Thursday, May 20, 2004

Klump Country Blues

A scrappy little breeze careens through the Dos Cabezas Pioneer Cemetery, setting tufts of grass dancing among the cock-eyed grave stones. Amid this rambunctious parley of wind, spirit and bone, John and Delia Klump share eternal views east to the Dos Cabezas Mountains and south to the sunburned flats of Sulphur Springs Valley.

Strong, lanky and tough, John Sherman Klump arrived in these hills before statehood, before the Endangered Species Act, before such things as tree-huggers, trail joggers and grazing fees. It was rough-and-tumble country back then; lovely country, a land where hard-working folks could live simple and free.

Klump spent his early manhood riding the range, raising kids and dispensing meager family funds in Willcox saloons. When his first wife hit the road, he cleaned up his act, got hitched to pretty Delia and settled into respectable child-rearing. Before many years had passed, his prodigious progeny would total six boys and a girl. In turn, these youngsters would grow into pillars of ranching power, their combined holdings nearing 300,000 acres of range land stretched across southeastern Arizona and New Mexico.

In recent years, some Klumps would also make a name for themselves as rural rebels, spending much of their time fighting for a cause that city folks--and some of their own colleagues--find awfully far-fetched.

Up the road in downtown Tucson, one of those six sons, Luther Wallace "Wally" Klump, sits upright as Federal District Judge John Roll strides into the courtroom one day earlier this month. Even after a year in prison, Wally is a deeply etched, rustic figure. He's here because, in the end, he was forced to bend....

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