Living the Life: Legal Issues

Sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

A lot of modern city folks think that just being in the country (and far from the maddening crowd) automatically gives them a license to be as insane and unsensitive as they want (or can be)... until the neighboring cattle rancher pulls up on his ATV, armed to the teeth, looking like an escapee from some asylum... and he tunes up their understanding of what being in his neck of the woods really means. I've seen grown men have to go inside and change their pants after one of these meetings, then they got in their fancy cars, drove to town and discovered that the local sheriff is in total agreement with the cattle rancher... Another aspect of this is that cattle rancher who wouldn't call the sheriff if his life depended on it will call the local building/septic/brand inspector at the drop of a hat if he thinks that will interfere with whatever you are doing and get you to go away... he doesn't have a second thought about trespassing on your land, you newcomer you, but don't you ever cross His fence...

This section is about how to avoid that problem and the nervous rush that comes with it. That neighboring cattle rancher doesn't want to have to educate you about how to be a good neighbor, he's got too much other work to do (and that other work is considerably more rewarding for him). But if you want to be foolish and push him... good luck. The sheriff in my county told me to just drag the body out in the meadow and most of it would be gone in a couple days... He also suggested that I call him and let him know what happened so he could cover me, just in case. He based this advice on how well he knows me. Try that in the city.

Out here in the boondocks, you're much better off with folks if you say what you do and do what you say. And it's not like the city where once the cop arrives, everyone's in trouble. We all know each other and we know what each other's situation is... and we get along or we get out. This may be boring reading but one day, it may just come in handy for you. On the other hand, don't ever expect to be treated like a native: your grandpa or grandma wasn't born here, and neither was your father or mother and neither were you...

Late spring, 2007: I was interviewed by an Associated Press reporter in regards to some of the comments I've made in this Living the Life section. She thought that I was mostly joking, and I am, but not really. When I told her about being snowed in in January, 2007 (10 feet on the ground New Year's day), for five days and then going a mile down the hill (through snow still over my head in spots) to where I'd left my Toyota 4Runner parked (because I knew the gas company (and not the county) would reach that point with a blade first) and discovering, after digging my own vehicle out, that my "citified" neighbor had parked his own junk Astrovan just beyond my front bumper so that I'd have to dig him out and get him out first... and then he wasn't sure if his vehicle would make it the 2 miles down to the county road so that he could get out of my way (he had a plugged-up catalytic converter) and "allow" me go to town for groceries and medical supplies (for my family)... well, this reporter started laughing. I said, "I'm not joking. This really happened." She said, "I know, I know. But what else can I say? Now I understand." She then asked me how to spell my name and told me the article would be on the wire nationally and should start appearing in newspapers all across the country shortly. And this story about my neighbor would probably be her lead-in to her article about the Code of the West and these Rural Living Handbooks/Guidebooks that are now appearing in many western states. Then she and I talked about that subject for quite a while... logo
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