Screenshot CNN

Screenshot CNN

Yes Dear.  Except, I just can’t stop myself.  I don’t know why some people blog, but I know why I do.  I started because it is the cool thing for new writers to do in order to build a social network following.  This would, presumably, help book sales.  Not so much.  But along the way, I’ve found that writing about stuff that bothers me makes me feel loads better, especially if someone actually reads it.

Been following the Bundy ranching controversy out in Nevada? Cliven Bundy self-destructed Duck Dynasty style today.  This was painful to watch because, well, he ain’t a good talker, and, well, because he is such an honest and sincere bigot.

But that’s not what fascinates me about his situation.  What interests me is how people like him become folk heroes out here in the wild west in the first place.  He grazed his cattle on U.S. Government property for two decades while refusing to pay the required grazing fees, claiming he did not recognize that the land belonged to the U.S. Government.  He didn’t pay Nevada either, so presumably he thinks the land belongs to him.  So when BLM law enforcement officials and a contractor showed up to remove Bundy’s cattle, they were met by armed “patriots” ready to fight for Bundy’s right to…what? Not pay grazing fees? This is no different in my mind than people who refuse to pay federal income taxes.  Bundy has no argument here:  the land NEVER belonged to him or to the state of Nevada.  Maybe he should pay his grazing fees to Mexico? They have as much claim to the land as Nevada does.

BLM could probably have handled it better, without seizing his cattle. Maybe the cattle could be declared abandoned property, free to anyone willing to haul them away. Then go after Bundy in civil court- put a lien on his ranch and every damn thing he owns, just like I would get if I stiffed Uncle Sam for income tax or Utah for property and income taxes.

BLM was right to pull off and regroup.  I’ve dealt with lots of protestors during my military career. Anti-nuke, Anti-American, land rights protestors on Guam, etc. etc.  My troops have been spit on, swung at, stoned (not the fun kind), and verbally abused.  But let me tell you something – if you show up armed to protest, you are not a protestor, you are a target.  There is no way that would end well for anyone concerned.  I have to admit though, the immature tactician in me would love to see some of those real-tree wearin’ , Ted Nugent wanna-be nutters piss their pants when the first tracers from an M-248 machine gun zipped over their heads.  I digress. Good thing someone with a level head was in charge.

What is it about the west that makes heroes like these, since, I guess, Jesse James? When I served in Idaho, I was a member of the Idaho Law Enforcement Association.  I remember them talking about the continuing folk hero status of Claude Dallas.  Ever heard of him? Dallas was a Vietnam draft-dodger and serial poacher who murdered two Idaho Fish and Game Officers in cold blood when they confronted him.  He evaded capture for a long time, then escaped for a year, during which time he became, for some, a folk hero “living off the land” and defying the government.  He spent 22 years in prison and is now a free man. How did he ever become anyone’s hero?

I don’t mean to compare Bundy to Dallas, but both cases equally amaze me. I also don’t mean to make light of him potentially losing his ranch.  My daughter married into a huge ranch family very much like Mr. Bundy’s. They are salt of the earth, hard working, admirable people in every way. They lead a hard and independent life very much in keeping with our collective memories of the old west.  They also play by the rules everyone knows.  It seems to me we ought to be talking about them as heroes, not a man who refused to pay his honest debts.