Letter From thenNorthwestnby Catherine RudolphnBreaking the CowboysnI had occasion to visit Pendleton, Oregonnrecently. It is the “purple mountains’nmajesty, above the fruited plain”nthat we sing about, only the peaks thatnrim the valley bowl are the Blue Mountains,nand the fruit of the land is animalnas well as vegetable.nPendleton is famous for its gloriousnwoolens, which you can read about innVogue and buy across America. Itsnother claim to fame is the PendletonnRound-Up, a rodeo and in-gatheringnof the people who still ride the rangenfor a living.nThe Round-Up features competitionsnthat demonstrate the sparkle experiencenlends to natural ability: younthink you can only watch so many guysnlasso and hogtie a frightened calf, andnthen a cowboy comes on the scenenwho puts that extra little fillip into thenway he throws his rope and downs thencalf in such a deft way that younwouldn’t have missed the poetry of it.nThere are cowgirls, too, and thenpeople who recruit fashion modelsnshould stop traveling to Sweden if theynwant the lean, clean look. The ladiesnand gentlemen of the ranch are sparenand elegant enough for a RalphnLauren ad, and the buckles on theirnbelts are works of art (a sterling silvernbeauty with garnets costs $100).nThe round-up also symbolizes, innthe most basic fashion, the clash betweennthe urban regulators who governnfrom western Washington and Oregon,nand the hardworking souls in the easternnpart of the states who wrest a livingnfrom the land. People who have notnpaid the price for the livelihood threatennit.nComing up 1-84 from Salt LakenCity, you pass through the thunderingnbarrenness of southern Idaho. No respectablenjackrabbit would live there,nand on this trip, coming back from anCORRESPONDENCEnclose friend’s birthday celebration, Indidn’t spot any. As you come closer tonBoise, life starts to appear again, andnon the greening edge of western Idaho,nthere are cattle and potatoes.nThen you come to the marvelousnaccidents of weather and geographynthat make Washington and Oregon soninteresting. Volcanic and glacial activitynhave made tall mountains and deepnvalleys, and around La Crande, Oregon,none such accident has made topsoilnas black as bear fur, as rich andnverdant as any I saw when I lived innIowa, our nation’s most fortunate statenwhen it comes to good dirt. But mostly,nthe people who live east of the CascadenMountains have to deal with semiaridnland that is none too rich.nSo the “drysiders” need irrigationnwater and fertilizers (organic or otherwise)nto coax the land to supportnpasture or wine grapes. This year,nwater has been in short supply here, asnin the Midwest. The focus of thennational media has been on areas thatncan be covered from the Chicago bureau,nbut the drought has caused hardshipnin a hard land, coming on thenheels of years of regulation. The rewardsnof hard work — houses on thenhill that would suit a Spanish grandee;nproperty that is measured in hectaresn— are threatened by the natural cyclesnof rainfall and the unnatural demandsnof the regulators.nBureaucrats who work for the samengovernor who campaigns on a platformnof good jobs and good wages rob thenpeople of their labor. A ranch is laborintensive,neven at its most efficient. Anmachine cannot free a calf stuck in anfence, nor break the ice from thensurface of the water supply in the deadnof winter. A sheep lost on a ridge ofnlava rock must be retrieved on horsebacknor on foot. This is a special job fornan individual who is patient, tough, andndeft.nThe livestock have to go to market,nmore cheaply if the market is close atnhand. The environmental regulatorsnhave already driven the meat-packingnindustry out of Washington State (fortunately,nsome of it landed in Idaho),nnnand over the past few years have begunnto fret over the proximity of cattle tonlakes and streams. It seems they regardnmanure as a threat to the purity of thenwater supply, saying it may kill thenoccasional salmon.nThese regulations are mostly writtennto protect coastal streams, but are inneffect statewide. So an older rancher,nsquinting into the clouded lookingnglass for the future, might decide he’snhad enough, and let his cowhands looknfor another job.nAcross the Columbia from Pendleton,nin Richland, Washington, thenclever environmentalists have robbednthe state of brains as well as money.nThey have managed, with the governornof Washington’s able assistance, tonirk the federal government until it hasnshut down the N-Reactor at the HanfordnNuclear Reservation. All the highsalariednengineers who have madenRichland such a bright spot in thenstate’s economy and intellectual lifenwill take their salaries and their intelligentnchildren to South Carolina. Theirnexperimental projects and the industrialnspinoffs from those projects willnleave with them. In a few years, somenbackwater town in South Carolina willnbe shinier and wealthier and have andazzling youth symphony becausenthese engineers have settled there.nMy ancestors and their travelingncompanions, who came to the West onnthe Oregon Trail in the 1840’s, wouldnnot have dreamed of this when theyncame down Dead Man’s Pass into thensmooth bowl that is Pendleton. Theynknew that when their journey hadnended, still another would begin: tonwrest a living off the land they hadncome to. To read their diaries is tonmarvel at human endurance and tonscar the soul.nThe people who came to this placenwere truly the people of the edge.nTheir ancestors had jumped off thenshores of Europe to reach America,nwith a second jump into the NorthwestnTerritories (as the Midwest was thenncalled), and these children of pioneersntook one more treacherous leap, a longnone, across mountain and desert, un-nFEBRUARY 1989/37n