The Realities of Southwestern Cattle Ranching for Tinhornes


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“…“I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”  Cliven Bundy

It should be noted that these cattle, longhornes, are at the San Bernardino Ranch outside Douglas, Arizona.  The are in a contained pasture, well fed.  This is NOT how range fed beef looks.

There is a bottom line in all of this.  The only reason Cliven Bundy can get away with what he’s doing is because he is white, male, Mormon, straight, and being backed by the Koch’s.  He is now demanding that the every sheriff in the US disarm federal bureaucrats. (For a history of the Bundy debacle)  What is even more fascinating is that ‘liberty advocates’ like Fabian Calvo are all behind Bundy.  In fact, the stars are lining up in favor of Bundy. He is now becoming a libertarian darling, proving just how despicable these people truly are, and how much a danger they are to normal Americans.  What is truly amazing is that some of the Glenn Beck types are starting to turn on Bundy.

If you were to sneak a peak into my Twitter feed over the weekend, you would think I am a combination of the anti-Christ, Hitler, Marx, Mao, Stalin, and any bad guy John Wayne ever faced in a movie about the Wild West.  The situation at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada is, in many ways, a joke. Cliven Bundy is a dinosaur, who refuses to evolve into something less primitive.  Yet, he is being backed by various Koch based groups, patriots, and liberty loving individuals throughout the country.

The BLM, unwilling to face several hundred, well armed, Koch supported, Glenn Beck watching, Alex Jones reading, Sean Hannity inflamed ‘patriots’ has chosen to withdraw, and supposedly let Cliven Bundy get away with thumbing his nose at honest ranchers. It is a bad precedent, except for the fact that these yahoos were planning on shooting someone before the weekend was over.  When it comes to the militias, safe is better than sorry, because they do want to instigate a shooting war.  So do the Kochs, I fear.  What is more fascinating is how the story is leaking out that Harry Reid and his son are involved in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone.  If the Kochs weren’t behind the alleged revolution, I would say it is nothing, but the Kochs are involved.

Several things are at work here.  First is the not-so obvious. After the first volley of Twitter on Saturday, something rather fascinating happened on Sunday afternoon.  The second group of attackers were almost all Koch based, far right, ‘patriot’, and were almost all Mormon. What is even more fascinating is the bias and the tales being spread by Senate Majority Leader, and Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who is also LDS, but is not a Koch whore.  Secondly, Cliven Bundy is a ‘patriot’ who has extreme right tendencies.  He is an associate of Sheriff Richard Mack, a big time, conservative anti-government Mormon out of Arizona.  Bundy has been a regular, for years, on the anti-government patriot circuit, promoting his own special little version of lets’ take over the government.

It is fascinating, considering the amount of truly bad information out there.  If I were not of a suspicious nature, I would think something might be amiss.  Fortunately, I’m of the suspicious type of mind-set.  When you start digging into Cliven Bundy’s back-ground, what pops up is not a poor, oppressed rancher just trying to survive, but a regular on the libertarian, patriot, anti-government, pro-militia, scary circuit.

The other problem we have is the fact that, when normal people, decent conservative people see what is going on, for the most part, unless they know something about the west, cattle, and desert land, they are basically being taken in by being spoon fed information that isn’t accurate.

Don’t fall for the traditional ranching culture reflecting on themes of Hollywood.  What you see in the movies, on television, has nothing to do with the reality of ranching in the west.  It never did.  There is no John Wayne.  Ranches are businesses.  It is a rough, difficult business, one almost impossible to maintain today, unless you are independently wealthy, playing at it running a few head of cattle, are big, big time, or in the process of losing everything.

The BLM is not the enemy.  It is a necessary evil.  There is very little beautiful ranch land in the desert southwest.  It is a desert, arid, filled with scrub.  The rule of thumb is it takes a section of land – that’s 600 acres, to sustain one head of cattle.  If you have a hundred head of cattle, you need thousands of acres just to keep them alive.

The cows (primarily) who roam the scrub lands of the desert are miserable, thin, pathetic looking creatures who would be rescued from abuse in the east.  Until round-up, they are often left on their own, against the weather, predators, and starvation.  You drive through the back roads of the west, seeing the saddest animals, barely holding on to life.  Once it is time for them to be sold, the rancher rounds them up and takes them to a feed-lot.

There is no grass-land.  If it doesn’t rain a couple times a year, a rancher is forced to either sell off his cattle or shot them himself, or just let them starve to death.  And – they do starve to death.   When they are taken to the feedlots, they are pumped with antibiotics, fed things that can include dead cows.  Where do you think Mad Cow Disease comes from?

At the feed lot, they are held in a pen, along with hundreds of other creatures, suddenly no longer free to roam.  They walk in filth, wallow in their own manure, being force fed, on a 24/7 basis.  If you ever travel the west, near Hereford, Texas,  you will understand how filthy, feed lots are.  Once you see one, you may never eat beef, again.

Ranching like this, the way the Bundys do it, is a marginal business, at best. It is also dying, not because of the BLM, but because of economics, and there are better, more modern ways to do things.  The ranchers who are starting to make money are running far fewer cattle, in contained areas, feeding them sweet foods laced with molasses and syrup to make the beef tender.  They receive no additives, no antibiotics, and are carefully contained in clean areas, with hay and good grasses.  The organic beef they produce ‘heritage’ beef goes for a premium.  BLM acreage, and the dying way of life Cliven Bundy is trying to con innocent people into believing is being stolen by the BLM barely exists.

Big ranches are very big business. Clive Bundy is spreading this tale of family unity, history, and how his family has their roots in the land.  That’s nice.  It’s a good story-line, that makes the rest of us look like shiftless bums.  Maintaining the family business is great – if you can do it.  Very few can.  For that, he has my respect.  But, you don’t hold yourself up as better than everyone else because of it.  Life changes or you are left behind.

The ranchers I know, who are successful, work so hard, no one in their right mind would want the job.  It is lonely, miserable, frustrating, and heart-breaking, at best.  You are at the mercy of the weather, high prices, and anything else that wants to blind-side you.  I have a tremendous respect for the real ranching culture.  They’re great people.  But – they are realists.  People who fall for the spew promoted by people like Cliven Bundy, in this part of the world, are known as Tinhornes.

As for dealing with BLM, Cliven Bundy is also not being honest.  There are grazing permits, which attack huge tracts of scrub land to western ranches to make them profitable.  In fact, today’s grazing fees were set by Ronald Reagan.  They are a necessary evil.  Talk to any honest rancher and you will learn that the permits are a necessary evil.  They are also ridden with clauses which can be revoked at any time. The land isn’t free, no matter how much the Bundy brigade might want to pretend it is.

It truly is quite sad.

What is even worse is the fact that one of Bundy’s supporters, former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack wanted to put women in the front of the brave militia men defending Bundy.  It would look better if the BLM murdered innocent women  before the big, brave men.  The entire issue has become a rallying point for the anti-government types, which is also terrifying.