We were born and raised in the west. We are descendants of Nevada and New Mexico cattlemen. We were taught to love our God, our country, and our Constitution. We believe in being honest and upstanding. We believe in doing good and in doing right for right’s sake. We do not seek after fame, power, and wealth. We want justice and equity. We want freedom and agency to choose the better part.
We were also taught not to trust big government. The forefathers of our country warned of the evils of big government. Our religious leaders warned of the evils of big government. Our grandfather said, “Believe none of what you read and only half of what you see.” We are cautious. We’ve seen things like this happen before.
Our families each settled in the barren deserts of the west. They settled there because they wanted to have peace to live life as cattlemen without interference from others. In the end, it was the very desolation of their land that did them in.
I’m far too young and too removed to know the stories firsthand. I’ve heard them. I’ve talked to my relatives that were there, but I don’t have the words in front of me. Nevertheless, the standoff in Nevada reminds me of a family story that took place in New Mexico. The standoff hits close to home. It feels personal. Our roots run deep in Nevada. At one point in time, the standoff could have involved us instead of Cliven Bundy. I’m sure that’s how many of those men and women that blocked the BLM felt–“It could have been us.”
Many years ago, before I was born, my family ran cattle in Southern New Mexico. They’d settled there after trekking across the Southern United States. Every time they’d settle a new place “the horse people” would move in. When that happened, they’d pack up and move further west. Finally, they moved into New Mexico. According to the story, the two brothers stopped atop a ridge overlooking the Tularosa Basin. One brother looked at the other and said, “This is it. Nobody will follow us to this God-forsaken place.” And so they settled.
Very little grass grew in this desert that they called home. They ran something like 200 head of Cow/ calf pairs on a million acres (I hope I’m telling that right). As the world moved forward and technology moved with it, the Federal Government began testing nuclear warfare. New Mexico (and Nevada) were optimal places for such testing; they were sparsely populated. As a result, the Federal Government exercised its “right” to take the land that my family ran cattle on. At first, the government agreed to lease the land back to my family with the promise that they would give my family ample notice before testing in an area where the cattle were grazing. In my uncle’s book, he recounts a time when the government did not make good on its promise. The ranchers went out to check on the cattle after the testing. They found some of the animals dead and others dying with radiation sores riddling their bodies. The ranchers cried. What else could they do?
We have other stories. We know of other people who have lost at the hands of government. In many cases, if the citizen does not cave to the pressure (and accept a pittance–mere pennies on the dollar–as a settlement), the government will just condemn the land and deem it unusable in its present state.
My heart goes out to Cliven Bundy. I’m proud of the men and women that stood behind him. I’m thankful that this time the citizen won the battle. If we do not stand for right, if we do not stand for the precepts of the Constitution, if we do not protect the independent ranchers and farmers upon whose back this country was built, then eventually we will all lose the things we hold dear. I’m proud of my heritage. Proud to call myself a westerner. And proud to call myself a Nevadan–Harry Reid be damned!