Uncommon Ground

Chaos or Change

Campaign season has arrived and newcomer candidates offer locals plenty of choice, for anyone willing to take notice

By Mike Jopek

Bitter cold burst into Montana, froze water pipes throughout the valley, sent drivers into guardrails, and forced locals to crank up the furnace. I hadn’t been that cold on the farm during our decades on the land. It was downright frigid.  

It’s hard to fathom that the linemen at the local electric cooperative maintained the valley’s power demand. Having been a member for over three decades, I’m grateful that the good people at the coop work so hard during a crisis. Thank you.

I drudged to the woodshed to chop kindling to start a fire in one of the farm buildings that was approaching freezing temperatures, putting the reminder of last year’s apple harvest into danger.

About two minutes into chopping, I realized that I was in trouble, that the below zero temperatures were just too bitter to be outdoors. The unsympathetic weather hit my core hard and fast. I hastily gathered the frozen spruce, which chopped easily into small pieces and stumbled through the snow into the cold building.

Inside, I dropped the spruce kindling onto the concrete floor and huddled over a small electric heater while waiting for any stamina to light a fire in the steel woodstove. After regathering a bit of wit, I lit the fire and stared at the sparkling flames, astonished how quickly the cold wood burst into flame. Within minutes I could feel strength return.

After decades of working outside farming, I’m still shocked at the weather. Storms which once seemed regional now blanket an entire nation. The climate seems more unstable that anytime in my lifetime. It gives me tremendous pause about farming for a livelihood and the future.

Not to seem ungrateful, several times during the blizzard, I’d taken glee from thinking that the bitter weather might freeze some of those pesky farm insects and squirrels that became rapidly abundant during pandemic years.

This morning the weather broke and the cold yielded to abundant snow, sending skiers and farmers rejoicing. Morning temperatures rapidly rose as dry snow fell from a dark sky. Looks like a snowplowing day.

It seems that every recent weather record is repeatedly broken by more torrent behavior from Mother Nature as politicians simply shrug their shoulders. Last year was the hottest year ever recorded on the planet. Last week was the coldest in Montana. A vortex of chaotic behavior is the consistent change.

Politicians don’t care how bad the weather behaves. They’re busy fighting amongst themselves. I mean really, when was the last time a politician held a public forum, came to town to talk to locals, or simply sat at the local coffee shop talking to people?

Politicians don’t do that anymore, they rule from places like Helena and D.C., shouting edicts at social media while pushing canned pressers to the media. It’s their rules and they don’t care what working people have to say. It makes me sad. I like democracy, think it’s great stuff, and am no fan of fascist behavior, especially from elected politicians in the state of Montana.

But here we are. Living and making the best of it. Campaign season has arrived and newcomer candidates offer locals plenty of choice, for anyone willing to take notice.

Sure, one can again go with the incumbent state representatives, the same cast of characters who’ve been going to Helena for decades. But, what did that get you? Historically increased property taxes, outrageous housing prices, rent through the roof, thousands of Flathead kids booted off public insurance, and women’s healthcare under constant assault.

Give change a try my friends. You might like it. You’ll never get 100 percent from a politician. I’d settle for some practical solutions, and less incessant ideology frothing from the mouths of frigid legislators.

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