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The Klamath Basin Crisis


The Stand at Klamath Falls

By Jeff Head
Sierra Times
July 17, 2001

I was an eyewitness to events in Klamath Falls at the irrigation head gates to canal A for the Klamath Project on Friday evening, July 13th through Sunday afternoon, July 15th. I wanted to write down my account for my own family and posterity and for any who have an interest to read about real Americans, full of the spirit that made this nation great, as they stand up against our own modern form of the "king's" tyranny.


Friday, July 13th, 2001

Farmers opening the gateI drove to Klamath from the Boise, Idaho area after being informed by email and seeing on the internet that a group of farmers had opened one of the head gates and were determined to hold the head gates and keep it open. I verified this information through a local farmer that I was in contact with named Bill. He and his son James drove over to the head gate and called me from there informing me that one gate was indeed open.

I was determined to stand with them against the unbelievably reprehensible actions of the Federal Government in completely shutting off the irrigation water to over fourteen hundred farm families. A whole valley full of farmers. The stated reasons are frivoulous and assault the senses and reasoning of any individual with a love of liberty in their soul and a drop of loyalty to our Constitutional Republic running in their blood. Such an action by our own government can not be allowed to stand, any more than the founders of this nation allowed the actions of the increasing tyranny of their day to stand.

I arrived at the head gate at around 11:30 PM, maybe a little later. James met me at a nearby Safeway and guided me to the head gates. I found about fifteen local people, mostly farmers, sitting around in front of the gate, talking and passing the time. They all introduced themselves to me and greeted me warmly, several of them recognizing my name in association with an online petition I created on their behalf. Two or three of their number were women who were standing there with the farmers in complete support.

I asked them where all of the other local support was. They informed me that quite a few had gone home after they opened the gate. They also informed me that they had stood down two federal marshals only an hour or two earlier. The way they did it is a story that needs to be told in and of itself. It was related to me by one of those there that night, Joey and several of his compatriots.

When the gates were opened, in defiance of the court order, for the third time on July 4th, the US Government had dispatched these two US Marshals there to investigate and keep it from happening again. When news reached them that the gates were opened again on July 13th and that a group of farmers were holding the gates, they proceeded to the head gates with several other officers who had arrived. Upon arrival, these two immediately got out of their car and began to approach the group of fifteen or so farmers in a very serious manner, intending business, while their "backup" was parked on the road, on a little hill above. As they approached, the farmers and their supporters gathered together in front of the entrance and ... began singing hymns to the US Marshals! The marshals were completely taken aback. They stopped cold as though running into a barrier and backed up to their car. Several of those faithful farmers believe that God in Heaven took a hand in their behalf that day. Well, our own nation's founding is full of such events where many believed and witnessed Heavenly help that allowed them to overcome vastly superior forces. Patrick Henry himself, in his famous "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" speech indicated that, "Besides, Sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of Nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us." Who is to say it is not so?

When the Marshals reached their car, they spoke amongst themselves. After a moment of discussion, they backed off and talked to the Sheriff who had arrived and was apparently observing. They then departed the scene.

Joey and his compatriots were convinced that the US Marshals would bother them no more and that massive numbers of support were coming the next day. I was sure that this probably was not the case, in terms of the US Marshals leaving them alone. I voiced my concerns and asked if someone would take me on a review of the area. I found that another gate was located in the back where no one was camping or sitting. Beyond that gate was another gate blocking the road up by a subdivision. I suggested to those there that perhaps some vehicles should park for the night on the other side and some of our numbers should stay the night there. I suggested that the US Marshals were very smart and no doubt had a layout of the entire area. These were my suggestions. When those there voiced a fairly united thought that everything was okay, I asked if I could park my Tahoe there for the night. They agreed and we did so. I did this of course because I intended to sleep in it and it was much darker over there by that gate, which would allow me to sleep more soundly ... in case anyone is wondering.

We then talked through the night and reviewed the entire situation, the appalling nature of it, how none of expected to ever live to see the day of such tyranny on our own shores at the hands of any government, let alone our own. Some singing took place, quite a bit of praying took place. One prayer asked God to consecrate that place as a place for liberty.


Saturday, July 14th, 2001

As the sky lightened in the east I was very nervous. Every few minutes an SUV type vehicle, like those the farmers had said brought some of the US Marshals the day before, passed by slowly on the road. There was no doubt in my mind that we were being watched closely and that plans were being made. 4 AM passed without incident. 5 AM passed without incident and now it was getting light. 6 AM came and went ... and several of those who had been sleeping in their cars were awakening. I began to think that perhaps we would be spared a visit. Those thoughts were short lived.

At approximately 6:10 AM, maybe a little later, we saw many Law Enforcement vehicles approaching on the main road. They all began turning in at the head gate, towards the front gate where we were sitting. Shouts of "OK boys, it's time," and, "Time to stand up," rang through our midst as we gathered around the main gate in the fence ... all fifteen or so of us. Twelve to fifteen vehicles and two mortocyles disgorged twenty five to thirty officers ... all of them local. Local Police and Sheriff's deputies ... there may have also been a couple of State Police. When we saw this, them getting out and the local Police Chief urging calm ... it was then that we looked over our shoulders and saw that about a dozen US Marshals had entered in the back gate while our attention had been diverted to the front gate. Very crisply executed flanking manuever. The US Marshals had been slowed down a bit because they had to park their vehicles at the 2nd gate and walk in, but by the time we saw them, they were already making their way across the head gates and had taken possession of them.

MarshalsThe Agent in Charge, an older gentlemen, walked up to the gate we had been defending and stated the obvious. That they were taking possession of the area and securing the facility for the Federal Government. His agents positioned themselves between ourselves and the headgates, clearly all armed under their Blue US Marshal jackets. They had their arms folded, their feet apart ... and a look of determination and ... smugness, almost arrogance on their faces. There was nothing left to defend, the head gates were back in the government's control and they would soon be closed.

The Agent in Charge asked us if we had the key to close the gates. "Key?" one of the farmers said. "Yes, the wrench or pry bar you used to open the gates," he said. Everyone indicated they didn't know where in the heck it could possibly be and that maybe it had fallen in the lake. The agent in charge said he was just doing his job and that drew him some calls regarding the Nuremburg trials after World War II and that others had once been tried for "just doing there jobs." The agent in charge turned to go and then he, or one of the local police asked who owned the black Tahoe with the Idaho plates. I indicated it was mine and he said I had to move it immediately or it would be towed.

One of the ladies who had stood with us offered to drive me over and we did. As I was getting to the car, one of the US Marshals read me the riot act. He indicated that it was a Federal Offense to block a Federal facility. He said I could go to jail and that if I did it again I would go to jail and that they would impound my car and that I would never get it back.

I asked him if he knew what he was doing here. He said he did. I said I didn't think he did understand his spiffy little operation against a handful of farmers that morning; I meant the fact that his actions were helping destroy over 1400 innocent American families, their livelihood and their way of life. He said he understood and I said he most certainly did not. Not until his job and livelihood were taken away frivoulously by his own government and until that same government sent armed men to ensure it, could he possibly understand. At that, he turned and left and I got in my vehicle and drove it back to the front gate.

Farmers prayThe mood was somber at the front gate. They had worked hard to open that gate manually and they had felt vindicated when they stood down the two US Marshals the day before. Now they had lost it again. their reaction ... they clasped hands and prayed. I believe, as events will indicate, that those prayers were vindicated later.

closing the gateAs this occurred, a BOR representative entered the gate area and began to close the gate.

A larger and larger crowd gathered throughout the day. There was lots of speculative talk. The US Marshals left about eight men there to guard the gates through the day. We wondered how many of us it would take for them to back down at overwhelming numbers and not try to arrest us by force. It was thought that it would take two or three hundred to cross ... I wondered if we'd find that many willing.

We did get a lot of folks at the gate. Many from the local area, an increasing number arriving from outside the area to show their support. JJ Johnson, the editor of the SierraTimes online news source arrived. Several other online conservative organizations were also represented, including FreeRepublic.com and Frontiers for Freedom. The mood was somber, with a strong undertone of frustration and anger. This can be well understood when one contemplates the fact that these families are being destroyed. Many things occurred throughout the day. All of the US Flags around the facility were turned upside down to indicate the extreme distress.

One lady by the name of Barbara was very passionately pleading with the US Marshals to consider their actions, what impact they were having on innocent men, women and children who simply wanted to farm. She would stand their with children asking them if they had any children and how they would feel. As I say, she was very effective (and also became one of the principle organizers of activities for the demonstrators.) On several occassions, the US Marshals turned around and wouldn't look at her. I believe she was getting to them.

On another occassion, a local firm had apparently been called to bring in porta-potties for the Marshals. As the truck arrived and local people saw what firm it was ... several of them called. I was standing near one prominent farmer who indicated to the owner that he would lose all of his business from then on, and that of everyone this farmer could talk to if he delivered those porta-potties. The truck, which had already entered the "compound", turned around and drove away without delivering the goods.

A rally was held at 2:30 and some good speeches and good singing were had. A local gospel group sang, the Pledge of Allegiance was said and the national anthem was sung by all. The Federal Officers did not stand at attention, salute or even stand still while this was going on. Many in attendance were surprised as they expected them to show at least some respect. JJ Johnson gave a tremendous address on rights and how critically important it has been, throughout our history to stand up and fight for our rights. He made it plain that it is equally important today. I spoke regarding the travesty of this situation and appealed directly to the US Marshals to consider their oath to the Constitution and recognize that their job had become to destroy innocent, patriotic, hard working Americans. I urged them to turn away and to consider soberly their choice. That a government could push good people too far ... that it had happened before.

As the afternoon wore on, at the height we had maybe three hundred people there. Frustration amongst the farmers grew. More and more local people from Klamath Falls joined the farmers present in recognizing that the water simply needed to be turned on. Many vowed to maintain the vigil, the "siege" of this new federal "compound" until it was.

Late in the day I spoke to county commissioner who arrived. I asked him why the county had not acted more strongly. He indicated he supported "1st amendment rights to free speech" like this gathering but couldn't support anything illegal. I asked him what about the illegality being conducted by the federal government against the people of his county. He said that's what the courts are for. I indicated that such a course would only ensure that these people were pushed off the land. HIs answer was simply he couldn;t support anything illegal. I walked away indicating that it was a citizens duty to resist illegal acts and not abide them, particularly if perpetrated by government upon its citizens.

After going out and drinking some orange juice with some of the folks in attendance, I somewhat discouragingly turned in at about 8:30 PM, after having gone the last 40 hours without any sleep. I planned to leave the next morning fairly early if we didn't come up with some action to take, something to answer the federal tyranny occurring around us. Talk and more talk had only led these good people here. Their officials weren't listening, and apparently had no inclination to do so.


Sunday, July 15th, 2001

The next day dawned bright and clear. About thirty people had spent the entire night there. Fairly quickly others began to arrive. Local folks unselfishly made a great breakfast of bacon, eggs and orange juice for those of us who had stayed the night.

During the night, the guard had changed. We were now looking at Park Police who had been brought in from San Francisco. They had their uniforms on, weapons and billy clubs prominently displayed.

Very early on a group of the farmers and local people met to discuss plans. Several good, go-forward plans were put forward and agreed upon. In my mind, none of them addressed the immediate situation, or did so forcefully and convincingly. Something needed to happen today. The initiative had to be re-acquired somehow ... but how? Armed men guarded the water.

Then, fitting for a Sunday ... inspiration. Almost simultaneously, from two seperate sources, an idea blossomed ... what did the Feds expect? A head-on charge at the gate or ... nothing. Why give them what they wanted? Why give them either of those? Why not find a way to relegate their plan to guard the head gates to irelevance? Why not just by-pass the head gates? Use what this thing is all about ... irrigation equipment ... pumps and pipes.

This idea took hold like wild fire. "Yes, we can do that!" "Well, we sure enough know how to do that!" "Let's make it happen!" "DO IT!"

Several farmers I had come to know and respect over the last two days fanned out across the community and the basin. Too many to name and I know they wouldn't want their names to be printed anyway. Not out of fear mind you, these men are couragous ... they are simply reserved and I must respect that.

The idea continued to grow, everyone who heard it, embraced it. "That'll show 'em", "Let 'em guard a gate we don't even use." In confidence the plan was shared with a few monitoring the internet forums and discussion boards so they would be ready to announce it the moment it occurred. A rally was planned for 2:30 PM to give it time to get done and be turned on during the rally, and to mask the laying of the pipe with the numbers of people. The media who were still in town were told to be sure and be there, but were not told why.

The location for placing the pump was determined. A suitable place to discharge the water was found, through a natural drainaige near the front gate ... right in view of the press and the federal officers. Myself and another stepped off the distance to determine the amount of pipe required ... 180 yards, that would be 540 feet ... better make it 700 just to be sure.

While we waited I had an opportuntiy to talk to one of the Park Service Police who had walked over next to the fence.

MYSELF: "Excuse me, officer, do you mind if I ask you something?"

FEDERAL OFFICER: "No, not at all. I can't promise I will answer though."

MYSELF: "Okay. Here goes. Meaning no disrespect to you personally, but being direct ... are you aware that your job here today is to assist in the destruction of 1400 innocent, hard working, patriotic American farmers?"


MYSELF: "If you weren't aware of it... you are now. Let me ask you .. how many families is too much. When do you stop? 5000 families, 10,000, 50,000? What if your job next week was to have that ditch over there filled with people and then gun them down? Would you still just be doing your job" Would you still ... understand?"

FEDERAL OFFICER: No Response, walks away.

An undercurrent of excitement grew in the crowd. Many knew what was coming, others guessed something was up ... I'm sure the federal officers wondered what those pesky farmers could possibly be up to. Several would walk up to the chains locking the gate every few minutes and take their measure. Rattle them a bit ... take a hard look at the hinges ... just to keep the federal officers wondering .... just to keep them diverted from our intentions.

More speeches were given. More appeals to the federal officials, more direct appeals to the new officers guarding the facility. The rally began as we waited for the irrigation equipment.

placing the pump   laying the pipe

Then the pump arrived and started going in.

The pipe was offloaded from the trailer behind one of the pickups and began to be laid down.

Then ... a crisis. As two of the farmers were preparing to prime the pump, and as I looked on ... a state trooper saw what we were doing and raced up to the bridge above the gates (which was screened from the gates by trees) to see what was going on. When he saw the pump and the pipe, he began to speak.

OSP: "You really don't want to do this."

1ST FARMER: "Oh yes we do." (As he continues working)

OSP: "No, you REALLY don't want to do this."

1ST FARMER: "I'm not in charge, I'm just a worker bee." (as he continues working)

2ND FARMER: "Sir, why can't you just drive along, this is not hurting anything."

OSP: "We're not going to escalate this. Are you prepared to go to jail, to be arrested?"

1ST FARMER: "Yep" (as he interrupts his work for a moment and looks reflective before answering)

OSP: "I can't let you do this."

1ST FARMER: "Well, we're doing it." (continues working and reached to turn engine on)

OSP: "Now don't do that, don't turn that on."

1ST FARMER: "Too late." (As engine turns over briefly to prime pump.

OSP: Approaches trailer and pump.

MYSELF: "Sir, I believe there's a jurisdictional issue here. This is city property." (Stepping in front of OSP)

OSP: "You're that guy from Idaho. You aren't from around here. You don't belong here. You get the hell back."

MYSELF: "I'm an American and last time I checked, Oregon is a part of America. I have every right to be here and you'll have to arrest me first."

The officer went to his car and began driving towards the two city police cars over near the demonstrations. I told the guys to keep on keepin' on and ran to the demonstration. Barbara helped me gather about fifty people and we started back to the bridges, about 100 yeards away. Along the way I told the folks ... old gentlemen, grandmothers, local men, women, teenagers, children ..."We're going up here to form a human shield around these local farmers so they can get this pump going ... you may be arrested ... if you're not in for that, you'd best leave."

Not one turned back.

We got to the bridge and formed up, holding arms ... here came the local police. He passed us and turned around. He pulled up to the end of our line and talked for a moment to a grandma there. He pulled up next to us and indicated he needed to talk to those farmers ... a teenager in front of me said, "You'll have to arrest us all to do that."

The local police officer looked down, shook his head and indicated that we should just make sure we stayed out of the road ... and he drove away.

I was SO proud of those folks. They knew what was right and they were willing to stand for it.

I was so proud of those two boys on the pump. They stood resolutely. They had made their decision and would not be detered. Threats of arrest or violence had no bearing. They rolled off of them like water off a ducks back. I was humbled beyond words. God Bless Them ALL!.

The last pipe was laid and hooked up. Now it was time. The Feds were watching and had figured it out. The last segment was attached. The pump was turned on ... a few minutes later, out of an 8" pipe ... THE WATER FLOWED!

Cheers went up. A great chant was started "Let The Water FLOW, LET THE WATER FLOW!" It was heard live over the internet. Pictures were taken. The headline we desired? ....


Looking over the top of the discharge pipe as that water poured out, you could see the Federal Officers who had moved over directly across from the discharge. They had their arms folded, their feet apart ... and a look of incredulity on their faces! As if though to say, "Uh, what are we supposed to do now?"

A few moments later a local police officer announced that the local agent in charge was willing to make a concession. To avoid erosion, he would allow two of our number to enter the "compound" and lay pipe from our discharge to the canal so the water poured directly into the canal.

As a local BOR individual unlocked the gate, another cheer went up as two farmers entered the area and assembled the pipe.

water flowing out the end of pipeWhen that water was turned on and began pouring directly into the canal, another great cheer went up, and once again the chant, "LET THE WATER FLOW, LET THE WATER FLOW!"

The local police officer indicated to me personally that the Federal people indicated they would not contest this development. It was not on the property they were instructed to protect. He also indicated that the Federal agents just had one question ..... "Why didn't they use a larger pipe?"

That can be fixed.

Later that day, glowing from the events ... filled with emotion at the ingenuity and the determination growing in these farmers, I prepared to leave.

Several of these good gracious people came up to me and thanked me for coming. They offered their homes and their sustenance. They said if I was ever in need to call. They said be careful. It is I who thank them.

So, I drove back to my home, in a valley that is green where water is still flowing ... I drove with a commitment to return there if conditions worsen again ... and especially when those gates are again opened so the water that those folks own, and that they depend on for life ... is returned in full measure to them.

Post Script ... This evening, at approximately 7 PM Mountian time, the first 10,000 signatures on the Petition were gathered. Next milestone is 100,000.

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