JORDAN, Mont. — In a scene reminiscent of a western movie, a mediator rode on horseback to the anti-government "freemen" ranch Friday in hopes of jump-starting negotiations to end a long standoff.
But rancher and Montana state Sen. Karl Ohs, wearing a yellow raincoat and his trademark white cowboy hat, met "about five or six freemen" for less than an hour before leaving on horseback with no new talks scheduled.
Law enforcement agents had planned to accompany him to the edge of the freemen compound, but rain and fog made traveling on the roads very difficult.
"I'm not real sure about future talks," Ohs told reporters later. "But I'm always optimistic."
He said the demeanor of the people on the ranch was about the same as the last time he saw them a week ago.
Ohs said he went to the ranch on his own initiative. He said he had work to do on his ranch and did not know if he would be staying or would return at a later date. "Hopefully, I'll be back," he said.
Ohs has tried to negotiate with the about 20 freemen on the remote ranch, but he and other mediators have run into brick walls.
Authorities set up equipment Wednesday that would allow them to cut power to the freemen compound but still provide electricity to surrounding ranches. That step was taken after the breakdown of talks mediated by Colorado state legislator Charles Duke.
Duke suggested that the FBI take action to make things a little more difficult for the freemen, whose standoff began March 25 when two of their leaders were arrested.
The two leaders and several other freemen are accused of taking part in a financial scheme to defraud businesses and public agencies of more than $1.8 million, stealing television news equipment and threatening a federal judge.
The freemen do not recognize government authority, refuse to pay taxes and hold white supremacist views.
The FBI has been criticized for its handling of previous confrontations with militant groups and has tried to keep the door open for more talks.
About 100 agents are outside the ranch compound.