Sam Curran rolls up on a bumpy road at the edge of his 2,600-acre ranch in the middle of nowhere, plops on a cowboy hat and opens a gate adorned with a bullet hole-laden sign warning against unwanted visitors. He's angry.

Curran, 70, says he's caught city folk from the state's $69 billion high-speed rail project "sneaking" onto his land to survey his farm, where California is getting ready to begin building its biggest public works project in history next year. The state is spending more than $300 million to buy out part of Curran's farm and hundreds of other properties along the route -- in many cases, against the landowners' will.

"I just hate to see 'em tear it apart," said Curran, a self-described "old cowboy" whose ranch has been in the family since 1899. "But you become one little cog that can't amount to nothing."

For more, see: In California's Central Valley, farmers fight in their fields and court to block high-speed rail