“A crazy book, but good crazy. If this were a novel, you’d love the rocking read. But it’s for real, and that really makes it rattle your cage. A brilliant, quirky keyhole into the armed and dangerous brains of America’s fringe — which is no longer fringe.” — Greg Palast on The Blood of Patriots by Bill Fulton and Jeanne Devon.
Every now and then there a story that someone tells you from the dark corners of America that shakes you to your core. It’s usually years after it happened. Most the people are dead, or in jail, or just don’t want to talk about it. But when that one person let’s the story slip, you find out just how close we all were from the edge of this whole thing we call our American way of life from collapsing.
There’s a charismatic leader, as there so often is with these types of stories — a guy that got a bunch of far too well armed men to ready themselves to die in the first great battle of the next revolution. That battle would have happened in the icebox of Alaska, if it wasn’t for a Army vet with bad knees and a surplus store called ‘The Drop Zone.’
That vet is Bill Fulton.
He’s the co-author with Jeanne Devon of a new book called The Blood of Patriots: How I Took Down an Anti-Government Militia with Beer, Bounty Hunting, and Badassery.
When Fulton arrived in Alaska, he was filled with optimism and big dreams. When he left, it was under FBI escort.
Bill was Army Infantry. When his knees gave out, he opened the Drop Zone, a military surplus store in Anchorage, and started hiring fellow vets. Sharpshooting hippies, crew-cutted fundamentalists, PTSD sufferers—all seeking purpose and direction. Alaska gave it to them.
The Last Frontier is vast. The perfect refuge for fugitives and the perfect place for vets itching for a mission, Alaska is a giant icebox full of people either running to or away from something. More than 400 fugitives would meet Bill and company on the wrong side of a gun, and he would learn many lessons along the way—like even tiptoeing through subzero snow can get you shot, and removing a gun from the butt crack of a 300-pound man is just as fun as it sounds.
Bill was enjoying the ride until, one day, the FBI asked him to go undercover, and his road forked. Schaeffer Cox was a sovereign citizen who believed no government had authority over him and a private militia commander amassing an arsenal and plotting to kill judges and law enforcement officers. Bill’s mission: to take down Cox and his militia without a shot being fired.
The Blood of Patriots traverses a wide swath of rugged territory. Raucously funny and stark, it depicts men, once brothers in arms serving their country, who now find themselves on opposite sides of those arms in a deadly test of the intricacies of liberty, the proper role of government, and the true meaning of patriotism. It offers a witty and unsettling look at political rhetoric gone haywire and a movement the FBI considers the single greatest threat to law enforcement in the nation—all set in the beautiful, terrifying landscape of our 49th State
[Excuse the language — counter-revolutions aren’t for the faint of heart.]
“I brought coffee. Let’s walk,” I said.
He scanned my face, trying to read it. “All right, man. Let’s walk.” He lit a cigarette as we stepped out into the thin yellow sunlight and crossed the parking lot toward the road.
“So, what’s up, man?”
“Schaeffer Cox is fucking nuts, is what’s up. Gimme a light.”
“Well, no shit,” he said with a half-smile as he handed me a lighter. “We’ve been over that.”
As our boots crunched the gravel on the side of the road, I recounted some of the conversation with Cox from the night before.
“That asshole’s either going to be governor, or he’s going to end up in prison. I haven’t decided which,” he said.
“Schaeffer’s going to get us into a friggin’ war up here, you know that, right?” I said.
“Problem is he’s got a lot of people behind him. Personally, I can’t stand the guy, but he’s got some sheep.” Brian took a long drag of his cigarette.
“He told me thousands.”
“Are you shitting me?” he said, choking on his coffee. “Thousands? I don’t think so. He’s got like twenty, thirty, tops, who are armed and ready to party. He seriously says thousands? What, is he counting every group in Alaska?”
“You tell me. And this shit isn’t about the Constitution, it’s not about the government, it’s not about the country. The thing he wants to go to war over isn’t any of that. This is just about Schaeffer and his own fucking personal problems. This is about child custody and getting arrested for beating the shit out of his wife. This is just The Schaeffer Cox Show. I’m telling you, it’s seriously fucked up.”
“That’s bullshit. That’s total fucking bullshit. But I don’t know what you want me to tell you. People up here say they’re going to help the guy! They’ll do what he says. I’d rather have it be for something real and not just his personal problems. It pisses me off. But they’re so fucking stupid they might do it anyway. People want something to happen. They’re waiting for it. They’ll find an excuse.”
I handed Brian my coffee while I re-lit my cigarette. We needed to do something. We needed to cut this guy’s balls off, and now.
“Here’s my problem,” I said. “If he’s going to drag everybody into this and get people killed, then he needs to let everyone know exactly what the fuck is going on, and what the plan is, and tell them why. He needs to own his shit. Because right now, he’s acting like a guy commanding an army of thousands. He’s not acting like a guy with twenty jackasses with guns. And there’s a big difference there.”
“Well, everyone’s here today.” Brian paused and thought. “We’ve got most of the militia leaders in the area and a lot of their guys coming. We could just get everyone together and call a meeting after the sale. Tell that little fucker to explain himself. They’ll see him for what he is. These guys aren’t outright insane,” Brian said. “They don’t have a death wish.”
Things were starting to jell. There was a window of time, an opportunity to erode the militias’ confidence in Cox. We agreed that Brian would call a meeting in the store that evening. We would pass the word around that afternoon at the event to the people who needed to know.
“I’m gonna tell you something.” Brian stopped walking and stood for a moment, looking at the ground. He flicked his cigarette butt and as it sputtered across the dirt road, he met my gaze. “I’m just letting you know because you’re my friend, if he does do this… and the party happens, Schaeffer’s going to be the one right out in front, waving the flag. He’s going to start this war. But on Day One, or Day Two, after everyone’s in but before he gets too big and fucks it all up, he’s gonna get taken down. This isn’t just me talking, either. Mark my words. Somebody’s going to put a bullet in his head, and make it look like the feds did it.”
“Someone’s gonna martyr his ass, because nobody wants to deal with Schaeffer’s bullshit. He can start it if he wants, but he’s not going to own it. He talks a good game, and he sucks people in, but nobody wants a little dictator. Nobody wants a little Hitler, you know what I’m saying?”
I knew exactly what he was saying.
“But if he starts it, we can’t stop it, you know. We’re in.” I knew he was including me.
As we approached Dark North Tactical from the other side, I tried to imagine the meeting that would take place there that night. I knew that the Fairbanks militia scene was more extreme than what I was used to dealing with in Anchorage, but it was largely an unknown. These were hard-core people who thought Anchorage was too civilized — too “big city.” As far as they were concerned, anyone within an hour’s drive of Anchorage didn’t live in “the real Alaska.” They had a point. These were the outlaws of the Last Frontier who thought nothing of sixty degrees below zero in the winter. They filled their freezers with moose, their garages with enough provisions to withstand a siege, and their basements and tool sheds with firearms and ammo — the bigger and badder the better. They could survive anything, and lived every day preparing for some disaster that would cut them off from the rest of the world, and for the collapse of the government, waiting for the sign. The government was the enemy, and they were the true patriots, ready to die fighting it. Many would just as soon have Alaska secede from the Union while they were at it — a Revolution and a Civil War — two for the price of one. They truly believed that Fairbanks and North Pole could be the new Lexington and Concord. I was just hoping that the shot heard round the world wasn’t going to be into the forehead of a federal judge. Not on my watch, anyway.
Although they fall within the same political boundaries on a map, Cox’s country and my country have little in common. He and his type are ready to die for some mythological Christian theocracy that has never existed and never will exist. I am prepared to die defending my real country from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I swore an oath to do that. And at that moment I had a twenty-something domestic enemy in a tweed cap who looked more like a paperboy than a terrorist, who needed dealing with. How much damage he could do depended on how many people were willing to follow him and that depended on his influence and credibility at the meeting tonight. And that’s what I needed to control. I needed to out him for what he was.
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