Today marks the twentieth anniversary of shots fired at Ruby Ridge. The tragic misuse of power by the FBI and U.S. Marshall Service reached what we thought was the zenith of misused federal power until the mass murder of many in the unwarranted attack on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas.
The main stream media uses terms like far right, racist, white supremacist, right wing extremists and many other terms that sprouted from the far left. While some of these terms are accurate, most aren't. Some just want to be left alone by everyone. They built homes so far into the mountains that Ruby Ridge would look like a normal rural area in comparison.
It all started with disillusioned Viet Nam Veterans and other drop outs. The 1970's saw a huge movement toward, “back to the land.” Magazines like Farmstead, Organic Gardening, and many others taught gardening skills to city folks that were two generations removed from those that knew and ;practiced self sufficiency. Local author, Carla Emory wrote a book that is practically a bible for back to the land skills. She lives in Moscow, Idaho.
Most of these loners, for want of a better generalization, headed for the hills. Mentally exhausted,spitting on them, reviled by left wing zealots yelling terms like, “baby killers” at returning veterans, convinced many to avoid the society that not only didn't honor them for their service, but reviled them, just didn't want to settle in amongst those that treated them so harshly.
Northeast Washington, far north in the Idaho Panhandle and northwest Montana all offered land many miles from the nearest city. These dissed and unappreciated vets and their families moved as far as they could from civilization. They reverted to lifestyles more similar to the pioneer days where each settler was a law unto themselves without an army, sheriff or other law enforcement organization to hold their hand.
Today, the children of these dropouts are still living the life style their parents did. Perhaps without the anger the parents had, they learned to love the isolation of mountain living. Recently, I visited the Onion Creek School which is miles from Colville and Northport Washington, in the high country. I was there because my mother's first teaching job was at that school in about 1929.
In learning from staff at the school about the community, one remarked that they were very concerned about 3rd and 4th grade students walking down the mountain to school. They are worried about cougars, which will attack small children for food. No losses as of yet have occurred, but with Washington State's prohibition of hunting cougars with hounds, which is really the only practical method of hunting them. Cougars, or Mountain Lions as they are known can grow to 180 pound or more. Their only enemy are Grizzly Bears.
These communities of isolationists still exist. They are armed, know how to use them and want to be left alone. They should be. It is not breaking the law to live apart from others, nor to be self sufficient, growing and hunting for food is a lifestyle not practiced any more in the cities, but if you go far enough into the back country that lifestyle still lives. Most of them are not right wing, racist or Nazis. In most cases they are not even political.