Carol Bundy sits alone in the living room of her family’s home, restlessly awaiting word that a federal jury is ready to render its verdict on the fate of “the custom and culture of the West; the cowboy way of life.”

Outside the front window, a sprinkler splashes water onto a small square of grass. Inside, a washing machine with worn bearings grinds through another load.

It’s hard to imagine this pastoral setting, past the concrete walkway and on the other side of a wagon-wheel entry gate, as the staging ground of what nearly became the 21st century’s first range war.

Three years ago this month, more than 400 ranchers, militia members and protesters from every state in the union congregated in front of this modest house off a dirt road in one of Nevada’s remote desert corners.

Hundreds brought guns, others brought signs. They came in answer to a social-media call to arms, to mount a show of force against federal agents who had court orders to seize Cliven Bundy’s cattle from federal lands, where the family has grazed them for more than a hundred years.

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