By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
As the Enloes approach Abilene, Jesse dials his pocket-sized cel phone and reaches Monty Barnett, the local Republic of Texas man they are scheduled to meet. He tells them to proceed to the Royal Inn, at the edge of town.
Even the sight of the worn, '60s-era motel can't dull the brilliant Texas spring afternoon as Jesse pulls the Buick into a parking spot. "Let's eat," he says.
The Enloes, joined by Barnett and his wife, pile their plates with chicken-fried steak and cream gravy off the buffet of Pete's Family Restaurant at the front of the motel. They begin getting concerned that they are the only ones in the dining room.
Barnett is following a different faction than Enloe, the one headed by Archie Lowe, and Enloe had hoped to discuss ways the two groups could merge.
"People don't know they're not free," says Barnett, a young, heavyset man who says only "I'm in business" when asked how he makes a living.
"Yeah. 'Sheeple,'" says Enloe, echoing the term used by Rush Limbaugh after President Bill Clinton was reelected in November.
Only three other people are on hand when the short-lived meeting finally begins in the Royal Inn's banquet room, a vast affair decorated with ornate silver foil and red velvet wallpaper. One is an unblinking woman who tells anyone who will listen that government agents are following her and her kids, so she's planning to escape to Israel, or New York, or Waco, depending on which version of the labyrinthine tale she's on at the minute.
Later, the woman follows the Enloes out to their car, where they listen politely for a few minutes and then ease away.
"Boy, that was a waste of time," Enloe says as he heads the LeSabre back on the highway to Fort Worth. "I think Archie's group is in trouble."
Every other week, between 75 and 100 members of Enloe's faction assemble in a perfectly businesslike meeting room at Dallas' Hiltop Inn.
The crowd milling at a recent meeting is primarily 50ish and up, middle and lower-middle class, and includes many faces familiar from the Committee for Legal Reform, which rents the same room every other Tuesday. A couple of others are familiar from the every-other-month lecture series sponsored by The Eclectic Viewpoint, which is big into UFOs and fringe science.
"We used to get more than this before the split," Enloe says.
Talking at the back of the room, he says he gets a kick out of media accounts that say groups like his are hard-wired into the Internet. "This isn't the computer generation," he says. "I've got only a handful of people with e-mail addresses."
As an obvious concession to this age group's concerns, the Republic says that when Texas gets its independence, older citizens will still get their Social Security benefits from Uncle Sam. These things--like the handicapped license plates on Irene's car--make it hard to take the Republic folks as much of a threat. But it is easy to wonder whether violence is all that can come of rhetoric that gets as hot as this group's.
"We believe we can accomplish our goal peacefully, having all the people deciding the fate of Texas," Enloe says. "That's what I believe. But then again, that may be too much to ask for."
David Johnson, the group's president, came to the Dallas meeting April 22. A well-dressed sort with the full beard of a holy man, Johnson told the group that coverage by the major media will help distinguish their "rightful government" from Richard McLaren's. In what Enloe called "the first positive story I've seen on the Republic," The Dallas Morning News quoted Johnson last month saying that his group isn't belligerent or racist. "We've tried to reach out to all people," he said.
That doesn't mean white supremacists are shunned by the Republic, Enloe says. "No doubt, there are people [in the movement] who hold white supremacist views," he says.
There are no overt signs that the Republic of Texas has a racist agenda, says Michelle Bramblett, a researcher for the militia task force at Klanwatch, sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. There even are reports, she says, that it has developed ties with a black separatist movement next door in Louisiana. "They're called the Washaata Nation," Bramblett says. "They say a part of Louisiana rightfully belongs to them."
Some vague white-supremacist language pops up in the legal papers Enloe prepared for his mother in the battle of the Buick--the references, for instance, to "Yahvah's Kingdom." The phrase, employing the Hebrew word for God, comes exclusively out of the Christian Identity movement and its ultra-right notion that white Christians are chosen by God, says Briskman of the Anti-Defamation League. And Johnson's family is involved in religious beliefs that "come right to the edge of Christian Identity," Briskman says.
Then again, Briskman says, "I'd venture to say some people in these groups toss this stuff around without understanding what it means."
Enloe says he meant nothing in using the term "Yahvah," except as a synonym for God. "I don't believe any race is superior to any other," he says.