Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Proving Them Wrong: How The U.S. Oil And Gas Industry Survived

The Saudis counted them out. So did the Russians, even many domestic analysts said North American shale and tight oil and gas production would decline in the face of low prices and that investment would dry up and output would fall. Well, guess what? They have all been proven wrong. Sure, rig counts have dropped and there have been painful layoffs of workers, but the industry is surviving and against all the “experts” advice, production of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales of the U.S. Northeast is averaging 22.63 billion cubic feet per day in August, according to a Financial Times article. That is up 2 percent from July and the most since February’s all-time high of 22.78 billion cu-ft/d. Despite earlier U.S. government forecasts that combined gas output from the two shale areas lying beneath Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia would decline, producers have managed to maintain volumes by tapping inventories of drilled but uncompleted wells and burrowing deeper, longer wells that yield more gas. Even though the number of drilling rigs has declined, technological developments have helped producers increase output. New production per rig now averages about 11.4 million cubic feet of gas in the Marcellus, an 18 percent improvement from a year ago, according to the article...more

Free Speech Being “Stifled” in Bundy Standoff Case

The “Bundy trials” begin in a few days.  And the lawyer who is representing the Las Vegas Review-Journal and other news media filed court papers on Monday which accuse the government of trying to “stifle” free speech in the criminal case stemming from the 2014 Bunkerville standoff. The filings by Attorney Maggie McLethcie are part of an effort to overturn the protective order signed last month by U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen. The protective has been called “too broad and a blow to transparency” as it withholds the bulk of the government’s evidence from the public in this case. According to The Las Vegas Review-Journal:

The order prohibits defense teams for all 17 defendants from publicly disclosing grand jury transcripts, FBI and police reports, witness statements and other documents the government collected during its investigation into the April 2014 armed standoff between Bundy family forces and law enforcement. Leen issued the order without a public hearing and in the face of opposition by most of the defendants, including Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and his four sons, and the news organizations represented by McLetchie. “The government has made a sufficient threshold showing of actual and potential threats, intimidation and harassment to victims, witnesses and law enforcement officers to show good cause for a protective order restricting dissemination of pretrial discovery,” Leen wrote. Federal prosecutors filed court papers last week supporting Leen’s decision, arguing she followed proper legal standards. But in court papers Monday, McLetchie argued that the government’s biggest fear in keeping its evidence confidential is public criticism...more

HT: Marvin Frisbey

Natural resource investing gets a federal jump-start

The new Natural Resource Investment Center at the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is making strides toward using market-based approaches and innovative public-private partnerships to tackle natural resource and conservation issues. For years, the nation slowly has been coming to terms with aging water infrastructure, dealing with water shortages in the West and attempting to revamp species and landscape conservation efforts. This center is the newest actor coordinating large-scale private capital into a sphere that historically has been funded by the government. To balance these issues against modern day urbanization pressures, population shifts, climate change and constrained budgets, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell launched the center in December. The center was inspired by President Barack Obama’s infrastructure and economic growth-focused Build America Investment Initiative. It seeks to facilitate the formation of deals between stakeholders to attract private capital into natural resource and conservation investing...more

Officials sign landmark pact to protect Northern Nevada sage grouse

Gov. Brian Sandoval hosted state and federal officials along with executives of a global mining company Tuesday to sign what was hailed as a landmark agreement designed to protect Nevada’s sagebrush ecosystem and a chicken-size bird that depends on it. The agreement with Newmont Mining Corp. covers roughly 1.5 million acres and implements the state’s conservation credit system — the cornerstone of Nevada’s plan devised in an effort to stave off a federal listing of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. “This agreement brings the sagebrush conservation system from theory to reality,” Sandoval said in a signing ceremony at the state Capitol. Janice Schneider, assistant secretary for land and minerals at the U.S. Interior Department, said the mitigation credit system is “the first of its kind” in the nation and may be used as a model for other Western states as they strive to achieve protections for the bird while allowing mining, ranching and other activities crucial to rural economies...more

The new Malheur occupants: Grazing cattle

Now that the focus has shifted to the upcoming trials of the outlaws who took over Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge offices last January, we might recall that the actual, physical occupation lasted for a total of 41 days. In many ways, however, it never ended, and there is every reason to conclude that the occupiers won. The refuge’s headquarters are still closed, federal cops guard the area, and no one answers the phone. At least six staff members have left, including the fisheries expert and the ecologist. They have not been replaced. Meanwhile, all is not quiet on this Western front. Some or all of the 13 ranchers with grazing privileges on the refuge were going full-bore when my students and I drove north along the refuge on Aug. 12. Thousands of acres of the Blitzen Valley part of the refuge had been mowed. Three huge double-flatbed trailered semis passed us going south, ready to welcome on board the valuable hay bales. Ranchers apparently pay with “in kind services,” which in this case means that the hay is paid for by mowing, baling and hauling it off. Because the mowing is considered beneficial to wildlife, it is considered a “service’ to the refuge and to wildlife, so little or no cash changes hands. So ubiquitous was the haying activity I saw that it is hard to believe that it had only been going on for two days...more

Lawmakers Furious Feds Spent $3.3 Million Paving Over Sacred Indian Burial Grounds

Lawmakers want to know how the Obama administration allowed National Park Service (NPS) officials to spend more than $3 million building an “extensive boardwalk on sensitive American Indian burial sites” they were tasked with protecting. Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop wrote Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell to find out why NPS officials spent taxpayer dollars on 78 projects that damaged sacred Indian sites, including boardwalks and trails over 200 sacred mounds without conducting any sort of impact analysis. Bishop, the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, wants Interior officials to brief committee staff on the situation no later than Sept. 9. NPS disclosed this information in a 2014 report on agency actions at the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa. The 2014 report found NPS officials “clearly knew what they were doing was against the law” during their decade-long effort building boardwalks and trails over Indian burial grounds. “[T]he report highlighted findings that [Effigy Mounds National Monument] staff ‘failed to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act and/or the National Environmental Policy Act on at least 78 projects, using $3,368,704 in federal funds,’ which included the construction of an extensive boardwalk on sensitive American Indian burial sites,” Bishop wrote in his letter to Jewell...more

How Brexit Will Affect Paris Global Warming Treaty

The fate of the European Union’s global warming commitments negotiated as part of the Paris Protocol may be in jeopardy as result of Brexit. The U.S. on the other hand, should take a page out of the U.K.’s playbook and not only withdraw from the Paris agreement, but also withdraw participation from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change altogether. Last December, leaders from around the world convened at the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris. The agreement reached at the end of the Paris conference set a target of achieving a 2 degree Celsius warming threshold with intentions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve that goal, countries made individual commitments to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, largely centered on shifting away from affordable natural resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas, and toward more expensive, intermittent, subsidy-dependent renewables. Known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, the Obama administration pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025. The EU, on the other hand, submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions on behalf of its member countries, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. How the U.K.’s exit affects the EU’s commitment remains to be seen...more

Albuquerque gun collector suing after federal agents raided his home

An Albuquerque gun collector is suing the Department of Homeland Security after the feds raided his home. Three years ago agents raided Robert Adams’ northeast Albuquerque home saying he was suspected of smuggling guns into the U.S. They said it was part of a scheme to get around tax laws. However, the feds later acknowledged Adams was a licensed gun supplier. According to the lawsuit, during the raid his home and personal belongings along with some his guns were damaged. It says he is also still missing one valuable firearm. “They damaged them. They broke them…scraped them. They took them apart,” said Adams’ attorney. The lawsuit also claims his business of buying and selling guns suffered.  KRQE

Indian-Americans clash with cowboy town over proposed center

The Southern California city of Norco markets itself as “Horsetown USA,” and it’s not unusual for cowboy hat-wearing residents to head out for lunch or run errands on horseback in its Old West-styled downtown. Local leaders celebrate that rural, equestrian lifestyle and are protective of it. Those who build must ensure their property includes Western architectural features such as a metal roof or overhang. But some Indian-Americans are questioning the sincerity of that standard after the City Council rejected a proposal for a hilltop Hindu cultural center on a hilltop partly on grounds that the large, domed building wouldn’t fit in. They think the decision — which came after residents urged the city to keep its culture and questioned why proponents chose the site — is discriminatory. The controversy over the proposed cultural center has focused attention on how Norco can keep its Western theme and rural lifestyle while incorporating newcomers, and how those who arrive in the city can adapt to their surroundings while retaining their culture...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1690

Here's a bluegrass classic, performed by the Stanley Brothers (Carter & Ralph):  Rank Stranger.   The tune was recorded in Cincinnati on July 11, 1960.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Navy Can’t Prove That Green Energy Projects Save Money

The U.S. Navy handed out a $334 million contract for solar power without having a good way to determine whether the project would be cost effective. The Pentagon’s inspector general recently audited three of the Navy’s large-scale renewable energy projects at installations supervised by the U.S. Pacific Command, finding that federal employees tasked with carrying out cost-effectiveness assessments of these projects did not have the documentation to back up their calculations or conclusions. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus made alternative energy a priority in 2009, directing the service to generate half of its total energy from alternative sources by 2020. In 2014, Mabus established an office to identify cost-effective projects for Navy installations to help achieve the service’s energy goals. Measures to determine the cost savings of these projects have been unreliable due to shortcomings in the Navy’s guidance for evaluating the projects, according to the audit. In one case, the Navy awarded a $334.1 million, 25-year contract for solar power at 14 military sites in Hawaii with inadequate procedures for determining that the project was cost effective. The company broke ground on the project in July 2014, but it has yet to generate solar power...more

‘The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies’

In his new book, “The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies,” John Lott methodically dismantles one popular gun-control myth after another. It has been said that a lie told often enough becomes the truth, and a similar phenomenon is overwhelming the gun debate in America. Oft-repeated untruths have formed common beliefs that often sway the debate about firearms. Gun-control advocates have learned that their exaggerated claims are likely to go unchecked by a largely sympathetic media, allowing them to control the narrative and shape public opinion.What is more, as Mr. Lott explains, billionaire elitists like George Soros and Michael Bloomberg are spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying legislators, funding conclusion-driven research, developing “grass-roots” organizations, and literally training reporters to cover gun control issues the way they want them covered; the purpose being to negatively distort the public’s view of firearms so that there is less resistance when gun rights are taken away. There is an astonishing amount of money being poured into the gun-control movement, and the success of the movement will ultimately depend on how the public perceives the issues — meaning that facts are now more important than ever. Thankfully, Mr. Lott has set the record straight in “The War on Guns.” In his usual methodical style, he answers the baseless rhetoric and hyperbole of gun-control advocates with facts and statistics. And better yet, in addition to providing an abundance of tables and graphs, Mr. Lott states his case in a way that is easy to comprehend so that the reader, too, can start setting the record straight when confronted with misinformation. The following are among the many common claims that Mr. Lott thoroughly debunks:
• Mass shootings just don’t happen in other “civilized” countries with the same frequency;
• More guns equal more crime and more death;
• Universal background checks reduce crime;
• Congress has banned firearms research;
• Gun registration helps law enforcement solve crimes;
• Australia sets a positive gun control model;
• Gun-free zones prevent (rather than attract) mass shootings;
• “Assault weapon” and “large-capacity magazine” bans reduce crime and reduce fatalities in mass shootings;
• Armed citizens never prevent mass shootings

Agriculture closes offices in 5 states after threats

The Agriculture Department said Tuesday it had closed offices in five states after receiving anonymous threats that it considered serious. USDA spokesman Matthew Herrick said the department had received "several anonymous messages" late Monday that raised concerns about the safety of USDA personnel and facilities. He said offices in six locations in the five states were closed Tuesday morning until further notice. Herrick said the threat was one email message sent to multiple employees at all of the locations. "Without getting into detail of the email message, USDA continues to work closely with federal and local law enforcement, including the FBI, to determine whether the threat is credible," Herrick said. The closed facilities are in Fort Collins, Colorado; Hamden, Connecticut; Beltsville, Maryland; Raleigh, North Carolina; Kearneysville, West Virginia and Leetown, West Virginia...more

I've got to quit this

The FS says a bicycle pedal starts a wildfire, a woman high on pills does start one and damn near burns herself up, ranchers who work with agencies "are not Cliven Bundys", a high school bans the American flag at football games.

We're being asked to swallow 417 endangered species in one big gulp.

We can't even figure out the Chisholm Trail.

I'm just getting used to indoor plumbing and now they say indoor farming will keep us from starving.

Proceed with caution, it's crazy out there.

Cyclists incensed after bike pedal blamed in Sierra wildfire

A lot of things can start a wildfire: lawn mowers, gunfire, smoldering cigarettes. It makes sense in a state dried out by drought. But the latest culprit — a bike — is largely unheard of as a source of ignition, and is being met with disbelief in some circles. U.S. Forest Service investigators say a bicycle pedal that scraped a rock and shot sparks on a mountain bike trail was responsible for a 122-acre blaze in the eastern Sierra this month, a finding that unleashed a firestorm of incredulity on the Internet. “There is no chance in hell it happened like this. So absurd to even make this official,” wrote one of the more than 100 skeptics who commented on the Inyo National Forest’s Facebook page since the cause of the fire near Mammoth Lakes was reported last week. “Unless there is clear video of this ‘pedal strike ignition,’ it is 99.999 percent anticyclist BS,” another person posted. A mock image of a fire-starter kit, including a bicycle pedal, began circulating on social media in protest of Wednesday’s fire report. Forest Service officials say they’re surprised by the backlash. But that doesn’t change their verdict on the Rock Creek Fire. Fire prevention technician Kirstie Butler said a comprehensive investigation, which included locating a rock with a pedal scrap on it and speaking to several mountain bikers in the area at the time, revealed conclusively what caused the fire. As unlikely as it may sound, she said, the afternoon of Aug. 5 was so hot and dry that a spark from a bike pedal against a rock, acting like a flint, was able to ignite cheatgrass and spread to brush and trees on the surrounding hillsides...more

Motorist on pain pills starts wildfire and sets her car ablaze as she drives on spark-spewing tire rim

A woman was so high on pain pills in Northern California Sunday afternoon that she didn’t realize her 2002 Kia Rio had a flat tire and that sparks from its rim had set her car and the surrounding forest on fire, according to the California Highway Patrol. Rene Ilene Hogan, 44, has a suspended license and was driving under the influence of a controlled substance when she was unable to explain to police why she was driving a burning 2002 Kia Rio with a rear flat tire, the CHP said. The incident occurred before 2 p.m. as Hogan was driving eastbound on Mountain Ranch Road in West Point, a small town in Calaveras County, according to a CHP arrest report. Hogan’s right rear tire became flat, but she continued driving until the tire wore down to the metal rim, according to CHP Officer Tobias Butzler. As the rim ground against the road, hot sparks flew into the drought-parched grass lining the highway, igniting several fires and ultimately, Hogan’s vehicle, Butzler said. “She knew she was driving, but was oblivious to any of the carnage she was causing,” Butzler said. Another driver on the highway saw her car burning and tried to alert her, but she didn’t respond, authorities said. The motorist ultimately drove in front of her and stopped, forcing Hogan to stop as well, Butzler said. The driver and others in the community who saw the smoke pulled Hogan from the burning car and called police...more

An Inconvenient Truth: Few Signs Of Global Warming In Antarctica

Antarctica is a tricky topic for scientists. It has a long history of chaotic weather and dramatic changes in its ice sheet, and scientists are realizing just how difficult it is to predict future behavior down under. A recent study seemed to sum up what Knappenberger said should be the “consensus” of mainstream scientists: global warming has exerted little to no detectable influence in Antarctica. Scientists with Columbia University’s Earth Institute found there’s been little change in Antarctica’s annual snowfall, which flies in the face of what climate models predicted would happen as the planet warmed. They blamed strong “natural variability” for the models’ failures.  Scientists have also been warning for years that, on net, Antarctica has been losing 147 gigatons of ice per year for the last decade or so, mostly from melting on the northern Antarctic Peninsula and its western ice sheet. There’s seems to be a news story every day about how things are looking worse in the Antarctic. The Washington Post, for example, recently warned a long crack in western Antarctica’ ice was growing. Sounds scary, but sort of obscures what’s happening overall with Antarctica. A 2015 study by NASA found Antarctica’s ice sheet increased in mass from 1992 to 2008. The study found ice gains in Eastern antarctica more than offset ice loss from melting glaciers in the west. Zwally’s study was controversial and challenged years of assumptions about what was happening in the South Pole. But months later another study was published showing a “pause” in warming on the Antarctic Peninsula due to a recovering ozone hole and shifting wind patterns...more

‘We are not all Cliven Bundys’: Rich County ranchers partner with BLM to revolutionize grazing

In one large northern Utah grazing district, fences are expected to play a key role in transforming the way public lands are managed. Cattle and sheep operators in Rich County may soon pool their herds for the summer grazing season in the hills rising west of Randolph under an idea hatched by rancher Alvin Shaul and his neighbors. As a young man, after his dad sold the family ranch, Shaul went to work for Deseret Land and Livestock, which runs a cattle operation just south of Randolph on a large tract of private land. Deseret used a rotational system of pastures that left the range in better shape while producing lots of fat calves. He and his wife went into business for themselves in the early 1970s. "I started with one cow and kept building. Eighty acres came for sale in Randolph and I bought it," said Shaul, who grazes 250 cows in the New Canyon allotment he shares with a dozen other ranchers. Shaul is now putting into practice what he learned at Deseret, and he has the backing of his fellow ranchers, the Rich County Commission and the federal agencies that administer the Three Creeks region where 29 ranchers run livestock from May 15 to Sept. 15. At the request of county commissioners, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are poised to consolidate 10 grazing allotments into one 135,000-acre management unit. After five years of study, the agencies have released a draft Environmental Assessment of the project and expect to issue a final decision by year's end. The county-driven proposal stands in sharp contrast to the angry rhetoric coming from other ranching communities where public-land users complain federal "overreach" is putting them out of business and destroying the custom and culture of rural areas. "We are not all Cliven Bundys. For people who are just watching the news, it's like all these ranchers don't want to pay their assessments and want to tell the federal government what to do," said Dale Lamborn, president of the Three Creeks Grazing Association. He also runs the local school district, and his ranching roots run deep into Rich County, stretching back into the homesteading era...more

Rep. Gosar Decries Legal Threats For Endangered Species

Rep. Paul Gosar this week renewed his war with the Center for Biological Diversity, blasting the Flagstaff-based group for filing lawsuits on behalf of endangered species. The Center this week filed a notice that it might file a lawsuit to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether to list some 417 species as endangered or threatened. The federal agency has 60 days in which to respond. Rep. Gosar issued a release saying “Extremist environmentalist groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), announced their intent this week to unleash several hundred more frivolous lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service. These organizations have a long history of abusing the ESA (Endangered Species Act) in order to force taxpayers to pay millions of dollars in government legal fees defending these arbitrary lawsuits. The truth is that misguided groups like CBD are simply using ‘sue and settle’ tactics to fund and implement their radical agenda. This behavior sets a dangerous legal precedent that must be stopped.” Rep. Gosar has introduced several bills that would limit or eliminate court fees when environmental groups win lawsuits against the federal government...more

Mystery still surrounds Chisholm Trail

ABILENE — As people like to say, never let the facts stand in the way of a good story. When it comes to the 150-year history of the Chisholm Trail, that’s been especially true. “History with a little bit of scandal is fun to read about,” said Stacy Moore, executive director of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Okla. “Certainly, there is a little of that with the Chisholm Trail. There is a lot of discussion in Texas whether the Chisholm Trail existed in Texas at all. The Texas historians love to debate that stuff.” One thing is for sure: the trail ended in Abilene. Labor Day weekend, the Kansas cowtown will kick off a sesquicentennial celebration of the infamous trail with Trails, Rails & Tales: Spirit of the Chisholm Trail Celebration. On Saturday, longhorns will be driven through the city streets and loaded onto a rail car, almost like 150 years ago. The trail Texas ranchers used to drive cattle to the railroad at Abilene was known by several names, said Jeff Sheets, director of the Dickinson County Historical Society and board member of the Kansas Museums Association. Black Beaver trail? It was known 150 years ago as the Texas Cattle Trail, McCoy’s Trail or Abilene Trail. Just when it became the Chisholm Trail, named after Jesse Chisholm, who traded with the Indians, is not known. Chisholm was of Scottish and Cherokee descent. He had trading posts near what is now Wichita and in Oklahoma, trading goods for furs. Moore said that Black Beaver, a Native American from the Delaware tribe, showed Chisholm the trail...more

This wealthy farmer is taking on Sacramento: ‘God help you if you disagree with him’

Dean “Dino” Cortopassi, the Stockton-area farmer and food processor who could undermine Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta water project and high-speed rail in California, leaned over a pile of paperwork in his conference room this spring, tossing bread to his black Labrador and pounding on the table. The state Capitol, Cortopassi said, has been overrun by “porkers feeding at the public trough,” and if long-term debt is not constrained, he said his grandchildren’s generation will bear the cost. He called his November ballot initiative – a proposal to require voter approval before the state issues revenue bonds for public works projects costing more than $2 billion – his “moral obligation.” Proposition 53, into which Cortopassi and his wife, Joan, have poured about $4.5 million, is in one way a referendum on Brown’s $15.5 billion plan to build two tunnels to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south. But to conservative interests in California, the initiative is also regarded as a bellwether. It is a test of the electorate’s appetite for future measures to blunt spending – and of a wealthy but little-known donor’s ability to compete in a heavily Democratic state...more

Indoor farming will be integral to the world’s food security

FARMING will need to shift towards indoor vertical farms and precision techniques that could make use of drones. Just as important will be the planting of drought-resistant crops and even printing meat to secure food production globally. This is according to Ernst Janovsky, senior agricultural economist at Absa, who emphasised that technology will need to be incorporated into farming practices in order to keep up with costs and supply. Speaking at an Absa Agribusiness roundtable in Centurion on Tuesday, Janovsky said population growth would create more demand for food, water and land. By 2050, the global population is expected to reach nearly 10-billion people. But Janovsky and fellow agricultural economist Wessel Lemmer said the adoption of new technology should mitigate some of the food security risks. The use of drones to determine crop yield, diseased plants and even the leaf area index of a tree in an orchard is already benefiting farmers. Lemmer said further advances in agriculture would improve productivity. Another shift in farming would be a move towards urban vertical farms within cities, to mitigate the need to transport crops from farms to where they could be sold. While the production method was already being used to grow kale and lettuce, Lemmer said it could be expanded to other crops. This method involves growing crops on shelves, ensuring that they have the optimal amount of water and light for ideal growth. Lemmer said this method allowed for 23 harvests to be planted in a year compared to the average of three produced by conventional methods...more

Rented land prominent in countryside

Approximately 39% of the 911 million acres of farmland in the contiguous 48 states of the U.S. is rented. More than half of cropland is rented, compared with just over 25% of pasture­land, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s "U.S. Farmland Ownership, Tenure & Transfer" report. Report author Dan Bigelow, an Economic Research Service economist, said rented acreage is much more prevalent in areas with cash grains up and down the Mississippi River and areas of the Midwest where corn and soybeans are grown, with some areas at upwards of 50-60%. There are also higher percentages of rented acres in areas with other cash grains, such as rice, wheat and cotton. Relative to crop farms, livestock producers tend to rent fewer acres overall. The rental percentages for cattle and dairy operations coincide with the fact that pastureland is rented at a lower rate than cropland. Pastureland is often cheaper than cropland, the report noted, making it less financially burdensome for farmers and ranchers to purchase land to begin a new operation or expand an existing one. Second, renting land allows farmers to adjust their land margins in response to changing economic conditions...more

High School bans American flag at football games

There were more displays of American flags at Travelers Rest High School on Monday morning, but no problems reported following a controversy that was spread on social media over a football game. Several social media posts stated over the weekend that students were denied entry to the Travelers Rest vs. Berea High School football game because they were trying to bring Americans flags inside the stadium. American flags were not allowed into the high school football game Friday night. Lavely said in his statement on Saturday that his decision was to “not allow the American flag to be used in an improper ‘taunting,’ unsportsmanlike manner.” Noel released a statement in support of Lavely later Saturday about the decision. Lavely based his decision on past incidents where Travelers Rest students were misusing the flag, but has since reached a different decision after current students requested that he judge them on their own merits and not on the actions of past students. He has decided to allow students to bring the American flag to any and all Travelers Rest High School events...more

Potential Zika-carrying mosquitoes found in Lea County

Make it eight and counting. The Aedes aegypti, a mosquito species that can transmit Zika virus, has been identified for the first time in Lea County, state health officials said Monday. With this latest find, this specific breed of mosquito has been trapped and identified this summer in Lea, Doña Ana, Eddy, Chaves and Sierra counties, and Aedes albopictus was found in Roosevelt County, according to a news release. In past years, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes have also been reported in Otero County, and Aedes albopictus in Curry County. “We are mapping out the areas at risk of Zika transmission in New Mexico,” said Department of Health Secretary Designate Lynn Gallagher in a statement. “With this latest discovery, we are alerting the residents Lea County to do as others in neighboring counties are already doing: eliminate standing water around homes where these mosquitoes can breed and multiply,” she said. “Help your community prevent the devastating consequences of birth defects from Zika virus infection in pregnant women.” So far, there have been no cases of Zika virus identified in Lea County. The state has had six travel-acquired cases of Zika virus this year, the health department said. In each case, the patient was infected while traveling abroad and diagnosed after they returned home...more

USDA clarifying rule allows ranchers to opt out of beef council checkoffs

The USDA is “clarifying” a little-known policy the agency insists has long been in place allowing ranchers to opt out of allocating half of their checkoff fee payments to qualifying state beef councils, according to a court document. In its Aug. 4 motion in Montana district court, USDA argued that in light of the opt-out policy, the judge should dismiss a case filed by Ranchers-Cattleman Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America challenging the constitutionality of current checkoff fee management. R-CALF alleges the government has forced member cattleman to fund state beef councils that often promote beef in general rather than U.S. beef or beef from their states, in violation of their First Amendment rights. R-CALF has asked that the full $1-per-head checkoff fee paid on cattle sales go to the national Cattleman’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which they agree operates in compliance with the law. R-CALF officials said their suit targets the Montana Beef Council as a test case. Officials of the Montana council declined to comment. USDA believes publicizing the opt-out provision eliminates R-CALF’s “compelled subsidy claim.” “To the extent plaintiff’s members are contributing to the Montana Beef Council against their wishes, they are doing so only because they have failed to avail themselves of this procedure,” the USDA motion reads. Short of a dismissal, USDA requested that the court at least stay the case until after the process of clarifying the policy is complete. Public comment on the proposed clarification rule will be accepted through Sept. 13, and USDA noted R-CALF members are free to participate...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1689

Our selection today is Leon Merritt - Wishin' I Was Kissin' You.  The tune is on the CD Coral Hillbilly Vol. One.  The Westerner

Monday, August 29, 2016

Rebel cowboys: how the Bundy family sparked a new battle for the American west

Ryan Bundy first began starving himself in the third grade. Raised by devout Mormons and lifelong cowboys on a remote desert ranch in Nevada, Ryan had a reputation as a stubborn child, but his hunger strike was unlike anything his family had seen before. It started one lunch period at Virgin Valley elementary school in Mesquite, a tiny rural public school with just a few dozen students in each class. Ryan sat outside alone until the lunch ladies came to the playground and tried to persuade him to eat. He refused. But Ryan’s protest wasn’t about food. It was a political statement. It was around the early 1980s and Jane Bundy had signed up her five children for subsidized school meals – the ranching family had lost money on a group of cattle and cash was tight. But her husband Cliven was livid. As a southern Nevada rancher who had developed a deep mistrust of the government and great disdain for public assistance programs, Cliven had taught his children never to ask for handouts.
Cliven and Jane fought about the lunches – one of many disagreements that eventually led to their divorce. Ryan sided with his dad, and his playground protest was ultimately a success. After three days, Jane returned to preparing homemade meals. “My dad fixed the problem and took us off the program,” Ryan, now 43, recalled. “It was instilled in me that we’re supposed to earn what we have and not to take from others.”  Ryan recounted this early act of civil disobedience during a recent interview in a windowless 8ft by 8ft room in a high-security county jail in Portland, Oregon. He wore a pink undershirt, white wristband and denim blue jail uniform. His latest protest had not gone as planned. Back in January 2016, Ryan and his 40-year-old brother Ammon had led an army of rightwing activists, some of them heavily armed “militiamen”, in an occupation of a federal wildlife center. The standoff, the family’s latest armed confrontation with the government, cemented the Bundy family’s reputation as heroes to ultra-conservatives in the west who have long been critical of federal land-use restrictions – an anti-government movement that has flourished during Barack Obama’s presidency. But today, Ryan and Ammon, along with their father and two other Bundy brothers, are isolated in jail cells awaiting federal trials that could condemn them to spend the rest of their lives in prison...more

What's missing when you hike the California backcountry? People of color


But as the days passed, I grew increasingly troubled by the people we didn’t meet. There were a few Asian hikers, including a couple of hapas like me (I’m half Japanese and half Polish) and one of my friends was half-Iranian, but not a single backpacker who was Latino or African American.

This near-total absence of people of color — which I’ve noticed on past trips as well — was particularly striking because it was such a contrast to my everyday life. I live and work in Los Angeles. The majority of people in my working life are Latino, African American or Asian, and the people in my personal life, including my Mexican American spouse, are reflective of the city’s population. And yet, a few hours’ drive from Los Angeles, there was hardly a person of color to be found. We were on public lands — including Kings Canyon National Park — but the people enjoying them weren’t representative of the public.

This month, as the National Park Service celebrates its centennial, it is publicizing efforts to increase the diversity of its visitors — who according to its own survey are nearly 80% white — as well as its staff. Mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club, which recently hired its first director of diversity, equity and inclusion, are trying to counter the impression that the outdoors is a privileged domain for white people. One take on this problem is the biting video short “Black Hiker,” in which Blair Underwood’s nature-loving character is tracked and photographed by whites who are stunned, delighted and a little confused to find a black man in their midst.

...Connecting people of color with nature matters because the very existence of the nation's public lands is threatened if they aren’t enjoyed by a broad cross-section of our population...

As the number of minorities increase in the general population, and as more minority Congressmen are elected, membership in enviro orgs will decline and funding for their favorite programs will be jeopardized.  That is what really has them concerned.                                       

Park Service seeks minorities' support as it marks 100 years

When Asha Jones and other Grand Canyon interns arrived for their summer at the national park, they were struck by its sheer immensity, beauty and world-class hiking trails. Soon, they noticed something else. "It is time for a change here, specifically, at Grand Canyon and in the National Park Service in general, to get people who look like me to your parks," said Jones, a 19-year-old black student at Atlanta's Spelman College. The National Park Service, which oversees more than 131,000 square miles of parks, monuments, battlefields and other landmarks thinks it's time for a change, too. As it celebrated its 100th birthday Thursday, the agency faced some key challenges. Among them is reaching out to minority communities in an increasingly diverse nation and getting them to visit and become invested in preserving the national parks. The NPS doesn't track the makeup of its visitors, but commissioned studies have shown about three-quarters are white. The agency's workforce is less diverse, at 83 percent white, a figure that can fluctuate with temporary employees. Minorities are expected to eclipse the country's white population before 2050...more

Visitor misbehavior abounds as U.S. parks agency turns 100

Tourist John Gleason crept through the grass, four small children close behind, inching toward a bull elk with antlers like small trees at the edge of a meadow in Yellowstone National Park. “They’re going to give me a heart attack,” said Gleason’s mother-in-law, Barbara Henry, as the group came within about a dozen yards of the massive animal. The elk’s ears then pricked up, and it eyed the children and Washington state man before leaping up a hillside. Other tourists — likewise ignoring rules to keep 25 yards from wildlife — picked up the pursuit, snapping pictures as they pressed forward and forced the animal into headlong retreat. Record visitor numbers at the nation’s first national park have transformed its annual summer rush into a sometimes dangerous frenzy, with selfie-taking tourists routinely breaking park rules and getting too close to Yellowstone’s storied elk herds, grizzly bears, wolves and bison. Law enforcement records obtained by The Associated Press suggest such problems are on the rise at the park, offering a stark illustration of the pressures facing some of America’s most treasured lands as the National Park Service marks its 100th anniversary. From Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains to the Grand Canyon of Arizona, major parks are grappling with illegal camping, vandalism, theft of resources, wildlife harassment and other visitor misbehavior, according to the records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. In July alone, law enforcement rangers handled more than 11,000 incidents at the 10 most visited national parks...more

The Zika Undercount and the Virus’s Growing Threat to Public Health

Deming Duck Race - Lucero, Sandoval in the winners' circle

Toys and an Xbox One video game counsel will be in the hands of Alexia Lucero and Logan Sandoval – winner of the 37th annual Great American Duck Race for 2016. Lucero, 5, took top honors on the dry track Sunday afternoon under threatening skies while Sandoval, 10, won the wet track final. The prize for outlasting Luna County’s fastest ducks, $1,455 each. After a weekend of racing and many heats of preliminaries, the finals ended on both sides of the duck downs with Lucero of Deming and Sandoval of Nogal, NM taking home blue ribbons. “It feels good to win,” said Sandoval, as he celebrated his victory with his mother Tonya. “Now I’m going to buy an Xbox One.” Lucero shyly said she was going to put her prize winnings toward new toys and candy as she was covered in ribbons of her winnings throughout the day. Out of the 140 ducks raised for the races, only two ducks reigned as champions, and out of the hundreds who came to test their duck luck, two children walk away with the grand prize money...more

1956 Little League winners from Roswell will gather again

The 1956 Lions-Hondo All-Star baseball team was not supposed to win the Little League World Series. But “supposed to” and “should’ve” never factored in for these rural kids from Southeastern New Mexico. Some came from farms, some from the city, but all of them came to play ball. “In those days it was either Boy Scouts, 4-H or Little League,” says Lions left fielder Harold Hobson. “I chose baseball.” Fast forward 60 years and the 1956 Lions-Hondo All-Stars are meeting once again. On Tuesday, they will come from all over the country to meet at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center, their first gathering in 33 years, to receive honors from the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico. “We just wanted to honor them and what they did. The board voted on who would be honored this year and they unanimously decided on the Lions-Hondo Little League team,” executive director, Amy McKay-Davis said. Roswell is not a bustling metropolis. “In those days we played on dirt fields and sat on wooden benches.” Hobson said. “Today, the Roswell Little League field is beautiful. The program has really grown. I guess we brought some attention to the program.” The journey began on a dirt field in Roswell on a hot Summer afternoon....more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1688

Its Swingin' Monday and we have I Can't See Texas From Here by Jason Allen.  The tune is on his Something I Dreamed CD.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

EPA spills again in Colorado

The Environmental Protection is admitting to a spill from a treatment plant it set up after it dumped 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into a Colorado river last year. The EPA said Thursday night that the spill happened on Tuesday, and officials are still attempting to determine how much and what metals were contained in the sludgy discharge, according to the Associated Press. The spill occurred near the site of last year's spill at the abandoned Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colo., where agency contractors didn't adequately check the mine's pressure before attempting to open it up after several years of being idle. The result was a massive mine blowout that sent 3 million gallons of metal-tainted water into the waterways of three states. This week's spill came from the treatment plant that the EPA set up near the mine to filter water coming from the mine before releasing it into the creek and river systems. A large amount of rain in Colorado caused the treatment facility to overflow and some of the untreated water to spill into the waterways. EPA said the water that spilled from he plant was partially treated, and the metals present in it should quickly settle to the bottom of waterways where they are less harmful...more

EPA Withheld Key Info On Post-Spill Funding To Gold King Mine Culprit

by Ethan Barton

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials improperly withheld information from The Daily Caller News Foundation confirming its reporting that the contractor responsible for the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill was awarded nearly $2.7 million not long after the disaster.

The EPA internally acknowledged the award and crafted a response to TheDCNF’s finding, according to emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, but the response was never sent to the news organization.

“It just slipped through the cracks,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison told TheDCNF 32 minutes after deadline. “It was a mistake on our behalf.”

The EPA response uncovered by TheDCNF defended the funding by claiming that the contractor was used for disaster assessments, rather than cleanup.

 “EPA’s decision to reward the firm involved in the Gold King Mine disaster shows they’re more concerned about protecting themselves and their friends than the environment,” Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of transparency group Open The Books, told TheDCNF Thursday.

The contractor – Environmental Restoration LLC – excavated Gold King Mine at the direction of EPA officials, which caused a three-million-gallon flood of toxic waste to poison drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation.

TheDCNF asked the EPA to explain the awards and gave the agency the opportunity to defend the funding. Agency officials responded internally almost immediately, but never provided comment for TheDCNF’s story, which was published nearly 39 hours later.

“The EPA itself is a Superfund site – sadly, it’s a cesspool of corruption, cronyism and incompetence,” Andrzejewski said. “In the real world, poor performance is punished but with the federal government it is too often tolerated and applauded. The EPA is one of the worst offenders.”

Central Texas man stung to death by bees

WACO, Texas — A 68-year-old Central Texas man is dead after he was attacked by a swarm of bees while riding a lawn mower on his rural property. Authorities say Donald Williams was mowing grass late Friday morning when he was attacked at his rural property about 8 miles northwest of Waco. McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara says when the man’s wife looked outside when the lawn mower motor stopped, she saw her husband lying on the ground covered in bees. The woman rushed to her husband and was stung multiple times herself. Both were taken to Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center in Waco, where Williams died. McNamara said Williams’ wife is expected to recover. The sheriff said the bees apparently came from hives Williams maintained on his property.  AP

Nobody knows if lab meat is safe

by Jamie Condliffe, MIT Technology Review

In a few years’ time, it should be possible to find a juicy hamburger and creamy shake made from lab-grown beef and milk.

But before we can consume them, someone’s going to have to tell us they’re okay to put into our mouths.

Startups and university researchers are swiftly rattling toward the realization of lab-made food, growing meat and dairy products without a single animal in sight.

A team from Maastricht University already showed off a burger cultured from a cow’s muscle cells in 2013. (In tests, it was claimed to be almost like the real thing, if “surprisingly crunchy.”)

Now, startups like Memphis Meats, SuperMeat, and Mosa Meat are racing to create fake flesh grown from cells by as soon as 2021. Some companies, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are using soy protein and other vegetable substitutes to similar ends. And Perfect Dayhopes to have cow-free milk, brewed using yeast, on the breakfast table by the end of next year.

But, as Science points out, the techniques used to create these products may fall between regulatory cracks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture looks after the real meat, dairy, and eggs we currently consume. The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, monitors food additives and products made from human cells. But currently there’s no oversight for vetting the technology used to create most lab-grown food—though the White House and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are now working on it.

US government buys 11 million pounds of cheese to tackle dairy mountain

Washington has stepped in to tackle America’s cheese mountain with the Federal government buying 11 million pounds of the surplus. It has cost the American taxpayer $20 million (£15 million), the US Department of Agriculture said. The cheese will be distributed to food banks across the country. There are several reasons for the cheese mountain in the US. Farmers had boosted production when they were getting record prices. But thanks to the strength of the dollar, demand has slumped, creating a huge cheese surplus which has reached a 30-year high...more

Why the USDA Shouldn't Be Buying Up Surplus Cheese


On Monday, Politico reported that farm "lobbyists have been laboring for months" to try to secure tens of millions of dollars in federal aid for their members, who are struggling thanks to a combination of overproduction and low commodity prices.
We're "pushing both Congress and the USDA to assist producers," said Zack Clark, a lobbyist for the National Farmers Union, to Politico.

In addition to the NFU, those who've been shaking cups in the nation's capital include lobbyists from the American Farm Bureau and the National Milk Producers Federation. The aid they've sought centers on increasing the amount of wheat present in shipments of foreign food aid, expanding loans to farmers, and getting more cash in the hands of dairy producers.

By Tuesday, aid for dairy farmers was already a done deal. All that vigorous cup-shaking had turned into $20 million in USDA purchases of surplus cheese. That's on top of the $11 million in additional support for dairy producers the USDA announced earlier this month.

"That's mad cheese," writes the Arizona Republic's Louie Villalobos.

Mad cheese. And madness.

This news is as awful as it is timely. In fact, it's practically ripped out of the pages of my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, which is being published on September 15. (Pre-order here!)

In Chapter 2, "'Big Food' Bigger Thanks to 'Big Government,'" I recount the many ways the government generally—and, often, the USDA specifically—wrongly aids and abets large-scale food producers. Examples include USDA farm subsidies, marketing orders, and checkoff programs. But the USDA's habitual purchase of excessive animal agriculture products is one key misuse of agency funds that's often underreported.

Yet for foods like milk that are subject to a tangled web of USDA rules that seek to promote and manage supply and demand, begging for a handout from the USDA in times of low prices or excess supply (or, as now, both) has become the norm. And that begging is often rewarded.

Still, it would be unfair to single out the dairy industry.

"In 2011, for example, the USDA purchased $40 million of excess poultry in an effort to aid large poultry producers," I write in Biting the Hands that Feed Us. "Two years earlier, the agency bought up a similar amount of pork 'to boost America's hog farmers.' [...] In fact, the USDA regularly spends millions of dollars each year to prop up animal agriculture producers. In 2009, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a pro-vegan group, the USDA spent more than $1.7 billion to buy surplus dairy, beef, eggs, pork, and poultry. Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm animal welfare with the Humane Society of the United States, told me those industries often try to keep government at arm's length, but when they 'suffer from lack of demand, their clamor for government aid is stark.'"

Shapiro's words are echoed by Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy with the Heritage Foundation.

"Unlike for other businesses, existing policy seeks to protect farmers from market forces, such as lower prices," said Bakst, in an email to me this week. "When the failed and overgenerous policies aren't generous enough, agriculture lobbies come looking for more taxpayer dollars."...

Baylen J. Linnekin is a food lawyer and an adjunct professor at George Mason University Law School, where he teaches Food Law & Policy. Visit his website here.

Worker at Yellowstone National Park falls to death

A worker at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is dead after falling off a cliff, park rangers said. Estefania Liset Mosquera Alcivar, 21, of Quito, Ecuador, was killed early Friday morning, according to the National Park Service. She was a park concession employee. The woman was socializing with a group of co-workers at the park’s Grandview Point trail when she fell over the cliff edge into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, the NPS said. Rangers say her body was recovered at first light and that the fall was not survivable. The incident is under investigation. Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon is 800 to 1,200 feet deep, the park’s website says, and visitors are urged to be cautious on the area’s rim trails. CNN

Trump says he will end 'war on American farmer'

Donald Trump is telling Iowans that one of his campaign goals is to "make America grow again." Speaking at a rally Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa, Trump touted his plans to boost economic growth and help American farmers, including his proposal to lower the tax rate on family farms to 15 percent. Trump tells the crowd, which includes many farmers, that "we are going to end this war on the American farmer." Trump adds that he aims to protect the renewable fuel standard, eliminate "job-killing regulations" and "provide desperately needed tax relief." He claims that his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton "wants to shut down family farms just like she wants to shut down the mines and the steelworkers."  AP

Farmer creates his own Trump sign - video

BURGETTSTOWN, PA (WTOV) — A Pennsylvania farmer has created what may be the world’s largest Donald Trump campaign sign. Recently, Eddy Cashdollar had a problem, so he put one more thing on his “to do list.” “I asked everybody for a Trump sign to put on my car and put on my yard but nobody has them so I said I’ll make one,” Eddy said. And he did, mowing letter by letter, for about two hours, until he had the biggest Trump sign around. “I just made the first one and made the other ones match it,” Eddy said. The letters are about 20 feet tall. The entire thing is well over 100 feet wide. Eddy’s daughter says her father’s alignment surprised the family, since he’s always been a staunch Democrat. A spokesperson for the Trump campaign says it’s “the literal definition of grassroots enthusiasm.” Eddy isn’t the only farmer using his fields to convey political messages. Earlier this year, a farmer in Lawrence Township, Ohio, wrote “No Trump” in manure in a pasture and became a social media star.

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Code of the West gone south

by Julie Carter

The West has long been a frontier to those seeking a romanticized version of it or simply the quiet solitude away from the noise of an industrial civilization. Ours is a nation of immigrants -- people who have never been content to stay in one place but always wanting to see what is “over there.”

The frontier has been the line separating civilization from wilderness. For hundreds of years in America it has been a fluid line, moving westward as men sought open spaces and new horizons. In the 19th century, people who were willing to take a chance on the unknown moved to a vast, unsettled land beckoned to the daring and called to hardy, courageous folks of pioneer stock.

The call of the wild is the same in the 21st century but comes with issues that catch these new pioneers by surprise. The new 20-acre piece of paradise requires owners to realize they aren’t in the suburbs any more.

Poor roads, wildlife damage, water shortages, high utility costs and the threat of wildfires are just a few major items on the list for these new pioneers.

Many city dwellers move into the country and expect to get the same local government services they received in town. They want the solitude of living in the country but they also want 911 to respond in three minutes to a residence 25 minutes from the nearest emergency station.

It is such a common issue in rural communities across the West that many have compiled information into publications to be distributed to prospective property owners. Some of these booklets are titled “Code of the West” in reference to the Code of the West novel by Zane Grey. The original unwritten code - based on integrity, self-reliance and accountability – guided the men and women who moved into the region during the westward expansion.

Most of the today’s “code books” cover water rights, split estates and open range. Many explain why dogs can’t run wild and why rural residents often have to haul their own garbage. They warn that roads might not get plowed, cell phone service could be iffy, and emergency response time longer. They also address accepting “ag-related annoyances” that existed long before they moved in.

One example is the 52-page booklet from Sweet Grass County, Montana offering information on everything from fire prevention to noxious weeds to billboards. It gives suggestions for preserving viewsheds and designing homes compatible with the rural landscape.

County commissions and a long list of agencies continue to address complaints and demands from these new pioneers who, one issue at a time, try to turn the West into the East under the guise of their rights as taxpayers.

Those that were in the West before the new pioneers arrived fight to keep the simple basics lives they led before the onslaught of subdivisions and the pandemic growth of golf courses.

It is America and subject to ongoing change, even in the West. And those ag-related annoyances?  They are someone’s livelihood that undoubtedly have become disturbed by the un-ag-related annoyances that just moved a double wide home into the pasture next door.

A Code of the West booklet might be the answer for those willing to accept the changes. But for most, I suggest making the covers something tasty and edible. At least they’ll find some use for it.
Julie can be reached for comment at

Gus Raney and the Smell of Death

Smell of death
Gus Raney
La Ultima
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
            Gus Raney was long part of our family verbal history.
He would arrive during those nighttime sessions when the thunder would rattle the windows, rattlesnakes would be a certain feature, memories were retold of crazy women in abandoned cabins sitting up in the rafters watching cowboys light fires to dry out and get warm, and lightning stories were in the offing. It was when television wasn’t even part of our culture. We kids would sit on the edge of our seats in great anticipation listening to the elders. The suspense was infectious and intense. We could have set off in full stampede with a simple “boo”.
            Gus stories were always spooky. He was the villain of villains. Most of us never laid eyes on him, but we were scared to death of him. He was gone from our area before those “kids” were born, but stories of his life would suggest such fears were warranted.
            Gus Raney
 The more finite details of Gus’ life will be left to writer Richard Melzer who is doing a series on the crusty legend. Only the verbal history that I know will be dealt with this morning, but perhaps it adds an interesting corollary to Melzer’s two part series.
            About 2000, I met a descendent of Gus who worked at the Physical Laboratory at NMSU. In our discussion, he suggested Gus actually came to Grant County with a contract by a mining operation to rid the country of claim jumpers. Whether true or not Gus’ demeanor was suggestive that he would have been good at such a mission.
            A common theme in all stories was that he had either succeeded in killing somebody or he was discussing the threat of same.
            The Raney family settled at Cliff, New Mexico and lived at or just above the potholes in Davis Canyon. Prevailing accounts had the family living in a tent and or a cave. The children of Gus and Sugarfoot Raney were known to the Cliff community as Ethel, Hale, Sleet, and Snow (contemporary children of Cliff knew Orville as Snow).
The story starts in a dispute over a horse. In the days of the Depression, there were still a number of wild horses that ran in the Davis Canyon country. From those mustangs, many local families acquired saddle horses. It was there the McMillans moved their ranch horses in the spring of either 1932 or 1933 to avoid a loco weed outbreak up the Mangus to the east.
            Immediately, they started having trouble with a stud horse that was running in the canyon and playing havoc with the remuda. He was known to be owned by Gus. Having dealt with that particular horse too many times without a response from the Raneys, Tom McCauley and my grandfather, Albert Wilmeth, roped the horse and castrated him.
            Gus was then in prison serving a sentence for murdering another man, but the news of the castration was relayed to him by Sugarfoot. Never one to worry about good behavior, he announced from his cell he was going to kill Tom and Albert upon his release from prison for the castration of his horse.
            Giving credence to the possibility he was employed on the sly by an influential mining operation, Gus was paroled in 1934 after serving only 22 months and 22 days for the killing. As it happened, the McMillans and the McCauleys were both shipping cattle at Silver City the day Gus rode the train back into town. Tom and Grampa were both there when Gus stepped off. Tom was driving a new Chevy and pulled over and asked Gus if he needed a ride home.
            One account of the incident suggested one of them mentioned that if there was going to be another killing they might as well get on with it.
            The other account suggested not a single word was mentioned of the castration (or the unfortunate and untimely death of horse in the aftermath) or the death threat from the jail cell. In this latter version, Gus was a subdued gentleman all the way home.
The trip to Cliff wasn’t without incident, though, by the account of Tom’s son, Freddie. Freddie was seated between his father and Gus and had been thinking about the death threat from the time he saw Gus at the rail station. He just knew when they started across the old steel bridge at Riverside Gus was going to grab him and throw him into the river!
He was crowding his father to the point Tom asked him, “What in the Sam Hill is wrong with you?”
            At five years old, all death threats were terrifying.
            Freddie also remembered Gus’ eyes and he spoke about them repeatedly through his life. As an old man, he told me he woke up many times in his childhood in the midst of a nightmare seeing Gus and those eyes were glaring at him. He thought it started from the time he and his dad had ridden up on Gus at the head of a canyon and he had confronted them with a gun. What had Gus on the prod was the statement Tom had made about the theft of a big roll of rope. Gus claimed that Tom had cussed him without cause and he was going to even the score. His eyes were glaring at them like a wild man, a savage, or an animal on a desperate hunt. They matched the muzzle of the gun pointing in their direction.
            The apparent score in the maniacal view of Gus Raney was to kill Tom McCauley for calling him a son-of-a-bitch. Tom suggested to Gus that is not what he had said, and, in fact, he had clearly restated what he did say.
“I said whoever stole that rope from me is a son-of-a-bitch,” Tom said coolly. “Furthermore, I don’t think this better go any further because there will be hell to pay.”
            What caught Gus’ attention was the six inch Stillson wrench that Tom always carried in his leggins’ pocket. When the confrontation reached crescendo pitch, Tom had poked the end of the wrench against his chap pocket making it appear that he had a loaded pistol in the pocket.
            “Now, Tom, you and I have no issue here at all,” Freddie remembers Gus saying in a tone change with all anger and threats gone.
            “I didn’t think so, Gus,” Tom concluded.
            As they turned and rode away, Tom told Freddie not to look back and to act like nothing happened. Freddie suggested they should “fly” and get out of there, but Tom reminded him that is exactly what they were not going to do.
            There was little doubt, though, who the culprit was in the rope theft.
            La Ultima
            The death of Hale and Snow was a deflowering ebb in the life of Gus Raney. People who knew those boys talked in awe of their toughness. Like too many families in the Depression, the needs and wants of children were not the highest priority. The Raney children were normally barefooted, but that didn’t stop them from astounding feats of physical endurance. The wild horses of the Davis country represented opportunities of income and they became mustangers. Their method of capture was to relay those horses on foot until they could trap them. They were known to do it in bare feet in the rough malpais of the Davis watershed. They were tough and they weren’t easily prone to take stupid chances much less put themselves into a situation that was life threatening.
            Their deaths, therefore, sparked questions. The prevailing story in the Cliff community was that one of them had drowned swimming in a tank and the other had drowned trying to save him. Those that knew Gus came to believe Gus had killed one of them and had to kill the other to keep him quiet. He had thrown them both in the tank to make it appear they had drowned.
            The bizarre only got more bizarre when Gus decided he needed to have a picture taken with the boys. He dressed up and stood between his dead sons propping them up for the photographer to take the picture.
            Gus spent the rest of his life near Grants, New Mexico spreading his own fame by continuing to polish his bad guy persona. He killed several more men before he died at an unknown age made more confusing by the various dates he claimed he was born.
            In the end, the only thing that was certain about Gus Raney was … the smell of death.

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Two copies of the pictures of Gus and his two dead sons were rumored to exist in Cliff. One was supposed to be in the McCauley collection and the other from the collection of Lorena Terman Moss Lewis, my great grandmother. I saw neither.”

 Part 1 of Melzer's 2-part series can be viewed here.  Part 2 will be published on Sept. 8.