This time of the year, Robert Cervenka should be busy plowing fields, giving calves shots and spraying cattle for lice.
But that’s not the case this year.
The only thing Cervenka’s doing right now is feeding his cattle and getting tractors ready for plowing.
Because Cervenka farms and ranches on a 1,100-acre tract of land that runs along the back side of the Mount Carmel complex, the tasks he usually does in early spring have been put on hold.
“We’ve had two freezes, a flood and a drought, and now this disaster, too,” Cervenka said. “The last five years are the worst I’ve been in as a farmer and rancher.”
Ever since Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents raided Vernon Howell’s Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, life hasn’t been the same.
Cervenka has had to change his crop rotation and planting schedule, while leaving at least one section of land without crops as long as the conflict lasts.
“We need to be planting now,” Cervenka said. “The longer you wait, the worse it gets. We need to be putting out fertilizer and plowing the ground right now. We’re not doing a lot of things that we should be.”
Vernon Howell and federal agents have entered their 12th day of the standoff. Howell, also known as David Koresh, and at least 70 of his followers remain inside the compound, about 10 miles northeast of Waco.
Although Cervenka’s work is restricted, he said taking care of the cult is the first priority.
“I’m not complaining about what they’re doing,” he said of agents. “The ATF and FBI are welcome to the ranch. They’ve got to get their job done. We’ll just take it one day at a time until they’ve finished.”
From 30 to 40 agents have used his land during the siege.
Meanwhile, coyotes already have killed seven of Cervenka’s calves, and he can’t do anything to stop the predators except move the cattle to a safer area.
But that doesn’t help much, since Cervenka normally has to shoot the coyotes to keep them away from his cattle.
“It’s not really a good time to be walking on the land with guns,” Cervenka said, laughing.
The media has added to Cervenka’s woes. He said reporters call him constantly and sneak across his land.
“Members of the media are telling deputies they’re my kin-folk to try to get past the barricades,” he said. “I don’t appreciate that.”
Scott Felton, who works on the ranch adjacent to the southeast corner of the 77 acres the Branch Davidians own, said about 15 families have been inconvenienced.
“There are some who are complaining and whining, but I’d much rather be inconvenienced by the authorities who are protecting us from such a dangerous situation than not have them around,” Felton said. “We just thank God that they’re here doing this work.”