My passing interest in what is going on at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch is fueled mostly by the fact that, like Old Clive and thousands of other ranchers, the economic health of my ranching operation depends to a large extent on inexpensive federal government land leases. For better and for worse Old Clive and I have some similarities. In light of Old Clive’s new-found fame, I am interested in what my evil twin is projecting to the world.
So far it has been embarrassing - a gaggle of troubled, insecure clowns clamoring for attention. In a nut shell (and I do mean NUT shell): Clive runs a lonely Nevada cattle ranch that depends on letting his livestock graze on government land leases much like the ones we depend upon. The difference is that he has refused to pay about a million dollars’ worth of lease money to the federal government. He has basically stolen that million dollars from people like me and you. It’s a great business plan, a good way to keep business expenses low, and a sure-fire way to gather like-minded, anti-social misanthropes to your ranch. It takes a village of those types to keep a good old boy from thinking about the fact that every other American ends up paying his bills and that every other rancher ends up competing against a guy who is gaming the system.
I am also kind of a history buff and when I saw, via Google, that Old Clive had invited a guy dressed up like George Washington to speak at the gathering of “patriots” at the ranch, I tried my best to find out what this guy had to say. I searched all over the internet and all I found was a clunky, dysfunctional website for a small Texas newspaper. The guy’s name was Mark Collins. He was pictured shaking hands with Old Clive and he was, indeed, dressed up like George Washington - which made me wonder if the other “patriots” at Old Clive’s ranch were dressed up too. The teaser for the article told me that he had arrived after the action was over - not very Washington-like. The website asked me to click on ‘read more’ but that link did not work, so I didn’t get to read what Mark Collins said about Washington’s views on the Whiskey Rebellion where he personally lead federal troops to chastise a group that refused to pay a federal tax on whiskey. I hoped that the Rambo groupies that showed up to support poor Old Clive knew more about how to operate their weapons than the newspaper knew about setting up a website that worked.
In the Whiskey Rebellion the rebels suffered some casualties. People actually got shot, and in the end, the rebels were made to pay the money they owed to the government. They were a little better organized and informed than the Cabellas-clad rebels that showed up at Old Clive’s ranch. The Whiskey Rebellion rebels had actually been soldiers in the American Revolution. They had likely read the constitution and had, in fact, served under Washington. I’ll bet they knew the jig was up when Washington sent the real army out to make them follow the law of the land. The keystone cop rebels that rushed to Clive’s aid did something similar when they held a news conference where they revealed that they had “good intelligence” (Yea, right) that the Attorney General and the President had plans to attack them with drones. That turned out to be a fanatic’s wet dream and the whole thing dissolved into factional accusations of cowardice and desertion when one of the factions left the field of battle in the dead of night. There was also the disruptive problem that we should have suspected by the lack of mention of Native American claims to Nevada ranchland and the ethnic homogeneity of the gathered legions: The insurrection’s leader, Old Clive, revealed to the world that he harbored racist tendencies that led some to wonder if he had gotten his revolutions mixed up.
This could all be viewed as sheer comedy except that some of the people who are paying for Old Clive’s fifteen minutes of fame might get the idea that all federal-land ranchers are like Clive. We are not. Some of us take the trust placed in us very seriously. Some of us understand that we are operating this land for the people of the United States. Most of us are not outspoken constitutional scholars, like the nit wits in the sagebrush claim to be. Most of us follow an even more basic roadmap. We understand that even with its warts, our government is unequaled in its efforts to serve ALL its citizens, that leasing government land at a discount is a privilege, and that you can’t steal from your fellow American citizens.