NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 26, 2014

Standoff in new Old West

“Head ’em up, move ’em out,

Move ’em on, head ’em out Rawhide!”

— Theme from CBS series “Rawhide” 1959-66.

Happy image of the month: Cattle that had been confiscated by the federal government from a Nevada cattle rancher, set loose when the feds backed down, running home to the tune of the theme from Rawhide. “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’...”

Why did the feds back down, you ask if you didn’t happen to be watching Judge Jeanine on Fox News one recent Saturday evening, or following the drama on talk radio? I must tell you, because I’m still laughin’, laughin’, laughin’...

First, just the facts before I get to the complicated parts. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has been in a dispute with the federal Bureau of Land Management for 20 years. In 1993, according to the Associated Press out of Las Vegas, “The BLM ... revoked Bundy’s grazing rights on land his Mormon family settled in the 19th century.”

On April 5, 2014, the heavily armed feds confiscated the first of hundreds of head of his cattle, Tasering Bundy’s son when he tried to film them. The Bundys went to the media, and by April 12 the feds were challenged on Bundy land by armed sympathetic ranchers, cowboys and militias from other western states, with more on their way. On April 14, the federal government backed down and released the remaining cattle, which ran home. “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’...”

Before I get to the complicated part, let me tell you that if I were young, I’d have filed this column last week from horseback on the western plains.

When we were kids, my best friend and I, inspired by Zane Grey books and numerous television shows like “Rawhide,” planned to ride horses across the Western Range when we grew up. We were told by adults that most of the range is fenced now, and we’d be riding down the middle of Route 50, but even so ... I emailed her last week and asked if she thought it’s too late for us to mount up. She said that it is.

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