Protecting the Millionaire/”Buckaroo” Way of Life

For those looking for a laugh, the Idaho Statesman‘s relentless infatuation with Cowboy Custom & Culture never fails to disappoint:
Documenting the Idaho buckaroo way of lifeThe Idaho Statesman

Owyhee County rancher Paul Nettleton adds that “cowboys dance in bars and ride in rodeos. Buckaroos herd cows day in and day out. They’re the real thing. You won’t find many of them over there in Bois Angeles.”

Bois Angeles” !  That’s a good one ! Reminds me of that charming salsa commercial … how’d that go ?:



Oh yeah … New York City bad … huh huh … city folk = hangin’ … hee hee !

Don’t forget to scroll through the photo slideshow of real buckaroos in action.

What’s particularly interesting is the economic calamity that these folk purportedly endure:

“It’s hand-to-mouth a lot of the time,” Gilbert said. “There are buckaroos who think $600 a month is a hell of a wage.”

Wow, that’s interesting – $600 a month ?  Not quite the $750/month sheepherders get.  The text of the article almost makes it seem as though the lonely, impoverished, perhaps less-than-enfranchised buckaroo keeps to the cows out of a sheer love of the lifestyle ‘cuz ranchers just can’t afford to pay their help a decent wage, right ?  Perhaps.

S.521 – For the relief of Tim Lowery and Paul Nettleton of Owyhee County, Idaho.

1st Session

March 9, 2011

Mr. CRAPO (for himself and Mr. RISCH) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

For the relief of Tim Lowery and Paul Nettleton of Owyhee County, Idaho.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

Not withstanding any contrary provisions of section 2412 of title 28, United States Code, Tim Lowery and Paul Nettleton of Owyhee County, Idaho, shall each be eligible for the award of fees and other expenses (including reasonable attorney fees) incurred to defend the stock water rights of Tim Lowery and Paul Nettleton unsuccessfully claimed by the Bureau of Land Management in litigation relating to the Snake River Basin Adjudication.

Paul Nettleton (the very Nettleton featured in the Idaho Statesman article) and Tim Lowery’s connection to the United States Senate gives them the exclusive benefit of a prospective act of Congress which would grant them legal fees the Supreme Court otherwise rejected their entitlement to ~ fees valued at about $1.5 million according to a 2008 article in the Capital Press. So, two ranchers who could afford $1.5 million in legal fees to hold water on public land can’t afford to pay their “buckaroos” more than a pittance to tend to their chief capital assets ?

Something about this romanticized lonely “buckaroo” $600/month lifestyle story doesn’t add up.

In Idaho, mainstream media’s idolization of the mythical cowboy ignores a very important political reality of the state:  Livestock is King.  The story-line would have us all believe something else; As relentless as its romanticism the political narrative is also dependent on a constant call, an explicit suggestion of the need to  “protect” this “way of life”:

“I want people to know more about it and appreciate it. I want to do what I can do to preserve that way of life.”

From what ? :

With the ranchers whose cows they move facing uncertain markets and environmental constraints, it can be a challenge just to make a living as a buckaroo.

Apparently they hope to preserve this culture from the threat of environmental “constraints” ~ as if clean water, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem integrity are a threat.  Notice that the story-line delegates the economic consequences of those “uncertain markets and environmental constraints” to the poor buckaroo – rather than his boss, the rancher – the land baron – the millionaire whose affluent political and economic status are cloaked by this call for preservation of a celebrated “way of life”.

Let’s be frank, politically what protecting the ranching “custom and culture” translates to is a tacit public acceptance of slave wages ranchers pay their “buckaroos” and herders – despite their relative affluence, the historic loss of indigenous cultures and historic “ways of life” that were here long before Livestock Colonialism tamed the West, the implicit suggestion that the “constraints” to this inherently valuable “way of life” are wildlife, water quality, ecosystem integrity and other public values which must be removed to perpetuate the destructive reality of corporate welfare ranching preserve the “buckaroo” way of life on Western public lands.




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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Hmmm, a special bill for Tim Lowery and Paul Nettleton of Owyhee County, Idaho. It’s introduced and promoted by two senators trying to take down Medicare and raise the retirement age. I guess those buckaroos won’t get Medicare either, but then they surely had the foresight to build a large portfolio of stock and bonds and a 401 (k)

  2. wolfsong Avatar

    Ok, so they are going to give these 2 welfare ranchers 1.5 million in legal fees, which the Supreme Court denied them? Kind of funny, this is the SAME Congress that is trying to take away the ability of environmental groups to recoup their legal fees when they win a case. Something wrong with this picture?

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar
      Brian Ertz

      not just the same Congress – the bills you refer to have the same sponsors – talk about hypocrisy !

      1. wolfsong Avatar

        Hey Brian,

        Thanks, that’s what I thought but couldn’t find my reference to make the statement 😉 Hypocrisy is an understatement. And in reality I think they would find that this would be a very illegal move. If they give it to them, then anyone who has been in or will be in the same situation has the right to come back and say they want their legal fees. But then again, it’s becoming apparent that these clowns don’t care about legality anymore, as long as they make their good ole’ boy cattle industry buddies happy.

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

          Actually, a private bill like this is legal, although Congress passes fewer and fewer of these every year.

          It just strikes me as hypocrisy and worse . . . feed your friends and let the rest suffer.

          1. wolfsong Avatar

            Thanks for the correction Ralph, I thought that over-riding a court’s decision Congressionaly was illegal. I agree with you, it is very hypocritical, but it appears that hypocrisy is the trend lately. Those in power get the cookies, the rest of us eat dirt.

          2. Brian Ertz Avatar
            Brian Ertz

            overriding a federal court’s decision is illegal when it’s done without changing the underlying law.

            however – in this case the ranchers sought EAJA (a federal statute) dollars for prevailing against a federal agency that claimed (what the state court would determine to be) their water rights in a state court – state court being the appropriate venue to adjudicate water rights. the federal Circuit court denied the ranchers claim that EAJA provides for legal fees to be awarded a prevailing party even when the venue is state because the BLM, a federal agency, was party to the case – the Supreme Court refused to overturn the Circuit decision in that respect.

            Now, these politicians are attempting to pass federal legislation awarding these individuals legal fees under EAJA – by amending the actual underlying law to grant these two individuals the fees, rather than overturning the federal court’s decision or directing an agency to act without regard to the underlying law as was done under the Tester delisting rider.

  3. Wolfy Avatar

    Perhaps they should call it “Adopt an Idaho Buckaroo Project”. The rhinestone cowboys with all the bucks could bring the poor (often illegal) cow and sheep punchers into their homes and show them real western hospitality.

    On another note, I’ve met a few, real Vaqueroes. Most of the tough-talking Coca-Cola cowboys that I’ve seen can’t hold a candle to the skills and toughness of those legnedary cow hands.

  4. Spangle Lakes Avatar
    Spangle Lakes

    You’re kidding, right? This is a late April Fool’s joke by Crapo and Risch?

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Brian Ertz