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Randy Weaver's Return From Ruby Ridge

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Randy Weaver s Return From Ruby Ridge Back
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2001
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.


      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Randy Weaver's Return From Ruby Ridge
      Back Home in Iowa, He's Got Memories -- and a Message
      By Anne Hull
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Monday, April 30, 2001; Page A01

      JEFFERSON, Iowa -- The small town where Randy Weaver now
      lives is as wide and open as Ruby Ridge was steep and
      hidden. The Union Pacific whistles past the cornfields

      It is not unusual to find Weaver in Iowa because he was
      born and raised here, the son of a grain salesman. People
      forget that part.

      What they remember is the 11-day standoff with federal
      agents in 1992 that left Weaver's wife and 14-year-old son
      dead on an Idaho mountainside in the debacle that came to
      be known as Ruby Ridge.

      What they remember is the survivalist who wanted to
      separate from a race-mixing nation and its oppressive

      Now, Weaver mows his neat little lawn here on Wilson
      Avenue. A Cadillac sits in his driveway. He is listed in
      the phone book. But to say that Weaver has come down off
      the mountain would be only half-right.

      At 53, he is still not ready to forgive. Not after the
      Justice Department settled a lawsuit brought by his family
      for $3.1 million. And not after a wayward soldier named
      Timothy McVeigh killed 168 Americans to avenge what
      happened at Ruby Ridge and Waco, the other disastrous
      federal siege.

      When McVeigh is executed next month for his role in the
      Oklahoma City bombing, a violent chapter in American
      history will close with one more death. Weaver says the
      real enemy will remain at large. The real enemy will
      continue to violate the Constitution and "eavesdrop on your
      house from a mile away with that super ear thing."

      Organizations that track the activities of racist and
      paramilitary groups dismiss Weaver as a fading figure in a
      waning movement. "In the scheme of things, he's
      milquetoasty," said Joe Roy, director of the Southern
      Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.

      Yet Weaver continues to rise like a martyr above the
      wreckage. In his case, the black helicopters really did
      come. A robot with a gun in its claw really did move across
      his cabin porch.

      It's hard to say who Weaver is now. The industry of rage
      and resentment makes certain demands upon him. He is a folk
      hero of ultra-right-wing groups. When asked about McVeigh's
      impending execution, he says almost reflexively, "There
      should be a bunch of federal agents lying right beside him
      on the gurney."

      Although he lost his own wife and child, Weaver identifies
      with McVeigh more easily than with the victims of the
      Oklahoma City bombing.

      "He was a soldier's soldier," Weaver says. "He just
      switched sides. Tim McVeigh was trying to make a point. He
      was what you call pro bono. He was going to be judge, jury
      and executioner. No different from the federal government.
      One has a badge and one don't."

      But other times Weaver is not so gung-ho. What if McVeigh
      had come to him with his plans for Oklahoma City?

      "I would have told him to forget it."

      'They Are Just Mad' "Meet Randy Weaver," the blinking sign
      announces outside the fairgrounds in Lincoln, Neb. Inside a
      stale expo hall, the tables are laid out with rifles and
      scopes and munitions. Weaver is near the door, standing at
      a table piled with $20 copies of his 1998 book, "The
      Federal Siege at Ruby Ridge."

      No one here for this mid-April gun show really needs the
      book to tell what happened. In 1989, while living in Idaho,
      Weaver was caught selling two shotguns he had sawed off
      shorter than the legal limit to an informant working for
      the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The ATF tried
      to enlist Weaver as an informant, promising to drop the gun
      charges, but he refused and was indicted by a grand jury.

      When Weaver failed to appear in court -- he had been given
      the wrong date -- an arrest warrant was issued.

      Seventeen months later, federal agents in camouflage and
      face paint were crawling around Weaver's 20 acres when they
      were detected by the family dog. Agents shot the dog and
      began a gun battle with Weaver's 14-year-old son, Sam, and
      a family friend, both armed. Sam was killed. So was U.S.
      Marshal William Degan. The siege began.

      Weaver holed up in the cabin with his wife and three
      daughters. The day after Sam was killed, Vicki Weaver was
      holding her 10-month-old daughter when an FBI sniper shot
      her in the head.

      Weaver surrendered after 11 days. He was charged with
      murder in the death of the marshal, but an Idaho jury
      acquitted him. He spent 16 months in jail for the original
      gun offense.

      And here he is at a gun show, unable to own a firearm
      legally because of his conviction. He stands at a table
      with only his story.

      The procession is steady. "My condolences," says one man,
      extending his hand. "I appreciate all your character. It
      must be a bitch."

      Weaver signs the book and takes the $20. "I appreciate

      They approach like mourners coming to pay their respects.
      He relaxes them, sometimes with humor, sometimes with
      anger. Some of them vent. Some want to know about missing
      shell casings at Ruby Ridge after the siege. One man is
      curious about "that shotgun robot sent in by the Freddies."

      "They want to talk to me a little more than I want to talk
      to them," Weaver says. "They've become so upset with the
      government that it's hard to trust anybody. They're not bad
      people. They are just mad."

      Weaver wears motorcycle boots and keeps his wallet leashed
      to his blue jeans by a silver chain, Harley-style. His
      silver hair is cut close on the sides and long in the back.

      A broad-shouldered man in a John Deere jacket and an NRA
      cap extends his hand. "Fritz Oltjenbruns," he says. "I'm
      part of America's largest not-for-profit organization --
      farmers. I was just telling my son this morning how the ATF
      snookered you down by an eighth-of-an-inch on that

      Weaver rocks back on his heels. "I ain't ashamed of it.
      I'll cut it right down to the stock, whatever."

      The farmer folds his arms. "It's a darned shame what you
      went through with your wife," he says. "It's hard to
      believe the government went that corrupt that fast."

      Weaver signs a book and pockets the twenty. "Keep your
      powder dry, buddy."

      A concessionaire trots up with a present. "Here's something
      for you, Randy," he says, handing over a napkin. Buffalo
      jerky. "Thanks," Weaver says, and sets it aside forever.

      A grandpa type holding a pistol approaches. "They haven't
      tried to run you out with your books, have they?" When
      Weaver was appearing at a gun show at the Reno Hilton once,
      the Northern Nevada B'nai B'rith pressured the promoter
      into banning his appearance.

      An intense, red-cheeked man holding a 32-ounce Coke pounces
      with a great gale of rhetoric on religion and politics that
      begins with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and ends with his
      plea, "If you have the time, I'd really like an answer."

      "I don't have the answer," Weaver says. "Religion's all a
      bunch of crap." The speechmaker, silenced, walks off into
      the sea of guns.

      The only person in the armory who isn't white is a janitor
      at the fairgrounds, a Native American named Floyd Pilcher.
      He approaches Weaver with a bag of sage, a faded bandanna
      and a T-shirt that reads, "IN THE SPIRIT OF CRAZY HORSE."
      "These are gifts from powerful people," Pilcher says.

      Weaver takes the gifts. "I guess anybody who's ever gotten
      stomped on by the government knows what I'm talkin' about,"
      he says.

      Back inside, a strapping young man in a T-shirt imprinted
      with a Fort Benning logo and the words "DEATH COMES QUICK"
      solemnly shakes Weaver's hand. "I'm sorry your deal
      happened," he says. A creamy-skinned woman extends her
      hand. "By God, stand by your word," she tells Weaver.

      The show doesn't end until 3:30, but Weaver starts breaking
      down his booth 40 minutes early. Two teenage boys hover.
      "Need some help?" one asks.

      "Thanks, partner," Weaver says.

      The kid turns to his friend. "He called me partner!"

      At Ruby Ridge When a pickup truck comes to a four-way stop
      in Jefferson, it is a lone red object against an endless
      curtain of green. Only the grain elevators have altitude.
      There is an A and W stand next to the ballfield, which is
      next to a cornfield.

      This is the place Randy and Vicki Weaver wanted to separate
      from when they sold their belongings and moved to the
      Pacific Northwest in 1983 with their three children.
      Separate from what, he is asked.

      "From what we were trying to get away from."

      It was Vicki Weaver who drove her family's peculiar
      following of Old Covenant Laws, calling God "Yahweh" and
      believing themselves to be the true Israelites. Because a
      woman having a child was considered unclean, Vicki Weaver
      gave birth to her fourth child in a shed behind their cabin
      on Ruby Ridge. She canned her own food and home-schooled
      the children.

      On three or four occasions, the Weavers attended Aryan
      Nation meetings up at Hayden Lake, a compound for
      government resisters and for white separatists and
      supremacists. Weaver says he'd drink beer and talk to the
      skinheads. He did nothing illegal, he says, until he got
      desperate for money and sold the two sawed-off shotguns to
      the informant.

      The Weavers' racial views were obscured by the enormity of
      what happened to them during the siege at Ruby Ridge. After
      the sniper killed Vicki Weaver, negotiators used a bullhorn
      to greet her in the morning, saying they'd had pancakes for
      breakfast -- what did she have?

      FBI Special Agent Eugene Glenn later told a Senate inquiry
      that agents didn't realize that Vicki Weaver had been shot.
      The sniper, Lon Horiuchi, testified that he could hit a
      target at 200 yards within one-quarter inch. He said he had
      been aiming for one of the armed males, not Vicki Weaver.

      An investigation found that the FBI had altered its rules
      of engagement, directing agents to shoot any armed adults
      on sight. Several high-ranking FBI officials were
      disciplined after a Justice Department inquiry found
      evidence of a cover-up. One pleaded guilty to obstruction
      of justice. The No. 2 official at the FBI, Deputy Director
      Larry Potts, was demoted after an investigation found
      evidence of misconduct. He retired two years later.

      The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is still reviewing
      whether Horiuchi should be subject to manslaughter charges.

      Meanwhile, the world Weaver had tried to separate from
      found in him a brother. He says he received more than
      30,000 pieces of mail. "Hell, anyone who'd ever been picked
      on by the government was writing me," he says. "Airmen
      who'd escaped Red China, black guys from Detroit -- some
      friends of Leonard Peltier's mailed me one of his

      In the settlement of the civil lawsuit Weaver brought
      against the government, each of his three daughters
      received $1 million, and Weaver received $100,000.

      Weaver returned to Iowa, where relatives rented him a house
      in a small town next to Jefferson. He had his two youngest
      daughters with him. Weaver met a woman, Linda Gross, who
      was married and in farm-implement sales. The town suddenly
      got too small. Weaver and his girls went out to Montana for
      a few years.

      Weaver came back to Jefferson in 1999. He and Linda are now
      married and live with her two children from her first
      marriage. Linda is a secretary for a lawyer in town. Except
      for the gun shows, Weaver doesn't have a job. He's working
      on his next book, "The Rise and Fall of the USSA."

      His daughters live in Montana. The oldest, Sara, 24, is
      married to a corrections officer. The youngest, Elisheba,
      whom Vicki Weaver was cradling when she was shot, is 9 and
      lives with her sister Rachel, who is 19. Weaver says his
      kids "live out there because they like it."

      Before he left Iowa for the first time to live in the
      Pacific Northwest, Weaver sold his Harley-Davidson because
      he was starting a new kind of life. Now he owns a Harley
      Heritage Soft Tail that gleams in his garage.

      He writes off much about his lifestyle at Ruby Ridge. "Punk
      idiots" is what he calls many of the attendees at Aryan
      Nation meetings. He has offended Christian supporters who
      assume they are simpatico with him on matters of faith.
      "I've studied religions and pretty much decided they are
      all the same: [expletive]," he says. "And you shouldn't
      have to pay a tax-exempt preacher to hear it."

      He says people should live by the Golden Rule and not
      "whore after false deities."

      His views on race haven't evolved much. When asked whether
      white separatism isn't a losing battle in light of the new
      census figures that show a browning America, he shakes his
      head in pity. "I feel sorry for the next generation."

      A Place of His Own Weaver is having a White Russian at a
      place called Wet Goods on the town square. Joe Cocker is
      singing "Unchain My Heart" on the stereo. A tall man in a
      plaid shirt walks through the door. "Nick!" says Weaver.

      Nick Friess has known Weaver since elementary school.
      During the Vietnam War, they enlisted in the Army about the
      same time. Weaver was a Green Beret who remained stateside.
      Friess went to Vietnam, and two years later he stepped on
      an explosive in the grass. He was awarded a Bronze Star.
      Part of his leg was amputated seven years ago. He no longer
      farms. Now he is an educational director at an art museum.

      Friess sits down with Weaver. The conversation drifts from
      their childhood to the gypsum mine where Nick's father
      worked to church, and Weaver makes a crack about phony
      ministers. Friess says, in a very "Prairie Home Companion"
      way, "Oh, well, now, you can't categorize everyone. Some
      preachers are just fine."

      Weaver sits back, for once not spring-loaded. He doesn't
      have to be from Ruby Ridge right now. He is the boy from
      Jefferson who used to box with NickyFriess in the front
      yard while both of them tried to impress a girl named Lana.

      Weaver got a D in government. They both laugh.

      Later, Friess will say, "A lot of his beliefs, I don't
      agree with."

      And yet: "After all he's been through, jiminy, it's amazing
      he can be walking the streets."

      And finally: "Maybe with the tragic playing out of events,
      there is a certain obligation for him to feel a certain

      Weaver has a gun show in Las Vegas next weekend. They will
      come for his book and his story. They may talk about the
      missing shell casings and the shotgun robot sent in by the
      Freddies, as they did at the show in Lincoln.

      But what he remembers about the mountain: "There was no
      wind," he says. "The snowflakes were so big you could hear
      them when they hit the ground. The kids had three or four
      campgrounds around the land. They'd go out and build fires
      at night.

      "And Vicki canned. She and the kids would pick
      huckleberries. She got top dollar 'cause she picked clean.
      Or she'd trade a gallon of huckleberries for four quarts of
      peaches. We sold firewood -- me, Vick and the kids. Then
      we'd go into Bonner's Ferry and have a hamburger or a

      Weaver says he'd like a place in the Ozarks some day, with
      nothing but quiet and a clear creek running through.

      "That's weird, ain't it?" he asks. "Now who the hell would
      want to live like that?"

      The Washington Post Company

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