Monday, April 28, 2014

Cliven Hooves

When I first heard about the “Battle of Bunkerville” I assumed that the name Bunkerville was some kind of cute name for the fortified encampment outside of Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch.  A name designed to invoke some kind of military feel. I imagined the heavily armed inhabitants of the camp referring to their Winnebagos as “bunkers”. I pictured each recreational vehicle being given a number, and the night air being filled with the sounds and smells of the portable generators which give life to the multitude of televisions tuned for the hope of at least the briefest glimpse of the RV’s owner on the closest Fox affiliate. I was wrong; the name of that place is “Camp Tripwire”.

I should have known that “Bunkerville” is an actual town name. I have done biology stuff in the deserts of Nevada for long enough to have familiarity with all the rustic exits off of highways 93 and I15.

Bunkerville is the birthplace of Juanita Leone Leavitt (b 1898) who would grow up to take on the last name of "Brooks" and write a famous account of the "Mountain Meadows Massacre".   The most amazing thing about Juanita Brooks's account of Mormons massacring non-Mormon pioneers is perhaps the fact that she was not excommunicated for writing it.  For years her account was considered definitive.

Juanita was undoubtedly related to Raoul and Ruth Leavitt who sold Cliven's parents his ranch in 1948.  Two years later (1950) Juanita would publish her book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and four years after that (1954) Cliven's parents would begin raising cattle.   In 1993 Cliven would be taken to court and be found in arrears for his cattle grazing fees. 

Bunkerville proper is hidden in the shadow of Mesquite Nevada, and Mesquite is the type of border gambling town that palpably urges me to drive on by. I’ve stopped there for gas at least once, but I’ve never cruised down highway 170 to take in the charm of its neighborhoods.

Online real estate brokerages suggest that, had I taken in the Mesquite sights, I would have been treated to a study in contrasting lifestyles. Bunkerville real estate varies in price from $33K mobile homes perched on what look to be cinder blocks to $2.5M stucco homes with central air. If one (courtesy of Google Streetview) continues about a half mile on the south side of the Virgin river by heading out onto New Gold Butte road just before 170 loops back across the river to I-15, one comes to a gravel driveway announced by a sign advertising melons and beef; Bundy Melons.

From Google Streetview

I suppose that down this road, surrounded by the rusting remains of old equipment and automobiles, Cliven Bundy raised his 14 children. I wonder how often Cliven’s location facilitated the disturbance of his late night peace by drunken tourists, bloated with all-you-can eat buffet, and lost on the way to I15 from the casinos of Mesquite. I wonder how many of his children lost their way only to find themselves in adult-sized trouble the handful of miles away in the casinos?

View Larger Map

If none of Cliven’s 14 children sell the family property off for development then one of the (currently) 52 grandchildren certainly will. The history of the Bundy ranch will prove to be as disposable as the income people are throwing away just up the Virgin river in Mesquites casinos.

1 comment:

C. L. Hanson said...

This post has been nominated for a 2014 Brodie Award in the category of "Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion". Please go here if you would like to vote for it! :D