Burning down the house

It's on fire, better grab a bucket
ryan zinke fly fishing
Photo: U.S. DOI

Back when I was working as a fly fishing guide in Montana and Idaho, I spent every spare moment fishing. While that may seem like an odd choice to some folks, it made perfect sense to me. Guiding and fishing are two very different things, and while I enjoyed my guiding, I’ve always loved my fishing more.

So there I was, casting a fly and enjoying a rare day off on my home river, when I looked up and saw smoke in the distance. And that smoke, strangely enough, looked like it was coming from the same general vicinity as the house I was renting. Bummer, right? So I waded back to the bank, hiked back to my truck, and then drove towards that thick, dark column of smoke rising ominously in the distance.

As I got closer, I saw flashing lights and fire trucks, and I realized that life, at least from my point of view, was starting to look a little grim. I couldn’t get all the way home - it turns out that the police had the road blocked off - but it was obvious that smoke was gushing up from the immediate vicinity of my rental house.

With no other viable options at hand, I pulled into the local fly shop, which, as luck would have it, was just down the road from my rental. My boss was standing there in the parking area, looking up at the towering column of smoke - it had lightened up a bit, as if the fire was so hot that it was burning noticeably cleaner - and I jumped out of my rig and asked him if my rental house was going up in flames.

“No,” he said, “it’s Mike’s house, right next door to yours. Unfortunately, there’s nothing they can do. It’s burning to the ground.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but nobody I knew liked Mike. He was one of those guys who worked hard at being a dick, and I’m afraid I blurted out the first thing that came into my head.

“Well, if somebody’s place had to burn down, I’m glad it’s Mike’s.”

My boss, who truly was—and is—one of the nicest and most decent people I know, couldn’t let that slide. He proceeded to tell me that while Mike was a tool, we still needed to show him compassion and respect in light of this unfortunate turn of events. Then he said that he was going to go find Mike, and talk to him, and offer him a place to stay, along with whatever help he might need to get back on his feet.

My boss was gone for quite a while and I stood there in the parking lot, watching that towering column of smoke and thinking about how I should be more caring, more forgiving, and more compassionate. I must have stood there for close to an hour, lost in thought—and more than a little ashamed of myself—before my boss showed back up at the fly shop. At which point I asked him, in what I hoped was my most contrite voice, if he’d had a chance to talk with Mike.

He didn’t say anything for a second, so I tried to imagine what it must be like to be so generous, and so decent—what it would be like to set aside my opinions and act in a truly selfless, altruistic manner—as I waited to hear how we were going to help Mike get back on his feet. It took him just a second, but he finally answered me.

“Yeah, I talked with him,” he said. “Fuck that guy. He’s an asshole.”

I’ve known my former boss—who truly is a wonderful human being—for more than 25 years now, and that’s the only time in my life I have ever heard him swear.

The moral of this story, of course, is that everyone has his breaking point. Mike was such a huge dick that his deep-seated dickishness overwhelmed a boundless fountain of decency and compassion and left my boss with no other possible response but “fuck that guy.”

Which, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is where we find ourselves right now with the Trump administration. I don’t care how nice you are, or how good, or how decent, or how forgiving. It doesn’t matter if you’re a conservative, a moderate, or a liberal. It’s irrelevant if you’re up for 2017’s “Person of the Year” or if you’ve recently been nominated for sainthood. At the end of the day, if you love our waters and our landscapes, and if you cherish the places we fish, then you have to look at Trump’s ongoing attacks on clean waters, clean air, healthy landscapes and a livable climate as more than we can possibly bear.

Whether it’s breathing life back into the rotting corpse of the Pebble Mine, or working to trash our public lands, or trying to kill the Clean Power Plan, or walking away from our last, best chance to control climate change, the Trump administration has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it doesn’t give a damn about our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans, or our fishing, or our families, or America’s future. And sadly, there’s nothing accidental about any of this. As Trump’s former right-hand man, Steve Bannon, once said: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Simply put, they want to burn it all down and they don’t care who gets hurt.

This isn’t normal. It’s not politics as usual, or even politics as we’ve ever seen politics before. It’s not rational, or defensible, or even sane. And regardless of how much we might want to extend a hand in friendship, or how much we might hope to work together with the federal government, it’s time for good people of all political stripes—Republicans, Independents and Democrats—to face the facts. We have to oppose the current Powers-That-Be in Washington, DC. We have to fight for our landscapes and waters. We have no other choice. To paraphrase my old boss, who eventually learned the hard way that some people are truly beyond redemption: “Fuck those guys. They’re assholes.”

Editor's note: We have taken the liberty of removing the author's "f*cks" and replacing them with the less ambiguous "fucks."


I could not agree more. I tend to lean conservative with moral and financial issues and in my mind, we need to be conservative, tread lightly and be very cautious with our land and water, once you open the door you won't get it closed again, The plan right now seems to be a liberal view, just be loose with protection of the resource let business decide what is allowable and safe, for both land and water. To be honest liberal, conservative, moderate all of those political labels don't matter when it comes to our land and water being ultra conservative with the resources is in the best interest of all.

this article should be a must read for the folks working in the publics' behalf,ie, government. Just look at my home state of West Virginia; named the mountain state, before the extraction industries arrived we had 24 inch Brook trout swimming in streams, the shade of thick stands of trees keeping them cool. Now we have mountains leveled of and dumped into those streams, treeless ridges that provide no shade to keep the earth cool, which keeps the streams cool, and the trees that used to line these streams are going with them. We have China coming in now to help remove the remaining coal and towns full of people with no future once that happens. All for profits that for the most part go out of state. Our elected governor is a coal mine owner so I guess you could say we deserve what happens, but man, I would love to think that my grandkids will have someplace close that they can enjoy nature. I guess I should just trust these industries to do the right thing in the future? NOT

That was the worst pile of trash I have ever read.


Well Todd, I didn't know where you were going with this article...but I see the parallel. What do we do ? There is no mechanism to prevent these Trumpsters from their reactionary, evil deeds. If there is one. Please let me know.

Spot on. Thank you.


A. Donald Trump is a Mafia-Leech according to the past-president of the Investigative Journalists Association of America, Pulitzer-prize winner David Cay Johnston, who has been investigating Mafia-Leech Donald Trump since the 1980s. Here's David Cay Johnston's book-interview with CSpan's Brian Lamb from August 2016: https://www.c-span.org/video/?414381-1/qa-david-cay-johnston #YouCantMakeThisUp

B. Donald Trump's father, "Fast Freddy" Trump was a Mafia-Leech and an extortionist according to the son of Bronx Mafia Don "Gentleman Jim" Napoli. See his interview with the New York Post: https://pagesix.com/2016/08/03/mob-tried-to-stop-trump-in-atlantic-city/ AND see Fred Trump's shady testimony in Bribery, Extortion & Fraud Hearings, instigated by President Eisenhower https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-stat/graphics/politics/trump-archive/d... AND see who was "Fast Freddy" Trump's Mafia business partner? Mafia Persico faction thug Tomasello https://books.google.com/books?id=uJifCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA171&lpg=PA171&dq=Tom...

C. The GOP and Tobacco'y Cancer'y Oil'y Coal'y Little-Slap-on-the-Wrist Big _ _ _ is still in bed with Mafia-Leech Trump. See James Baker sitting next to Tom Brokaw saying so: https://twitter.com/twitter/statuses/871543855480532992

... all the meanwhile ... cancer'y Tobacco Lobbyist-turned-Coal-&-Oil-&-anti-Wild_Lands lobbyist Myron Ebell ... yeah, that guy who sold Philip Morris on his ability to push Cigarettes-Advertising-to-Kids (see Tobacco Truth Commission documents such as https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DAO8Am1UQAAG0W9.jpg) is charged with supersizing cancer'y Kentucky Fried Air & Water & Soil with the Scott Pruitts of the world.

You might think that Scott Pruitt, being born & raised in Kentucky, would be ashamed his home-state suffers from (see the list A-N https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DCea-PXVoAAfK4_.jpg)

the worst polluted river in the USA (the Ohio River, 3X more polluted than the Mississippi River)

the most high hazard coal ash dumps

the most lung cancer deaths

worst ADHD-children rates

worst asthma rates

#2 for diabetes growth

the most brownfield sites per capita in a major city

All I can say is that I hope that the FBI Special Investigators are doing their job.

99% of American Journalists let us down by not asking serious questions and standing up to Mafia-Leech Donald Trump's bold-faced lies, shameless dishonesty and utter lack of integrity. Where were the front-page headlines shouting "Don't Elect A Mafia-Leech President"? Zip. Zero. Nada.

Big Business, Big Money and Big Law let us down for continuing to use Mafia-Leech Trump as a tool for more oil, more coal, more cancer, more polluted air/water/soil/everything.

Amoral Electors, chosen to be a brake on BAD actors in government, refused to exercise their Moral Compass ... and instead certified Mafia Leech Donald Trump as President.

Thank you for your essay. It caught my attention.

I hope that someone who is the anti-trump wins next and installs:
Elon Musk as Secretary of State ...
Amory Lovins as Secretary of Energy ...
Elizabeth Warren as Attorney General ...
Tulsi Gabbard as Secretary of Veterans Affairs ...
and while I could name names for every high-level position ... well, you get my drift.

I am going outside to plant trees.

We all need to be on this same page, or it will be burnt to the ground!

So this article advances our public discourse how?...Just another rant.

Please remove me from your list. President Trump is saving America. You just don't realize it yet. I care not to ever read your liberal trash again. RE Criss USMC Ret

You should give up fishing.

Your still not getting it Rocky.

Try your hardest to pay attention, its not liberal or conservative, sigh...

Maybe just stick to golf ponds... smallmouths.

Best thing I’ve read in months. Fuck that guy.


Todd Tanner is right. Trump's assault on public lands, clean air and water, and on the Paris Accord, which represents humanity's last best chance of averting catastrophic climate change, is insanity. The man is a sick little grifter who loves flattery above all else, fans the fires of racism at every opportunity and asserts his power though destroying what is good about America. There is only one real political issue now; voting this immoral creep and his whole crew of con men and nuts out of office.

Thank you! I've been saying something similar from the moment I found out he was running. Who the fuck would vote for that...? I determined that something illegal had occurred once he did win because no way would a decent human being think that it was okay for someone like him to be in that position. Yeah! Fuck Trump!

I would and did vote for Trump. Probably would not have if there was any other choice but Hilary. With that said I WAS WRONG!. I am SOOO happy President is helping US citizens take our country back.
All I read here is Chucky Schumer dumbocrat rhetoric. Donald trump our President and I hope that lasts for seven more years.
Make America GREAT again!

Thank you, Todd. The analogy is perfect. And putting Zinke with a fly rod in the picture is perfect.......people have been voting for these bastards who parade as "sportsmen" for years. They're killing our planet and raping its resources for profit. Once they have power, they eliminate dissent or compromise, and make the rest of us look like idiots for ever trying to respect their interests as businessmen. Fuck these assholes.


i think your head, figuratively speaking, is to far down the rabbit hole to truly see what the new policies mean, who they effect and now who is responsible for the up keep of our land. you can go to .gov website and actually read through all of these and i believe your opinion will change. as an avid outdoorsman i did my dalliance and came away with a different perspective.

Yep fuck those guys. They’re assholes. My new mantra.

Amen. I voted for that pompus prick, even though I grew up in NJ and knew he was a crooked individual from the get go. I'm no liberal who has an axe to grind, but Trump sold us a bill of goods. Great to drain the swamp, but his definition of doing such has now changed to only include those that stand in the way of improving his real estate plot in life. All of us are to blame for this mess - everyone better quit buying into the hype that debt is no problem (ie.. endless need for new schools, roads, pensions, etc.) that drive this continuous need for growth/development. Maybe Gates, Buffet or one of the other gazillionaires will buy Pebble and deed it as a National Park...