual American citizen peacefully asserting his rights.

He understands fully the consequences that may befall him, yet he is willing to make his defensive stand as an example to others that they might find courage too.

Unlike his ranching neighbor Cliven Bundy, whose mere name sends detractors into prolonged fits of rhetorical incontinence, Finicum has not yet been the target of a concentrated media smear and disinformation campaign.

His humble stance is both compelling and well-articulated. You can listen to my two-part interview with him here and here and decide for yourself.

Few symbols remain as beloved and respected as the American cowboy. The banishers have their work cut out for them.

Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • sagemoon June 29, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I am proud to be born and bred in the Western U.S.

    • native born new mexican June 29, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      Me too!

    • KarenS June 29, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      Me too, Sagemoon, but I don’t think removing a confederate flag from public places, especially a statehouse, is somehow a precursor to trying to banish the American cowboy. Mr. Hyde’s implication strains credulity.

      By the way, it sounds like Mr. Finicum is doing things the right way. Hats off to him. That is how changes are made. He is a model for us all. Waving guns around and making threats like Mr. Bundy is just plain stupid.

  • native born new mexican June 29, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Another good article Bryan. The truth is people are more and more finding themselves strictly controlled by people who are in no way legal under the constitution because these controllers are nothing but petty dictators who have not been voted into their position by the voice of the people they are attempting to control/bully. Our republic form of government allows for reasonable laws made by locally elected officials and abhors a dictatorship of agenda driven bullies who will go as far as they can get away with going. I don’t like what it appears will eventually have to happen to restore to the people their rights which are daily being taken from them by all forms of government from bureaucrats to activists on the supreme court. I wish Mr. Finicum success and I support him in his attempt to peacefully change these bad acts.

  • BIG GUY June 29, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    Bryan, you’ve gone over the top again. Natural law, no representation, no legislative or judicial remedies. All of these statements are nonsense. A junior high school civics class could take them apart.

    I understand that Mr. Finicum’s lifestyle is being threatened and I’m sympathetic to his pain. I agree that the Federal bureaucracy is too big and too invasive. But we are ruled by laws, like them or not. That’s how a democracy works.

  • GrandmaB June 29, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Those of you who are so bound and determined to think that your fight against the oppressive government, you know, the one that has hurt you so badly; built interstate roads across country; had a clean water act at one time to keep your kids from getting sick; funds a military that has been used pretty badly lately, but is really there to protect your sorry butts; the one that has tried to take away all your guns with all those laws (oh, there wasn’t EVEN one); tried to protect the stupid Americans from greed and corrupt corporation – agri and pharma business that don’t give a rats pattuty about the indentured servants of this country; yeah, that government. Now you are going to use the cowboy as your newest favorite figure to illustrate the rottenness of our government. Stop right there buddy. I was raised on a ranch, and my grandparents had nothing but respect for our government as did all of the ranchers in our valley. The government managed the BLM lands that the ranchers used for their cattle, they air dropped feed in during winters that were so bad there was no feed and the majority of Utah, Nevada and Idaho ranchers would have died out. Take your sloppy journalism and stick in it your ear. The cowboys I knew, my family and friends, never packed a gun unless they mean’t to use it. Taking a gun to town was just stupid. They understood that the Second Amendment was taken care of by our military, of whom they were proud to serve. They didn’t hide behind anything when it came time to do their duty. Not like they do today. Oh, it is all volunteer. Amazing who volunteers, it sure as hell isn’t the Confederate gun totting wannabee’s who are too damn afraid to join. Don’t use the cowboys to justify, through some twisted use of the ideas of the individual and freedom, to make hating your government OK. Because they didn’t. Most of them, the last real cowboys, would never have made it with out government help. Thru the depression and those ones collecting their Social Security, because they sure as hell wouldn’t have had anything else to rely on. You don’t deserve the government we have. George Carlin put it correctly. A nation of idiots will produce idiots in the government. He sure hit it on the head this time.

  • anybody home June 29, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Grandma B is right on the money. For further word on this try reading “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own” by the well-known historian of the West, Richard White. He even taught for a while in Utah. He outlines clearly how the government made it possible for the West to develop. He has no axe to grind. He’s a scholar and a good one, too.
    I was born and raised in cowboy country in northeastern Oregon (Wallowa Mountains, LaGrande, Pendleton, etc.) and knew many of the ranchers and cattlemen who were on excellent terms with the government. I can’t help but believe that the attitude in Utah and Arizona stems from something beyond a dislike/hatred of the government over grazing. I resent deeply that Mr. Hyde and Mr. Finicum and Mr. Bundy and the rest of you yahoos are subverting the lives of honorable and hardworking cowboys in your political rants about the government. You’re way out of line on this one.
    If you hate the government so much, secede from the union and build your own roads and bridges and figure out how to run your own d**n powerlines. Then when one of you decides to withhold payments you can shoot it out among yourselves and we’ll be rid of the whole lot.
    This article is a sorry argument and a disgrace to the ideals of the West. As the conservative right is so fond of saying, “Love it or leave it.”

  • Bender June 30, 2015 at 12:26 am

    Finicum certainly had an eager, receptive and gulible audience in Hyde as he laid out his confused view of grazing law. For those not predisposed to lunacy, here is the plain language in the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act which clarifies a rancher’s claim to permitted public grazing lands — “Grazing permits or leases convey no right, title, or interest held by the United States in any lands or resources.”

  • fun bag June 30, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Hyde is just an idiot blowhard, and basically an internet troll, and by even commenting on his idiotic writings you’re basically feeding a troll because he likes the attention like a big dumb adult diaper baby. Maybe his garbage writings bring more clicks and ad revenue to the site…who knows…

    • fun bag June 30, 2015 at 11:30 am

      not writings, *ramblings…

  • snap benefits July 1, 2015 at 5:50 am

    The confederate flag in this area was removed long before it became a popular issue. St. George is also known as Dixie. The college used to be called Dixie Colllege and the mascot was a rebel that wore the confederate soldiers uniform complete with confederate flag. Is this guy even from here? What a tourist.

  • tcrider July 1, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    While were at it, lets start flying a flag with a nazi swastika, its part of everyones history also. for crying out loud, whats wrong with these people, the confederate flag represents slavery and white supremacy. there is something really wrong here.

    • anybody home July 1, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      TC, don’t even bother to ask. You’ll not get any straight answers to this important question. Just run, run as fast as you can…

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