By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
By Jeff Balke
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
"She gets shot eight times and she's back at work two days later and you tell me she's just dedicated?" he says. "She loves the power. Helen Phillips is God, and we've got to uphold God's law."
Because the Bar X's voting system allows one vote per lot owned, Jim says, Helen's large amount of property gives her the natural ability to elect whomever she wants on the board. It took a lot of work and organizing on the part of the dissidents to educate the out-of-town property owners and get them to send in their proxy votes. Now that they're so close to getting what they want, he says, he plans to run for the board this coming April and hopefully become the crucial fourth vote needed to fire Helen.
"I hate to play politics -- I'm a Republican," explains Jim. "[But] we just need that one more vote. Then she can't push us around anymore."
Sitting at a conference table at the Bar X office, Helen mulls over why some of her Bar X children have strayed -- and why one of them has hurt her so.
"The thing is, to do this job you have to be a people person," she says. "These last four years it was harmony out here. And then all of a sudden this Web page." She thinks out loud: It might just be envy.
"I think they were jealous because we're doing so good, and Bob [Griffith] was not involved with it," says Helen. "You know how it is: You stir things up and you stir and you get a couple more people."
She says she didn't want to file the lawsuit, but she couldn't take the way her detractors were putting down the Bar X. The site looks official, and she fears people will get the wrong idea about the ranch.
Her friend Lorenda says the problems the angry residents are complaining about are remnants of Gibraltar's and Oxford's tumultuous reigns, and that everything can't be fixed at once.
"You look at a picture of an 'issue,' on the Web site, and they're all nice and blurry, notice that?" she says. "He's editing them. I am here to testify Helen has done the best she could."
Board member Mike George concurs. The angry residents "are always trying to stir crap up," he argues. "They're on a personal vendetta. Nine years ago this place was on the verge of bankruptcy, and Helen came up to the office and brought this place up from nothing."
Helen's friends think the Web site was the catalyst for Bruce Rogers's actions. Lorenda says the anti-Helenites took advantage of Bruce's notoriously volatile nature and pushed all the right buttons.
"Bruce's driveway doesn't go all the way to the street," she says by way of explanation.
A resident of the ranch since 1986, Bruce shares his home with his wife, Louise, a former schoolteacher. They have one grown daughter. A retired employee of Dow Chemical, Bruce moved his family to the Bar X to get away from it all. But, says Louise, the ambience has changed over the years.
"As more people have moved in, it's not as peaceful and quiet, and it does not promote a relaxed style of living that was prevalent when we moved out here," she says. Louise refuses to discuss the shooting. She also won't talk about her husband's personality or temperament, claiming that as his wife, anything nice she said wouldn't come off as credible. Instead, she asks a close family friend to describe Bruce.
"I will probably start to cry, but let me compose myself," begins the friend, who asked not to be identified. "The Rogers are the kindest people that you could ever know, the most giving people." The litany of positives is long, starting with the fact that their daughter was the valedictorian of Angleton High and is now studying to be a doctor. Louise and Bruce are churchgoers who give regularly to charity, love to sew and to garden, respectively, and attended all of her children's Little League games.
The friend was out of town when the shooting occurred, but when she returned she was horrified to see Bruce's mug shot in the local paper. "I honestly ask not to know [about the shooting] because all I want to do is be able to say what I know about Bruce -- and it's only good," she says.
But Bruce's history with the Bar X is almost as long and strained as Helen's. Most recently, in 2001, he tried to secede from the Bar X, filing papers with the county to declare himself independent of the property owners association. Helen and the board fought the move, forcing Bruce to pay his maintenance dues of $216 a year.
Brazoria County records show that in September 1996 Bruce was arrested and charged with assault for hitting Bar X residents Billy Turk and Stephanie Bell in the head (oddly enough, both residents are known anti-Helenites who would not comment for this story). Bruce spent three days in jail and paid a $100 fine.
And on April Fools' Day, 1995, Bruce showed up at the home of his then-neighbor David James. According to county records, Bruce asked David to go for a friendly little drive. But once both men were in the car, Bruce claimed that David had hurt someone Bruce cared about.