has wandered off into the postindustrial age, in the rural MountainrnWest the preindustrial era survives. The world that Westernrnmen, women, and children experience and confront on arndail’ basis is not the manmade artificial one that has interposedrnitself between man and nature throughout most of the rest ofrnthe so-called developed (meaning deconstructed) world, butrnthe natural worid in all its confusion, travail, obstinacy, recalcitrance,rnand danger, as well as in its openness and beauty.rnFourthly, Westerners tend not to be, like postmoderns, specialists:rnthey are likely instead to have the knowledge and skills to berncompetent in many jobs beyond their paid line of work, such asrnoperating a backhoe, repairing a truck engine, building a house,rnshoeing a horse, cutting cows and sorting sheep, killing andrnbutchering domestic animals and big game; felling trees. Theirrnversatility makes them self-reliant, and self-reliance keeps themrnindependent, without precluding the cooperativeness whosernabsence makes frontier life impossible.rnThe Hungarian-American historian John Lukacs expressedrnwhat he took to be the poignant brevity of a fleeting historicalrnmoment when he described the American West of a centuryrnago as being in “that wondrous, half-mystic phase when thernmarriage of civilization to virgin land had just occurred.” Yet inrnthe rural American West today we have a Euro-American civilizationrncontinuing to hack out an existence for itself in a starkrnnatural environment that after more than a century and a halfrnhas still to be dominated, tamed, and reduced to Euro-Americanrnstandards of development, comfort, and security. In thernWest, life persists in combining the virtues and benefits ofrnWestern civilization with the precivilized condition that postcivilizedrnpeople, in their cocoons of abstraction, either knowrnnothing of or ignore, from the mistaken belief that it is irrelevantrnto human experience and abhorrent to human nature.rnFrederick Jackson Turner, who came to praise the frontier evenrnas he buried it at the American Historical Association’s annualrnmeeting in 1890, recognized it as a uniquely American development,rncreation, and condition. “Little by little,” he said, “thern[pioneer] transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is notrnthe old Europe . . . here is a product that is American.”rn^^ I rue human freedom,” Edward Abbey believed, “eco-rnJ. nomic freedom, political freedom, social freedom, remainrnbasically linked to physical freedom, sufficient space,rnenough land.” This freedom was partly what Professor Turnerrnhad in mind when he observed that “American social developmentrnhas been continually beginning over and over again onrnthe frontier. This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of Americanrnlife, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuousrntouch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnishrnthe forces dominating the American character. The true pointrnof view in the history of this nation is not the Atlantic coast, itrnis the great West.” Having roamed the Mountain West for 18rnyears, I can attest to the physical freedom that inheres there; asrna resident of Wyoming for the past 16,1 have witnessed at firstrnhand that “fluidity of life,” as a major economic boom was followedrnby a bust to match it, itself succeeded by the presentrnboom, based on recreationism rather than on the extraction ofrngas and oil, and certain to end in another bust, as the immigrantsrnfrom California freeze to death and their financial tanksrnrupture. The frontier economy almost by definition is relativelyrnundiversified, so that in the event of the collapse of any onernof its components the remaining few are unable to absorb thernhuman fallout, which is forced to become migratory oncernmore, or live by its wits. (Freedom is never to be confused withrnsecurity.) As the Indian tribes moved on in the wake of naturalrnupheavals and disasters, so Westerners of the present time respondrnto economic crisis, abandoning the depressed oil fields ofrnWyoming for the gold mines of Nevada or a second-home constructionrnboom in central Arizona; not infrequently they leavernthe intermountain region altogether, at least for a few years.rnThese minimigrations keep the overall population sparse, and arnsmall population in turn circumscribes the politicians’ opportunitiesrnfor demagogy and oppression. Bruce Babbitt, for example,rnhad to leave his home state of Arizona and move tornWashington, D.C., from which he is now trying to reenter thernWest by the back door.rnIn 1995,1 or any other citizen of Wyoming can place a personalrnphone call to Cheyenne and speak with GovernorrnGeringer almost at any time. Former Secretary of State KathyrnKarpan showed up on the front doorstep several years ago, lookingrnfor my wife; last year when she ran for Governor I ambushedrnher as she was leaving the Frontier Saloon in Kemmerer and, inrnthe presence of the waitress and three or four late diners, chastisedrnher harshly for supporting a woman’s right to abortionrnwhile claiming to be at the same time a practicing Catholic inrngood standing with the Church. In the Mountain states, staternand local laws remain relatively few, and, unlike most of thernfederal ones, not oppressive. Sales and property taxes, except inrnplaces like Vail, Jackson, and Santa Fe, are low, and Wyoming—rnamong other states in the region—has no income tax at all. WernWesterners continue to enjoy, in substantial degree, the freedomrnthat is ordinarily associated with 19th-century America inrngeneral and the American frontier in particular, but that has alsornlargely been forfeited elsewhere in the country in the coursernof the 20th century.rnIn The Winning of the West, published only a year beforernTurner delivered his famous address, Theodore Roosevelt arguedrnthat the preservation of wilderness and a wilderness codernwas necessary to save the modern American from devolving intorn”the overcivilized man, who has lost the great fighting, masterfulrnvirtues.” (Roosevelt’s definition of wilderness was notrnthe Sierra Club’s: a region devoid of human beings, and of everyrnkind of human activity beyond hiking and birdwatching.rnOtherwise, he would have advocated the removal of the WesternrnIndian tribes, along with the pioneers, to New Jersey.)rnThough Roosevelt would surely be appalled by the changesrnthat have occurred in the American West since his lifetime, hernwould just as certainly recognize the 19th-century Westernrncharacter substantially preserved in a recognizably frontier setting.rnBut the American West today, like everything else inrnAmerica that is great and good and American, is under assaultrnand targeted for destruction. It must be preserved; but throughrnsome means by which devolution is arrested without the motionrnand fluidity that makes it worth preservation becomingrnfrozen. Once that means has been found, and the process ofrnsaving the West actually begun, it may be possible for the regionrnto inspire the rest of the country by its example, and, withrnthe aid of the Western mystique that has managed to survive arngeneration of debunking and demystification by left-wing andrncountercultural propagandists, lead the way to self-renewal.rnHow could this be accomplished? By armed revolt, for onernthing. Of course, I’m joking. For now, anyway.rnThree factors distinguish the history of the Western fromrnthat of the non-Western states, with the exception of thosernmade up from what in the late 18th century was known as thernAUGUST 1995/19rnrnrn