Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Mark Harvey’s Campaign Message
Written Derby Day… 2018
There ain’t a time and place quite like springtime in Wyoming. Waking up to Meadowlarks singing their melodic, mesmerizing song, no matter the weather, is truly one of the most enjoyable experiences of life. When I was a young man (BV; Before Valerie), I spent one spring living on the Wind River Indian Reservation in a small house with friends. We had a sweat lodge (made of willows and canvas tarps) along the river and had a tepee set up next to the house. It was an idyllic time. Tom, Joe and I had many close friends drop by regularly to spend a night or two or three. My fondest memory of that time and place was walking our country road in the mornings, listening to the symphony of Meadowlarks singing their song in the peaceful Wind River Valley. About a decade later, Valerie and I were living and working near Dubois, at the head of the valley. Valerie was working as the morning waitress at the Rams Horn Café, and I had a job on a ranch – we lived on an old homestead place called the Lower Diamond, which was just one of the many homesteads that made up the large outfit, known as the Double Diamond. How Jerry Spence, Wyoming’s famed lawyer, bought the ranch at auction, and renamed it the Thunderhead is a whole ‘nother story in itself.
My sister Beth was living in Iowa at the time, and had acquired a dapple-grey Arabian mare … Misty. I can’t recollect exactly why she wanted to bring me the young horse, but she did. Misty was around four or five and still skittish, like a teenage gal. It was spring, and I was irrigating. I figured a good way of working her would be to irrigate off her – I had tens of acres to irrigate … would get up at daybreak and set water, then at noon, and then after supper. Anyway, Misty had to pack me and a shovel, carry portable dams made of plastic (had some rodeos with her when the wind was blowing), jump ditches, learn to stand still at the drop of the reins and such. Once a day, I usually got on the gravel county road and let her run. One day, we were moving right along, when the boss came driving down the road at a pretty good clip. Too late I realized Smoky, our Border Collie/Aussie pup had fallen behind. For Valerie and I, it was Like losing a child. Somehow, Misty was given to my sister, Susan, who now lives in Loveland with her husband and son. Susan and Misty rode in rodeos and parades in Laramie for over twenty years. As far as I know, Misty is still alive, approaching forty … Mighty old for a four-legged grass eater.
The trouble with retirement is that it gives a guy way too much time to dream and wonder … opening up realms of possibilities … of many diverse trails to venture upon. Right now, I’ve got so many irons in the fire, I don’t know whether to ‘shit or go blind’ – For instance, we just bought a sheep wagon that needs restoring … and I just got corralled into giving my Johnson County War presentation for the Hot Springs Historical Society on Saturday, May 12th in Thermopolis. With regard to the sheep wagon, I’ve lived and worked out of sheep wagons numerous times — even lived in one with Valerie for most of a season in the Big Horn Mountains. It’s a tough life for a woman – although Charlie Russell once said, “A woman can go farther with a lipstick than a man can with a Winchester and a side of bacon.” Valerie’s sister, Sandy, was giving birth out in California that year and Valerie decided to leave camp and help Sandy out with her home delivery. Didn’t blame her, even supported her, when knowing she really needed to escape the wagon and me. Several years later, when we lived at the Lower Diamond, the ranch had a sheep wagon that was parked close to our place, Somewhat Ironically, Sandy came to live with us, and stayed in the wagon. So I’ve always wanted one and should have gotten one when I could have traded a sack of tobacco for a good one. Now, a restored sheep wagon in good shape sells anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, and sometimes more.
The one thing I’ve determined not to do in retirement is ‘paint myself into a corner’: My retirement song is “Don’t Fence Me In” – Ella Fitzgerald’s version. So when I woke up the other morning with half a mind to run for Congress, my other half said, “Yer chances of winning in Wyoming without an R by your name is slim to none, and Slim has already left town. Then, another side of me reckoned with a man like Trump becoming President of the United States, anything’s possible. Besides, I got no hankering to move to DC. My life suits me just fine. The trouble is: I am the one person anointed to be the messenger for the Wyoming Cowboy Health Plan introduced onto the range by Dr. Amos Barber, a Republican doctor from Pennsylvania (friends of Owen Wister and Teddy Roosevelt), in the 1880s. The Fort Fetterman Health Association gave universal coverage to the cowboys of Powder River … who became members with 1/30th of their monthly wage.
“I have many friends among cowmen and cowpunchers. I have always been what is called a good mixer – I had friends when I had nothing else. My friends were not always within the law, but I haven’t said how law-abiding I was myself. I haven’t been too bad nor too good to get along with … Life has never been too serious with me – I lived to play and I’m playing yet … I was a wild young man but age has made me gentle … My friends are mixed – preachers, priests, and sinners. I belong to no church, but am friendly toward and respect all of them. I have always liked horses … I am old-fashioned and peculiar in my dress. I am eccentric (that is a polite way of saying your crazy). I believe in luck and had lots of it. To have talent is no credit to its owner … Any man that can make a living doing what he likes is lucky, and I’m that. Any time I cash in now, I win.”
– CM Russell, “A Few Words about Myself” from Trails Plowed Under 1926
In today’s political world, facts are in danger of losing their inherent truth. Everyone seems to think they can make up fact. There’s an old saying, “A lie can travel around the world before Truth gets its pants on.” Facts are essential individual cells that make up the organism we know as Divine Truth. You may interpret a fact to your heart’s content, as far as your imagination and spinning can take it. However, you may not call a horse … a mule. Dr. Phil Roberts — Head of the History Department at the University of Wyoming — whom was once my mentor, my boss (I was his assistant) and Head Chair of my thesis committee –was in Cody a couple of weeks ago, giving a presentation at the Center of the West. We were able to spend some quality time in Annie’s that afternoon. He ran for office once, and told me that everyone should run for office once in his/her life. We hadn’t crossed trails for about twenty-five years, so our reunion, though brief, was a very special occasion, making for a wonderful day.
My grandfather, who was a missionary and reverend (so was my dad), was fond of saying “We’ll See.” There are several truths I have learned from my grandparents, parents, Valerie, family, friends, and while walking and riding the rocky trails of my life:
The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven are Divine Truth and Divine Love.
We all have a Divine Self and a human self, whether we realize it or not.
The Hurrier I Go, the Behinder I Get .
You don’t have to have sex to become intimate with another person.
How to take a Fall, when to ‘take a powder’ and when to Cowboy Up.
…but most importantly:
How to be a good-timing man in love with a good-hearted woman.
God’s Speed, Smooth & Happy Trails, and May the wind be blowing at your backsides,