Tom Clyde: Chaos in Washington doesn’t mirror June in Summit County
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement this week. He’s stepping down at the tender age of 81. The vacancy on the court is already setting Congress on fire. The timing makes sense in terms of the court’s schedule but is so close to the November election that it is even more political than normal. Mitch McConnell blocked Obama from filling a seat on the court for nearly a year. He said it was wrong to fill a vacancy in the last year of a president’s term — a rule that had never been in place before. So now the Democrats are demanding consistency in the process, saying that nobody should be appointed until after the general election.
Their theory is that the Democrats have a chance to control the Senate after the election (really not until January, but who’s counting), and so they would be able to force Trump to appoint somebody who can get enough Democratic votes to get confirmed. That’s a big “if” considering the way things are going. If the Democrats don’t take control of the Senate, and it goes even more Trumpian, the resulting appointment may be even less palatable to the Democrats.
Of course, all this panic is happening before Trump has nominated anybody. Most of the attention is focused on abortion rights, and the assumption that Trump will appoint somebody who would overturn “Roe v. Wade” if the opportunity came up. Personally, I think Trump’s main test for an appointee to the court would be somebody who believes the president can pardon himself. Where would he find such a wise jurist? Well, it turns out Michael Cohen is available. Nothing would solve the problem of Cohen “flipping” and telling all he knows to the Mueller investigation like appointing him to the Supreme Court.
While Washington flounders, summer is in full swing around here. June is a strange month. By any calculation, it should be summer. The grass is growing, it’s incredibly green despite the drought. It’s also been in the 30s more nights than not, and there have been a lot of days in June when it didn’t crack 70 at my house. It’s hard to call it summer when your teeth are chattering at breakfast and you turn the furnace on. June is as close to spring as we get around here. We get winter, mud, then June, and finally summer really starts on the Fourth of July.
The sheep can go on the national forest grazing permits staring July 1. That used to be a big deal at my house. For several days, huge herds of sheep would be trailed up the highway to the forest. Each rancher would move on a different day to avoid mixing their herds, and day after day, the sheep would pass by the house. Back in the 1930s, my grandfather used to trail his sheep from his winter range in Tooele County to his base ranch in Heber. Thousands of sheep walked up 21st South in Salt Lake City, then up Parley’s Canyon, to the summer ranges. Others came up Provo Canyon. It’s a little hard to imagine how traffic would deal with that today. It might be good for us to have a sheep delay now and then. There’s something kind of soothing being stuck in your car in a sea of bleating sheep.
They move by truck now, for sort of obvious reasons. I drove up into the Wolf Creek and Soapstone area this week just to have a look around. I used to ride the Soapstone loop on my mountain bike. It was a fast, easy ride on dirt roads, with spectacular wild flowers and top-of-the-world views. This time I did it in the truck, with the windows rolled up and the A/C on “recirculate.” If I had had duct tape, I’d have sealed the doors shut. There was enough traffic that the dust often obscured the view. Not quite the same experience.
The sheep camps were being set up in preparation for the sheep arriving next week. That rhythm of the season hasn’t changed much in a hundred years. I noticed that the sheep camps have been updated over the years. Most of them had solar panels on the roof, and the herders, who are largely Peruvian or Bolivian these days, have reasonable cellphone service, and can keep in touch with their families back home. It’s still got to be a terribly isolated life, but having a phone and maybe a radio or TV would make it much different from the days when the only outside contact was when the supply truck came by once a week to deliver groceries.
The wild flowers are in full bloom, and despite the dry season, it’s green and lush. Let’s hope for some summer rains to keep it that way.
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Tom Clyde looks back as the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic upending life in Summit County approaches.