Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Now to Colorado and a story about neighbors and fences. Tenacious Unicorn sheep and alpaca ranch owners say they had to build a high fence around their property because of harassment. They are transsexuals and they say their conservative neighbors will not accept them. Dan Boyce reports from Colorado Public Radio.
(HALLBITE OF TURNING THE ENGINE)
DAN BOYCE, BYLINE: 2 meter high wooden fence posts – 2 feet in the ground, 6 above.
BONNIE NELSON: So at the moment we have around 360 posts.
BOYCE: Bonnie Nelson, co-owner of Tenacious Unicorn Ranch, believes it will likely take a few hundred more to complete the tall wire fence around their 40 acres of dry pastureland.
(RUN SOUNDBITE FROM JACKHAMMER)
BOYCE: Nelson and co-owner Penny Logue both wear black ball caps and layers of worn work clothes. It’s a cold morning. And as always, they have semi-automatic pistols strapped to their thighs. Mess with us, says Nelson, and we’ll mess again.
NELSON: We just want to be left alone.
PENNY LOGUE: We are a group of trans women trying to create a haven for transsexuals.
BOYCE: Penny Logue says they are building a community where LGBTQ people feel safe, welcome and isolated from the discrimination they face in traditional cisgender society.
SHANNON BYERLY: I mean, I’m sad that anyone – race, color, belief, religion, lifestyle, I don’t care – would live in Custer County and feel in danger.
BOYCE: This is Sheriff Shannon Byerly of Custer County. He says the ranchers haven’t been hospitable since they moved in last year. He says most of the residents didn’t even know they were here initially.
BYERLY: And then all of a sudden this newspaper article comes out and you – well, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but, you know, they were just pretty derogatory about the people of Custer County in general.
BOYCE: Logue has reported serious online threats, multiple incidents of local harassment and even armed trespass in numerous press reports. Sheriff Byerly says his office was never contacted about these incidents. He says the security fortifications the ranchers install don’t suggest they want to be part of the community.
BYERLY: I don’t think you did yourself any favors with that approach.
BOYCE: Some local conservatives say the ranchers exaggerate their persecution claims to raise large sums of money through online fundraising. The ranch’s latest attempt on the GoFundMe website is currently over $ 115,000. Penny Logue calls this criticism a straw man argument. Logue says they tried to bond with their neighbors through recycling, handicrafts, and a community garden in Westcliffe. She says there is only a small group of locals who make their lives difficult.
LOGUE: This county is crammed with amazing people, and that has nothing to do with politics. We have a lot of friends who are conservative, but we don’t have friends who are Nazis.
BOYCE: The new fence will protect the ranch in addition to the recently installed surveillance cameras.
LOGUE: I think that if we decide to get involved, we can be active in the community. And when we close our gates – because this world is sometimes a bit much.
BOYCE: When that happens, she says, you should leave the outside world behind like everyone else.
For NPR News, I’m Dan Boyce in Westcliffe, Colorado.
(SOUNDBITE OF ANNA MEREDITH’S “MGMS CLASS OF 2017”) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.