This is Debbie.

The reporter glanced at his notes as he trudged back to his car. “We’re prepared to stay here for years,” the men occupying the bird refuge had said. “We’re calling on all patriots to come join us and help us take our country back. We’re just the tip of the spear.”

“Nice line, Ammon,” Junior said, back at headquarters. Ammon Bundy nodded, acknowledging the compliment. “Where’s the rest of the spear?”

“They’re coming,” Ammon said. “Stay ready. Everyone have a copy of the Constitution? That is the source of our strength.”

“No lie. That dude who shot off his butt cheek in Walmart when he mistook his gun for his wallet would’ve been fine if he’d had the Constitution in his pocket,” the man said. “Or maybe that’s the Bible.”

“HERE THEY COME!” The voice came from the watch tower.

photo by Julie Zickefoose

“They who? Is it the spear, or is it the feds?”

“I can’t tell.”

“They armed?”

“Looks like it,” the voice came down. “Sumpin’ odd about it, though.”

Every man stood at a window with one hand on the Constitution and one hand on a weapon.

“My God, there’s hundreds of ’em. Thousands! It’s a damn army! They’re coming in from three directions! On foot!”

“Get out there, Junior. Find out if they’re ours.”

The vanguard of the approaching horde had nearly reached the entrance gate. Junior geared up and went out, but came back shortly.

“They ain’t ours, Ammon.”

“Well, get rid of ’em. Take B. J., Dwayne-O and Other Junior and get rid of ’em.”

“I don’t know how,” he said, squinting and scratching the back of his neck.

“What do you mean, you don’t know how? Get your weapons and…”

“That’s just it, sir. I don’t know what to do. They ain’t armed. They’ve got…binoculars.”

photo by Julie Zickefoose

The hell?”

Even Ammon jumped at the sharp knock at the door, but he opened it and stepped outside, his men arrayed behind him. A woman with a dazzling smile stood before him. A crowd stretched behind her as far as the eye could see. Slung at her side was–what? A missile launcher?

“What the hell is that?” Ammon leveled his pistol at the item in question. The woman abruptly swatted it away.

That is a Nikon Sigma 150-600mm sports lens with optical stabilizer,” she said. “Mitts off, Bucko.”

Ammon stepped back.

“Sorry, bad start. I’m Debbie,” she said, and stuck out her hand, smile blooming anew. Ammon could think of nothing to do but holster his weapon and shake her hand.

“So,” she went on, “we hear y’all are planning to camp out here a while. My friends and I are looking for some assurance you’re going to be good neighbors and not make too much noise. You’re sitting on some of the most important habitat on the Pacific Flyway.”


photo by Julie Zickefoose

The sky above them darkened momentarily and several thousand birders tugged on their Tilley hats as a rain of Tundra Swan shit filled the air. Junior hopped and howled, clutching a butt cheek.

“Jeez Louise,” Debbie said. “There are trumpeters up there, too. Apologize. Apologize, or we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Leave!” Ammon stiffened up, aroused. “We ain’t leaving. We’re just the tip of the spear.”

“So.” Debbie looked over the men standing behind Ammon. “You’re saying you’re all prick and no shaft?”

Ammon charged on. “We’re here to reclaim what’s rightfully ours. The land the government took from we the people.”

“Sweetie, please. ‘Us’ the people. It’s the subject of a prepositional phrase. And besides, this already is our land. We’re a republic. Check the Constitution. The government is the people.”

Several thousand birders stood and swayed with their binoculars over their hearts, humming This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land. Ammon was strangely unnerved.

“I mean it,” he said bleakly. “Patriots are on the way here from all over the country. I can’t guarantee your safety.”

“Pssh,” Debbie said. “Patriots. You see these people? This isn’t the Portland crowd out for the bobolinks. This is just the beginning. Within three days you’re going to be completely surrounded by birders. There was a report of a Rufous-Necked Wood-Rail last week.”

“A Rufous-Necked Wood-Rail? Did you say a Rufous-Necked Wood-Rail?”

“I know, unbelievable, right? But after they confirmed that one down in New Mexico, nobody’s willing to rule it out.”

Do something, Ammon, Other Junior whispered.

I don’t know what to do. We’ve planned and planned and we never developed a contingency for dealing with…unarmed people.

photo by Julie Zickfoose

The woman was still talking. “And we’re going to have to ask you to keep away from that whole area over there altogether. You’re looking at probably the most significant breeding ground for greater sandhill cranes in the western United States.”

“Huh,” Other Junior said, emboldened by a thought. “We’re here to breed patriots.”

Debbie’s eyes swept back and forth over the horizon, her gaze taking in acres of marshland, and turned back, her smile bright as the sun. “But you could always do that somewhere else, right?”

“I guess so,” Ammon said. And he and his men packed up and threaded their way carefully through the burgeoning throng.

“MIND THE SPOTTING SCOPES,” Debbie called out after them.

“Sorry, ma’am.”