Wow. A long, draining day. We sat outside the courthouse waiting for something to happen for about ten hours. It was hot and miserable, even with shade and the blowing wind. Now that my molten Twix bar has been reconstituted in the hotel room fridge, I’ll attempt to recount the day. Mostly in photos. Stephanie says that I must have gotten good stuff, even if I’m too drained to consider the possibility.
The Yearning for Zion Ranch, the FLDS Church’s compound outside of Eldorado, Texas.
Eldorado, TX – FLDS member Janet Jeffs arrives with an unidentified attorney at the Schleicher County Courthouse, where a grand jury reconvened to consider charges stemming from the raid on the YFZ Ranch.
I just realized something funny. A real switch in how this story is covered. We’ve gotten to the point where we know the names of the FLDS members but not the names of the attorneys. That’s a reversal from days past, when I knew who the attorneys were but not the people.
Here is the news from this morning. We pulled up to see the yellow tape around the courthouse pushed further back from before, and the sprinklers spraying the grassy area we wanted to set up. But it wasn’t all that bad, they have moved the grand jury into an adjacent building, apparently because it has air conditioning and we found a better angle for the new situation.
No air conditioning out on the grass, however. We’re sitting at a picnic table in the shade.
At one point Willie Jessop came over to talk to Brooke and all of the other reporters and photographers ran over and started asking him questions like, “Where is Merril Jessop?” It’s the kind of question that journalists ask, but it’s not like Willie would answer. He wasn’t out to make a statement, but promised one later. He just cocked his head and kind of laughed the probing questions off. It seems obvious that he’s been subpoenaed to testify. Why else would he be allowed beyond the yellow tape?
One other thing from this morning. While we were all distracted with Willie, the Texas Attorney General pulled up and entered the building. By the time we saw him and sprinted over to get the pic, it was too late. Only the guy from the Eldorado Success got the photo.
A Texas blackbuck skipping through a sewage area under construction on the YFZ ranch.
There was a reporter early on in the YFZ raid story who would ask the best questions. And I mean “best” as in most entertaining. I think CPS caught on to him after the first two press conferences so he took to asking other reporters to ask his creative questions.
One thing he asked was whether or not any tunnels had been discovered on the YFZ ranch. Because, he said, “These people are known to dig tunnels.” He also asked whether cadaver dogs had searched the property.
Residents of the YFZ ranch laughed about these questions when we asked them about it because the YFZ sits on solid limestone, as you can see in the photo above. The large gardens at the YFZ sit three or four feet above ground level, where the plants are nestled in top soil was brought in and lies atop the native limestone.
So whatever crimes may have happened at the YFZ, I’m betting they took place above ground.
I haven’t seen that reporter in Texas since very early on, which is very mysterious. I wonder where he is. Somebody had better send some search dogs into the tunnels to find him. I’m getting worried.
When I lined up this frame of pastel dresses on a rack in the sewing shop at the YFZ ranch, one of our guides said, “Taking pictures of the rainbow?”
About three weeks ago I took this photo of a nine-year-old FLDS boy at the YFZ ranch who had just been reunited with his family after spending two months in state custody. (You can read about that here.)
Yesterday we were out at the ranch and I saw him again. I didn’t photograph him this time, because if I bug him too much he says I’ll turn into a cockroach. But as we were leaving he picked up my camera and we turned the tables on each other, as he took this photograph of me: