Lilliput vs. Leviathanrnby James CatronrnThere are lots of freckles, red hair, and Celtic names inrnCatron County, New Mexico. Though almost everyonernin the county has some Indian or Mexican blood, this is homernto the families and culture which David Haekett Fischer describesrnin Albion’s Seed as Scoteh-Irish, double distilled, first byrnthe Highland clearances and then by transportation from Ireland.rnThe culture was distilled again by Reconstruction Erarnacts of attainder that outlawed their Confederate and Copperheadrnancestors and drove them further West.rnAs insular as their British forbearers, these folk mined,rnlogged, and ranched in their mountain fastness quite happilyrnfor over a century. The only high school in the county calls itsrnteams the Mountaineers, and its mascot is a bearded, corncobpiped,rnpeak-hatted Appalachian hillbilly. The county is sornremote that in the past it served as refuge to renegades andrnbadmen like Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves), who acquiredrnthe name by bathing his arms in the blood of Spanish colonistsrnhe had killed. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hid outrnthere for a while, and Billy the Kid frequented Frisco, today’srnReserve, the county seat.rnLife was never idyllic in Catron County; it required hardrnwork, thrift, and grit to survive in a place where 85 percent of itsrn7,800 square miles is held by the federal government. It was thernland that drew them in the first place. In the last century, thernWest was held by land barons, American and foreign, who ruthlesslyrndefended their enormous claims. Congress enacted thernHomestead Laws to break up such power. Anyone could stakernJim Catron is a lawyer who writes from La ]oya, New Mexico.rnHe is County Attorney for Catron, Socorro, and Sierra counties.rnclaim to 40 or, much later, 640 acres, but in the arid West, suchrnsmall plots would not feed your family. To settle, to pacify thernWest, the federal government offered the acreage, plus all thernsurrounding pasture your cattle could eat, limited only by thernnumber of cows you could water. Enticed by such bait, peoplerneame.rnBut the homesteading ended in Catron County whenrnCongress passed, from 1891 to 1906, a series of Forest Reservernlaws. One could not homestead on lands the feds reserved tornthemselves, ostensibly withdrawn from the public to “protectrnthe watersheds and to assure a steady supply of timber to thernnation.” In reality, these laws protected Eastern timber companiesrnfrom competition with the vast timber resources of thernWest.rnAt the beginning of the century, ranchers all over the Westrnbegan to petition the central government to create a permitrnsystem to protect their grazing rights from transient sheep andrncattle drovers. They got what they asked for, a system ofrnprioritized classes of permits that imposed a nominal grazingrntax. Soon, someone in Washington, D.C., realized that taxesrnare imposed only on property rights, and the grazing tax wasrnchanged quietly and slyly to a grazing “fee.” This treacheryrngreatly undercuts grazing rights claims made now, 90 yearsrnlater.rnBut no one really noticed the difference, or noticed whenrnCongress created the Aldo Leopold-Gila Wilderness in the big,rnbeautiful county. No one really noticed all the hippies comingrnto worship Mother Earth on altars inside the Catron Countyrnline. Nonetheless, the people of Catron County lived in relativernpeace with the United States government for decades untilrn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn