Downwinders
Enola … Alone
Freedom versus Control
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

The subject became one from the past.
Friends from California were here, and the point of interest was the display of a newly constructed water storage with its accompanying well and pipeline inclusions. Our business simply doesn’t exist without water. That is as much a familiar theme today as it was 131 years ago when my great grandfather Lee Rice watered his thirsty PIT branded cattle at our Neire Springs on their way home and the Gila River where they had never yet been.
The comparison was not intended, but it was pertinent, and it deserved attention. This business, the cow business, is on a collision course with the societal fascination of leisure, recreation, and philosophical ramblings. What is lost in context is the human element and the genesis of what we believe is the cornerstone of our American model, private property rights.
I know Lee only through diminishing, but reliable voices. Of course, there are pictures of him and there exists a brand card identified as NMB13537 that has my name on it with the reminder that PIT still goes on the left rib of cattle and the left should of horses.
Moreover, there remains a shadow of him on lands that I tread daily. History indicates they were not his homelands, but they have become mine. His, on the mesa and the depths of Sacaton, are now gone. There are several of us that will always bemoan that loss, but it is as it is. We have his memory and his blood.
We also have his heritage, and, of that … we are openly proud.
Enola … Alone
Three quarters of a century ago the greatest conflagration in the history of the world was concluded by the unleashing of three atomic bombs.
Two of them were dropped on Japan and the third, which started everything, was detonated in the wilds of New Mexico 133 miles east from the juncture of the West Ditch and Bell Canyon near Cliff, New Mexico. It was at the latter that my mother remembered when the flash of the test blast lit up the early morning eastern sky like no sunrise that ever occurred before, or since.
Regardless of what official statements and records show all three resulted in the loss of human lives.
There are other similarities, too, that remain locked forever in history. One is a name, Enola. That was the first part of the plane’s name that dropped the second bomb detonated (first from the air). The second is also a name, or, more accurately, a word, a manmade condition, that human beings too often find themselves when faced with what is supposed to be the very institution predicated on protecting their personal liberties, their government.
Ironically, the word is the mirrored image of the plane’s first name, Enola, and it reflects the reality and the terror that way too many citizens face when living their lives in perfectly legal manners predicated on the area, the conditions, and the very heritage they find themselves.
Spell Enola backwards, and ALONE emerges.
Downwinders
Downwinders are the folks who didn’t immediately find themselves on the casualty counts of the explosion proper. They are the citizens who faced the evil externalities of the outcomes that would take place following the event. Nobody really knows how many New Mexicans died of cancer or related conditions caused by exposure to the collateral conditions of the first blast. There are more accurate schedules of estimates in the aftermath of the Japanese blasts than there are in the New Mexico detonation.
That irony, though, is not an isolated event. It is a recurring theme when citizenry is faced with the unleashed tentacles of government. A worst-case example of the tyranny of independent government action took place immediately north and northwest of the same juncture of ditch and canyon at Cliff in 1944 when the Forest Service summarily evicted the Shelley family from lands they had occupied since 1884.
The condition was the newly minted concept of modern wilderness and the mechanism was the authority of a government agency to employ its wide and infinite discretion to grant of deny invented permit allowances. Such authority was not isolated. Many will argue it continues unabated, and more will insist it is even more onerous in the modern age.
Like the Shelley incident or the collateral casualty counts of the human tragedies of being downwind from any agency romp, the greatest number of blunt force actions on citizenry are lost from records or public awareness.
Indeed, citizens stand ALONE.
Freedom versus Control
The Park Service’s Point Reyes massacre of the Lunny family oyster business that happened to reside within another modern wilderness being claimed by the crown is a continuing example. Upwards of half of all sustainable oyster production over the last 50 years in Northern California was shut down over invented regulations by that federal agency.
In a point of society exclamation, the agency has won the appeals process over pathetically weak congressional responses with agreement by the 9th Court of Appeals that the agency indeed has wide discretion to grant or deny permits. That decision opens up the clear path and intention to remove another 24 ranching and farming operations for the same thing.
These are horrific American tragedies.
These are not incidents in a vacuum. These are families who took the huge risks of pioneering endeavors that nobody else could or would do. These are citizens who find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time and get steamrolled by government agencies that constantly elevate agendas over foundational freedoms.
Casualties they are or will become. Words don’t seem to help them.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico who also farmed in the San Joaquin Valley. “The dirty little secret is the fact that real wilderness and freedom is best served by the protections inherent in private property rights preserved in front line family endeavors.”