June, 4: Marvin Heemeyer Day

The Man Himself

Back in the ’70’s, there was fiction piece about a movement called BYE: Better Your Exit, where people who were terminal would kill themselves in interesting ways that made a statement and would maybe benefit society. I thought of that when I read about Marvin Heemeyer’s last ride.

Marv was a welder by trade in Granby, Colorado. He’d got into a years-long feud with the Granby royalty who ran the town, among them the city administration, zoning people, and a couple who wanted his property to build a concrete plant on. You can read the genesis of that in the second link below, but with the caveat that it’s from an interview with the wife of the couple that was in a lawsuit with Marv about his property.
Long story short, eventually the concrete couple bought land near Marv’s shop, bringing city water close enough that under city regulations Marv would have to hook up to the water and sewer. Since the lines were on the concrete plant owner’s property, they tried to ‘leverage’ the city requirements to get what they wanted from Marv.  Call it leverage if you like. Others may call it coercion, extortion, blackmail, but however you call it, Marv’s welding and muffler business was zoned out.

Unbeknownst to Granbyites, Marv had a project and, being a master welder, put it into action. He owned a 49 ton turbocharged  KOMATSU D355A tractor.  Over the course of 18 months, he welded armor of half-inch steel plate around  the sides, top, and part of the treads. He welded another layer of half-inch steel plate outside that, and sandwiched a layer of concrete between the plates.  Next, Marv put in video cameras with monitor screens in the cab so he could see where he was going, two semi-automatic rifles, a 22, a couple hand guns, fans to keep himself cool.

On June 04, 2004 Marvin greased the outside of his dozer (to make it harder for opponents to climb onto, the guy thought of everything), then climbed into the machine, bolted down the hatch and went to settle the score. Right out through the side of his shop he drove then over to the cement plant which he demolished. After that, he took out City Hall, the police station, a hardware store, the former Mayor’s house, cars, trucks, and shoved a road grader driven by one of his foes who tried to stop him. The grader was no match for the bulldozer, which, with the armor weighed about 60 tons. Marv muscled the grader aside like a toy and went after the next building.  Police shooting at him all the while with no effect. The grader operator drove the grader behind the dozer, then jumped out and ran for it. Marv continued forward and got stuck, the dozer’s engine blown, the game was up.  Marvin Heemeyer took his own life rather than be captured.

In the aftermath, police tried blasting the top of the dozer but failed. They ended up cutting it open which took hours. It was such a rugged beast the US military came to inspect the thing. It’s interesting to read the spin on this event. Authorities generally call Mr.Heemeyer a terrorist, deranged, a mad man. They harumph at anyone who considers the man with respect. Heaven forbid he should be regarded as a hero, or a patriot. Trying unsuccessfully to control the narrative they even had the bulldozer cut up and sent to different scrap yards to discourage souvenir hunters. Good luck with that.  I’d bet there are pieces of steel armor plate and bullet casings sitting on many a Colorado shelf or mantle.
As for myself I’ll pass on news anchors and political hacks telling me what to think, thank-you. I don’t hang a label on the man, either. I admire his technical ability, his creativity, his nerve, his audacity, and respect the fact that he didn’t kill anyone but himself, though he could have. He had the fortitude to take himself out rather than being the goat in a sensationalized trial. In that he contrasts favorably to our present crop of insipid, lazy, cowardly mass shooters who create mayhem then give themselves up to spend life in a comfortable prison with three hots and a cot.  And so, on June fourth, here’s to Marvin Heemeyer.  BYE, Marv.

“Sometimes reasonable men must do unreasonable things.”  Marvin Heemeyer

For learned info and  specs on Marv’s creation, and video footage of his spree through Granby here’s a link from ‘tanks encyclopedia.com: