Nasty, But Necessary: picking up poop, paying taxes

This morning, before it got unbearably hot, I put on my rubber boots, found a big old rake with a few teeth left on it, and started doing something I’ve been putting off: raking horse poop into piles. I rake, the Professor hauls it off. What a deal.

Almost five months’ accumulation makes for hard labor on a summer day.

It’s a smelly, dusty job – mostly because I’ve not dealt with it for a long time – since March 6th, the date of my knee replacement, to be exact. Unfortunately, the Professor’s to-do list lengthened at the time, and cleaning corrals moved way down in priority.

If I don’t get back on top of it and soon, the now fine poop-dust I raked into piles this morning and that coated my boots, pants, and lungs will become nasty sludge in the rain.

Picking up poop is a necessary evil when you keep horses in confined spaces. When I was growing up, we never picked it up. Our place was big enough that even 14 horses didn’t fill it: if flies congregated, the horses just moved elsewhere.

But poop doesn’t just make nasty, sticky, smelly mud, it attracts biblical hordes of flies that reproduce exponentially. Do the math.

A fly lives 28 days. Females lay 75 to 150 eggs in a batch and have 5-6 batches. An egg takes between 8-20 hours to hatch into a maggot – a legless, white insect that feeds on manure for 3-5 days. Maggots turn into adult flies that then go out and start all over again. If, like me, you don’t stay on top of it, it doesn’t take long to be overrun.

To protect them, we put fly masks on the horses to keep flies out of their eyes, and cover them with spray repellent to keep them from being eaten alive. Even that doesn’t always work.

No, the chief defense against flies is to once and for all deal with the food source: remove manure from the corrals. That’s why I rake and the Professor hauls it away.

Despite spraying frequently, flies bite horses for food, and also to lay parasitic eggs. They also spread a variety of diseases. Disgusting little menaces.

I’ll bet you’re wondering what that has to do with funding government, a hotly-debated topic these days. It’s this. Obviously, my horse poop and all the things I have to do to avoid or mitigate the flies it harbors is a metaphor. It’s probably fitting in more ways than one – feel free to figure it out, I won’t belabor the metaphor.

Funding government services – mitigating and avoiding negative impacts – is a necessary evil when a population is not widely distributed, when it swells like the Treasure Valley is doing. When there aren’t many people, government services – roads, law enforcement, land use planning, etc. – are needed, but less critical. Soda Springs, for example, has needs, but they are less dire and urgent.

When the population increases significantly, there are things that the private sector and communities are not interested in addressing altruistically or for a profit. But someone needs to. That’s the role of government. And government doesn’t make money. We do. We are the source of the resources necessary to deal with the needs we have.

Public safety – law enforcement, courts, prisons – roads, land use planning, water resources, fire, etc. – if we want the services we need, not to mention the quality of life that we say we live here to have – it’s critical to fund infrastructure, aka government services. If we don’t care, we should continue doing nothing.

Ignoring the problems, failing to deal with them because we don’t want to pay the taxes it takes to take care of them, means that by the time the impacts are unbearable, we will be miserable. We won’t want to live here anymore, we’ll want to go somewhere else and ruin it.

No one wants to pay more taxes – we want the free market and private sector to take care of those things. But there are some things that won’t be taken care of that way and probably shouldn’t.

Look, when I was recovering from surgery, friends wanted to help, but they didn’t want to help us with everything. Casseroles and get well cards, yes. No one offered to clean our corral (nor did we want them to), so the poop just continued to pile up. That didn’t make the problem go away. It made it worse.

We want to ignore the problems around us here in Idaho because we don’t want to pay for the fixes, but there are some things that must be done. Some (mostly natives) say that Idaho’s growing population is not unlike a biblical plague. Well, if folks think it’s bad now, just wait another decade and keep voting no on everything. That’ll be fun.

No, we’d better do what’s necessary now to mitigate the impacts of population growth. I pride myself on being fiscally conservative too, but I am not stupid. We can take care of it now or wait until later when it’s exponentially worse (and more costly).

Picking up poops, funding government services. They are both necessary and no one likes either. But think. What if we don’t? The consequences will be nasty and some of them, impossible to mitigate.

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I was raised in Northern California on a sheep ranch. I'm passionate about working landscapes – balancing the interests of agriculture, thriving rural communities, and healthy natural resources. My husband Richard – the Professor - is a teacher. We live in Idaho with our horses, dogs, and close-by daughter and her family. I'm taking a trip soon and have attempted to introduce readers to some important backstories that will be helpful to understand the context for my observations. To read them, go to Topics in the sidebar and select Rambles with Ruby.

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