Opinion » Bill Cope

Cowpoke Tao

The governor chews some fat

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Let me be straight up with ya, pardner. Ever now and then, come nights like this when the campfire's a-crackling like a Kuna saloon during happy hour and the stars are blinking up o'erhead like a drunk stripper's eyes ... when them Canuck wolves are yipping their fool heads off over yonder where old Scotsman Andy used to graze his woollies and all I got to call dinner is this here simmering pot o' beans and porker scraps ... I get to wondering why I ever chose to ride this trail. To go this cowboy way. Comprendee?

It ain't been easy, 'meego. Since I was but a whippersnapper, straight out o' the Vietnam-days National Guard (where I could play soldier boy without actually having to meet up with any wild Viet Cong), ain't hardly been a two-year stretch go by that I didn't have to strap on my chaps, ride out and wrangle enough votes to keep a place at the town square watering trough. Yessir, I've gone through more than my share o' rough brush and dry fundraisers, roundin' up them independent dogies and Libertarian steers. Signed on for my first voter drive back in '72 ... my poly-sci degree weren't nearly dry behind the ears ... but it got me where my heart were itching t' be: the big ol' statehouse over Boise way. From then on, it t'weren't nothing but uphill. Lieutenant governor for more years than any other swinging belt buckle in Idaho history, then back east to the dude Congress for three terms--not to mention a pension sweet as sarsaparilla. When I had that corralled, I high-tailed it back here to the open range for a turn in the governor's saddle.

What I'm a-yapping about is, I done spent my whole grown-up life making sure I had a tin star in the same gov'ment posse I've been belly-aching about since I started. And I'm damn proud that for all those years, I've worked like a chuck-wagon mule to get the gov'ment to do considerable less for regular folk than it's done for me.

But dag nabbit, I cain't be taking all the credit. I cain't sit here and pretend that I could o' done any of it without my boots, my hat, my snap-button rodeo shirts and a walk-in closet full of straight-leg Wranglers. The tighter the better.

And I suppose I should throw some oats out to all those trusty little Idaho clod-hoppers who think that a man in a spiffy felt Stetson cain't possibly be a big ol' posturin', posin', $3-bill phony.

It didn't hurt none neither that early on I got hitched to a little filly name o' Simplot. If'n you'll recall, I spent a good long spell working on her daddy's spread, and I suppose you'd have to say he treated me a might special, seeing as how I'd up 'n' married his darlin' daughter. Hell, a buckaroo like me might o' never had to put on a pair o' lace-up shoes nor a silk necktie, if'n old J.R. hadn't made me one of his top hands. As it were, I could mosey down t' that Arid Club for some hot grub anytime I got the notion, and by gum, them downtown slickers would perk up an' pay attention when I swung through them swingin' doors. That's pretty good for a plain ol' cow-poker like me, don't ya think? Even if I never actually poked no cows.

But 'bout the time me and her split the horse blankets, the old boy decided he didn't want my gear taking up space in his bunkhouse no more, and that's when I put a fresh coat o' whitewash on my campaign buggy and went to doing the only thing I knew how to do. Other than being a billionaire's son-in-law, that is.

Yup, from then on, I went to full-time politickin', which meant I had to keep dancin' a full-time cowboy two-step, or else people would think they were voting for just another tenderfoot in a tailored suit. So I found myself a pretty little ranchero down on the river to raise a heifer or two, got myself a calf ropin' pard, and between trips to Washington, D.C., and trade missions to China, I got folks round-abouts convinced that if I had to, I could take out for Claude Dallas country, ride fence and plink coyotes for the rest o' my days.

Ya know, just twixt you and me, that's what all this fandango over those damn fool wolves is about. A feller like me what knows his way around a political gimmick cain't help but figure that now ... couple, three weeks before another election ... is one hell of an opportune time to strut down the center o' High Noon Street and call out that Fish an' Wildlife bunch for a showdown. And say, ain't that why we like ol' Shane so dang much? Or Marshal Dillon? Or ol' Clint back in his Pale Rider period? 'Cause there they stand ... tall an' alone ... in the center o' town when there's a whole gang o' gunslinging desperadoes against 'em, and they got no one on their side.

Course, I got me some state lawyers on my side. And a slew of political advisors. And all the special interest fancy pants what have a stake in keepin' Idaho gov'ment in their back pocket. And let's face it ... in these parts, when you draw down on the feds, you got nearly every galoot with a deer rifle and a rusted-out 4x4 rig on your side.

But what counts is who's got the cameras pointed at 'em, ain't that correct? An' that's what I aim t' do, right up until I hang up my spurs and go to living off my government pensions. Keep them cameras pointed at me.

Now, 'meego ... how's about we throw the rest o' them beans on the fire and get some shut-eye? Got me another fund-raising shindig to waller through tomorrow. An' after that, I'm thinking 'bout heading up the hill t' the official gov'ner's mansion, just to see if I can go inside without getting that spooky feelin' like someone don't want me there.