Who will be the next Cliven Bundy or Dwight and Steve Hammond? Or, for that matter, Wayne Hage? It appears that bureaucrats fear the people who live on the far side of nowhere worse than the anarchists. Could it be the independence and self-reliance of rural people that offends the government more than mob rule in the streets? Or is it that rural people seem to have calm, fulfilling lives? Or is the issue just that there are so few people left feeding the masses that rural folks have become easy targets?

The statistic that astounds me is that there are only 76,000 people producing 80 percent of the food and fiber that not only feeds America, but also helps balance the trade deficit. Agriculture, and its total processing and distribution, is still the largest industry in America, yet the actual producers are minuscule. These producers’ average age is higher than most retirement communities. A little flu epidemic could grind food production to a halt.

Over the years my observation has always been that people look upon farmers as simpletons with a straw hanging from the corner of their mouths and tobacco drooled on their bibs. These same people think that the skills that production people have spent a lifetime honing can be replicated by any educated city dweller. The more sophisticated the doctor or lawyer or accountant, the easier it is to move to a rural area and reinvent the wheel.

Jealousy also plays a role in this fictitious view of the good life, no hustle or bustle, only serenity. If you work for a lifetime putting something together, you were just lucky or you held it together for generations, you didn’t earn what you have and, last but not least, the second guessers know they can do better. Lots of wasted talent that should be participating in the good life of easy living on the farm should show up on a farm around February 1st in a snowstorm at 25 below zero with the wind howling and a heifer calving in a snowdrift and the calf has a leg back and tell me how easy it is!

I grew up in the ’60s. We were taught about our Constitution and how we welcomed people to America but they had to become citizens to participate in our government. We were taught to be proud of being an American. We no longer had dated newsreels at the Saturday matinee; we had the graduating seniors going to Southeast Asia. Every night Walter Cronkite showed us that war wasn’t very glamorous. The youth questioned authority and the power of the elites to get special treatment. Ironically, today we, the old ’60s people, are in charge and are making the same mistakes. The news is even more sophisticated and the propaganda from all sides is enormous. The lobbyists can spin straw into gold.

My learning curve went straight up after graduation. I watched the government ignore the law. People who had invested a lifetime in ranching were taken down with a stroke of a pen. I saw U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agents destroy one of the most productive marshes in the Pacific flyway. It destroyed dozens of ranchers who used what became the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for part of the year to supplement livestock grazing and winter feed. Ironically, the lack of cattle ruined the wildlife habitat as well. No bureaucrat lost his job for blatant failure.

I saw private ranchers drowned out by the refuge not using the water rights they had. I also saw Dwight and Susie Hammond get control of a little water from the FWS as it had abandoned its water rights. The Hammonds signed their own warrant from that day forward as marked enemies of the state. I was one of the drowned rats that were forced to leave as a result of the artificial raising of Malheur Lake.

Going to Nevada, the driest state in the nation, I met Wayne Hage. The Constitution long ago mentioned swift justice from a jury of peers, not years of litigation and unimaginable expenses. The elites have our money to fight us with. We are approaching three decades in court and generations in the Hage family trying to resolve this issue which proves that hell has no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.

Whether you agree with what the Bundy family has tried to do makes no difference now. The genie is out of the bottle. They took a stand. I was in China when I saw the refuge in Burns, Ore., taken over by the Bundys. You could look across Malheur Lake and see where I grew up on my grandfather’s ranch. Couldn’t understand the Chinese newscaster but it was monumental. More effort was given to this standoff with 16 planted infiltrators for the government inside the standoff and rude, rude behavior by law enforcement. Per participant in the standoff there was a greater presence per capita than there was in Ferguson, Mo., or Baltimore, Md. The Bundys had watched their ranch and lifetime of work being destroyed, in their eyes being destroyed for nothing and without due process. The federal government along with the state allowed ranchers to claim Great Basin water and with that implied or specifically allowed them to use the range for proving up on that water. The elites once again are punishing the great unwashed for fear that it could turn into an epidemic after the public response and support for the Hages, the Hammonds, and the Bundys.

So who is next? Will it be me for asking too many questions? Will it be you, not unlike the Hammonds, who could have turned over their private land on Steen’s Mountain to the government and never spent a day in jail? Will the government decide that a new federal monument needs a 700,000-acre “view shed,” wiping out multiple use? Will it be because you dare to question fires and preventing them with grazing or the Endangered Species Act wipes your family ranch off the map?

When you possess the double recessive mutant gene to be in agriculture, you think differently. The bloated government can’t stand individualism. With our instant news we watch the elites get special privileges, not unlike the people holding the crown seal in colonial times. Read history please! We fought the Revolutionary War over these same infractions by the British government.

Hang and rattle.

Cowboy/hunter/philosopher Hank Vogler runs needmoresheepcompany in eastern Nevada. This article first appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of RANGE magazine.

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