It happened just like clockwork, the timing was excellent. There had been no local “Ranchers” to speak of at the Twin Peaks roundup the day before, but today was different; there was a reporter from the New York Times on hand with a photographer documenting the carefully orchestrated “gather” and for the grand finale, wild horse advocates were on the menu.
While the reporter and photographer were down in the trap area the handful of citizen observers were far back up a hill standing quietly with cameras in hand, watching, waiting and whispering. The observers had no way of knowing that just over the crest of the hill behind them a storm was brewing and heading their way with a vengeance.
One observer had walked over the hill to where the parking area was located to grab another bottle of water. While at her car she noted that a group of men, all decked out with their straw hats, blue jeans and western shirts had assembled at the BLM Ranger’s truck. Not thinking much of it she noted that the BLM security agent was on the radio and as if under direction, signaled the awaiting cowboys and down the hill to the observation area they progressed while the security agent ducked off into the trees above the unsuspecting observers.
The signal to move came just as the NYT reporter and photographer were preparing to leave the trap area and head back to the awaiting wild horse observers, but the “Ranchers” got to the handful of unsuspecting citizens first. I know, I watched them arrive; first one, then two, then they were three, four and while they descended upon the advocates the BLM security agent hid behind a tree about 25 yards up the hill.
The wild horse advocates had not been approached the day before nor during that particular day. They were stationed well away from the BLM PR people but the “Ranchers” sought them out and began to poke at them with leading and pointed comments in an attempt to incite them just as the NYT reporter was returning.
“Those horses are feral, ya know.” One would say.
“Yeah, our cattle have purpose while your horses have no purpose.” Chimed in another.
“You people don’t have a clue about what is goin on out there.” Another “Rancher” added.
No one asked them a question, not one of the observers waved the guys over but just like a well rehearsed situation comedy the cast of hand selected “Ranchers” and BLM/Cattoor sympathizers magically appeared in an effort to provoke controversy and strife, just as the Big City Reporter returned, so that the message carried by the advocates would be skewed, blurred and ineffective. All of this under the watchful eye of the BLM security agent staged behind a nearby tree.
This blatant attempt to incite and disrupt the observers for the sake of the NYT reporter did not escape myself or the bulk of the advocates. We did not engage, shifted position, documented the attempt at disruption and gave as much information to the reporter as possible as the “Ranchers” arguments dwindled away into the dust like the very rationale for the stampede itself.
Later it was learned that the “Ranchers” were known by name to the local BLM PR authorities and it was disclosed that one of them was actually a retired BLM employee.
I love good theater but this staged performance of verbal aggression and disruption only further demonstrates what lengths an agency gone rogue will do in an attempt to skew the truth that is broadcast to the American public.
There was no applause after this disappointing performance.
Photos by Terry Fitch