By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
"I'm not really sure [why], but I'm anxious to find out," he says. "I've been waiting ever since to get a call from Tom Ridge."
Defiling God's creation in order to worship the graven images upon the faces of hundred dollar bills is an insult to God far worse than merely taking the Lord's name in vain in a fit of anger, or displaying a momentary carnal weakness.
-- Ethicius I, hellwaitsforclearcutters.org
True story or, maybe an apocryphal story Russell likes to say is true:
Russell walks into the Waterwood Country Club a few years ago in his usual getup, when a staff member stops him in the lobby to inform him of their new no-jeans policy.
Fine by me! Russell says, unzipping his jeans and proceeding in his skivvies. The club immediately withdraws the policy.
This is how Russell fights the Man.
Russell has friends at the Waterwood Country Club and eats there often, but, unlike many an aspiring lawyer or doctor, the country club life was not the pot at the end of the rainbow. For one thing, Russell hates golf (In America, golf kills hundreds of golfers and thousands of birds every year --golfkills.org). Russell got a free membership when he donated some of his land the club needed to develop a portion of its course.
Russell hates the Man, who uses corporations, organized religion and pocketed politicians to destroy the environment and pervert God's word. Russell has used his and his family's millions to buy and conserve 2,800 acres of woodlands by Lake Livingston. This is the Holy Trinity Wilderness Cathedral, and it's a country club where the Man is not welcome.
"When Jesus went to church, it was to kick ass," says Russell, who's trudging through the cathedral in his omnipresent sandals. He's on one of his rants, fueled by the hypocrisy of evangelism and a travel cup of Jack and Coke. He's like Thoreau on a bender.
After spending hours of nearly every day of his life walking through the woods, Russell maneuvers like a ninja through fallen branches, sinister thorns and patches of mud. He's mindful of the snakes, more for their safety than for his. He loves snakes, as does God (It is our duty and obligation to God to protect his snake children from harm --godlovessnakes.org).
Jesus despised organized religion and fancy churches with pillow-cushioned pews, Russell says. Furthermore, Jesus came from an aristocratic family and was quite possibly a druid. These are all issues Russell wants to tackle in his historical novel.
"I haven't had time to write my novel because I'm battling SHECO," he says.
Like Jesus' sermons, Russell's Ethician services are held outdoors. In inclement weather, the group retreats to a tiny 1840s log cabin Russell had imported from Moscow, Texas, and outfitted with unadorned wooden pews.
"There's no 'chosen people,' " he continues. "That's pure bullshit."
Ethicians are no more chosen than anyone else, which is why you don't have to give up your primary religion to join Russell's church. You can be Jewish, Methodist, Mormon, Muslim or atheist and still be an Ethician. You don't even have to be human. Russell recently anointed a toy poodle named Max as a deacon.
All Ethicians care about is the Golden Rule, which is why Russell doesn't care about sexual orientation, either.
Stopping at a narrow young tree to demonstrate his liberal attitude toward nearly all sexual proclivities, Russell wraps his hand around the trunk and rubs his crotch against the bark.
"If I want to fuck this tree, then what the hell?"
It's this kind of talk that give some folks around Huntsville pause. Sometimes it looks like Russell gets a kick out of it. Climbing back into his truck and whipping down the main road that winds through the Waterwood resort community, he laughs and shakes his head when he tells of a recent trip to a convenience store. The cashier -- a friend -- told him that a customer was spreading rumors about Russell luring little boys into the woods at night to cook and eat them.
Russell told his friend to correct the customer next time she came in. Russell said he eats only girls. And he doesn't cook them.
"I eat them raw, and they've got to be 18 years old or older -- and I card 'em first."
This talk, mind you, comes from a happily married grandfather. Russell and his wife, Susan, have four adult children and homes in Huntsville and Italy. Russell's got the means to live a comfortable, worry-free life, but instead he wages war against utility companies and tries to save the world from what he prophesies as an environmental holocaust.
Russell pulls off the road and into a blanket of grass spread out before the woods. This area contains the first designated burial plots, a plot being big enough to hold 12 human bodies or 24 pets (have you not looked into the eyes of your faithful dog or your loving yet independent cat and not seen the spirit of God? --animalshavesouls.org). Larger animals are placed above-ground in a wooded spot, the Vulture Sanctuary, for a Tibetan monklike sky burial. If the animal's owner so chooses, the bones can be buried afterward. About a month ago, someone deposited a dead horse in the Holy Trinity Wilderness Cathedral, and Russell felt obligated to honor the creature. He speaks in awe of how the carcass must've fed 50 vultures.