This morning, two men set off for work.
One rose from bed when the sun gleamed into the window around 5:30 a.m. He donned yesterday’s dirt-caked clothes, drank a few swigs of coffee, listened to the weather forecast on the country radio station, and stepped outside, breathing the sweetness of the dewy grass on his way to the corral.
He spoke his first words of the day to the dog, and the next living creature he saw was his horse, which he saddled, mounted, and spent the next few hours upon.
A thousand miles away, the second man awoke to the electronic blare of his alarm clock at 7 a.m. He rose from bed, showered, shaved, and watched the morning news on television. He stepped out the door into the hallway and rode the elevator to the bottom floor, where he departed through the glass doors and onto the sidewalk. A blast of noise greeted him from the dirty street, and he ducked into the corner shop and paid $3.75 for a sugared cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup.
He then stepped onto the pavement, into a vehicle, and out again when he reached his office building. He took the stairs to his sixth-floor office, where he conversed with at least a dozen people and spent the rest of the morning on the phone and at the computer.
At 4:30 p.m., the office worker will shut down his computer and begin his commute home to his family. He will purchase supper through a drive-through window and return home, having never set foot on the actual earth during his entire day.
The rancher will head home as darkness sets in, sitting down to a dinner of beef that, six months ago, he fattened with grain from his own fields.
The two men live in worlds that would seem to never meet. But now, as travel and communication between worlds apart improve, these two worlds have begun to collide.
The man who spends entire months without stepping on ground that isn’t concrete, pavement, or turf will discover that he is missing something in his life. He will begin to search for it, and he will find it in the world of the rancher. He will call it nature or frontier or paradise, and once he has tasted it, he will want it.
He will demand that it belongs to all people, not just those who have worked to preserve it and improve it for centuries. He will demand that it return to its natural state, and he will donate money to organizations that promise to make this happen.
The rancher, who has little money and even less time, will watch defenseless as his world begins to change. When reintroduced wolves begin to feast on his new calf crop, he is told by people living in cities built over the forests where wolves once roamed that it is nature’s way. When urban organizations begin to pressure government agencies to pull his grazing lease, he is told that public land is meant for the people’s enjoyment, not cattlemen’s gain.
He listens in frustration to the television news programs which accuse him of freeloading off the government, while the city dweller pays a smaller percentage of his paycheck for groceries than any other working man in the world. He wonders why these people want to eat foreign-raised meat and grains and conserve for recreation the land that now raises the world’s best quality and safest food supply.
He wonders why these people who rarely set foot on the earth itself seem to think they can take better care of it than he can.
And he will continue to wonder tomorrow, as he puts in another 16-hour day of tending his land and his animals. For him, resisting the collision between the two worlds is not just about saving his job; it’s about saving his life.