Over at the Columbia Daily Tribune
, columnist T. J. Greaney has composed a strange tribute
to Robert Bolivar DePugh, leader of an anti-Communist militia group (or a domestic terrorism cell, depending on your point of view) called the Minutemen
. DePugh died June 30 in his basement apartment, beneath a storefront church, in Richmond, Missouri.
Why did DePugh deserve a tribute in the first place? Why, he was an unappreciated political thinker, of course! Read on, dear reader, for a sampling of his incomparable prose.
DePugh's literary medium was the sticker stuck to the walls of public places, like phone booths (remember those?) and bathrooms -- an unusual choice, but one perfectly equipped to serve his purposes: planting the seeds of conspiracy theories in the minds of his fellow Americans.
See that old man at the corner where you buy your papers? He may have a silencer equipped pistol under his coat. That
fountain pen in the pocket of the insurance salesman that calls on you
might be a cyanide gas gun. What about your milkman? Arsenic works slow
but sure. ... Traitors, beware! Even now the crosshairs are on the back
of your necks.
Superimposed on this was a picture of crosshairs.
Before he turned vigilante, DePugh was the owner of Biolab Corp., a company that made its fortune manufacturing a vitamin meant to prolong the lives of dogs. The town of Norborne, Missouri, attracted by the promise of endless dog-vitamin wealth, convinced DePugh to move the company there in the late '50's.
Norborne, alas, became much more famous for being the headquarters of the Minutemen, DePugh's vigilante group. There DePugh manufactured his stickers, produced a monthly magazine called (what else?) On Target
and horded a cache of guns and explosives. He published a list of "Communists", like Humphrey Bogart and Lucille Ball, and the names of 20 congressmen he wanted dead.
Writes Greaney, "His themes of self-reliance, ultra-patriotism and paranoid anti-communism struck a chord with people on the fringes." According to a Norborner named Eric Beckemeier, "He saw himself as the Paul Revere of the 20th century, that he was going to save the United States from Communism."
(No mention here of whether DePugh ever took a midnight ride, but maybe Beckemeier discusses the matter in his 2007 book about the Minutemen, a self-published work called Traitors Beware
And then it all went terribly, terribly wrong.