Medicine Lodge is in cattle country. The native grasslands cannot be cut by the plow, because when the rain does come, it washes away the unprotected soil. The red sandstone of the high ridges is cut into deep arroyos, mesas, and strange rock formations.
The ranchers who live here are tough. Their humor, like the land, is dry, and their friendships are firm as the rocks. Their faith in God is quiet and deep. The churches have roots that penetrate clear down to the living waters.
People here call things what they are, and have the patience to face their troubles with an enduring competence that will outlast setbacks and losses. Everyone suffers hardships. Nobody is special or above anybody else. There is little patience for whiners, dissemblers, shirkers, or for those whose carelessness causes risk or harm to others.
A mistake can have serious consequences when one is living through howling, white-out blizzards, or blistering summers of triple digits day after day. When it rains, it floods; when it snows, it drifts; when the wind blows, it raises a dust-storm. Cattle, horses, and heavy machinery are unforgiving to those who mishandle them. People are expected to pay attention and to take care of themselves and others.
Under these harsh conditions tenderness and compassion stand above everything else. It is our neighbors who are our only earthly defense when our own human competency and strength fail us, as sooner or later, they will. Nothing stands between ourselves and our pain, humiliation, sorrow, and death except for our neighbors and friends. People here don't talk about this much, but we all know it.
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