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A Man's Mission

By, Dan O'Brien

In a recent blog post I characterized “the hot air emanating from Washington DC” as more dangerous than the smoke from California’s devastating forest fires. (I was talking about some of the tragic proclamations coming from the White House, not the comedy of the even more recent government shutdown.) Because Wild Idea Buffalo Company is first and foremost a conservation minded company, I was, of course, referring to the United States’ abandonment of the Paris Climate Accords, the opening of our public lands to the extraction industries, and the reduction in size of protected lands across the west.

That blog post elicited a thoughtful response from one of our good customers who, I am sure, had our best interests in mind: “…Great products, philosophy, photography and all around company with whom I feel good about supporting. One thought, please let this be a politics-free zone…specifically, statements like “dangerous hot air from Washington” have no place and moreover ruin the tranquility of your brand."

Here is my email response: "Thanks for your support. Sorry if my comment offended you. Certainly don't want to be too political. I respect your comment about keeping things apolitical, but please understand that conservation has been my life for 70 years. I don't consider defending our natural world political, I consider it survival for my grandkids. Very best regards."

Dan O'Brien

I’ve been thinking about that benign exchange for a couple weeks and have grown embarrassed with my weak response. What we do at Wild Idea is not a game of commercial strategy. We feel that we are playing for “ALL the marbles.” We are engaged in a great, existential struggle that none of us can afford to ignore. We are doing, through our actions, what most people can’t do directly or won’t do, and what most of creation has no voice to do. Though it is soothing to think that our brand is tranquil, it is not so. Wild Idea Buffalo Company is about underscoring the destruction that out-of-control capitalism has visited upon the natural world. The suggestion that it is all a marketing strategy is insulting; though I’m sure our valued customer did not intend any such thing. 

Between the time of that initial blog post and now I went to see the movie The Darkest Hour. If you haven’t seen it, go as soon as you can and watch Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill in front of the English Parliament. Churchill is, of course, surrounded by politics as he strains to make England see that opposing Adolph Hitler is much more than a political stance. Notice the look on the face of Ronald Pickup who plays Neville Chamberlain as he realizes that his efforts to appease Hitler have been little more than the a scolding finger in Churchill’s face – the equivalent of saying, “Now, now Winston, let’s keep the language kind and civil.”

Or consider Major Buttric of America’s infant Continental Army. Imagine him in 1775, standing at the Concord Bridge commanding the rag-tag group of common men, much like most of us. On the other side of the bridge stands lines of red-coated invaders. Major Buttric and his men are facing down the most powerful army the world had ever known. If you’ve ever been to the Concord River Valley, you know it is one of the most idyllic and peaceful places imaginable. You also know that even after 250 years, the air is still thick with the tension of that day in 1775. Now imagine Major Buttric turning to the embattled farmers who stand shoulder to shoulder with him and saying, “Now boys, let’s keep this place a politics free zone.” No. What Buttric really said was: “Fire, for god’s sake fellow soldiers – Fire!”

Bear Butte

I do not mean to minimize those battles fought to protect our civilization or our freedom. Quite the opposite. I only mean to elevate the importance of defending our environment and to point out that victory often comes through uncomfortable words and actions. The stakes could not be higher. We are fighting for life itself.

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77 comments

  • You are so right, Dan! Thank you for sharing…

    Mary Burrows
  • Brands, to be effective, must make a consistently believable promise. Wild Idea Buffalo’s brand promise, for me, is restoration of the Great Plains with sustainably grown, humanely harvested buffalo. A website picture or video of buffalo grazing tranquilly on a restored small piece of the Great Plains shows only, I am pretty sure, the consistent work of mind, body and soul of each member of the Wild Idea company. Part of that work, certainly Dan’s writing, has to be political because convincing more and more and more people of the worthiness of restoring the Great Plains and of the strength and intentions of forces against that restoration has been a consistent part of the company’s brand promise from the beginning. Now, all those years later, we know there is a company, a group of dedicated people, wiling to build and support the Wild Idea Buffalo brand, and that actually does give some tranquility to me. So thank you to all the employees — past, present and future — of the Wild Idea Buffalo company for a brand promise I believe.

    Wever Weed
  • Once again, I find your blog to be spot on topic and very well communicated. While I understand your desire as a businessman to not offend a single customer, you seem to realize that one of the goals of any business is to promote their business and its philosophy with any communications they make. A blog, therefore, should in my opinion be more slanted toward the philosophy of the business and less towards the nuts and bolts of marketing. You handled it just right, and much better than most of us who do not have your writing skills.

    I don’t know if you consider yourself a member of the “left” or not. Recently I responded to a social media comment that the “left” was using fascist tactics to deny our current administration the right to express their views. I had to respond that speaking out against false statements that are tweeted out on a daily basis is not using fascist tactics at all: It is registering honest resistance to statements which are put forth against the hard won principles and freedoms that were initiated by the founding fathers of this country when they created and fought for our republic. We, as Americans can do no less. Of course, not everyone in any country agrees on every issue. I happen to agree with everything I have read from you and I celebrate and enjoy your skill in expressing those principles and feelings.

    jim newton
  • You are doing a great job to protect our future children and that is the most important thing in life a healthy loving FAMILY
    raymond vosilla
  • Highly commendable “non-strategy.” If we compromise our soil so monoculture agronomics fueled by corporate chemical interests are able to continue to contaminate and deplete the very lands that sustain us, we contribute to a non-sustainable food industry for our grandkids, as well as dance upon the graves of the Plains Indians who died during the New World holocaust.

    Vernon Cross
  • Right on! You put words to that which I feel. Shoulder to shoulder, man.

    Prairiewind
  • Thank you. We need words like these and action, no standing on the sidelines watching.

    Cheves Leland
  • I speak as a parent, grandparent and great grandparent. My words may make others uncomfortable at times but my family knows the story that comes with the meat on the table when they visit. My husband and I appreciate the statement you and your family are making. Thank you for enduring.

    Regina Carver
  • Yes, exactly!

    Melissa Moore
  • Well said, Dan. As our American Indian friends like to remind us “we are not owners of our Mother the Earth; we are the caretakers, blessed with her bounty and responsible for her care.” Where mistakes are and have been made, we must strive to correct, repair and rejuvenate. In the words of Belva Plain: Nourish and Build. Keep Tranquil Places. Heal. Inflict No Pain. All that are born under the sun, Let live to flourish under the sun, and disturb no peace. Let us be better to each other." And, from the Hebrew Prayer Book: “Choose Life, That Thy Children May Live.”
    That about sums it up. On another Note, Happy Anniversary – may your day be filled with joy and wonderful memories, both old and new.

    Georgene
  • My thoughts are with you and Jill!

    Ken Kasweck
  • Keep fighting the good fight; greed and personal profit should never become more important than protecting the environment and out planet!

    Tom O'Keeffe
  • Your words give me goosebumps.

    Heidi
  • Dan, my husband and I love Wild Idea—both your fantastic products and the thought that went into establishing your business. Yours is just about the only red meat we eat these days. We applaud your courage in taking a stand for a sustainable planet and we support you 100%. Creating a better world and creating jobs are not mutually exclusive—it just requires getting out of old ways of thinking. Rather than rewarding millionaires for being rich, our tax code needs to give breaks and incentives for the creation of new green jobs, particularly in areas of the country that are economically depressed. Keep up the great work and thanks for speaking up.

    JoAnne Fernandez
  • Stewardship of the land, especially the prairie is a duty not to be taken lightly! Thankful to be part of conservation! Thanks for all you do.

    Nancy

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