Taxpayers Are Sliding Down the Budge Hill

First, a little cowboy poetry: “In Jackson Hole on a scenic spot the Budge family built their home, This was the place they chose to live, no more to ever roam. This hill was perfect for its panorama of scenic downtown Jackson, The home, the hill, the mountain views, gave them satisfaction. Then one fateful day a crack appeared inside their domicile, It gradually grew a bit each day, expanding all the while. ‘Til finally it was plain to see their family must get out, The home was doomed, sad to say, beyond any reasonable doubt. The fighting began over who it was had made such a fateful error, To cut the base of the hill below and cause their family terror. Each involved assured the folks that they were not at fault, “It must be paid by the other guy to make the sliding halt.” So government in its infinite wisdom as they so often do, Send the bill to the taxpayers to be shared by quite a few. The wrangling continues and will for months to find a final solution, But sure it is we all will pay with our involuntary contribution.”

Like so many things in life the Budge Slide is a tragedy that simply happened. I don’t believe there was malice or deliberate wrongdoing by any of the parties involved. Each decision in the permitting and planning process seemed reasonable at the time or they wouldn’t have done it. With 20/20 hindsight it is easy to point fingers of blame. At each step of hillside excavation and construction of Walgreens the principals involved thought they had their bases covered as far as the stability of the hill goes. Then Mother Nature intervened with a very wet spring, causing the ground to liquefy and slip.

Landslides occur throughout the world. Wet earth saturated with water becomes lubricated and succumbs to the law of gravity. The Gros Ventre Slide is a prime example of a massive movement of earth in one quick ‘whoosh.’ In the case of the Budge Slide it was a very slow movement, mere inches a day.

Although it is something that ‘just happened,’ Jeremy and Sarah deserve to get reimbursed for their loss. Those who were in error and responsible for the permitting process need to be held accountable and steps need to be taken to make the Budges ‘whole’ again (a little court lingo there). That’s just cowboy justice and common sense. Who made the mistake is what the pending lawsuit will decide. Since this case is going to court it is best we not speculate on who that person or entity was. Right or wrong, we taxpayers will eventually foot the bill.

If something isn’t done before we have another very wet spring, that slide is going to get moving again and potentially cover the road below, costing millions more in remedial construction. How about this for a relatively simple cowboy solution; Fill Walgreens with dirt and river rock, then pile more dirt and construction demolition material—concrete and asphalt—between Walgreens and the hill to stabilize it. Cover with dirt and natural vegetation. Place a monument in front of the whole mess entitled “Don’t Fool with Mother Nature”, telling the story of this fiasco. That may be the cheapest and quickest fix. But if that simple cowboy solution doesn’t work then I suppose this simple cowboy will be the focal point of the next lawsuit for suggesting it.

Something that ‘just happens’ and has no apparent guilty party reminds me of an event in my home town of Virden, New Mexico when I was a kid. Old Uncle Les Payne raised registered prize chickens, which was a novelty in that day and age. He was proud of them and exhibited them in the County Fair. In the middle of the night he heard a ruckus in the chicken coop. It wasn’t unusual to have a skunk or fox get after the chickens, so he jumped out of bed, quickly grabbed his shotgun and flashlight and went out in his long-handled underwear. He slowly opened the door of the coop while holding the flashlight with his left hand alongside the barrel of the 12 gauge. With the finger of his right hand on the trigger he pointed the gun down the row of roosting chickens, looking for the predator.

The neighbor’s dog quietly came up behind him and poked its cold nose in the vertical opening at the back of his long-handle underwear, ‘checking him out’ as dogs do. The resulting shotgun blast caused Uncle Les to spend the rest of the night butchering chickens to save what meat he could.

Now if that event had happened in this day and age he would have insisted the dog be put down, sued the neighbor, sued the gun manufacturer, sued the ammo maker, sued the long-john manufacturer, and sued the Game Department for allowing their skunks and foxes to terrorize a hapless chicken farmer.

I tell you folks, life was simpler back then. Life in this day and age needs some cowboy common sense.

Remember, “Life is always better when viewed from between the ears of a horse.”

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