By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
At 10 o'clock on a Friday morning, Jesse Enloe is downing his usual breakfast---three eggs, sausage, biscuits with extra gravy--at his customary spot, JoJos in southwest Fort Worth.
Amidst clanking dishes and shouted pancake orders, the 50-year-old vice president of the Republic of Texas is talking affairs of state.
It's not easy forming a new government, says the outsized Enloe, especially from the radically independent types in his outfit. Assorted tax protesters, self-styled patriots, militia members, white supremacists; these are guys with massive grudges against traffic cops or elaborate protests against building inspectors who hassle them about hammering up boat docks or utility sheds without city permits.
Listen to them long enough, and their collective mindset starts coming through. It's that boiling, pissed-off frame of mind that accompanies, say, getting stopped and ticketed for a minor traffic violation. Only instead of fizzling out in reasonable order, it keeps smoldering and feeding on itself and growing in a sort of philosophical cold fusion.
Jesse Enloe knows what that's all about.
He can feel the burn, as one can tell from the blue-and-gold Republic of Texas license plates on his 1988 Chevy Corsica (Number 0001 0044) and his cheeky claim that he hasn't filed a federal income tax return since 1982--and doesn't plan to file one ever again.
Over the past year, Enloe has become the most readily identifiable spokesman in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the Republic of Texas, a freeman-inspired movement organized around the belief that Texas is not a state but an independent nation illegally annexed by the United States 152 years ago. The group, which one Scottish reporter recently described as "a belligerent redneck group obsessed, apparently, with liberating the Lone Star state," has garnered widespread news coverage since its emergence in late 1995.
Most dramatically, one of its founders, Rick McLaren, held heavily armed state authorities at bay for seven days at McLaren's "embassy" in the Davis Mountains before he surrendered on Saturday. McLaren, the group's self-styled ambassador, and a band of six followers had taken two neighbors hostage and held them as "prisoners of war" for 12 hours.
McLaren's arrest in his trailer/lean-to redoubt has had little effect on the two Republic of Texas factions that split with him over the winter. They remain organized and active.
The most organized of the two splinter groups is the so-called provisional government that includes Enloe. His group was the first to split off from McLaren at a meeting of 200 members in College Station late last November. It was there that Enloe was elected vice president. A second group, headed by Archie Lowe of Rice, left McLaren in February.
"I think McLaren's gotten himself isolated and into a cycle of his own thinking," says Enloe, condemning the hostage-taking and some of McLaren's other militant tactics. "He's gone off the deep end."
While Enloe's faction, which has more than a dozen chapters across the state, is flatly critical of McLaren's use of violence, it shares his fondness for what Texas Attorney General Dan Morales has dubbed "paper terrorism," the targeting of government officials and other enemies with pesky, phony liens--a claim for a right to property until a debt is paid--used to collect "judgments" levied in Republic courts.
Before his elevation to office in November, Enloe was a chief organizer and clerk of the Republic's "common law" court, which meets every three weeks at the Park Inn motel near the University of Texas at Arlington. He has set about as a sort of Johnny Appleseed of common law in Texas, helping to establish these do-it-yourself courts in Lubbock and San Antonio.
It was Enloe's name that appeared on the Republic's "notice of eviction" demanding that Gov. George W. Bush move out of the state mansion in Austin in March 1996. And he is named in an injunction Dallas city officials secured recently against a Republic of Texas follower who refused to tear down an unauthorized dock on Lake Ray Hubbard, and declared a paper war against any official who got in his way.
Enloe's organization, which shares much of its militant anti-federal government agenda with various freemen and militia movements around the nation, may very well have its best days behind it, beset on one side by fractional in-fighting and on the other by proposals in Austin that would outlaw its courts and liens. Still, more than the usual number of people interviewed for this article requested that their names be left out for fear of being targeted for retribution.
Enloe hardly projects such a menacing image as he eases his six-foot, 280-pound mass into his car for the short drive from JoJos to his Fort Worth home, a little frame bungalow he rents from a retired defense-business engineer who is sympathetic to the cause. "I'll have to get someone to take care of that," he says, volunteering an excuse for the unmowed yard, overgrown bushes, and broken chair on the front porch.
"A real charmer," as a woman who once knew him well puts it, Enloe comes off as an affable suburban-neighbor sort as he talks politics in his tiny kitchen, his wife, Doris, keeping the coffee flowing. "The United States government is a federal corporation," Enloe explains, sounding a theme he's put forth in numerous interviews in the Dallas-Fort Worth media. "They're not operating by the law. They're operating under corporate ordinances. They have no authority in Texas."