December 08, 2022

Rural Issues: ‘Yellowstone’ showcases shared love of the land

I’ve been hooked on the Paramount Network series “Yellowstone” since the first episode aired in June 2018. It is rife with offensive language, corrupt politicians and corporations, but the writing is tight and the story, about a sixth-generation Montana rancher fighting to keep his land, is relatable to most in agriculture today.

Many episodes have addressed concerns that American farmers and ranchers are forced to deal with every day. My favorite so far — and by far — was in the Thanksgiving weekend episode titled “Under a Blanket of Red.”

A group of animal rights activists protesting on the street in front of the livestock commission office drew the attention of law enforcement. Some are scantily clad, with red paint mimicking blood slathered across their faces, chests and arms.

When sixth-generation rancher John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner, arrives on the scene, he seeks out the group’s leader. She tells Dutton her group is there to protest the “existence of a state-sponsored police force that protects industrialized animal farming and the mass murder of millions of animals every year.”

His response was absolutely golden, although not completely accurate, as farming today has much less impact on the environment than his words might lead one to believe.

“You ever plow a field? To plant the quinoa or sorghum or whatever the heck it is you eat. You kill everything on the ground and under it. You kill every snake, every frog, every mouse, mole, vole, worm, quail,” Dutton says. “You kill them all. So, I guess the only real question is: how cute does an animal have to be before you care if it dies to feed you?”

For the nearly 20 years that I have been writing this column, I’ve asked you to stand up for agriculture — to stand up for yourself.

But I’ve also asked you to listen more than lecture. Have conversations. You don’t have to compromise your beliefs or values to listen to someone else’s beliefs and values.

You’ll often find that you have more in common than not. You will often find that the person with whom you are having “that” conversation simply doesn’t understand why you do what you do on your farm or ranch.

Yellowstone character John Dutton didn’t just offer a golden line; he took the next important step. He baled the lead activist out of jail and invited her to see his ranch.

She hesitated at his invitation, but finally agreed. He wants to understand where she is coming from as much as he wants her to understand where he is coming from.

As John Dutton drives, they discuss the beauty of the landscape. When the activist tells her host it will all be gone soon because of human behavior and climate change, Dutton does not flinch. He tells her he is well aware of global warming: “There will come a time when earth sheds us like dead skin, and it will be our own fault.”

Find your common ground. And go from there.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.