Readings — January 6, 2016, 11:17 am

This Land is My Land

A Colorado sheep ranch, by  W. A. Rogers. Published in the October 1950 issue of Harper's Magazine.

A Colorado sheep ranch, by W. A. Rogers. Published in the October 1950 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

From accounts of threats made against employees of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management since 2010, published in 2014 by High Country News.

On patrol near West Hopley, Montana, I noticed a Ford parked near a road closed sign. The truck was occupied by a middle-aged female with a small child and teenager. The adult would not speak to me other than to say that she did not have to put up with Gestapo government officials. I asked for her driver’s license several times. She started to scream out to her family. I handcuffed her, and while I attempted to search her for weapons, I noticed Mr. [redacted] on top of the hillside, yelling, “Hey, get the fuck away from my wife.” He repeated this several times, his rifle held at shoulder height and pointed at me.

On November 1, 2011, the White River National Forest district ranger handed me 117 pages written in cursive and signed by [redacted]. In his letter, [redacted] rambles repeatedly about murder conspiracies and refers to virtually everyone listed as “homosexual freaks” or part of a “faggot bastard secret society.” He refers to a female U.S.F.S. employee hundreds of times as “Little Smokey Bear Girl.” He repeatedly accuses the district supervisor of placing “Little Smokey Bear Girl” to entice him with her “sex” for the purposes of murdering him. I contacted Detective [redacted], who stated that he gets calls from around the country about [redacted] and his letters.

A lands and realty specialist near Elk City, Idaho, had been inspecting an unauthorized road when he was approached by [redacted], who told him, “Fucking BLM. If I see you on my property, I will kick your ass.” I contacted [redacted] at his residence and informed him that a survey crew needed to locate corners for the BLM parcel adjacent to his property. He responded, “They already been on my land, sneaking around like snakes.” I asked if he would be willing to show the crew where the corners were located. He responded that he would: “I thought you guys were here to arrest me. I wasn’t going to go easy.” The survey determined that part of [redacted’s] cabin was on public land.

At approximately 2:00 p.m., I arrived at [redacted’s] residence. He was in his shop working on a valve for his tractor. We talked about his tractor problems for a couple of minutes, then I asked if he had told a Forest Service employee’s wife that he was going to kick his ass. [Redacted] responded, “Goddamn right I did! And I will. The Forest Service needs to get their ass out of this country!” He went back to work on his valve stem. I informed him that I was issuing a notice for threatening a Forest Service employee. He stated, “I am not going to pay it.” I advised him that if he did not, a court date would be set in Rapid City. He asked if I would be there. I replied that I would. He responded, “You better have a goddamn good lawyer.”

On October 13, 2010, [redacted] entered the BLM Moab office and began asking about recent road closures in the area. He became very agitated and told one employee, “I was in Vietnam and know how to kill people. Come outside and settle this.” On October 14, [redacted] entered the Grand County Sheriff’s Department and bragged that he knew how and where to dispose of bodies so that they would not be found. He also stated that he occasionally rides his A.T.V. out on a ridge and waits with his .300 Winchester rifle for a BLM employee to drive by.

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No one would talk to me for this piece. Or rather, more than twenty women talked to me, sometimes for hours at a time, but only after I promised to leave out their names, and give them what I began to call deep anonymity. This was strange, because what they were saying did not always seem that extreme. Yet here in my living room, at coffee shops, in my inbox and on my voicemail, were otherwise outspoken female novelists, editors, writers, real estate agents, professors, and journalists of various ages so afraid of appearing politically insensitive that they wouldn’t put their names to their thoughts, and I couldn’t blame them. 

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