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The True Story of Cult Murder in the American Heartland
By Rod Colvin
Addicus Books, Inc.Copyright © 2000 Rod Colvin
All rights reserved.
The face of the town clock was weathered and faded. But from its position atop the spired tower on the corner of the town square, it still lent an air of respectability to the main street of Hiawatha, Kansas. It was 6:45 precisely; the clock kept perfect time.
An evening breeze stirred the tall pines on the lawn of the Brown County Courthouse across the street. Two traffic lights flashed routinely, though the downtown area was empty except for the parked cars of a few diners stopping in for the buffet at Danny's Restaurant, on the east end of the block. It was a typical, quiet, small-town Sunday night. But on this May evening in 1982, at a community hall a couple of blocks off the main drag, the scene was different.
"Look at that!" Mike Ryan exclaimed as he climbed out of the pickup truck and pointed to the cars parked on both sides of the brick-paved street. "They're backed up to the courthouse." His voice carried just a hint of drawl. Ryan crunched his 7UP can and tossed it on the floorboard.
Ryan, his brother-in-law Steve Patterson, and Steve's dad, Maynard, were fifteen minutes early — the lecture was set for seven o'clock. It appeared the Reverend James Wickstrom, national head of the Posse Comitatus, would be drawing a full house tonight.
Impressed, the three men entered the hall and walked down the aisle between rows of tan metal folding chairs. They took seats on the right, halfway back from the podium.
As the minutes ticked away, more and more people filed into the auditorium, filling the seats. By seven o'clock, a number of people were standing up along the back wall.
Once settled, Ryan glanced around at the people who had gathered there. Nearly all were farmers with weathered faces and thick, callused hands. Tonight, most had traded their bib overalls and blue jeans for pastel Western shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons, string ties, double knit dress slacks with black belts and large buckles. Their worn, scuffed work shoes had been replaced by polished Western boots.
Ryan, a big, burly man, stood six feet, two inches tall; his two hundred twenty pounds gave him a bulging belt line. The dark mustache he wore blended into his closely trimmed beard, flecked with gray. In a couple of months, he would turn thirty-five. Tonight, Ryan wore a faded plaid shirt, blue jeans, and cowboy boots. He lifted the ball cap from his head and ran his thick fingers across the top of his crew cut; he settled the cap on his head again as he waited for the speaker to arrive. This is all right, he thought, feeling the excitement build in the hall.
Beside him, Steve Patterson felt the same excitement. Like Ryan, Steve was in his early thirties. At six feet, six inches and two hundred pounds, he could afford to be easygoing. Maynard Patterson, a reserved man, had been a farmer all his life.
For many of these farmers, their handshakes and smiles concealed a wrenching strain — the psychological chaos created by the possibility of losing their farms. This year's crop prices had not been enough to cover bank loans. Already they had seen land and machinery go on the auction block. In some cases, farms that had been handed down from generation to generation had been foreclosed on by banks. It was not a happy time for those who farmed and fed the nation. They were accustomed to the dignity of being able to work out their own problems. They had always believed that hard work would see them through. But now, that obviously was not true, and no one cared about them, they thought — least of all the bigwigs in Washington.
Promptly at seven o'clock the Reverend James Wickstrom, wearing a blue leisure suit, walked briskly to the front of the hall. Gripping the sides of the podium, he leaned into the microphone and announced in a calm voice, "All federal agents are asked to leave."
Three men in casual shirts and slacks, attire making them seem very out of place, stood up and walked from the hall.
Ryan snickered. This is going to be some meeting, he thought as he elbowed Steve.
Steve leaned over and whispered, "Those were FBI agents. They try to go undercover. They'll be outside now, taking down license plate numbers."
The Posse Comitatus was just one of several ultra-right-wing, paramilitary groups that the FBI had under investigation. Posse members had been known to flaunt weapons openly and spew rhetoric about a government conspiracy, masterminded by rich Jews, to destroy the American farmer. In short, the Posse, a largely rural movement in the plains states, was anti-tax, anti-government, racist, and anti-Semitic.
In the late 1970s, law enforcement had begun watching these organizations in connection with replevin actions — bank repossessions of land and farm equipment. Activists had been known to show up at farm sales and auctions with nooses or guns, discouraging others from bidding. In western Kansas, a sheriff had turned in his badge over such threats. Law officials were concerned about the escalating potential for violence that seemed inherent in a religious crusade that preached hate and the stockpiling of weapons.
Likewise, the organizations Klanwatch and the Anti-Defamation League considered the Posse Comitatus violent and dangerous. Klanwatch, which monitored activities of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy splinter groups, identified factions of the Posse in at least thirteen states. And, although the Posse boasted of a membership of two million nationwide, the Anti-Defamation League, a defense agency for Jewish citizens, considered this number a gross exaggeration, and estimated Posse membership at several thousand.
Steve had been attending Posse meetings and had been following Wickstrom for the past year, and Ryan had been listening to Steve talk on and on about the Posse. "Where in the hell are you getting all this crap?" he asked one day.
"Wickstrom," Steve said.
"Who the hell is Wickstrom?"
"The Reverend James Wickstrom, the leader of the Posse," Steve had explained. "He lives in Wisconsin. It's a national thing."
Steve, a truck driver like Mike, had picked up some pamphlets on a trip. For months now, Steve had talked about the Posse to Mike and Mike's wife Ruth, the gist of the talk being that taxes were unconstitutional, and that the Jews were screwing up the world monetary system. It looked to Ryan like a bunch of guys had gotten themselves into debt and were just looking for an easy way out. Ryan was attending tonight's meeting at Steve's urging, only because he had nothing better to do.
James Wickstrom straightened and gazed at the audience, seeming to penetrate each watcher with his intense eyes. Wickstrom's physical presence wasn't imposing. He was in his early forties, his face was round and unsmiling. Of medium height, he was a bit hefty with dark hair and dark-tinted glasses.
"I'd like all of you to stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance," he said. His voice sounded like it was strained through gravel.
The group rose as one and recited the Pledge. Wickstrom followed with a short prayer, then asked, "You're all hurting, aren't you?"
Heads nodded in response.
"You see friends losing their crops, their livestock, their property. Some of 'em are losing farms that have been in the family for generations. You're afraid your turn might be coming up.
"You're thinking what's happening isn't right. You know what? You're right there. What's happening isn't right. I'm here to tell you that God knows it isn't right.
"You people know the Bible. I know you do. You're good, hardworking Christian people. You know the Bible. But do you understand it?
"Some of you are nodding your heads. That's good. Then maybe you do know. It's good to be among God-fearing people. But, then again, maybe you don't know what the Scripture is saying.
"Being God-fearing Americans, wouldn't you figure that if the American farmer was in serious financial difficulty, the federal government would be rushing in to help? After all, the government trips over itself bailing out the Jew-owned airlines, tobacco companies, railroads, and steel industries.
"But then, you don't find too many Jews working the land, do you? No, you don't. Do you know why? Nobody? Not even you who thought you knew the Bible? Well, then, I'll tell you why.
"Almighty God put a curse on Cain, the father of the Jews. That's right. Genesis 4:12 says the earth would not yield her fruit to Cain and his descendants. Matthew 23:35 tells us that Cain is the father of the Jews.
"As a race, Jews cannot grow anything. Jews import Christian agriculture experts to the Middle East to supervise Arabs they have working their fields. Jews can't grow anything.
"But that wasn't the whole of Cain's curse. Now, God condemned Cain and his descendants to be vagabonds in the earth from that time on.
"We pay, you and me, over six hundred million dollars a year to support the Jew state. And you wonder why the federal government doesn't have any money for you farmers.
"The Jew-run banks and federal loan agencies are like a pimp and whore, working together as they foreclose on thousands of farms in America. Right now. As I speak!" he cried out, pounding the podium with his fist.
"Now the farmer is in debt up to his ears and the Jew banker, who had already gained real control over the land and money values, started to increase the value of farmland. He fooled you, didn't he? Yes, he did. You believed you were getting ahead, didn't you?
"They GOT YOU!
"The Jew banks and federal loan agencies are committing treason, extortion, and outright theft under the guise of law and so-called human liberty, and they are doing this under the eyes of Almighty God, Jesus the Christ. We must rid ourselves of this wickedness!
"Yahweh is a god of war!" he grated. "He came not to send peace, but to send a sword." The suddenness of his declaration took everyone by surprise. "Soldiers of Yahweh are here to bring in a kingdom and destroy the wickedness in the land."
Wickstrom's reference to Yahweh was from the Old Testament. According to modern biblical scholars, the Hebrews had considered their real name for God, Jehovah, so sacred that they did not use it. Instead, they used the word YHVH. Wickstrom pronounced it "Ya-vay."
Wickstrom's message was aimed at preparing for the Battle of Armageddon — the final battle between good and evil. According to Wickstrom, believers in Yahweh would not be taken to heaven and spared the calamities of the final battle. Rather they would endure the destruction and should prepare by taking military and survival training, stockpiling food and weapons. "Every family," he preached, "should have weapons and several hundred rounds of ammunition put up!"
Meanwhile, "The battle is at the doorstep. It could come next week or in ten years. But it is time to prepare!" The Wickstrom forecast made sense to the farmers; the calamities he detailed certainly paralleled the strain they faced in keeping their land.
The battle, according to Wickstrom, would be against the sons of Satan; they would be killed during the battle in which "blood would flow as deep as the horse's bridle." This battle would not end the world, though. It would mark a new era in which the United States would become the new Jerusalem with a perfect, purified race made up of white Anglo-Saxons. "White Anglo-Saxons are the true Israelites of old — God's chosen people," Wickstrom said. No other race but Caucasian was capable of ruling the world. All other races would be returned to their original countries; they were of Satan.
"You will see tidal waves and earthquakes like you've never seen before when Yahweh stretches out his hand. Yahweh is a vengeful God. Sons of valor, soldiers of Yahweh, don't turn to your president, your governor, your state leaders...."
Many of those in attendance nodded in agreement. What had Washington or anyone else done for them in these hard times? Nothing!
Unexpectedly, Mike Ryan discovered himself remembering some of the information Steve had passed on to him about Wickstrom. The guy was a hell of a speaker. He had his shit together, Mike decided. Tonight was proof of it. The man commanded the room; his delivery was just short of fire and brimstone. The man not only knew his Bible, he knew politics and economics, as well!
"Jews!" he shouted. "Jews are from the seeds of Satan. Jews are descendants of Cain. Most of the death, suffering, disease, and malice around the world we owe to them. Satan is against us. We are in a time of war!"
Here he lowered his voice, as if in conspiracy. "Jews control world banks. Jews screw others in business. Jews own all the distilleries. Distilleries make booze. Booze hurts people — people like you and me!" Jews were responsible for abortion. Jews were responsible for chemical dumps. "Jews don't read the Bible! Jews read something called a Talmud!" Did Jews produce crops? No! "Yahweh has said that the land will be barren at their feet!"
Mike Ryan nodded. He'd never liked Jews, although he'd never been sure why he disliked them — until now. Now he knew. He remembered an argument he'd had with a Jewish guy. He'd asked the guy for a job. The Jew had rubbed him wrong right off. The confrontation ended with Mike promising, "If you don't shut your mouth, I'll shut it for you permanent with my fist!" Yeah, Wickstrom's making sense, he thought.
Ryan straightened in his chair, listening carefully as Wickstrom drew from the Scriptures their true meaning — his interpretation. "The Bible has had some twenty thousand mistranslations," he explained. "Jesus commanded us to search the Scriptures. Find the answer for yourself!"
Now he read from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: "To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under the heaven ... A time to kill and a time to heal." He paused and stared at the audience, then began his interpretation. "Remember, Yahweh said it's okay to kill, but thou shalt not murder. You must kill the enemy of Yahweh — that is dictated!"
Suddenly, everyone was standing and the room was pulsing with excitement, applause, and shouts of "Amen!" It was a stellar performance in manipulating willing minds. Mike Ryan's heart was racing as he stood for the closing prayer.
The meeting at an end, the approving crowd gathered around Wickstrom to shake his hand. Ryan made his way through the crowd and stood before Wickstrom. Immediately, Wickstrom locked his eyes with Ryan's and offered his hand.
Ryan shook hands, saying, "You know, bud, you made a lot of statements up here. But how can you prove it?" He knew his tone was cocky, but he didn't care. "I was raised up a Baptist and everything you're saying is the opposite of what I was taught. How do you come up with all this crap?"
Wickstrom eyed him, his gaze unwavering. He smiled a small, satisfied smile. He had seen this "defiance" before. He knew it to be the final resistance of a true convert. "What are you?"
"What do you mean, what am I?"
"Do you know what your nationality is?"
"English. Maybe a little Irish. But I couldn't prove that part to nobody. What difference does it make?"
"White Anglo-Saxons are true Israelites!" Wickstrom said, delivering the final blow. "You are a true Israelite!"
Ryan stepped back, folding his arms before him, the idea soaking in: he was one of God's chosen people. It sat well with him; it was a powerful compliment. With a couple of simple questions Wickstrom had reduced Ryan from a challenger to an attentive listener. Ryan asked to see Wickstrom's Bible.
Ryan thumbed through the Bible, its pages thick with inserted notes, all Wickstrom interpretations. Ryan opened his mouth to ask a question. He never got the chance.
Wickstrom jumped in. "I had to look all this stuff up and now I've given you food for thought. So, you go look for yourself." He took the Bible from Ryan's hands. "Satisfy your mind on whether I've told the truth. I've given you enough to look for. If you can prove me wrong, forget it. If you can't, call me. Somebody here will know how to get hold of me. I'll talk to you any time at all." Wickstrom turned away to greet the other people who circled him, waiting.
Ryan lit a cigarette and hurried off to join Steve and his father in an adjoining room where there were tables full of Posse pamphlets and cassette tapes. Ryan picked up some pamphlets and left with Maynard and Steve.
Excerpted from Evil Harvest by Rod Colvin. Copyright © 2000 Rod Colvin. Excerpted by permission of Addicus Books, Inc..
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