Nevada came to Ohio
June 8, 2006
By Julie Kay Smithson
We shall all miss Wayne Hage, whether we were blessed to know him, simply meet him or be related to him. To be counted among his friends was nothing short of a blessing.
Our actions in the future -- to carry on the torch that is the light of freedom (i.e., property rights) -- are the best way we can honor his life and all that he stood for.
Wayne and Helen journeyed from Nevada to Ohio to speak at our Darby Farmland Rally on Labor Day of 2000 (September 2). There is actually a Nevada, Ohio, a small town about an hour north of the state capital of Columbus, but it's nothing like the real Nevada -- and I don't mean the gambling casinos and neon. The real Nevada is cow country and cowboy country, where there's plenty of space for clear thinking and a man's word is still good -- if that man is Wayne Hage.
The day after the Rally, it was my privilege to drive Wayne and Helen on a tour of this west-central Ohio farming area, on a day that the corn was at its tallest and greenest and the soybeans looked better than I've ever seen them.
For almost three hours we drove slowly, stopping occasionally to simply marvel at this area, so different from the high desert country of Nevada -- though in my eyes no more beautiful, as I love the sagebrush and Great Basin.
Wayne asked me where we could go for a latte, and this country girl had to ask him, "What's a latte?" He explained, and my weak excuse for not knowing was that "I don't get to town often!"
It was Sunday, and all Amish businesses, from restaurants to country stores, are closed, so I did not get to fulfill his wish, but I learned that the rural Nevada rancher had his own latte machine "at the ranch!"
They were newlyweds, and our Amish and Mennonite neighbors chipped in and paid for their lodging, but they came more than a 4,400-mile round trip at no charge: because they believed in our fight for our property rights. Their "honeymoon" was spent outside on the hottest, haziest and most humid day of our Ohio summer -- as distant as the moon from the arid and cool of their mountain home in the Monitor Valley, where the view goes on as far as the heart can dream. Wayne's dream had come true. My own dream, of living in another Nevada valley five or six hours' drive northeast, has yet to come true, but I've driven through it, stood and walked in it, heard its bird songs and drunk in great draughts of its snow-kissed air, and prayed that it would remain very rural cow country.
I was blessed to be invited to Pine Creek Ranch in November 2001, although the visit was cut short by the Forest Service's theft of neighboring rancher Ben Colvin's cattle and the subsequent illegal sale of them in Palomino Valley, Nevada. Both Wayne and Helen arose in the middle of a dark and snowy late November night to stand by their neighbor at the auction yard. My Blue Heeler dog and I slept 'til dawn and then headed toward Eureka and on north to Interstate 80, going home to Ohio for Thanksgiving.
Seeing the few cattle that the ranch had at that time, penned up near the ranch house, with over three-quarters of a million acres of the best grazing that cattle could hope for, was sad, so it was with great joy that I read the family-written obituary and learned that cattle are once again where they belong. "Young Wayne" continues to ranch at Pine Creek, and I am certain that his word, too, is good. It is a fervent prayer that many generations of Hages will live on and with the lands of Monitor Valley. They seem right for each other; they belong in close proximity, one to the other, just as the cattle and horses belong.
Wayne is where he belongs, too. His great heart beats in the great, wrinkled ranges of the West, in the symphony of snow-fed streams tumbling from sky-piercing peaks, and in the sounds of newborn calves and foals in Monitor Valley. His children, sprinkled with love and care like appleseeds by Johnny across the West, are raising their children, still in sight or short drive from Pine Creek and "the ranch."
As a child of the fifties, I saw Bonanza and The Big Valley on a black-and-white television. The horses I grew up loving gamboled and galloped through sagebrush in Have Gun, Will Travel. To be sure, they were just "westerns," but -- combined with Zane Grey and Max Brand books, and a Scandinavian heritage giving rise to love of places where winter is still spelled with a capital W and lasts as long as it wants -- my heart lived in the west, in rural Nevada.
I will never be able to think of Wayne without Helen, or Helen without Wayne. Thanks to them, I can never think of Ohio, without thinking of Nevada, and I can never think of property rights without thinking of freedom. They are one and the same.
875 words.