With Cliven Bundy and four of his sons behind bars, much of the day-to-day work at the family ranch about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas is now in the hands of an 18-year-old who just finished high school.
Since February, Bundy’s youngest son, Arden, has been keeping track of the cattle on the range and taking care of the farming at the family’s homestead along the Virgin River.
“I just wake up every morning and make sure all the animals are fed and taken care of here at the ranch, and then I head up to the mountain and do the same thing up there: make sure everything has water, everything’s eating, everything’s healthy,” Arden Bundy said. “It’s really changed my everyday thing.”
Cliven’s wife, Carol, said she also finds herself with new roles play at the ranch since her husband went to jail.
“We’re learning through experience,” she said Friday in a phone interview. “I think we’re doing a pretty dang good job of it.”
State brand inspection records show the ranch has sold 117 head of livestock since Bundy’s arrest by the FBI. That’s more than the ranch sold all of last year.
Carol Bundy said the animals didn’t fetch as much as they would have even six months ago because of a recent drop in prices, but “that’s ranching for you.”
Three federal court orders and two aborted roundups by the Bureau of Land Management have failed to get the family’s cattle off of public land, where observers say the animals are largely left to fend for themselves in a harsh desert environment with little water or forage.
Carol Bundy rejects such criticism of their operation and the health of their animals. She said the family is still doing things the way they have for decades.
“I make a living off cattle,” she said. “I wouldn’t abuse them or do something wrong because I depend on them for my living.”
Arden Bundy said he misses having his father and brothers around to show him the ropes.
“It’s harder, because they’ve been here their whole life, and they’re old men so they knew all the tricks and whistles. I’m kind of having to figure those out on my own,” he said.
“My dad calls every once in a while, but usually most of the time is spent talking to my mother about lawyers,” the 18-year-old said. “If I need to talk to him, my mom will let me talk to him. … He’s not one to show his depression. He’s not one to show that he’s sad, but he lets us know that he loves us and that he misses us.”
Carol Bundy said life without the family patriarch has been an adjustment, but she has confidence in Arden.
“He was born and raised here,” she said. “It’s in his blood.”
Contact Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.