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EP267: Fat Bear Week: Who Will be the Fat Bear Champion of Alaska's Katmai National Park?, The Last Days of Kodachrome and “The NOT So Wild, Wild West”

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 18, 2022 3:05 am

EP267: Fat Bear Week: Who Will be the Fat Bear Champion of Alaska's Katmai National Park?, The Last Days of Kodachrome and “The NOT So Wild, Wild West”

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 18, 2022 3:05 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Lian Law is a ranger at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park and Preserve, and she’s here to share about Fat Bear Week, where bears compete to be the “Fat Bear Champion”. The grandsons of Dwayne Steinle, the Korean War veteran who founded Dwayne's Photo, tell us the story of the time the world descended upon Parsons, Kansas to get their Kodachrome film developed for the last time. P.J. Hill, rancher and co-author of “The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier,” explains the misunderstanding behind the American West.

Support the show (https://www.ouramericanstories.com/donate)

 

Time Codes:

00:00 - Fat Bear Week: Who Will be the Fat Bear Champion of Alaska's Katmai National Park?

10:00 - The Last Days of Kodachrome

35:00 - “The NOT So Wild, Wild West”

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Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And today we're going to hear from Leon Law in Alaska. Leon is a ranger at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park and Preserve. And she's here to share a story about Fat Bear Week, the March Madness style bracket where bears compete to be the fat bear champion. There's not many places that you can work and say, sorry, I'm late. There was a bear in my way.

And that be a completely valid excuse. But that does happen at Brooks Camp to Rangers as well as visitors. Katmai National Park and Preserve is comprised of just over four million acres or so. It's located in southwest Alaska. And one of the things that we are perhaps best known for is our high concentration of brown bears. Bears are not true hibernators. They actually go through a state called torpor. But here in Katmai, bears enter the den anywhere from late October to early December and they exit in April or May. But once they enter the den, they don't eat or drink anything but rely solely off their fat reserves. So essentially they need to eat an entire year's worth of food in six months or less. During this time in the den, they will lose perhaps about a third of their body weight.

And even when they exit the den in spring, it's still a lean time for them. So bears will continue to lose weight. So it just speaks to the importance of getting fat essentially during the waking hours. So Fat Bear Week began in 2014 and it started simply as Fat Bear Tuesday, a one day competition held on our social media. And the purpose was to highlight the hard work of the bears and our healthy ecosystem here at Katmai. It became so successful that it has now expanded into Fat Bear Week. So for bears here, fat equals survival and success. A fat bear is a healthy bear. So Fat Bear Week is Katmai's annual celebration of success and survival. So it is essentially a competition. It is a single elimination bracket where bears face off head to head in matchups and voters get to choose the ultimate winner.

The main bracket consists of 12 different bears and voters will choose who advances to the next round and ultimately crown the fat bear champion. Unfortunately, our bears aren't really the kind who would cooperate if we tried to put them on the scale. So what we can do is we can only estimate their weight.

So a couple of years ago, we did experiment using LIDAR scanning, which is typically used in civil engineering for scanning buildings or similar things. It provides a measurement of volume. And through that, we can kind of get an estimate of weight. So most adult males weigh 600 to 900 pounds in midsummer. And by October, November, large adult males can weigh well over a thousand pounds. So you'll see huge fluctuations.

A good example, for instance, is 747. He was the champion of 2020, and we believe that he is our largest bear known to use Brooks River. He was estimated to weigh 1400 pounds.

So he is a big guy. One of the special things about Katmai is we actually get to see the same bears over and over and sometimes not just throughout the season, but over the course of several years. And through that, you come to know that each of these bears are individuals. What type of fishing technique they like to use or where a bear prefers to fish. 480 Otis was last year's fat bear champion.

And actually, that was his fourth title claim. He is one of our older bears here at Brooks, and he employs a sit and wait kind of method, a method of patience, of letting the fish come to him. And over the course, we get to see bears, not just him, but other bears as well, take in fish after fish. Sometimes we've seen bears eat upwards of 40 fish in a day. 128 Grazer, she is really known for being assertive, and we will often see her fishing in prime spots because of her assertiveness. So 909 was a first time mom, and she had a spring cub. So first year in their life cub.

And 909 had caught a fish and had brought it over the bank to eat. And we saw this little spring cub charge another bear who had gotten too close and was begging for fish. So we get to witness really incredible interactions. And sometimes food is so plentiful, right, that bears are released from some of that competition for resources. So we also get to see bears play with bears occasionally.

So what you get to witness at Katmai is pretty remarkable. We have seen so much positive response to Fat Bear Week. We see people incorporating it into classrooms. We see people campaigning for their favorite bear. People have bracket parties at work. And during Fat Bear Week we also have many live broadcasts on the bear camps, and people will tune into that and have live watch parties as well. So we see how widespread it really has become hearing from people all over the world as they participate in voting.

And last year we had nearly 800,000 votes cast. So during Fat Bear Week we are really holding up Katmai and specifically Brooks Camp in particular on a pedestal that truly exemplifies the richness of Katmai National Park and the Bristol Bay area of Alaska. Fat Bear Week is a celebration of success. And a terrific job on the production by Madison and a special thanks to Leon Law and her work at Katmai National Park and preserve this great country. The federal government owns 30% or more of all the lands in this great country.

The states own another 10%, but 40% of our country has been preserved by either Congress or state legislatures, and thank goodness for that. We love celebrating the stories of our wildlife in this country. No better story than how Fat Bear Tuesday became Fat Bear Week in Alaska, here on Our American Stories. Here at Our American Stories we bring you inspiring stories of history, sports, business, faith, and love. Stories from a great and beautiful country that need to be told.

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And we return to Our American Stories. The oldest surviving photograph in the world was taken in 1826. For reference, that's when John Quincy Adams was president, who coincidentally is also the first president to be photographed. So needless to say, photography has been an industry for a very long time. Our next story is about a family involved in that industry. Here's our own Monty Montgomery with the story.

Our story begins in Joplin, Missouri, the hometown of Joshua and Derek Carter, the grandsons of Duane Steinle. But they had another name for him. We called him Bobob. That was kind of his grandpa name that we called him.

So we were always saying Bobob and stuff like that. Josh and I were very, very close to our grandfather, partly because we have a sister that's eight years younger than me and ten years younger than Josh. And when our mother was pregnant with our sister, she was on bed rest and was not doing very well for many, many months. And so that's actually at that point is when my grandfather semi-retired from the business to come over to Joplin. And before it had always been kind of a treat of getting to go and spend the weekend at our grandparents. And then getting to spend every day for a year with our grandfather was just so much fun. He lived with us and took care of us and took us to school and we spent all day every day with our grandfather. Our grandfather was a very curious person. He liked to learn and was always interested in finding out about new things. He traveled all over the world, all over the country, learning anything that interested him.

That was something that he always was very good with us about as well. He would take us as little boys and we would just drive all over the place and he'd take us into shops or he'd take us to, I believe we went to a power plant. A power plant was the one that I remember.

We were driving through the field and I remember I was probably six or seven years old. And I asked him, I said, well, what is that massive thing out there just outside of Pittsburgh, Kansas? And he said, well, that's a power plant. Do you want to go find out how it works?

And I said, well, sure. And he pulls up to the front gate of the power plant and I was six and Josh was probably eight. And he says, well, I've got my boys back here and they want to learn how the power plant works. Can someone give us a tour? And the front gate guy said, well, I suppose. And they called the manager of the power plant down and we got a two hour tour of the power plant.

Free 9-11 world, so yeah. That's kind of how he was of, you know, he always wanted to find out how something worked or what was going on. And our grandfather first got interested in photography when he was in high school. He started out doing wedding photography and shooting children and things like that. That's what he spent summers doing, saving up money to buy more photography equipment. And he never really thought that he was going to be a photographer as his profession.

It was a hobby. It was something that he thought that he'd go on and get some other type of a business job or some other type of a career. But he really enjoyed photography all the time as soon as he started shooting in high school. He did college and then before he graduated college, she was drafted for the Korean War. And so he went to Korea. He actually arrived in Korea just as the war was coming to an end and he was a crystal grinder for the radio.

But he also did photography while he was there. And he was also kind of a practical jokester and so the guys would play pranks on each other. And one of the stories he told us was the radar technicians would shoot the radar at him as he was walking across with his bag of flash bulbs. And he would buzz and light would shine and all his flash bulbs would go off all at once. And so that was always a fun story that he would tell of his time in Korea, getting zapped with the radar so that all his flash bulbs would go off.

He kind of developed somewhat of a reputation in Korea as a jokester, as Josh said. And some of the officers came and wanted to play a joke on one of the higher ranking officers. And so they got our grandfather to go and take a picture of the officer. And then he went and took a different picture of the latrine and superimposed it during the developing process. And the officers gave it to the higher ranking officer as a joke towards the end. But the higher officer was so impressed by it. It was a great joke and he actually got my grandfather a job to go and take photos of the whole fleet as they were leaving because he was impressed with his photography skills.

When he returned from Korea, he got his degree in math and business. And he had a good friend who was in the Navy and they had both just gotten out around the same time. And so one of the things that they really enjoyed from their travels was pizza.

And there were no pizza places in southeast Kansas at that time. And so they decided to go in together and open the first pizza place in Parsons. It didn't do very well and he kind of sat down and reevaluated what he wanted to do and what kind of a business. And he said, well, I always loved photography.

Maybe I need to do something with photography. And so he became a salesman for film, actually. And he would go to Wichita and Kansas City and Tulsa and buy wholesale film and come back and sell it to drugstores in the local area. He did that for two or three years, really. And he realized that a lot of the drugstores that he was selling in were sending all of the developing off to Tulsa, Kansas City, or Wichita to have it done because there weren't anyone doing the developing.

There were no labs in this area. And he said, well, I've got a lot of experience in the darkroom of doing developing. And so my grandfather, he kept selling film during the day. And then at night, he offered an overnight developing service, just a one-man kind of shop that he'd spend all night in the darkroom developing everyone's film so that he could be ready for the next morning.

It was a very slow process to begin. But Duane quickly made a name for himself in the photo processing industry because of his innovative strategies and fast pace of work. He had photo huts, so little kiosks all over the region where people could drop off their film.

And it would all get processed and then sent back out to the huts. And so that was a very successful endeavor for him in the late 70s. Our mom tells us a funny story, too, about something you might not think about, but game film. Football games, they would film it all, and all of the coaches in the whole area would be sitting out in our front lobby, all sitting next to each other after they just had a big game against each other the night before to pick up all their game film.

And so we offered an overnight service to get all the game film ready so they could go and watch it the next day. I think one of the next big things that really launched the business, I think it's always been told, is the great disc film debacle of 1983. For those who might not know or don't remember, disc film was film, as the name suggests, wrapped around a plastic disc inside a camera. The photos were low quality, and they were harder to process than normal film.

But that did not mean people didn't use them, as Duane's photo was about to find out. A major retailer offered a major special for Christmas in 1983, and that was 80% off of disc film processing. And it was guaranteed that you have your disc film processed and returned to you by Christmas.

And they did this only about a week and a half or two weeks before Christmas. And they didn't think it was going to be a big thing because disc film was not popular at all at that point, and so they thought, we just need to get rid of all this disc film. It turned out that it exploded and they had several tractor trailers full of disc film that needed to get processed.

And so there was a lab down in Arkansas that just could not handle it. And so they started calling all of the other photo labs within a 200 mile radius saying, can you help us, can you help us? And no one was, everyone turned it away and said, we have no interest in wanting to process that much disc film, especially a week before Christmas. And my grandfather said, send us all the trucks and we'll figure it out. And they worked all through the day and all through the night for about 10 straight days and got all of this disc film processed by Christmas.

And it kind of, being able to accomplish that endeared him so much to some of these major national retailers that ever since that point, he started getting a lot more work and contracts from some of the major national retailers because he had made kind of this name for himself right before Christmas in 1983. And then through the 2000s, we were one of the largest and ultimately the last Kodachrome lab. And you've been listening to Joshua and Derek Carter tell the story of their grandfather. And it's a story about so much more. It's a story about innovation. It's a story about change. And how many people even remember the photo mats, those little huts all over the country where you ran film to. Though there is a renaissance of film and old school developing, it is not how most of us process our photographs anymore. It's instantaneous, it's on our phones and we text them along.

And when we come back, the story of the last days of Kodachrome, here on Our American Stories. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. Or working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

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Purchase All-Free Clear Mega Packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we're back with Our American Stories and the story of Dwayne's photo in Parsons, Kansas. When we last left off, Joshua and Derek Carter, the grandsons of Dwayne Steinle, the founder of Dwayne's photo, were telling the story of how their grandfather came from the Korean War, tried his hand at pizza making, and ultimately ended up doing what he loved for his career. And that is, of course, all things having to do with photography. Eventually, they would become the last Kodachrome lab in the United States.

Let's continue with the story. In the early 2000s, as digital was starting to take over, film was in decline, and so we were ultimately the last Kodachrome lab. Kodachrome, released in 1935 by the Kodak Corporation, was the first real success in color photography, and it was a huge deal in the film industry.

But processing it was a bit of a hassle. Kodachrome has a very, very complex and difficult to manufacture chemical formulation. The reason why Kodachrome was so popular is it had extremely vibrant colors.

But you only got those extremely vibrant colors because of this very, very intense and very difficult process to produce it. So, due to both EPA regulations as well as just manufacturing costs, Kodak decided in the late 2000s that it was not going to be effective to continue producing it. And so they also did not feel like it was going to be a good investment to find new chemicals that would be able to continue the production. The news got out six, eight months ahead of time that come end of 2010, there would be no more Kodachrome processing.

And by that point we were already the very last lab in the entire world that was processing Kodachrome. So those last six months were, it was a really just crazy time for the company. People were showing up from other countries with thousands of rolls and boxes begging to make sure that theirs got in before the last oil was processed and before the chemicals ran out on it. By the very end of it in 2010 when it finally stopped, national news was broadcasting from the parking lot and people were camped out in the back field.

And it was a crazy event really. So in 2017 a bunch of film folks knew this story and decided to make a movie about it. And so that movie is called Kodachrome and this movie has now made it onto Netflix and people are seeing it and so we are having a resurgence of people sending film again as well. Something else we've seen since Kodachrome too, a lot of folks have been making, I guess you could call it a pilgrimage to Parsons to drop their film off personally. We'll have a group once or twice a week that comes in and they'll come in from each side of the country and say, I just drove here, did 14 hours in the car to drop this film off and I just wanted to see the place and see where it all happened. So we'll give them a tour and let them see everything that goes on in the lab. An interesting side note, Joshua and Derek weren't full-time employees of their grandfather's business during the whole Kodachrome fiasco.

So how did they end up there and why? So I was working for a large national consulting firm actually doing business turnarounds. And I was working at a law firm in Joplin in 2018. My grandfather had asked me to come in and look at some different options of how can we grow the company or how can we get more of a presence online. Because in a lot of ways the company was still kind of operating in 1999. So in 2018 is when Derek and I were really starting to look at the company and seeing what the options were with it. And he was actually running the business full-time up until the day he died.

It was looking like the business might finally close after 60 years and he did not want that to happen. And we took over and kind of started our journey here. So I'm 27.

I'm 30. So we went through a pretty long process when we first got here of trying to learn it. We had knowledge about film and cameras and things growing up. Just being in this family, it's kind of hard not to learn a lot of things or pick it up from our grandfather.

But in terms of actual film processing things, there was a very steep learning curve for us when we first got here. And that's something that there's a lot of folks who have been here 20, 25, 30 years who have made their whole career. And were very good about really being experts in the industry. And so it's something that we've learned a lot from them. But then also, we found a number of things our grandfather really wanted to make sure that a lot of this info was passed down.

And when I was first going through his office and his desk and things, one of the most helpful things is he actually wrote in the late 1980s a guide to photo finishing that had all the notes for the lab of everything you need to remember and everything that you need to do to be able to have everything running in the building really well. So we found, we continue to find a lot of those things. So we pour over as much of that information here as we possibly can to make sure that we really kind of become experts in this field. Because we don't necessarily, we're not brought up when it was in its heyday in the 80s and 90s. But then also, there's been a huge resurgence in film amongst younger people.

It's much like the resurgence in vinyl records. For us going and trying to deal with ever increasing volumes of film now, it has been probably the biggest challenge for us is being able to use equipment designed decades and decades ago. And so we've had to also try and get creative with how we're doing it.

Looking at, we've got a 3D printer in the back for printing up gears and different parts and things. And then we're always looking for people who can help us. And it's amazing, a lot of these people either knew or knew of our grandfather. And we'll call him because we see that, hey, you used to work in the industry or you make a part that could be used. And they say, oh, I remember selling that to your grandfather in 1985.

I'd love to help you. And a lot of people have come out of retirement specifically to help us and to help get things back going. We're still reaping the benefits of the relationships that our grandfather made three decades ago. We've also learned a lot more about our grandfather from being in this business and talking to people who knew him in a different way from how we knew him.

And those stories have been some of the most interesting. We were talking to the head of one of the big national organizations and said that his first encounter, he told me about his first encounter with my grandfather when he was a very young man. And he said that at all of these trade shows, my grandfather used to organize a big card game for all the CEOs of all the retail organizations and Kodak and all those people.

And they'd all come and he'd have a card game. He said the first time he went, he was expecting, you know, my grandfather to let everyone win to try and get business. And he said, oh, no, my grandfather took all their money and they were all upset. My grandfather said, oh, well, if you want your money back, you can give me some business.

I'll give you a discount. And he said he got a lot of business that way because everybody just thought it was hilarious that, oh, Dwayne went and took all their money at the card game. And so, yeah, that was that was one that we had never heard before and didn't know about. But there's a lot of those kind of stories that we learn about our grandfather kind of, you know, by meeting people who knew him that we wouldn't have have known otherwise. Our goal, we certainly we wanted to continue as long as possible. We want to keep having film grow. And that's something that we really try and promote the industry with young folks.

A lot of the new people who are shooting film are 18 to 25. And we're very, very excited about that. It's something that they're picking it up and we want them to keep shooting film as a hobby or a passion for the rest of their lives. And if we can support them in that, that is certainly our goal is, you know, until the last roll of film on earth is is out there and been developed.

Our goal is to keep it open and keep doing it. And a great job on the production by Monty Montgomery. A special thanks to Joshua and Derek Carter, who shared the story of their grandfather. And also a special thanks to Katrina Hein for finding this story and getting us the audio. The story of the last days of Kodachrome and the last Kodachrome lab in the United States and the end of family business story. And we love them here on the show.

The story of the last days of Kodachrome here on our American story. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices for those eligible. Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot.

And I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious. And there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done.

I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So, if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try All-Free Clear Mega Packs. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs. Which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So, the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that All-Free Clear Mega Packs, they have your back.

Purchase All-Free Clear Mega Packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we're back with our American Stories. And up next, another story from our Rule of Law series. We examine what happens when there is rule of law and also when there's not. And remember that half the people of this world don't have rule of law. There are no property rights. There isn't an independent judiciary. And contract law and the enforcement of contracts?

Well, good luck with that. P.J. Hill is senior fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana, and was a long-serving professor at Wheaton College. Today, he's going to share a bit about his background in the American West and some of its misconceptions.

Here's Madison. Bar fights, shootouts, bank robberies and outlaws. These are things we might envision when we think of the Wild West.

Not to mention the many films that portray exactly that. But what if the West wasn't as wild as we thought? Co-author of The Not-So-Wild Wild West, P.J. Hill is here to share that maybe the West had a rule of law.

Not one we're used to, but rule of law nonetheless. My grandfather came up from Denver in 1892, horseback, worked on a ranch for a couple of years. This is in southeastern Montana, part of the big open, hardly anybody around. And then started his own ranch, the ranch that actually became the P.J. Ranch, and that was named after him, Peter Jensen. And then, of course, when I was born, it seemed natural to call me P.J.

Hill. I had gone on to graduate work at the University of Chicago with the thought that I would probably go back to our cattle ranch and run it. And that's what I did. I got married in 1970, took my wife back to our cattle ranch and operated it for another 40 years. And then I really became fascinated by the history of the West and how do humans solve the coordination cooperation problem? Because that was my background.

Once he dove into this question, that's when P.J. realized the misunderstanding behind the American West. The West was not nearly as wild and woolly as we oftentimes think. It was not a place of disorder. It was not a place of rampant bank robberies, all of those sorts of things. They did figure out ways to cooperate and property rights worked fairly well. Then why do we so often refer to the West as a place of anarchy and chaos? Several things influenced that. Part of it was there was almost no presence of the federal government in any meaningful way throughout the 19th century.

It was pretty much whatever rules they could come up with. Power was there for everybody, so an equal power structure would be something that would cause people to say, maybe we should get along. So the West became, if you will, a grand experiment. But it was a place of rule of law, people figuring out ways of cooperation, overcoming difficulties. There really was a culture of individual worth.

And in fact, that's one of the reasons why you end up with gunfights or fistfights in bars was when people thought that they were being disrespected. So the West was a place of mutual respect and mutual rights. They came up with rules that worked fairly well to solve a whole set of interesting and complex problems.

When were the times when their self-enforced rule of law had to come into play? First, they needed a way to transport goods in the West, and traveling across the plains alone was a dangerous thing to do. So they formed groups called wagon trains.

It would seem like this would be a real recipe for disaster. You've got well-armed people crossing a lot of space, thinking a lot about how they want to get someplace to get wealthy. And so these wagon trains usually were 40 to 50 wagons in size.

And the question is, how are you going to organize it? Well, interestingly enough, they thought about that beforehand. They wrote a constitution or a contract that was unique for each wagon train. And they specified all sorts of things. They specified who the participants were, how much each participant was contributing to the wagon train in terms of livestock, oxen were oftentimes pulling the wagons, the wagons themselves, how much food. They set out the rules for travel. They appointed one person as the wagon master, and that person had to be obeyed in terms of the rate of speed.

But they rotated that. Every day, you got to move up one notch on the wagon train. So sooner or later, you got to the front and you didn't have to have everybody else's dust.

At the end of that day, then you went to the back. They had rules for solving disputes that were all written down. There was actually a murder along one of the wagon trains. A person captured for the murder said, well, there really isn't any law out here. We think we should wait till we can get everybody back east to have a trial. The wagon train member said, oh, no, no, that's not the case.

We've got this written contract that specifies how we will go about it. They impaneled a jury. They heard the evidence, found the guy guilty, and they hung him. But the wagon trains were very well organized, bottom up, people deciding to come together to settle sorts of disputes to make their way west. And I see wagon trains as one of the many examples that we talk about in our book, The Not So Wild, Wild West, of people figuring out ways to cooperate, figuring out ways to come together. Another reason they were traveling in the west was to mine for gold. This is another situation where it could be disastrous without rule of law. Well, how much can you mine?

Can you just move up and down the stream at will and pan anywhere you want to? They decided, no, that's going to create lots of conflict. There's going to be lots of overlap. So let's set up some clear rules about mining claims. The person that found the gold first usually didn't get the claim three miles of stream. He got a claim that was larger, oftentimes twice what the other people could get who came, but even that person's claim was limited. So there were rules about what was necessary to establish the claim.

There were rules about how large the claim could be. Now, once again, violence is expensive. Violence is difficult. Something that approaches the rule of law that creates order is a better sort of a system. So the mining camps did a pretty good job of it.

Again, though, there's scarce resources in the process that you're not sure you want to use up. So hiring like a full-time enforcer, the enforcer kept saying, I think I'd rather be mining gold. So there were no sheriffs. What would simply happen was when somebody thought that there had been a violation, there would be a cry or run to the camp.

All of the miners would form a jury. The person that was being charged was allowed to present their case. The person that they claimed was being violated could present their case, and then they made a decision. Now, once again, maintaining jails is pretty expensive.

So they didn't do that either. What they did was they just simply banished the person. If you were found guilty, you're thrown out of the camp. So this is one of the themes throughout my book with Terry Anderson on the American West, is that violence is a pretty expensive way to order your life. And if you can figure out ways to avoid violence, they try to do that.

So there was all of these sorts of rules that came about that were enforced, would seem, in a reasonable sort of a way. What about property rights? How did they establish rights to land in the West?

The Homestead Act of 1862 established rights to 160 acres. But that oftentimes, it was difficult to find water that went with that. So that made the Homestead Act unworkable because of lack of access to water. But then it also was unworkable just in terms of size. In the West, 160 acres would not suffice. So they expanded it to 640 acres in 1916, which still was entirely too small for a workable cattle ranch. To give you a sense of that, my family cattle ranch was 25,000 acres. That did not make us cattle kings. We were not some of the largest operators around.

But you can imagine if it took 25,000 acres to be a decent size, just an economic unit, then the Homestead Act, even when it got up to 640 acres, was just unworkable. So we imposed a top-down system where there had been a bottom-up system of rights that the ranchers had established, sheep producers had established, that was for workable sorts of ranches. We replaced that with these top-down sorts of rules. So we developed pretty good institutions from the bottom up. But I would also say that what happened in the West is evidence of the problem of power, and when power can violate what we think of as standard rules of law. And one of the basic features of rule of law would be what I would call universal human dignity.

People are all of equal worth. As we think about lessons from the American West, one would be be very careful about imposing too many top-down rules. Look at the community.

Think about what sorts of things do they want. How do they go about solving conflict? And I think many community-based sorts of solutions that then may evolve to become law can be very useful. Whenever we start agglomerating power, then there is the effort to try to capture it.

Power can be used well, but there's a real danger in it being used badly. Keep in mind that we do want to recognize universal human dignity or moral standing before the law. And a great job on that piece by Madison. And a special thanks to P.J. Hill. His book, The Not-So-Wild Wild West, Property Rights on the Frontier, is available on Amazon and The Usual Suspects. That Western culture, the culture of individual worth, the mutual respect and mutual rights of Western culture, I think are still there.

The story of The Not-So-Wild Wild West, our rule of law series, here on Our American Community. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

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What up, it's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in. Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm.

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