“If the Good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise” is a saying often used by my grandparents. Apparently it was in common use among European invaders who killed Native Americans and occupied mountain lands where the states of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina come together.
Both my ancestors and Jenny’s were living there in log cabins and farming land they took from Indians before our country became independent in 1776. After the war, a land title could be given on Indian land to white men who fought in the American Revolution. Most of my ancestors chose to close the cabin door, call the dog and move west.
They settled on “open” Indian land occupied by Cherokees and owned by Spain in what is now eastern Texas. Mexico took the land from Spain. The U.S. immigrants formed the Republic of Texas and took the land from Mexico. Texas became a state in the USA. Then it became a Confederate state. After the Civil War, the land became part of the U.S. again. The Good Lord was willing for my ancestors to move west to the Texas hill country, where rising water in creeks following heavy rains isolated families from neighbors and kin.
Two hundred and forty-four years after the American Revolution, the 50 United States each had a state government. The Good Lord was willing for me to leave Texas. I came to a place where the creeks rise each spring when the snow melts. I left my Texas hills and live in Utah, a desert basin where white settlers sought isolation that allowed them to practice their religion.
Their settlement was on Mexican land which soon became United States territory. Utah became the 45th state admitted to our United States on Jan. 4, 1896. Back then it was an isolated area with few people, most from a small church denomination unknown to most fellow Americans. Now, 124 years later, Utah is headquarters for that religion. Utah has about 3.3 million people. It is the nation’s fourth fastest growing state.
About two thirds (66.5%) of the land is federal land, owned by we the people of the United States. Add to that the amounts owned by the state of Utah, private conservation groups, trusts, etc. and there is only about a fourth of the land available for houses, businesses, etc. Any way you cut it, we are one of the fastest growing states. We have a limited amount of land, water and other natural resources needed to accommodate such growth. We should use it wisely.
Utah’s Legislature is in session. Years ago I was criticized by a local know-it-all for writing that Mark Twain said no man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session. According to Wikipedia, Judge Gideon Tucker first wrote that in 1866. Mark Twain probably said it. But so did Will Rogers, thousands of stand-up comedians in bars and maybe a few holy men from pulpits.
It really doesn’t matter whether a God fearing minister or a drunken beaver trapper said that first. What does matter is that the saying represents the feelings of a very large portion of the American people who see elected officials, including the Legislature, as “them” who put “it” to “us.” Some think public officials, whether it’s the United States president or local employees, are servants for the wealthy, the outspoken and leaders of religious organizations. But they are our neighbors and most of them our friends.
If the Good Lord’s willing and snow doesn’t cover us, our elected officials will do their best, as they see it. But their best may not be what we the people think is best for us — or our state. Our legislators may not appreciate the hard facts about what rapid growth in an arid environment will do to the people and the land. Even worse, some may not care. Growth means money in their pocket today. Let tomorrow take care of itself.
Late last year the Legislature, in a special session without polling the people, changed and revised the tax code and other ways the state government would be funded. A poll conducted Jan. 18-22 by Suffolk University indicated that 60% of Utahns opposed their new tax bill, 15% didn’t know and only 25% supported it. Apparently, legislative leaders are trying to replace the bill they passed in December with something they want and hope Utahns will accept.
Most of us want happy, informed people living in healthy communities surrounded by beautiful mountains owned by we the people of the United States. State legislators are mostly people we know who are part of the community we love. We should let our representatives know what is important to us and the kind of Utah we want as our home. That has not always been the case.
There are just four weeks remaining in this legislative section. Now is the time for us to tell our representatives what we want them to do about increased growth. Let them know that our children deserve quality education, healthy landscapes and a challenge to care for our public lands. Telling our elected officials the kind of life we want does not necessarily guarantee the Legislature will protect our life, liberty and property.
But tell them anyway. If the Good Lord’s willing and their brains don’t freeze, good things might happen.