By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Enloe no doubt has a genuine interest in the movement, but he and several members of his immediate family apparently have another, more personal agenda connected with their little revolution--one unexplored in the wealth of news coverage his group has received.
Before Enloe helped form the common law court, before Rick McLaren even conceived of the quaint notion that Texas is still "a whole other country," the Enloes were using this kind of far-right rhetoric and official-looking "court" documents to wriggle out of more than $70,000 in personal debts in Tarrant and Dallas counties, court records show.
Enloe concedes he helped set up the Arlington common-law court to try to further his scheme. He justifies stiffing his creditors with plumes of anti-government, anti-"international banker" language and separatist lingo.
His methods, as spurious as they are, have been more troublesome than his creditors probably would like people to think.
"They [the banks] create money out of thin air, so we paid them off with the same thing--air," says Enloe's 76-year-old mother, Irene, who is as committed to the Republic of Texas cause as her son. She goes on about the legality of their methods for a while, then in a scolding voice demands: "I really wished you wouldn't write about that...Not all those bills were mine...How did you come across that, anyway?"
If the Republic of Texas were to issue a recruiting poster, it could do worse than to picture the Enloes--Jesse, Doris, and Irene--smiling in unison above the slogan "We are the R.O.T."
They are by all outward appearances a snapshot of Middle America, of common folks. The family has been in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, primarily in suburban Arlington and Grand Prairie, since the late 1970s. Jesse is a former insurance salesman who let his license lapse in 1992, state records show. He hasn't held a regular job since.
"Mother," as Jesse calls her, made her career as an elementary school teacher in places like Tulia, in the Panhandle, and Hondo, west of San Antonio. She says the country started going down "when they took prayer out of the schools." Doris, Jesse's third wife, is a German immigrant who quit her job as a cafeteria cashier a few months ago to join the movement full time.
The three fellow travelers drove to Abilene last month on Republic of Texas business. Jesse has been meeting with various members of the other faction that has broken with McLaren, preaching unity. "He's very good at that. He's not seen as a threat," says David Johnson, an Odessa trailer home dealer who became president of the faction Enloe is in last November.
On the way to Abilene, there is plenty of time to get acquainted as the roadside bluebonnet fields fly by at 85 m.p.h. When the Republic takes control and Jesse's at the wheel of power, speed limits will be a thing of the past, he says along the way. "We're for personal responsibility. You can go 120 miles an hour if you want. If you hit someone, that's another matter altogether."
Jesse goes almost everywhere with his wife and mother, to Republic meetings in San Antonio, College Station, Amarillo, all across the state.
In the back seat, Irene and Doris look as resolute and loyal as a couple of Eva Brauns in their Republic of Texas name badges and pin-on flags. "We like seeing our friends at these things," says Irene, a slight, bony woman with a white poof-ball hairdo. She has her Republic of Texas tag pinned on her bright red denim jacket, which is decorated with lots of gold thread, matching her gold slippers.
They use Irene's car for these trips, a white Buick LeSabre with genuine Texas license plates. It's more reliable than Jesse's and less of a hassle with the state troopers, he explains, pasting back a shock of white hair with his thick right hand.
As little towns like Ranger, Olden, and Clyde flash by, Jesse sketches the outlines of his life story. "I grew up all over Texas; my dad was in the Air Force for a while," he says. Graduating from high school in Tulia in 1964, Jesse escaped the Vietnam draft when he was declared unfit for military service because of bad knees.
He got married in El Paso, worked a few different jobs--for a gas company, a tire company, and the like--and moved to Dallas in 1976 to enroll in Criswell Bible Institute. He didn't stay there long, though. "I had some serious philosophical differences with them," Enloe says. "I take the Bible literally." He went to work loading trucks, then got a job as a purchasing agent, then found some fairly lucrative work in the insurance business.
In his best year, around 1982, he made perhaps $300,000, he told friends, and he jumped right into the good life: expensive cars, jewelry, big tips. "He liked being somebody," says one woman who knew him in that period. "He's a real good salesman."
That didn't last long, however, and by 1985, the Chase Manhattan Bank of Texas repoed his $853-a-month Jaguar XJS.
After selling it at auction, the bank claimed Enloe still owed about $12,000, plus $2,000 more in interest. Enloe didn't contest them when they took the case to state court in Dallas and got a default judgment in January 1985 for more than $16,000--a judgment that is still unsettled and on the books.