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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

  • Dan, well said. I respect the fact that your vision for the Prairie and it’s rightful inhabitants is in line with Aldo’s deep penchant for the “Health of the Land”. I’m opening the door to half a century of living in the midwest and am overly concerned by recent history. I believe you’ll understand what I mean by hopeing not to see the “green fire” die in your eyes, or anyone one of us that care about our land. From Bristol Bay, to the Prairie, to the BWCA. I’ll stand with you on that bridge.

    Paul Burggraff
  • Thank you for your thoughts and well said. One of the highlights of my life is having had the opportunity to observe your passion for what you believe in when I was included in a tour of your ranch in 2013.

    Carolyn
  • It’s a fight worth fighting and the stakes are perhaps higher than ever… Bravo! Also, as an aside, have you seen the movie “Hostiles” yet? Powerful movie, powerful message~

    Wendy Wyatt
  • Right on , Dan. Great words!!

    DICK and Anita Schott
  • Appreciate your words Dan. The current govt in D.C. reminds me of the those bison hunters and their capitalists that nearly drove those magnificent animals to extinction-uncaring and greedy.

    David kolpin
  • The mind set of thinking our job as citizens is to only show up and vote, and thus thereby only letting the soldiers and politicians dictate our lives, is why we have the Oligarchy we have right now. If soldiers can volunteer to sacrifice their very lives, denying their children a parent, or having their siblings losing a brother or sister, or parents losing their child, then I can lose an hour a day trying to get our country back into the hands of WE THE PEOPLE, and away from the rule of the wealthy few! So keep up the fight Wild Idea! WE ALL MUST!!!!!!

    Peggy Detmers
  • Well said, Dan. Thanks for saying what so many of us should be saying!

    Holly Blodgett
  • Bless you! We owe you for your caring.

    Judi
  • Mr O’Brien: Here in Alaska the newly corporatized EPA is about to give permits to a heavy industrial mining group to initiate an open pit mine project in the Bristol Bay uplands. This permit process was made possible after the new EPA administrator threw out ten years of testimony and threw out an already declared EPA finding that was not implemented because of industry lawsuits. Bristol Bay is the last functioning large ecosystem for salmon and other species on earth and when it goes to development we will have nothing left to defend.

    So my question is, following your logic, when do we join the guys on the historical bridge with real rifles and real ammunition? Or do we just go down the road on the trail of tears, the valley at Wounded Knee, a warming acidified ocean, the Keystone XL pipeline protest swept away with troopers and bulldozers? Do we just accept the probability that our grandchildren will never see a King salmon?

    I admire and applaud your gentle and substantial approach. But its not enough. There’s going to have to be some sacrifices here.

    Eric Forrer
  • Your words affirm my rationale for shifting from an overly capitalistic career to that of an environmental planner and conservationist. How I missed that opportunity in my twenties (now 80s..) is almost incomprehensible. Thank you for reminding me why I support political actions that deal with conservation and preservation of our home EARTH. You, your family and Wild Idea are doing what is right, politically and otherwise. David

    David Fleming
  • Dan, I wholeheartedly agree with you. We’re going to hell in a Trump basket!

    Jim Dina
  • Thank you for candidly speaking your mind on this topic. I wholeheartedly agree with your mission and admire your determination. We all have to double down and stand up for what we believe and know is right. I’m honored to be a customer.

    Pat McMahon
  • What is to come of the slaughtered 1300 bison in Yellowstone Park? Instead they should go to the Natives who need that food.

    C.R. Boren
  • Sorry but I missed that political statement, I thought you were referring to near constant column of hot air that has been the main output of DC during every one of my 83 years on earth.

    Toni Stimmel
  • My hat is off to you, Dan O’Brien. I stand shoulder to shoulder with you. Most people are the silent majority being led like lambs to slaughter – only to look around at some point and ask “what happened?!”Well, The Silence happened. We need to be a voice that is heard not in the dark but in the light. We need to express our outrage at the destruction of public lands to the extraction industry, the reduction of the size of public lands. And climate? Don’t get me started. We need to be a united loud voice saying enough is enough.
    Your words touched me and my husband. Thank you for the courage to voice what needs to be said.

    Patti Cole

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