Lonesome Dove is an epic novel and a masterpiece in the television miniseries genre.
Augustus McCrae leaps from the pages and screen to charm and inspire with his cad's exterior and hero's heart.
But those were the 1870s. The old Texas Ranger and his buddies were driving cattle through the untamed American West. They didn't worry so much about disposing of their animals' leavings, whether along the trail or on the lush fields of Montana where they'd made the white man's first foray and claim.
State Sen. Gary Stubblefield of Branch, a Republican and west Arkansas farmer, deems Augustus a hero and role model. He and now-defeated Bryan King of Green Forest used to pal around the Senate calling themselves Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call.
One could do worse for role models. Rugged independence and down-deep compassion and integrity are hardly bad qualities.
But I speak of human character, not contemporary environmental policy.
Stubblefield also likes Rooster Cogburn; hence his bill to establish a True Grit Trail in western Arkansas.
That's a darned sight better bill than this one on hog poop.
There are more of us now than there were then. We live closer together than they did then. We raise a lot more hogs, and do so commercially, rather than household to household.
That's because we have a lot more eaters and a great many of them seem to like bacon and sausage and barbecue and ham and pork tenderloin.
Somebody must raise all those hogs for all those appetites. They're not going to do it in Silicon Valley or in Manhattan. So we'll do it down here. We're not squeamish. We'll sling the slop and hose the manure. It's honest work.
We'll feed the world.
But we can't just go around anymore letting people start up pig farms anywhere they want and then rinse off the waste any old way they please.
Well, we could, presumably, if Stubblefield's Senate Bill 550 passes.
Complaining as Gus might've about pointy-headed college graduates making rules for the real men on the ranch or farm, Stubblefield already has flown the bill out of the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee.
All the measure does is move the regulation of hog-farm permits from the Department of Environmental Quality, which has rules and procedures on such things and sometimes applies them competently, to a state Natural Resources Commission.
This Natural Resources Commission has no such procedures and presumably merely would "certify" applications that looked all right rather than grant formal permits designed to comply with federal Environmental Protection Agency policies.
The bill also says applicants could "waive" the current requirement that they make formal public notification as part of the application process.
The Natural Resources Commission would be required to meet in public. So anyone complaining under this proposed new system that several hundred hogs had moved in next door and that no one ever notified them such a thing was even in the works ... they should have taken off work and gone to that commission meeting that they were never informed of.
Stubblefield can complain all he wants about the pointy-headed college guys. But perhaps we ought to listen to the folks at Central Arkansas Water, which serves a couple of hundred thousand metro-area customers in Little Rock, North Little Rock and surrounding communities with some of the nation's best drinking water.
Here's the statement CAW put out over the weekend:
"SB550 presents a threat to the health and well-being of the people of Arkansas ... . [It] has the potential to expose some of the state's most important natural resources including public drinking water reservoirs to liquid animal waste. ...
"ADEQ's process is effective and fair. It balances the needs of swine and dairy farmers with the right of the public to a safe and clean environment. . . .
"SB550 would wipe out the current permitting process and oversight of these facilities, and gut current regulatory protections. Public notification requirements would be eliminated. Minimum distance setback from neighbors, streams and lakes could be lost. Subsurface investigation requirements to determine suitability for waste lagoons would no longer be required. Anonymous complaints would not be accepted or investigated ... .
"As a result, swine farms would operate in a much more permissive environment, and the prospect of liquid animal waste entering the water reservoirs of our great state would become a much greater threat."
Other than that, it's just a little ol' bill to try to help some people make a hardworking living without all that regulatory hassle.
Pork chops don't grow on trees, you know. Unless the trees are next door.
Stubblefield told me by email Sunday that, yes, Gus was his hero, but the backlash on this bill has him feeling lately a bit like Jake Spoon.
Jake Spoon got hanged for horse thievery. That's rather extreme.
Stubblefield deserves only to have his bill drubbed right out of the Capitol.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 03/19/2019
Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: Listen to the experts, Gus