Bundys are unwanted guests who won't go home


You've agreed to host a party and have had a good time, but now the hour is getting late. The house has gone from a crowded cacophony of conversation and music to a roomful of stragglers whispering in hushed tones.

Most will grab their coats and make their farewells when they see the host collecting glasses and cutting the tunes. Others will insist on finishing their fascinating story, but in a few minutes they also will get the hint and slip away into the night.

By the time they've drained the dregs of the last bottle of cabernet and emptied the final bowl of cocktail nuts, there's nothing left to drink or eat and even less to say.

And yet, even after all the rest have gone home, there they are. In your house. Way past closing time: The Things That Wouldn't Leave.

Dim the lights. Put on your pajamas. Run the vacuum. Sic the dogs on them. They refuse to budge. To them, a party isn't a social setting. It's the Boston Marathon, and they're nowhere near Heartbreak Hill.

Perhaps you've seen these people. Maybe you've even been these people. (Frankly, I may be a carrier of this personality trait. Or, perhaps I really am just as damn fascinating as I think I am.)

Almost everyone has his Things That Wouldn't Leave story. Now the state of Oregon has one, too.

I speak of none other than brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Bunkerville rancher and self-styled constitutional scholar Cliven Bundy. The Bundy boys and a handful of their friends have kept busy in the new year by occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Ore., throughout a frosty January.

Officially they're on site in support of ranching father and son Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were convicted of setting a fire that spread onto the federally protected area. They are busy serving time in federal prison.

The Bundys and their allies have kept busy insisting to a flock of reporters that they represent more than their own self-interest as they defend the Constitution and protect public lands.

Their trouble is two-tiered. The family didn't ask for their presence. And the townsfolk and county sheriff have wanted them to take a hike for weeks.

But they just can't seem to take the hint, grab their coats and leave the party.

The reporters ran out of news two weeks ago. They exhausted the feature possibilities a week ago. Now they're stuck writing about the Bundy crowd's snack choices.

Since the Bundys are country folks, here's an anecdote they might appreciate that's torn straight from the Smith family chronicles.

Great-grandpa Smith was a man of few words, but when he spoke he did so with simple clarity. He enjoyed having friends and relatives over to the house for dinner, but when dessert was finished and a few songs had been sung, it was time to hit the hay.

He had no patience for the Things That Wouldn't Leave.

At an appointed time during the evening, he'd clear his throat and say, "I'm home, and I wish to hell you all were, too."

Then he'd unbuckle his khakis and march off to bed. A few minutes later, the late-stayers would be treated to the infamous Smith snore. Great-grandpa was subtle that way.

The Bundys seem to be tone deaf.

And even as the journalists pack up and drive away — a sure signal the party is over — the Bundys still can't accept that it's time to go home. They have one more important meeting to attend, one more press conference to give, a little more cogitating to do and additional considered opinions to express. In short, they've become the Things That Wouldn't Leave.

They continue to search for the greater meaning of their takeover of an isolated wildlife refuge in existence since 1908. The Malheur is known as a haven for migrating geese.

The difference between the Bundys and the birds is, at least the geese know when to get the flock out of there.

— Nevada native John L. Smith also writes a column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal that appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Contact him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.