By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
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."
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.
More ominously, the IRS was on his tail for non-payment of taxes.
"They said I owed 'em $30,000, $40,000, something like that," he says in an account confirmed by two others who knew him at the time.
The IRS went after some of his wages--"They stole my income," as he puts it--and he found himself getting deeper in the hole.
"I didn't have the money, so I didn't file," he says. "I didn't hear from them for seven years...Then I met some people who had been involved with various groups that had done research and found out that the IRS is illegal. It's a fraud. I found out I never owed them any money in the first place."
One of the groups Enloe was referring to is Citizens for Legal Reform, formed in 1990 by a former roofer named Alfred Adask who became embittered with the legal system during a nasty divorce. Since 1990, the group has been a sort of right-leaning clubhouse for tax protectors, The Liberty Lobby, the John Birch Society, Libertarians, you name it, with Adask running unsuccessfully for various offices on the Libertarian ticket. Adask, whose magazine, AntiShyster, is dedicated to "raising hell for lawyers," is just the latest figure in Dallas' storied history of playing host to rightist fringe causes.
Loosely knit, these groups seem to feed off the same ideological buffet table: fear of gun control and income taxes; a reverence for the gold standard; and weird fantasies about banking conspiracies, One World government, and domestic concentration camps run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The concept of off-the-grid courts rooted in the Magna Carta and English common law; tortured law-book references that purport to nullify statutory laws and everything from the IRS, to traffic laws, to building codes; a profound contempt for the courts and lawyers--these are all ideas Citizens for Legal Reform was tossing around years before militias and freemen began showing up on the 10 o'clock news.
Nearly everyone active locally in the Republic of Texas got their feet wet in Adask's group, Enloe says, including him and his mother.
"A guy in Citizens for Legal Reform had a videotape by a Utah organization called The IRS Exposed," Enloe recalls of his first encounter with the group. "I started buying more books."
Beginning in 1992, when he attended his first meeting of Adask's group, Enloe began his transformation from someone who "didn't think about politics at all" to a man who embraces just about every wild-eyed conspiracy theory and every feature on the ultra-right landscape.
He ticks them off as Irene's Buick eats up the West Texas miles:
*There is a "secret 13th amendment," not the 13th amendment that abolished slavery, but another one that makes it illegal for lawyers to hold public office.
*The gold-fringed American flag seen in most courtrooms signifies that the court is operating under "admiralty law," not civil law, rendering the courts unqualified to hear civilian cases.
*When a government agency prints a person's name in capital letters, it is referring to a "corporate" individual, not the actual person. People's true names are spelled with capital and lower-case letters. The Enloes claim theirs include a comma between first and last names, a detail they cite while refusing to answer summonses.
*The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City two years ago was carried out by federal agents looking to discredit the militia movement. As its corollary, the FBI deliberately set the deadly fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco two years earlier, Enloe claims.
*The IRS is illegitimate and lacks authority to collect taxes for a number of reasons, among them: It is only authorized to operate in Puerto Rico. It can only collect taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. There is no proof that the agency was ever established by Congress, or that authority was delegated to it by the Treasury Department. The agency needs a person's agreement before it can levy taxes. "I have the United States code on CD-ROM. I'll pull it out and show you," Enloe says.
(For those of you who might want to believe this, Fannie Smith, an IRS spokeswoman in the Dallas regional office, says her agency doesn't believe in conscientious objectors. "Taxpayers who fail to file tax returns, file incomplete returns, or refuse to pay their taxes by claiming constitutional, religious, or moral grounds or the lack of a gold and silver standard face strict civil and criminal penalties." She points to the case of LeRoy Schweitzer, head of the Freemen of Montana, who held off federal authorities for 81 days before surrendering last summer. He was tried and found guilty in September of failing to file tax returns and is awaiting sentencing.)
*President Franklin Roosevelt took the United States' currency off the gold standard in 1933 so "a small group of bankers" and a secret society known as the Illuminati could "control everyone."
These weren't study points on Irene Enloe's lesson plans in her years of teaching the "three R's" to first-, second-, and third-graders in rural Texas.
"Things were quite a bit different back then; we had prayer in the classroom, we felt the police were out to protect us, we loved the president," she says, adjusting her designer sunglasses.
Now, she's on the other side--of law enforcement at times, and of the federal government's requirement to report one's income and pay taxes. That started in 1992, she says. "My husband was very ill and in a nursing home. We were the kind of people that had to pay every bill on time, and every year I took my taxes to the accountant.
"I had gone through cancer surgery and had all these things on my mind. I was walking around the house praying, and I hear a voice. You might think I'm crazy, but I heard a voice that said, 'You don't have to file that. You don't have to do that anymore.'"
So Irene, too, owner of a small home in Grand Prairie, stopped filing her income tax return.
Prompted by an obvious question, Irene Enloe concedes she didn't stop accepting her monthly Social Security check. She didn't have any problem with her now-deceased husband staying in a U.S. Veterans Administration nursing facility in Waco, either. "How can anyone afford a private nursing home?" she says. But when it comes to thumbing her nose at the tax collector, she says righteously, "I haven't worried about it. That decision was between me and the Lord."
It is an article of faith among Republic of Texas members around Dallas that Irene Enloe became a martyr to their cause when several squad cars stopped her on the way to her neighborhood Albertson's in February, and police officers hauled her off to jail in Dallas.
"When they kidnapped [Jesse's] mother, absolutely it was related to his becoming vice president," says Daniel Lopez, the group's Secretary of State. "I don't know anybody who doesn't see it that way."
Nobody in Republic circles, perhaps. But the Dallas Teachers Credit Union has other ideas about Irene and Jesse Enloe.
As court records show, Irene's arrest was the only consequence they have had to pay--at least to date--in the family's extraordinary effort to beat banks and credit institutions out of a list of debts totaling more than $70,000, much of that from credit cards in Irene's name but used by the rest of the family.
This sizable list of deadbeat debts is headed by the note on a big, showy Buick, a 1992 Park Avenue Ultra. It was "Jesse's car," the Enloes say, but records show that Irene signed for it with a $24,084 loan at the Dallas Teachers Credit Union. When the car was purchased in June 1993, it had 28,000 miles on the odometer, according to the title.
About a year after the purchase, the Enloes stopped paying their loan. Then they sent the credit union a "certified money order" for $27,151 and filed in Tarrant County deed records a notarized "Notice of Default" demanding title to the car. "I now own the above referenced 1992 Buick," the papers read, swearing, "I have revoked and rescinded my signature from any and all applications, notes or contracts with Dallas Teachers Credit Union."
Jesse Enloe says the money orders were payable by an L.A. Pathahiah in Tigerton, Wisconsin. It is a name that law enforcement and banking institutions have come to know well over the last several years. Last month, a federal judge in Wisconsin sentenced Leonard A. Peth, a.k.a. L.A. Pathahiah, to eight years in prison for selling the bogus money orders in a scheme the judge said was clearly intended "to ruin the banking system." Peth and nine other members of Family Farm Preservation, a modern-day offshoot of the militant Posse Comitatus, were indicted in 1996 after they sold packets of blank money orders that 900 people in 27 states tried to redeem for more than $64 million.
In Enloe's view, the money orders are as good as currency, which he maintains is worthless because it is not backed by gold or silver. Because the loans were not made in gold or silver coins, they can be paid back with promissory notes--which are no different than the "worthless" money or credit that was originally extended, he says.
The credit union filed suit against Irene Enloe in January 1995, seeking to collect $21,221 left on the car loan, plus $5,422 owed on a MasterCard issued her a year earlier and $4,838 left on a signature loan she took out in June 1993.
Through early 1995, the credit union's lawyers began bringing their case against Irene with toughly worded requests for admissions, and questions about how the Enloes were connected to Peth and the Posse Comitatus, a virulently racist anti-government group that grew up in the 1970s and early 1980s, fueled by angry rural residents threatened with foreclosure amid the farm crisis.
The Posse's leader, Gordon Kahl, was killed in a furious shootout with federal authorities at his Arkansas hideout in 1983. Earlier that year, two federal marshals were killed in another shoot-out with Kahl, whose group sponsored paramilitary training camps, convened citizens court, and "indicted" dozens of IRS agents and other officials.
In the years since, many of the fringe philosophies formulated by the Posse have been adopted by freemen groups like the Republic of Texas, particularly the adoption of common law courts and a hatred of bankers and lawyers.
Enloe says that "eight banking families that control the world" are among those trying to usher in "one world government."
Mark Briskman, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in Dallas, says he has explored that notion at length with Republic members. When pressed to name who they believe is oppressing them, they "end up naming seven Jewish families and the Rockefellers."
"It goes back to the same old historic canard of 'the International Jewish conspiracy,'" says Briskman. "At the end of the road, that's where this stuff leads."
Among other Republic of Texas beliefs that have their roots in the Posse is the idea that government power rests in the local county, with the sheriff having the authority to enforce "the common law," meaning local precedent and custom.
The Posse's philosophy included virulently racist beliefs rooted in a notion that whites get their rights from God, while other races have had their rights legislated into existence by the 14th Amendment.
At least in their literature, the Republic has steered clear of race and religion. Several black and Hispanic members attend their meetings.
As the very mundane debt collection case involving the Enloes' Buick neared its trial in Dallas County Court No. 4 in June 1995, Jesse and a few men he knew at the Committee for Legal Reform set up their common law court in Arlington.
They called it Our One Supreme Court.
The court's paperwork--in the style of freemen movements nationwide--declared that the institution was not part of the United States, but instead a creation of the "Republic of Texas."
"The court we modeled it after up in Oklahoma used the words Country of Oklahoma," Enloe explains. "We liked using republic, the Republic of Texas."
At their first session, held June 17, 1995, they heard as one of their first cases Alice Irene Enloe Vs United States et. al; and all Whom it May Concern.
Before Irene testified, she took a so-called declaration of quiet title, professing herself a private citizen rather than a "subject of the United States." In the one-sided proceeding that followed, 12 judges/jurors arrived at a unanimous "finding of law and facts" that the Buick belonged to Irene free and clear, and they demanded that the credit union cough up the title.
Lloyd Black, a 72-year-old retired carpenter, signed the official-looking order as "special appointed marshal," and it was sent to the credit union's attorneys. The court even took out a legal ad in Fort Worth's Commercial Recorder. The notice said the credit union needed to send their claim to the court "no later than four days after publication or lose all right in...said private property."
Before the notice ran out, Judge Bruce Woody of County Court No. 4 in Dallas ruled after a brief hearing that Irene Enloe owed the credit union $33,778.77, plus $9,444 in attorney's fees.
What followed was a blizzard of stern rulings from Our One Supreme Court, including a "writ of prohibition" ordering "the inferior Dallas County Court at Law No. 4 to cease and desist in all actions and decrees" in Irene Enloe's case.
In early 1996, Richard McLaren began gathering followers to his Republic of Texas movement through various meetings around the state, including the Committee for Legal Reform, and the Enloes and others joined in.
"Initially, he had that magnetic personality that drew a lot of people in," says Enloe. "He got them excited."
Their Arlington court transformed itself into the official Republic of Texas court, renaming itself the Milam District Court of Common Law Pleas.
In another notice sent by the Enloes in the battle for the Buick, they informed Judge Woody: "I Alice Irene, Enloe hereby give NOTICE that I am civilly dead (civiliter mortuus), being a sentient human being...I am a free National of the Republic of Texas which is foreign to the venue, jurisdiction..."
"As a defense it wasn't very effective," says attorney Douglas Johnson, who nevertheless ended up compiling a thick folder of Republic of Texas documents and "rulings" sent by the Enloes.
The Enloes had surrendered the car in the fall of 1995, a day before a hearing on whether to hold them in contempt for hiding it. Still seeking to recover the more than $10,000 Irene Enloe continued to owe, Johnson set about to compel her to give a deposition. Their efforts ended last October with Judge Woody issuing an "order of attachment," meaning Irene could be arrested and jailed and made to appear at the deposition. By that time, the Enloes had simply stopped showing up in court, and took to returning notices with the words "Refused For Fraud" scribbled across the front. Irene began calling herself a citizen of "Yahvah's Kingdom at the Republic of Texas."
Irene was finally brought in by Dallas County sheriff's deputies in early February, processed, and taken to the 10th floor of the George L. Allen Dallas County Courthouse.
"I was so shocked--I didn't know where I was," she says, sounding like a hardened con. "You'd ask them a question, and they'd lie to you."
Sheriff's officials say Irene was a memorable prisoner. Not only did she make it clear she was the vice president's mother, but she refused to shower, and ended up smelling so ripe that she was put in a single cell, says Jim Ewell, the department's spokesman.
While Irene sat in jail, Jesse cranked his amateur legal office into full gear.
He tells anyone who asks that Irene's arrest was somehow connected with Attorney General Dan Morales' actions against the Republic. The attorney general has been fighting the group and 25 of its members in civil courts since last June, when he filed a suit alleging illegal restraint of trade, intimidation, retaliation, and falsifying government records. After granting a temporary injunction against the organization, a state district judge in Austin found Republic officials in contempt of court.
The state is seeking a permanent injunction forbidding the group and its members from filing documents that purport to be from an official government agency.
While Enloe is not named among the 25 defendants, he has been served with a copy of the suit. Irene was served during her stay in jail, which turned into a 10-day stretch after she told the judge he had committed "perjury of oath" and had no jurisdiction over her.
Irene completed her contempt sentence and eventually gave up her bank account number in a deposition in which she repeatedly claimed she had a right against self-incrimination.
"That's the filthiest place you ever want to be," Irene says of jail, where she was kept in protective custody. "You are a criminal until you prove otherwise."
While the teachers were trying to recover their money in Dallas, Bank of America sued in Tarrant County, seeking to recover $9,021 the Enloes had run up on a Visa Gold card and attempted to beat with another specious Pathahiah money order.
The Enloes answered that suit, filed in June 1995, with another "judgment" from the homespun Our One Supreme Court. It asked 342nd District Court Judge Bob McGrath to "cease and desist."
Rather than shrug it off, however, the judge asked for police protection at his Arlington home. He says the sheriff's department was giving him dire warnings about possible violence from the Republic of Texas. Those warnings prompted the Bank of America's lawyer, Durward Moore, to drop the suit, McGrath says. "They said they didn't want anyone to get hurt over this."
Moore declined to be interviewed for this story, citing office policy.
That debt and all the rest mentioned in the Enloes' "public notices" have never been paid with what most people consider to be legal currency, Jesse says. Together with the Bank of America Visa Gold card, the debts total more than $38,126. There was $8,996 owed to MNBA MasterCard, $6,000 to First Bank MasterCard, $7,151 to an AARP Banc One Visa, $4,600 to a Discover card, and on and on.
Irene, asked about the debts, says with a sort of sheepish look, "You know some of my friends aren't as informed about this as people in the Republic. They might not understand."
Jesse Enloe differs with Richard McLaren, the group's deposed president, over a number of things, including what kinds of people can be handed phony checks.
"You can't do that to someone who renders you goods or services," Enloe says, adding that McLaren is less discerning. McLaren broke that rule when he used a worthless Republic of Texas check last fall to pay a Fort Worth printer, Enloe says.
Roger Downs, owner of Custom Copying and Printing in River Oaks, a suburb west of Fort Worth, says McLaren left him something that looked like a check for $4,569 to pay for a batch of Republic of Texas "passports" that Downs printed in November.
Jesse Enloe originally placed the order, Downs says, explaining that he printed the little official-looking books with blue and gold-leaf covers and expected McLaren to pay.
When he took McLaren's check to his bank, however, it didn't clear. He took it to another bank. It bounced again. Within a few days, several IRS special agents were at his door, Downs says.
The agents accepted his explanation that he was simply the victim in this, and Downs agreed to let the feds tap his phones while he discussed the check with McLaren and Enloe, he recalls.
Then he got cold feet. "I talked to my wife, and she thought we'd better just forget about it," he says. The agents took the rest of the passports he had in the store and told him to call them if McLaren shows up again.
The check made out to Downs was one of several dozen specified in a 25-count federal indictment unsealed in Dallas on Monday charging Rick McLaren and his wife, Evelyn Ann, and five cohorts with printing and passing worthless Republic of Texas checks. They looked like cashiers' checks and purported to be warrants drawn on the Republic's treasury.
In announcing the indictments, U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins said hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of the fake "warrants" were passed to credit-card companies, banks, and merchants.
For instance, Kelly's Jewelers in Austin was left holding a worthless check for $3,496, according to the indictment. Enloe says word in Republic circles is that McLaren had ordered 150 Texas Ranger badges from Kelly's.
"I heard I was going to get back-pay as clerk of the Republic court, and I got pretty excited," Enloe recalls. "Then I heard we were gonna get paid with McLaren's warrants, and I got unexcited real quick."
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.
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.
As the hotel meeting ends, participants file out past a table where Irene and Doris Enloe are selling Republic paraphernalia: $3 decals, $5 badges, and $35 Burnett flags, which flew for the historic Republic of Texas from 1836 to 1845.
These days, this cash is the family's only income, Jesse says. The Enloes talk of a secret "private trust" that one day will begin paying salaries to the Republic's officers.
Their booth is flanked by one where John Birch Society magazines are for sale, and another with tapes of past meetings and seminars on beating traffic tickets.
Another booth across the aisle trades in more sinister goods: copies of the IRA Handbook, Poor Man's TNT, and the Anarchist's Cookbook, plus "CIA non-detectable letter openers"--$5 hard-rubber survivalist knives.
The 40-round clips for AK assault rifles are priced at $20 a pop.