SHOWDOWN IN CATTLE COUNTRY

THE KLUMPS HAVE RUN COWS ON PUBLIC LAND FOR DECADES. NOW THEY'RE TELLING THE GOVERNMENT THEY OWN IT.

Wally Klump included a check for $3,396 to cover his yearly grazing permit, but also added the words "Paid Under Protest and Duress" under his signature.

The feds reacted quickly to this latest Klump jab. BLM area manager Vernon Saline returned the check with a terse letter that concluded:

"You have returned an unacceptable grazing application. . . . Any livestock found on the Badger Den Allotment are in trespass and will be subject to impoundment proceedings."
The BLM's Larry Humphrey won't say when his agency will raid Badger Den, but the feds are coming and Wally Klump knows it.

"I just don't know what to do," he says. "I'm trying to be the best American I can be and they're putting me against the wall."
Put aside for a moment his obsession with all things government, and it's evident how Wally Klump was elected to the Bowie school board for years, and why he is a leader at his Southern Baptist church. Courteous--except to most government types--and direct, he sometimes displays a sense of humor as dry as the cattle-grazing terrain over which he has lorded.

"I think I'm fair-minded and objective," Klump says, smiling, "but you'll never meet anyone who says they're not fair-minded and objective, including cowboys and government men."
Like his brothers, Wally Klump is a cowboy, far better at working cattle country than at debating constitutional issues. And this cowboy is running a little scared; some say more than a little paranoid.

Klump won't carry a rifle--standard cowboy gear--in his pickup truck, because he says he fears assassination at the hands of government agents. "I don't want them to be able to say I pointed my weapon at them first," he says evenly.

At about noon, Wally Klump cracks open a can and lifts some tuna fish onto two pieces of whole-wheat bread. He washes the simple sandwich down with fruit juice from a jug. Then he starts to speak about his origins.

"I got my thinking from my father," Klump says.

john sherman klump moved to Cochise County at the age of 17 in 1907--five years before Arizona became a state. Legend has it his mother led the family by covered wagon from Reserve, New Mexico, to escape the bloody Sheep Wars, and to afford her children a chance at an education.

The Klumps homesteaded on a 160-acre site between Willcox and Bowie and tried to make a go of it.

Homesteaders in those days settled on their parcels and grazed their cows on adjacent federal public-trust lands with little government interference. Budding ranchers would usually also claim water rights on the grazing rangeland. Life wasn't easy. John Klump's first marriage produced three children, though two of them died at an early age. In his young-adult years, he was a hard-living cowboy who drank much of his money away at Willcox saloons. His first marriage ended in divorce.

John Klump then was fortunate enough to meet Delia Ellen Knape, a pretty goatherder from Apache Pass. The couple married and had six boys and a girl: Dan, Doris, Richard, Wally, Sherman, Keith and Wayne.

The clan stayed poor for a long time. Even as late as 1939, family members say, John Klump controlled just one 640-acre section--akin to a patch of grass in arid country where one cow can't earn a living on less than 100 acres.

But then something happened that changed the course of history in southeast Arizona's rangelands.

"Dad woke up and realized time was a-wastin'," Wally Klump says.
The Klumps moved over to Bowie and started to buy small ranches with whatever money they could scrape together. Then, as now, Bowie was a dot on the Arizona map dominated by folks trying to eke out a living in the ranching and farming industries. But land was cheap and the Klumps in the 1940s and after parlayed every spare cent into buying more and more property.

"Every day, one of us kids would stay home from school and help out," Wally Klump recalls. "We would build fences, work cattle, whatever had to be done. Dad would get drunk about once a month, but he was all business the rest of the time."
Being increasingly land-rich didn't put much money in John Klump's pockets. Wally Klump says without pretense that he and his siblings were the poorest students at the Bowie School. The Klump kids had to make do with two pairs of pants, two shirts and one pair of shoes in a year. The elder Klumps never did have electricity or indoor plumbing.

"We'd go barefoot in the summer," Wally Klump recalls. "We ate beans and we had a milk cow. Ate jerky all summer long. We had the smallest ranch in the area, but we watched where all our money went."
Like two of his five brothers, Wally Klump served in the U.S. Army during the early 1950s. (Brother Richard is a Korean War veteran.) He says his prudent ways stood him in good stead during his two-year stint.

"I just wasn't used to spending any money," he says, "and the other guys were. At the end of the month, I would lend them $10 or $15 so they could go have a weekend somewhere. I made quite a sum doing that."
After his honorable discharge, Wally returned to the Bowie area. He later married Charlene Sourwine, a second-grade schoolteacher who, he says, "loved horses and always wanted to marry a cowboy."

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