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Open Range: Things have changed for women, minorities

Barrie Qualle is an all-around working ranch hand, author and ranch rodeo enthusiast. He lives in Wallowa County.

Published on December 13, 2017 8:49AM

When you live as long as I have, you see a lot of change. My grandfather saw more. Born in 1881 and died 1985, lived in the Wild West and lasted 15 years after we put a man on the moon.

In 1912, he traveled from Saskatchewan to Los Angeles to watch the Wright brothers fly their airplane. After that, he traveled through Mexico for eight months while Pancho Villa was racing around trying to get a revolution going.

Grandpa transitioned from horse and buggy to automobiles then to telephones, radio, TV, two world wars and jet airplanes. He was voting when women couldn’t vote or own land.

He suffered through Prohibition and the Great Depression of the ‘30s. When he was about 100, I asked him what he thought was the biggest change in ranching in his life time. Without hesitation he replied, “satellite TV.”

In my case, I guess I can sum it up as transitioning from an occasionally working crank telephone with switch board operators to cell phones with recorded messages.

Minorities and women have made great strides in the 76 years I have hung around. Minorities have gone from being discriminated against in every way to being given preferential treatment in hiring and education through programs like Affirmative Action.

Women once were confined to their homes and told to get in the kitchen and rattle those pots and pans. When I was a kid in Saskatchewan, women were not allowed in bars at all. If a woman wanted a drink, she had to do it in the privacy of her own home and hope the community club women didn’t smell it on her breath.

On Saturdays when everyone went to town, the women shopped while the old man relaxed in one of the bars. I can remember women waiting in the car with the motor running to keep warm while their husbands socialized over a beer.

They would stop men entering the bar and ask them to send their husband out, and if he felt like it, he would. It’s a wonder some of them didn’t die from carbon monoxide waiting in an old car with the engine running. Women in Alberta were better off in that they were allowed in the bar with an escort.

When I joined the work force, the glass ceiling women have dealt with was firmly in place. All doctors were men and nurses were girls. The attitude seemed to be that women were subject to raging hormonal variances and could not be relied upon to make good decisions.

They were told “don’t bother your pretty little head about it.” Most of the women in the office were secretaries or data entry girls with little chance of anything more.

As things changed, there was a realization that there had been a huge waste of resources in the past. Women were given more responsibility and better jobs but were paid less than their male counterparts. There might be a little of that still going on.

Recently there has been a rash of TV celebrities and politicians getting in trouble for past indiscretions with women. Some of their behavior was pretty egregious, but some of it was what would have been called dating in the ‘70s.

I grew up during the sex drought of the ‘50s and was pretty shocked and amazed by the turn of events called the ‘60s.

My friend Doyle Gellerman and I were discussing the recent scandals and firings of movie moguls, TV personalities and politicians. There seems to be an awful lot of maleficence going on, and one of the ladies was even paid $32 million by a TV host to hush up about his behavior toward her.

That should be a wakeup call for men in power that don’t act like gentlemen. Doyle and I wondered if we might have a case to bring against some of the women that in the past plied us with liquor and took advantage of our low self-esteem when we were young and vulnerable. I have pretty much healed from that but Doyle I fear is scarred for life.

The days of treating women poorly and getting away with it are pretty much over. Corporations and government are conducting long overdue seminars on sexual harassment. Woe be to those who disrespect women or minorities any more.

I guess attitude adjustment and change will always be with us. I have seen a lot of it. We will have to be resilient in the future because a lot of it is happening awfully fast.

Some of the changes in attitude were sure necessary. Legislation like Affirmative Action was necessary to give a leg up to minorities. They damn sure needed it.

However, I think there should be a sunset on some legislation and once a group has been given an advantage for several decades, the law should be revisited to determine if it is still necessary to give any group a huge advantage in college entrance or hiring.

Equal opportunity and fairness should always be on the books. There comes a time when ability and productivity should determine who gets the advantage regardless of gender or race. But then we always have human nature to deal with. Hard to legislate that.

Barrie Qualle is an all-around working ranch hand, author and ranch rodeo enthusiast. He lives in Wallowa County.


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