Pubdate: Tue, 25 May 1999
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Copyright: 1999 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Susan Lampert Smith


Festival Host Has Battled Government Hammer And Tong On Variety Of Issues

TOWN OF FAIRFIELD -- Starting Friday, the sweet scent of marijuana
smoke will again roll down Leech Creek valley as thousands arrive for
Weedstock '99.

Their host, local farmer Marcus Gumz, has welcomed Weedstock, a
festival of camping and music that promotes growing hemp, to his land
three times since 1995. He's 70 years old and says he's adamantly
opposed to smoking, be it tobacco or marijuana. He likes "Lawrence
Welk music," not the music of Weedstock headliners such as Bongzilla.
Before his fortunes changed, he gave "a big check" to Ronald Reagan
and was an active Republican.

So why Weedstock?

Gumz's neighbor, Brent Bailey, has the simplest answer.

"I think he does it because he can," said Bailey, who calls Gumz an
intelligent and friendly neighbor. "Whether he does it for financial
gain or to prove a point, I can respect it either way."

Gumz has a history of opposition to government so fierce it makes the
lighting of a marijuana cigarette seem merely recreational.

"Everybody's got a hobby, and suing people is Marcus' (hobby)," said
Gene Wiegand, administrative coordinator for Sauk County, in which
Gumz's property lies. Wiegand said the county has been sued by Gumz
"many, many times in the past."

"Marcus is a very bright man and he's set up these multi-level
corporations, so the litigation is very complex and goes on and on,"
said Wiegand, who said that while the county hasn't lost to Gumz, it
and its insurance company have spent thousands on legal bills.

Gumz has battled other levels of government, most famously following
what his lawyer called a "military raid" on his property by armed
agents of the state Department of Natural Resources in 1981. Gumz says
that raid gave him a heart attack and led to the death of his wife.

He's paid a price for eschewing the taxes, regulations, Social
Security payments, and other government interventions most Americans
accept without question.

Once the area's largest landowner, Gumz lost his home in a foreclosure
and now alternately lives in a former potato shed, where raccoons keep
him company at night, and in a dilapidated shack of a farmhouse,
filled with clutter and law books. His activities, especially
Weedstock, have made for uncomfortable moments for the two of his
children in state government, daughter Sheryl Albers, a Republican who
represents the area in the state Assembly and son Mark Gumz, an aide
to the area's senator, Dale Schultz.

Both children declined to talk on the record about their father;
Albers voted for a bill that would make it easier for counties to ban
events such as Weedstock.

"My father and I aren't always on the same page, and this is one of
those times," Albers said.

For his part, Gumz claims not to see any problem with hosting

"Why should they be embarrassed of me?" Gumz asked, saying Weedstock
is no different than the annual marijuana rally at the state Capitol.
"Are they embarrassed when they have all those pot smokers parading in
Madison?" Many skirmishes Gumz, who grew up on a farm in northwestern
Indiana, moved to this valley between Baraboo and Portage in 1949,
because the muck soil created when farmers ditched and drained the
wetlands was good for growing mint. He and his wife, Norma, who died
in 1988, raised eight children here.

"This soil is ideal for growing vegetables, it's organic and it's a
shame to waste it," said Gumz, showing off some peppermint waiting to
be transplanted. Like some of his neighbors, he opposes a U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Agency plan to return the area to a wetland.

"They want to take this land and turn it back into a worthless

A tour of the valley with Gumz involves stops at the sites of his many
skirmishes with the government.

On the western end, in the mid-1970s, the DNR cited him for illegally
placing a cattle crossing in Leech Creek without a permit.

"They were very, very jealous," Gumz said, of agency officials. "They
wanted this land (along the creek) but I put in a higher bid."

Gumz said the state also unfairly cited him for having poor conditions
for migrant workers on his farm. But the biggest battle came in 1981.
Gumz had been deepening a ditch that keeps the fields drained and was
cited by the DNR for dredging without a permit. He still believes that
he didn't need a permit, since the valley had been dredged, drained
and farmed since 1906.

The DNR saw it differently, and in March 1981, Gumz and his wife
looked out the window of their farmhouse to see "an armed SWAT team"
of DNR agents who seized his dredging equipment. Gumz, who was
unarmed, later pleaded guilty to ramming an agent's car.

Today he claims the agents parked so he couldn't avoid the collision.
His hearing attracted 100 supporters to the courthouse in Baraboo,
many of them farmers concerned by the DNR's tactics.

Gumz, who suffered a heart attack that night after he was taken away
in handcuffs, sued the DNR in federal court. A jury agreed that the
DNR had used excessive force, and 1984 awarded Gumz $60,000; but the
state appealed, and the U.S. 7th District Court of Appeals in Chicago
ruled against Gumz and, instead of receiving money, he was billed for
the state's legal bills.

"They used me as an example to humiliate me and my family," said Gumz,
who, rather than paying himself, filed a claim of $1.3 million for the
jury award plus interest. In the years following the raid, Gumz's wife
died, and he lost most of his land in a foreclosure. His nephews now
own much of the land.

"They've stolen from me, they've taken away my home, my farm and my
life," Gumz said about the DNR. "They've taken 20 years from me. I
think the DNR should get on their knees and apologize."

Gumz said he once drained water out of a drainage ditch when he saw
two wardens paddling onto his property, forcing them to drag their
canoe back up a nearly empty ditch because he refused to let them set
foot on his land. Some not amused Those on the receiving side don't
find Gumz amusing. Former Fitchburg mayor and DNR administrator Doug
Morrissette was in the car Gumz rammed during the raid. In subsequent
years, Morrissette said, Gumz harassed him at work and at home and
filed a lien against his house.

"He can go to hell as far as I'm concerned," Morrissette

Not surprisingly, Gumz sees the recent federal proposal to buy the
farm land and turn it into the Aldo Leopold Wildlife Refuge as part of
a larger plot to take over his land.

"The DNR doesn't have enough guts to say: 'We want your land and we've
wanted it all along.' So they get the feds to do it," Gumz said. "It's
no different than Serbia kicking the (ethnic Albanians) out, only they
(the Serbs) are more honest about it."

Gumz still farms, and has run unsuccessfully for a number of public
offices. Besides the Weedstock festivals, he has hosted a "rave" in
1996 and may have another this year, although he refused to confirm
it. Raves are underground dance parties that organizers have been
hosting for years at area farms and abandoned warehouses.

He also delivers handwritten screeds on various issues -- he's against
using tax money to protect land in the Baraboo Hills, for example --
to government officials. His messages are sometimes more creative.
He's dropped off muck farm onions at Morrissette's office, and last
month, when he got out of the Veterans Hospital in Madison, where he
was treated for a pulmonary embolism, he pocketed a roll from his
lunch tray and delivered it to the office of U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin,
D-Madison, as evidence of bad food in federal hospitals.

"Since she's so interested in health care, I thought she'd want to see
it," said Gumz, who has a sense of humor despite his problems and his
general feelings of persecution.

Gumz said he hosts Weedstock -- which he'd like to rename "Mintstock"
- -- because he needs the money and because he admires event organizer
Ben Masel, who has fought his own legal battles for marijuana

Why Weedstock?

"There's no law against it," said Gumz. "I believe in the U.S.
Constitution, the right to free assembly and free speech. When you've
got a Gestapo government that works like jack-booted fascists, that's
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MAP posted-by: Patrick Henry