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The Place Where The Bundys' Movement All Began


It's time to go back to where this all started, to return to the scene of the crimes — or not-crimes, as it turned out. We're on our way to Bundy Ranch.

Cliven Bundy’s family home sits on a patch of green land near the Virgin River, just outside Mesquite, Nevada.

It stands out from the dry and dusty landscape that sprawls in every direction.

But when you get closer, it is obvious the Bundys are like many families in this country, struggling to make ends meet.

The home is older and broken down equipment litters the property. With all of the media and the militiamen gone, the Bundys’ lives look quite humble on the surface.

But it’s important to remember that these 160 acres are where so much chaos has started.

Ryan Bundy, left, and Cliven Bundy hold up a sign in their living room. Ryan Bundy is running for governor as a next step in the family's fight to remove the federal government from Nevada.

Ryan Bundy, left, and Cliven Bundy hold up a sign in their living room. Ryan Bundy is running for governor as a next step in the family’s fight to remove the federal government from Nevada.

Ryan Haas/OPB

When Cliven Bundy and his son Ryan invited Longreads and OPB into their home, they talked at length about why they distrusted the government.

Cliven Bundy told stories about how nuclear fallout from the Nevada test site spilled into the area and hurt people who lived there.

Ryan Bundy said he remembered watching the federal siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, as a young man, and how that made him fearful that federal agents don’t mind killing American citizens.

Ryan said before the 2014 standoff at the ranch, a federal agent even threatened to kill him.

“He said that this will be the next Waco or Ruby Ridge. He told me that. I wanted a copy of the recording. Well, guess what, that recording found its way to court,” Ryan Bundy said, adding that the recording played in court didn’t include the threat he described. “Which again, he lied. They always lie. The government always lies, OK. They always lie. You can count on it.”

These are stories the Bundys have clearly told one another in this same living room many times. They are stories of paranoia, deeply rooted suspicion and violence.

But it’s not just the men of the Bundy family hearing these stories. As the men talked, one of Cliven’s 66 grandchildren came in and out of the room, at times sitting on his grandfather’s lap.

And people around the country looking for a fight with the government are hearing these stories, too, and finding purpose in the Bundys’ words.


About “Bundyville”

“Bundyville” is a joint podcast by OPB and Longreads, hosted and reported by award-winning freelance journalist Leah Sottile. It is produced by Peter Frick-Wright and Robert Carver of 30 Minutes West Productions, and OPB’s Ryan Haas.

Subscribe to “Bundyville” on NPR One, Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your podcasts.


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