When electric power first started becoming available to farmers and ranchers (thanks to the electric cooperatives) many of these folks put up bright electric lights outside as a way of bragging to their neighbors that they now had electricity. Also, it was helpful in finding the outhouse in the middle of the night. Like many traditions, the original reasons for it have been forgotten.

Now days many ranchers and farmers have the super bright mercury vapor or sodium vapor lights out by their barns or next to their houses. Most of these are on light sensors so that when the sun goes down the lights come on automatically. I don't know why people still do that. I asked a few ranchers about it, and they said: "So we can see." But the few ranchers and farmers I am familiar with go to bed shortly after dark and get up when the sun does, so their need to see the barnyard is mostly limited to looking out the window at night on their way down the hall to the bathroom.

I can live with this strange behavior and apparent waste of electricity as long as it is just the ranchers who do it. But lately I have been noticing people in rural areas who don't have farms, ranches or outhouses putting these lights on poles in their yards. In fact, their properties are small enough that their lights illuminate more land than they own. Even this wouldn't bother me much if they would just turned the lights off when they weren't outside. But these idiots leave the lights on all night.

This light problem never directly affected me until I moved to a rural mountain area to get away from people, cities, and lights. Being in the middle of the mountains, I have wonderful views. At night the stars are brilliant when viewed from the 9000-foot elevation of my house. The Milky Way is vivid. In fact the starlight is so bright that I can see to walk around outside on a clear night even when the moon is down. Recently, however, several families have moved into my vista and erected bright outdoor lights that shine all night. I don't understand why.

Could it be that they want to attract as many bugs as possible? Or perhaps they want to illuminate their home so burglars can see to rob the place. It can't be to display the beauty of their homes, because the two places I can see would qualify for Jeff Foxworthy jokes. As far as I can tell, there is no logical reason for it except tradition. Another western tradition was to solve problems with guns, so perhaps I will purchase a rifle with a good scope and put a few peoples' lights out.

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