By: Kirk Siegler
Cliven Bundy’s ranch is just a few miles off Interstate 15 in southern Nevada, near the tiny town of Bunkerville. The dirt road that gets you there snakes through a hot and forlorn patch of desert. You know you’ve found it when you see a spray-painted sign for Bundy Melons.
“What we say is, we raise cows and melons and kids. That’s what we do here,” says Bundy, smiling as he hoses down a dusty sidewalk that leads into the family’s ranch house.
Bundy has 14 children. In his living room, there are prominent photos of all of them. A swamp cooler rattles in one corner. In another, next to his favorite rocking chair, is a copy of the Book of Mormon.
Bundy’s ancestors were LDS pioneers, the first white settlers in this part of the country. His family has been raising cattle on the mesas above this house since then. That’s partly why he’s at the center of a grazing lease dispute with the U.S. government — one with implications far beyond southern Nevada. Or at least he sees it that way.
“We’ll defend this country and this land,” Bundy says. “We’re not ever gonna let this happen, where our government actually sticks these military weapons down our throat again. That’ll never happen again.”
On “April 12” — as most people around here refer to the day that Bureau of Land Management and law enforcement officials tried to remove Bundy’s cows that were illegally grazing on federal land — armed militiamen and others from around the region came to the rancher’s defense.