DOVES OF THE VALLEY, Idaho — This is supposed to be the safest place in America.
Good water table. Tillable land. Lots of protein running wild in the hills. No nearby military installations. And the closest big city--if anybody would call Boise a big city--is 274 miles away.
Want to make it through the dawning of a new millennium, the Y2K bug, the end of the world? Go to the place created by the dynamic duo of survivalism, Bo Gritz and Jack McLamb. Their Idaho mountain redoubt was designed as a fortress against one-world government, urban crime, smog, traffic, zoning laws, the antichrist and errant computers.
But if you feel safer now that all appears well with the arrival of 2000, just wait.
"We got lots more coming at us," Leonard Michael said Saturday morning from his nuclear blast-proof underground retreat on the outskirts of Doves of the Valley. "What I've said is, it's going to be a slow thing--a little thing here, a little thing there. But it's still coming."
"I think it's real interesting the government has spent this much time to build this whole Y2K thing up, and then nothing happens," added Mike Cain, who has his own considerable cache of supplies. "I think Y2K was just a little incident. It has nothing to do with the whole New World Order scheme. It's still full steam ahead. It's inevitable."
The communities of Doves of the Valley and Almost Heaven in the hills above Kamiah, Idaho, bound by members' covenants, have drawn 350 families over the past five years--a few dozen of whom arrived recently in preparation for what they anticipated would be either the beginning of Armageddon or a fine New Year's Day in one heck of a beautiful place.
Kamiah retailers sold truckloads of five-gallon plastic buckets for storage of food and water, along with 300-gallon fuel and propane tanks and assorted generators, kerosene lamps, propane stoves and battery-powered refrigerators.
The local grocery store signed up families to buy bulk foods directly from the supplier. A man walked into the post office last week and bought $2,000 worth of money orders with a wad of cash. Another stockpiled supplies in a cave in the hills outside Almost Heaven.
Just about everybody here wants to get ready for the end of the world, David Hasz, the town marshal, said late last week as the serious hunkering-down was getting under way.
"One guy was telling me we were going to have to blow the bridges so the government couldn't get in. And I'm thinking, what's that going to do? They've got helicopters," Hasz said. "He even went so far as to say, 'If you lose power, how are you going to get water out of the river?' I refused to tell him my own technique. But between you and me, I've got buckets."
Pledge to Defend Neighbors' Rights
Gritz--the former Special Forces officer who claims to be the inspiration for Rambo--worked with McLamb in the mid-1990s to establish their covenant communities, where those wary of what was happening in the world around them could buy land at $3,000 an acre and put in whatever solar panels, generators, gas tanks or arsenals made them feel safe. Crops would be grown and bartered. The "covenant" was simple: They had to agree to defend their neighbors' constitutional rights, however that need might evolve.
McLamb, who heads a group dedicated to reminding law enforcement and the military what the Constitution stands for, said he and Gritz saw the need for a refuge long before the Y2K issue, and that need hasn't gone away.
"Look at what's going on: We're losing our freedoms in America. We're going under the antichrist one-world system, without a doubt," McLamb said. "Bo decided that he and a group of officers and soldiers would try to find the safest place in America to live."
If it is not the safest place, it surely is one of the loveliest. Climbing on a narrow road out of the Clearwater Valley, the lodgepole pines are heavy with hoarfrost. The clouds blanketing the valley turn violet and pink with the early-setting sun. Deer poke out of the brush. Sloping fields of harvested alfalfa and vegetables cover the hillsides.
There are a few large, expensive frame houses on view lots, but the majority are small, home-built affairs: log cabins, single-wide mobile homes like the one McLamb lives in, a couple of underground houses, tiny cabins.
"About the most radical thing we did is, the cabin roof is red, the garage roof is white and the trailer roof is blue. Beyond that, there are no political statements here," said Joe Jakusz, a Union Pacific Railroad conductor from Nevada who was up in Doves of the Valley over the new year holiday for a honeymoon with his wife, a locomotive engineer.
As he spoke, a Chevron fuel truck was topping off a huge tank in his yard.