Oh, I do love guys like Montana’s “Natural Man” Ernie Wayne Tertelgte. In the right wing world rife with Koch Brothers, Ted Cruzes and John Boehners, Ernie’s a breath of fresh air. Sure, he’s an utter loon who’s probably common-law married to a stuffed raccoon named “Kelly,” but you can’t not want to hang out with this guy. Seriously — tell yourself Ernie wouldn’t be a hoot while drinking home-made pear liquor in front of a fire.
Ernie lives in the backwoods of Bozeman, Montana, a stone’s throw from the mountainous Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness — which is exactly what it sounds like. Ernie is also follows the beliefs of the “Sovereign Citizens’ Movement,” popular among guys who wear bearskins.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, sovereigns believe the government our forefathers envisioned
“was secretly replaced by a new government system based on admiralty law, the law of the sea and international commerce. Under common law, or so they believe, the sovereigns would be free men. Under admiralty law, they are slaves, and secret government forces have a vested interest in keeping them that way.”
That’s a bit of a troublesome perspective these days, though…especially when “a man’s natural right to forage for food” conflicts with licensing laws that keep said foragers from wiping out any more mid-western critters or forests. Earlier this month, Ernie got caught fishing without a license, and then resisted arrest when the officers attempted to bring him in.
He got into quite the heated exchange with Three Forks City Judge Wanda Drusch, apparently recognizing this as his moment to make all those “pirate” statements he and Kelly have been talking about since 1974. Or, according to a friend, Ernie came to “enforce the Constitution.”
“You are trying to create a fictitious, fraudulent action. I am the living man, protected by natural law.” After the judge had spoken, he said “Do not tell me to shut up! I am the living, natural man, and my voice will be heard!” He pointed to the flag. “That is the Jolly Roger, that thing you call the American flag with the gold fringe around it is the Jolly Roger, and you are acting as one of its privateers!”
When the judge attempted to confirm that he was entering a plea of “not guilty,” he said:
“I never plead, animals plead, sounds like baaaa, oink oink.”
After the hearing was over, the judge walked out and Ernie victoriously declared that “the judge has left the courtroom,” and that “the judge has abandoned the court!” The Natural Man then beat post haste outside, climbing into the back seat of an SUV and instructing onlookers to “stay tight on me. They’re going to try something.”
Afterward, they did indeed “try something,” hauling Ernie off to jail to await his second hearing on Tuesday. This time, appearing before the judge via video after some time in jail, Ernie appeared subdued. He accepted his $500 bond, and is currently awaiting his next court date in January. He has made no statement in regard to his inevitably forthcoming “natural man” and “pirate” defenses.
I like Ernie…I really do. OK, maybe like isn’t the right word. But I GET him.
I was raised in the Ocala National Forest, and have more than a bit of experience in the near-nonexistent town of Hammond, Montana. I spent three days there with my semi truck broken down, without food, water or communication. I passed the time hunting elk with a pair of rusted pruning shears, and getting chased by packs of coyotes that I initially believed were small, friendly German Shepherds. And my buzzard-picked bones would likely long ago have been lost in waist-high grass had a crazy bee-farmer (much like Ernie) not rendered assistance.
Granted, Ernie with his brand-new fringe jacket and SUV ride is a bit of a poser…but I appreciate the character, anyway. So, maybe I’m biased…but say what you will about his insane and utterly anachronistic political philosophies, but really…wouldn’t you rather see more of Ernie Tertelgte and less of Alex Jones on TV? REALLY?
(Welcome to Hammond, Montana’s “gas station.” Some day, I’m going to go back and put a sign out front that reads “Richard Rowe slept here.”)