The disappearance of Lyle Jeffs, firefighters and threats over an endorsement

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

  • WYOMING What does the fox say now?

    Angela Bohlke / Barcroft Images
 

THE WEST
Where, oh where, has Lyle Jeffs gone?
He’s the brother of Warren Jeffs, the autocratic guru of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who is serving a life term in federal prison for sexually assaulting his “child brides.” When Lyle Jeffs disappeared from a home near the Salt Lake City courthouse, he was awaiting trial on charges that he masterminded the theft of $12 million in food stamps from the federal government. Police found Jeffs’ ankle monitor on the floor, apparently slipped off with the help of a generous dollop of olive oil. But his public defender, Kathy Nester, believes otherwise: When asked by the court how her client came to be, in the lawyer’s words, “currently not available,” Nester theorized that while Jeffs might have shed his ankle bracelet and skipped town, it was also possible that kidnappers were hiding him somewhere. And there was yet another intriguing possibility: “Whether he experienced the miracle of Rapture is unknown to counsel.” However, if Jeffs were transported — alone — on a fast flight to heaven, that would appear to break the promise he made to the 10,000 residents of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah: He told them they would all be swept up to paradise together if they stayed faithful, abided by a rigid dress code, and never questioned the authority of his church. But “none of those residents disappeared along with Lyle Jeffs,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Eric Barnhart, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake City office, said the Jeffs -brothers might be at odds, indicating that they’ve -experienced a rupture, rather than the Rapture. Texas prison officials said they heard Warren Jeffs — who still seems to be leading his flock — tell an unnamed person that Lyle Jeffs needed to be “sent away.” The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to Jeffs’ capture, adding that he is considered “armed and -dangerous.

THE WEST
Back in the 1970s, writes George Sibley
in Colorado Central Magazine, the best job 25-year-old guys ever got during the summer was fighting fires for the federal government. After a hot week or so on a fire line that featured 12-hour days of “adrenalizing circumstances,” he recalled, these dropouts from the real world could earn enough to pay landlords, bar tabs and grocery stores. Sibley joined the Crested Butte Hotshots in 1973, and he found the experience wonderful — though he recalls that one fire in Idaho sent him running for his life, “while getting soaked by an aerial bombardment of pink slurry.” He left that band of brothers three years later, but followed the careers of the Hotshots as they began to rack up a reputation for working hard and playing harder. “ ‘We didn’t start it’ became a Hotshot mantra,” he recalls. The group also made history in the late ’70s by becoming the first crew in Colorado to accept women. At a recent reunion, Jim Cazer summed up his experience this way: “We were good, and we were lucky.” Some credited the crew’s famous willfulness for everybody’s survival: Squad leaders would sometimes refuse to follow bosses who wanted to send firefighters into extremely dangerous places. As it turned out, those refusals “proved prescient as they watched fires rage over where they might have been.”

ARIZONA
In its more than 125 years of publishing,
the Arizona Republic had never once endorsed a Democrat for president. Then came this year’s nasty presidential election, and -Mi-Ai Parrish, president of the paper and of Republic Media, announced that the paper had decided to break ranks with tradition, endorsing Hillary Clinton and choosing “patriotism over party.” Immediately, threats of violence poured in from some of the state’s residents: “You should be put in front of a firing squad as a traitor,” wrote one, and “Watch your back. You’re dead,” said another. Parrish, a Korean-American, decided that the Arizona Republic needed to speak publicly about the threats. Her defense of free speech and the First Amendment was eloquent. After an anonymous caller threatened to blow up reporters, reminding staffers that Republic reporter Don Bolles was murdered by a car bomb 40 years ago, Parrish described the calm courage of the young woman who took that call. She “prayed for you,” Parrish told the caller. “Prayed for patience, for forgiveness. Kimberly knows free speech requires compassion.” Parrish also mentioned callers who disparaged immigrants or who suggested she burn in Hell: “I give you my pastor grandfather,” she told them. “He was imprisoned and tortured for being a Christian, and suffered the murder of his best friend for also refusing to deny Christ. He taught all that freedom of religion is a fragile and precious thing. Much as my grandfather taught, I also know there are a lot of things worth standing up for.”

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write betsym@hcn.org or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.