Horses on our farm didn't get the memo about COVID-19 so in the past year we've traveled with them through blue and red states where an inescapable pattern distinguishes rural communities from suburban or urban ones.
Near large cities, people reacted to the pandemic with purposeful social distancing and meticulous wearing of masks. But in rural towns, evidence of a pandemic was typically two-fold: food-service and store clerks wore masks as directed by employers and advisory mask signs were both ubiquitously posted and frequently ignored.
This isn't to argue that either approach is better but rather that people and communities can be trusted to adapt to our own unique situations.
This spring, rural Coloradans are increasingly fed up with the onslaught of top-down directives that impose Denver-Boulder "solutions" on every community. These mandates disregard Coloradans' competency to govern ourselves. Even though some have been derailed, the Legislature's relentless drumbeat of paternalism is creating a swelling tide of resentment.
The assault on agriculture by lawmakers and activists with no stake in our business is especially infuriating.
Senate Bill 87 would create completely unworkable employment laws for Colorado farms and ranches where harvesting crops and caring for livestock sometimes demand long, irregular hours dictated by weather conditions. Requiring a standard 40-hour work week or allowing workers to strike shows that bill sponsors are oblivious to how food gets to their table.
Lurking in the background is Initiative 16 (the "PAUSE Act"), headed for the 2022 election ballot. Proponents say this is about preventing cruelty to farm animals - as if its Boulder-area backers know what it's like to warm a baby calf during a blizzard or spend all night in the barn tending a sick animal.
This hair-shirt fantasy would have voters - not ranchers - determine when livestock are ready to be processed for meat. Tripling the time from farm to table means meat will be long past its prime - not fit for our kitchen tables. Initiative 16 would defy science by defining breeding via artificial insemination as a "sexual act with an animal," a crime under Colorado law.
Rural Coloradans aren't convinced we can trust the judgment of our urban cousins who, just last year voted, from the safety of their kitchen tables, to release wolves to prey on livestock and wildlife on Western Slope farms and ranches.
Next, city lawmakers think they should tell us how to address crime in our communities. Frankly, the decay and disorder in your cities isn't an example we intend to follow.
Senate Bill 62 - fortunately toned down and re-introduced as SB 273 - prohibits local law enforcement from arresting or jailing suspects charged with car theft, burglary, rioting, and property damage up to $100,000. Suspects can ignore their court dates three times before courts can impose a cash bond to ensure they show up for trial. House Bill 1250 is another silly idea that would order police to use deadly force only "proportional to the threat" they face from violent criminals and impose an impractical requirement for officers to use "de-escalation" techniques.
We know that lawbreakers don't play by the rules, so we prefer to give the benefit of the doubt to our men and women in blue, even if you don't.
Still worse, Senate Bill 182 would have turned our schools into criminal playgrounds by preventing law enforcement from responding to many violent crimes committed against students and teachers. So, theft and vandalism should be punished by . . . detention? Try that with your own kids, and we'll see how it works out.
Finally, preening climate evangelists insist on banning plastic bags from all stores and restaurants (House Bill 1192). California tried this and carbon emissions increased due to use of paper bags. Reusable cloth bags are a breeding ground for human viruses and foodborne disease. So, if we need a plastic bag to pick up after pets or to line a household container, we will soon need to buy them rather than recycle free bags from the store. This Nanny State nonsense treats Colorado citizens like toddlers.
Hank Williams Jr. was right: Country folks can survive. And we could do it much better if city politicians would mind their own business.