Tony Vagneur: Are you sure it’s not a ‘local’? |

Tony Vagneur: Are you sure it’s not a ‘local’?

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

Letters to the editor are starting to crop up, complaining about the behavior of tourists and out-of-towners ignoring crosswalks, honking their horns, blocking traffic with their bicycles, and on and on. My only question is: How do we know all these miscreants are from out of town? Over the past few years, the quality of some of our “locals” has seriously deteriorated. And you can’t blame that on the pandemic.

Most weeks I can be found pulling a loaded four-horse trailer up a narrow mountain dirt road here or there, getting to a trailhead out yonder. Been doing that for umpteen years without too much trouble, but for the past couple years or so have noticed that many folks, both out-of-towners and recent transplants, drive like they’re on an asphalt byway from whence they came. Meeting an SUV coming at me and my rig at 30 miles an hour on a tight road that travels safely at 10 or 15, without any credible indication of slowing down or moving over, is a challenge. Get ready for a possible painful cramp in your posterior sphincter, for I’m not gonna put my trailer full of horses in the ditch or over the embankment because of your blatant ignorance, or is it arrogance?

There was a great piece in “Writers on the Range” the other day, about folks who think making rock stacks, or cairns, is of some value to the rest of us. If you’re one of those, please stop. Most people, I hope most people, like being in the outdoors to see the natural world, a place where human infringement is at a minimum. Facing a rock cairn placed in a nonsensical spot by some misguided “outdoors creative imagination” is an affront to our sensibilities. Your artistic vision is not appreciated.

There’s an old logging road in the Kobey Park area, usually traveled only by mountain bikers, that has rock cairn markers every 50 yards or so. Sarcastically speaking, that really aids in finding your way, especially when the incessant rolling of bike tires has made a path 4 or more inches deep. You couldn’t get lost if you wanted to — the rut wouldn’t let you.

I know, I know, Lewis and Clark passed a few rock cairns in the Lolo area, still visible, but that was because they had been constructed by Natives many years before in a land without maps and GPS. It’s possible Lewis and Clark built one or two of their own stacks of rocks, afraid of getting lost without a nearby river for guidance. Possibly an exception, but only because it has to be.

It’s a great idea to go camping, or even to hike, bike or drive in a little way and have a cookout. It’s still a free country around most of here and if you find a spot you like, you might be tempted to build a fire ring out of stones and blaze away, particularly now that fire restrictions have been relaxed.

A couple of things you should know about fire rings: they are discouraged by the Forest Service; if you don’t see one, there’s probably one close by, take a look around. If not, dig out the portable stove or go ahead and build one, if it’s the only thing that will keep you from freezing to death. Otherwise, make it a small one, just large enough to cook your meal or heat your tea.

It’s not cool to sit around the ring, drinking whatever out of containers and then throwing the empty vessels, trash and other detritus into the fire, thinking it will all burn up. That is pure bullshit. Some self-described “locals” are particularly guilty of this.

As a Forest Service volunteer, I can’t tell you how many fire rings I have deconstructed over the years, eight times out of 10 requiring a bagging (or two) of trash. So, the rule is, if through no other choice, you build a fire ring, destroy it before you move along on your merry way. And make damned sure the fire is out. Leave no trace, or the least trace humanly possible.

There’s more, but why not just go have a good time and as my dad always said, instead of an ass-chewing, “Pay attention.”

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at