ELK — Life hasn’t been this exciting in elk since Walter Dulock, who runs the town grocery, wrestled a shotgun from a would-be robber and chased him down the road.
And that was two decades ago.
After Sunday’s shootout between federal agents and Branch Davidians, business is booming, rumors are flying and reporters have been lining up to interview locals about their mysterious neighbors down FM 2491.
“I got a call from Sweden a little while ago,” said Dulock, who’s run The Elk Store since 1949.
“They’re going to interview me on a live radio show tomorrow night. The guy said, ‘We’ll send you a very nice gift if you do it,’” said Dulock, 67, with a chuckle.
Dulock and other residents living near the Branch Davidians said the group had never caused any problems before Sunday, when four agents of the Bureau of Alcohol tobacco and Firearms were killed and 15 others wounded as they tried to serve cult members with a search warrant.
“I didn’t think anything like that would happen in my lifetime out here,” said Dulock.
Johnny Adams, a Frazier Road resident, said the group was peaceful for decades until “a bunch of nuts came in and took the place over.”
“I believe that they’ll get this bunch cleared out and some decent people will come in and take over,” said Adams, 73, who lives about two miles from the compound.
Cause for jitters
The sight of Bradley armored personnel carriers passing through Elk on Monday night put some residents on edge.
“We’re kind of scared, of course. We don’t know whether to leave or not,” said one woman, who did not want to be identified.
Dulock said, “Some people are beginning to get worried. There was a rumor last night — and I laughed it off — that they had hand-held rockets.”
Two ATF agents in search of sandwiches were disappointed to learn only bread and cold cuts were available in Elk, but Dulock directed them to a nearby cafe.
“I get more sheriff’s department and highway patrol as customers than ATF boys,” said Dulock. “I got a lot of sightseers. Soda water and candy sales are good. Gasoline sales are up.”
Kenneth Ellis, who was munching snacks and watching television coverage of the conflict at the store, said he sees “both sides.”
Authorities had to investigate complaints of child abuse and illegal arms at the compound, he said, but Branch Davidians also have “a right to protect their property,” he said.
“The way things are going these days, you don’t know who’s coming in.”
‘Should have given chance’
“I think the sneak attack was wrong. This is America. They should have given them a chance to surrender,” Ellis said.
Dennis Moore, proprietor of Ray-J’s Tavern on U.S. 84, also expressed some sympathy for the group.
“The people are just defending their property,” said Moore, who never considered the Branch Davidians a threat.
“We always referred to it as a religious commune, not a cult . . . They certainly don’t go around the community robbing and terrorizing,” he said.
“I think all the federal people are going to go in and murder what’s left over there,” Moore said.
Dulock said he’s taken some ribbing from friends about his appearances on television. “They rawhide me pretty good about it,” he said. “At one time I had three TV stations in here waiting to interview me.”