Greg Leichner of Placitas, N.M., spent 20 years trying to take himself seriously as an artist - a pursuit that bought him so much mental anguish he finally cracked and traded it in for two new aspirations: Starting a newsletter called Citizens For A Poodle-Free Montana and running for president of the United States.
He makes only one campaign promise: To
resign as soon as he's elected. As for Citizens For A Poodle-Free
Montana, it's a group aligned against what he calls "the softening
of the West." Its symbol is five cowboys lassoing a pink cartoon
poodle. Although several poodle owners have cried discrimination,
there are 10,000 people out there wearing "Poodle-Free" T-shirts.
For a copy of the newsletter or other information, send a
self-addressed, stamped envelope to Leichner at P.O. Box 1011,
group isn't alone in artistic awareness: Militia of Montana (MOM)
member Kamala Webb recently interpreted the symbol on her
sweatshirt - a picture of an armed man up in a tree that also
adorns the militia's catalog. "I don't look at it as a sniper," she
told the Billings Gazette. "I look at it as a hillbilly out in the
woods. It's a picture of self-preservation. It's no worse than some
of the pictures from the National Endowment of the Arts."
Webb also explained the movement's purpose:
"It's the citizens arming themselves," she said, adding the guns
will come in handy "when the government forces us to live like
coyotes." She assured the Gazette the guns wouldn't be necessary
Ken Toole of the Montana Human Rights Network would just as soon
have a militia-free Montana. Toole, who described the militia as
"creepie crawlies' in the network's newsletter, told a crowd of
Montana State University students and militia members in Bozeman
that the movement is dying but still
"We're embarrassed by the reputation
that you all have brought to the state," he told them. "People used
to associate Montana with Glacier Park and the Yellowstone River.
Now they say, "Oh, Montana - what the hell is going on out there?"
... People who are not white are afraid to come to this state."
in an attempt to set the record straight on what kind of stuff the
Washington State Militia is made of, leader John Pitner told a
gathering of the faithful in Mount Vernon, "We're not a bunch of
angry, white, middle-age citizens lurking around the bushes waiting
to shoot someone." But the militia wasn't closing off its options
to either lurk or shoot: The meeting room in which Pitner spoke had
tables laden with tapes and books with titles like The Enemy
Within: Who Is It? and Military Knife Fighting. Later, when Pitner
told the crowd, "People are not going to want to give up their
guns," the crowd responded with cheers, hoots, and cries of "Amen,"
reports the Seattle
Arizona's Pinal County hasn't been too concerned about militias.
But its desire to keep the county drug-free is so strong it
recently sent an 18-member SWAT team to the home of Leo Mercado,
who they suspected of growing marijuana. Armed to the teeth with
machine guns, the officers shoved Mercado and his wife down on the
floor while their terrified 5-year-old son looked on, The Navajo
The team found neither the large
marijuana field nor the armed and dangerous occupants they expected
- Mercado is known as a peaceful man who is involved in school and
community causes. But they did find tiny amounts of marijuana and
the drug Ecstasy as well as 1,000 peyote cacti, which they
confiscated. Although they eventually dropped charges of drug
possession, they wouldn't return Mercado's
So began Leo Mercado's protracted battle
to win back his peyote. Arizona law allows Native Americans to
possess the drug for spiritual reasons. Although Mercado is of
Mexican extraction, he has spent a lot of time using peyote with
the Huichol Indians in Mexico and considers himself a Native
American. He began a fast, vowing to consume only small amounts of
peyote and water until his plants were returned. The county
attorney was inundated with letters of support for Mercado. A week
later, Mercado got his plants back.
heavily armed marijuana farmer named Bradley Throgmorton
inadvertently caused the return of the "spiritual center of the
universe" to its rightful owners, northern California's Karuk
The spiritual center, a four-acre
clearing on the banks of the Klamath River, was used for an annual
Karuk ceremony "to renew the world and ensure the salmon and acorns
come back," tribal chairman Alvis Johnson told the Associated
Press. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs sold the land to white
people 40 years ago. Then its new owners built a fishing lodge and
cabins in the clearing, leaving the Karuk to pray and hold
ceremonies outside the lodge fence. The most recent owner was
Throgmorton, who raised marijuana seedlings at the lodge and then
transplanted them in the Klamath National Forest. He was arrested
on drug and weapons charges, and the U.S. attorney seized the land.
Although the Karuk couldn't afford to buy the land from the
government, they recently prevailed upon the BIA to foot the bill
"We're very excited," said Johnson.
"We got part of our land back."
around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send
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