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Nevada rancher's neighbors weary of attention

BUNKERVILLE, Nev. (AP) - American flags flap in the wind on the two-lane state highway to Cliven Bundy's ranch. Along the roadside, self-described militia members in camouflage who came to defend him from the federal government lounge and smoke, loaded pistols on their hips.

Ten miles from these desert encampments, the telephone is ringing more than usual at the police department in Mesquite, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Travelers from around the country are calling, wondering if it's safe to pass on Interstate 15, where Bundy and his supporters, some armed with military-style weapons, faced down federal officials in an April 12 standoff over his cattle grazing on federal land.

Police Chief Troy Tanner tells callers it's safe. But local authorities and Bundy's neighbors are growing weary of the attention and the unresolved dispute. Since the standoff, Bundy went from being proclaimed a patriot by some for his resistance to a racist for comments he made about blacks being better off under slavery.

"Most of our neighbors have about the same opinions we have. They don't like it," said John Booth, a resident of nearby Bunkerville who drove this week with his wife, Peggie, past the State Route 170 encampments. "But they're not really going to say anything about it."

As triple-digit temperatures of a Mojave Desert summer approach, militia members vow to stay and protect Bundy and his family from government police, though it's unclear what the immediate threat is.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has halted plans - at least for now - to round up Bundy's cattle under a court order to remove them from public land and habitat of the desert tortoise. The BLM says Bundy owes $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees penalties.

"We haven't been told by the Bundys that they're ready for us to go," said Jerry DeLemus, a former U.S. Marine from New Hampshire.

DeLemus heads a self-styled militia protection force of perhaps 30 people who sleep in tents, clean their military-style AR-15 and AK-47 weapons, and form work crews to help build watering bins for cattle on and around the Bundy ranch.

Bundy, who turned 68 on Tuesday, rode his call for a "range war" to conservative media stardom. He's been portrayed as a states' rights advocate battling an overreaching government, and a white-hat, last-of-the-cowboys figure.

Just as quickly, he lost many Republican defenders when he made the comments about blacks last week. Democrats labeled Bundy a racist.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, who lives in Las Vegas and represents a vast area including Bunkerville and Mesquite, met with residents last week and called Monday for federal authorities and the local sheriff to investigate the gun-toting force.

Openly carrying a pistol or rifle is legal in Nevada. Permit holders can carry concealed weapons.

Horsford, however, cited concerns about "an armed presence in or around community areas including local churches, school, and other community locations."

Bunkerville, with about 1,200 residents, has a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple, a Catholic church, a community center, an elementary school, a park and a firehouse on the banks of the Virgin River. There's no general store or restaurant.

Bundy acknowledged creating a stir when he and his family showed up at the Mormon church with armed bodyguards for Easter Sunday services.

"The militia have been going with me everywhere," Bundy said Tuesday. "When I got to church, I said, 'Leave your weapons in the car.' They did. I guess there could have been weapons in the parking lot, but there were no weapons in the church house."

Bundy denies that militia members set up checkpoints on public property. He said armed guards do stop and screen visitors at the gate to his ranch.

A group of militia members who stopped a neighboring rancher trucking cattle last Saturday to Arizona, about 12 miles to the east, were helping his son, Ryan Bundy, the family patriarch said. They wanted to ensure that Bundy cattle weren't being rustled.

A guard also is stationed on a dirt road leading to a gravel quarry on private land where DeLemus and his group have been camping for almost three weeks.

At a campsite with a sign dubbing it "Bunker Hill," Jason Scott Patrick, 42, from Bonaire, Georgia, described wielding a weapon during the standoff in a dry wash beneath the I-15 overpass.

Lisa Marie Johnson, 49, a Republican party activist and Rand Paul supporter from Pahrump, Nevada, said she believed their presence provided a deterrent to what she described an overreaching federal government.

Across the highway river bridge, Tom Mayhew, 72, also from Pahrump, has been living in a cluttered 32-foot motor home with a generator, a big computer screen and a gun in his belt.

"I'm too old to do battle, but I'm a body," he said as he punched up a website showing an aerial view of the encampment area.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
biggdogg May 01 2014 at 1:07 PM

oblamer is a bigger crook and a bigger racist than this bundy character.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
4 replies
wdk42 May 01 2014 at 1:07 PM

Pay up you bum, you have been feeding your cattle and making tens of thousands of dollars on free food and not paying your rent.....that is my land, so pay up

Flag Reply +8 rate up
1 reply
Susan wdk42 May 01 2014 at 1:29 PM

Far more than tens of thousands.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
tmccull52 May 01 2014 at 1:06 PM

Does anyone else see another Ruby Ridge, or Waco, Texas scenario unfolding here? Clearly, guns do fall into the wrong hands; we read about gun violence every day. The subject is on television virtually 'round the clock. But, as a United States citizen who legally owns several firearms, and who obeys federal and statre gun laws, I am growing weary of the vilification of everyone who either already owns a firearm, or firearms, or who wants to purchase one. Not every member of the NRA is a rabid maniac just waiting to unload a full clip or magazine on the first person that looks at them cross-eyed. I am a member of the NRA, and as previously mentioned, I own several firearms of the pistol and longarm variety. I do not sit in the dark obsessively cleaning my weapons, salivating like a rabid dog in the anticipation of gunfire. I have never broken the law, and I have never even been remotely close to just pulling out a gun and recklessly blasting away at anyone or anything that moves.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
calderasf tmccull52 May 01 2014 at 1:17 PM

Actually I never hear about legal gun ownership I hear about the total lack of background checks to stop nuts like these from owning guns.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Maverick tmccull52 May 01 2014 at 1:39 PM

Sorry you feel vilified since it's the extremists (on both sides) that are related to that word.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
fulltruckloads May 01 2014 at 1:06 PM

The federal Government has over stepped it's boundary. They have no right to this land or any say in who grazes on it. This is Nevada State Land. Harry Reid needs to call off his dogs before a lot of people end up dead. We are Americans! We will defend our land, and multitudes of citizens will help defend it! What are Harry Reids motives in these actions? Why is this land that these ranchers have used for decades of interest to the Federal Government? This is un-called for and unconstitutional. Obama sits on his hands, like usual, and acts like he is oblivious to what is going on, when he can stop it at any time with a phone call.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
10 replies
stengernc May 01 2014 at 1:06 PM

The Klu Klux Klan flew American Flags and carried bibles to support their misguided idea that America is for white Christians.............these have no idea what the Bill of Rights is all about. They decry welfare but mooch off of the tax payer by grazing cattle on land that is not theirs and do not pay taxes on. They should be put in jail.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
Susan stengernc May 01 2014 at 1:34 PM

Indeed. No one said they were smart. They're just a bunch of ignorant thugs and bullies.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
djrachoy May 01 2014 at 1:07 PM

Others pay their grazing fees without argument. Why shouldn't he. He has no moral or legal basis to refuse to pay. I'm a conservative and believe our rights are worth fighting for, but this is not a right he's fighting for.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
dwtbrown May 01 2014 at 1:01 PM

They need to pay for their grazing rights, like I pay my bills. He is a deadbeat, with obvious and profound intellectual limitations. They are a bunch of hypocrites.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
queencelt May 01 2014 at 1:01 PM

I love camping out, but in a summertime desert to protect a violent racist? Boycott the entire area, I say, and do something worthwhile with your time.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Charlie May 01 2014 at 1:00 PM

Bundy is a thief and felon.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
shfritsch1 May 01 2014 at 12:59 PM

Republican worry about UKRAIN, let them clean up this mess. Freeloading Rancher!!!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
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