For 60 years this was a one gas-pump town, the kind where the town dog sleeps in the middle of the main road and the City Council puts on a bake sale whenever it needs more revenue.
That's what the newcomers found when they came into town two years ago, and since then a clash of cultures has broken out.
The newcomers are followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the Indian guru who bought the Big Muddy Ranch, where John Wayne once made movies, 19 miles up the road.
At first, Antelope's 40 residents were curious about the young disciples who dressed only in red, purple and orange--the colors of the sunrise--and showered lavish gifts of cars on their master, whose name means "The Enlightened One."
It was something of a novelty in Antelope when the first Rolls Royce for Rajneesh was delivered. By the time the 27th one arrived, curiosity had turned to shock.
When some of the Rajneeshees, as they call themselves, bought property in Antelope, the clash of cultures began.
"They are trying to take over our town," said Margaret Hill, Antelope's former mayor and one of the 13 original residents who remain.
Rajneesh, who mixes eastern meditation with western encounter therapy, arrived in Oregon with the label, the "free sex guru," a tag acquired at his previous religious headquarters in Poona, India. There, many of his followers participated in encounter groups without restrictions on sex or aggression.
The people of Antelope, on the other hand, were retired Protestants who wanted to live out their senior years in peace.
Soon, there were more Rajneeshees than anyone else living in Antelope. Then they registered to vote. Now one of them is mayor, five sit on the six-man City Council and last month a Rajneeshee was elected to the Antelope School Board.
The town's new politicians brought a number of historic changes to Antelope, among them the first city property taxes and a nudist park.
The Rajneeshees say they originally had intended to stay out of Antelope. After all, they had just paid $6 million for a piece of land more than twice the size of San Francisco.
Then they discovered that Oregon law forbade them from conducting business outside an incorporated city. They came into town to establish their corporate headquarters, the Rajneesh Foundation International, a tax-exempt religious corporation that markets Rajneesh's books, video tapes, tape recordings and photographs.
The Rajneeshees also bought the old Antelope Cafe, which is now the Zorba the Buddha Restaurant, a vegetarian cafe and general store.
The Rajneeshees say they got nothing but resistance from town and county officials when they applied for building permits on the ranch. They had no alternative, they argue, but to change the attitude on the council by electing themselves.
Ma Prem Karuna, who holds a doctorate degree in adult education from Boston University, became a write-in candidate for mayor and was elected in a landslide. The only council member who isn't a Rajneeshee is John (Silver Tooth) Stewart, whose grandfather ran the Silver Tooth Saloon here in 1910.
After the council was sworn in, it hired a Rajneeshee as city attorney for $100 an hour and "sanctioned" the gun-packing Rajneeshee "peace force" to provide police protection.
The new council is suing members of the old council to recover a city-owned church that former council members gave away last November in a last-ditch effort to keep it out of the Rajneeshee council members' hands.
There is a certain smugness among the Rajneeshee about their success so far.
"We're not Christians. We don't turn the other cheek," said Ma Mary Catherine, a former Reed College political science instructor who lives at the commune at Big Muddy Ranch.
While the turmoil around it spreads, the commune continues to grow.
Last year, the Rajneeshees voted to incorporate 2,000 acres of the "Rancho Rajneesh," as the Big Muddy is now called, into the city of Rajneeshpuram, making it eligible to receive state tax money and federal revenue sharing.
That prompted three neighboring ranchers to file suit against the Rajneeshees charging that the creation of a city in the arid, barren buttes of central Oregon violates the state's strict land use laws.
"Cities do not coexist with farms," said Rosemary McGreer, one of the ranchers opposing the Rajneeshees in court. "We're afraid there isn't enough water to go around."
Mark Greenfield, an attorney for 1000 Friends of Oregon, a leading environmental group also opposing the Rajneeshees, said he expects the Rajneeshees to transform their commune of 1,000 into a booming city of 100,000 to accommodate the Rajneesh's 300,000 worldwide followers.
That number, which would make Rajneeshpuram the second largest city in Oregon, is a little high, the Rajneeshees say with a smile, but they are vague about their plans other than to say that they want to build a university community, where Rajneesh's form of meditation can be taught.
Now an Albany, Ore., woman is waging a petition drive in an attempt to put a measure on the state ballot asking officials to force the Rajneeshees from Oregon.
In Portland yesterday, three explosions rocked a downtown hotel owned by the Rajneeshees, seriously wounding a man who reportedly had stayed at the sect's ranch Wednesday night, United Press International reported. It was the first major act of violence involving the sect. Damage was estimated at more than $100,000.
The explosions occurred in the room of Stephen P. Paster, 34, of Los Angeles, who was charged with three counts of first-degree arson, police said.
Much of the Rajneesh's wealth comes from large donations. Many disciples turn over their personal assets when they move to the ranch. They live communely in houses and modular mobile homes and are given clothing and meals.
Many of the disciples work from sunrise to sunset scratching their version of utopia out of the sagebrush and cheatgrass. They receive no pay.
Almost 2,000 acres of organically grown vegetables, alfalfa and wheat have been planted, cattle are raised for market--the Rajneeshees are vegetarians--and a small herd of dairy cows is kept to make milk, yogurt and cheese.
Tours of the ranch carefully note the solar panels in the cafeteria, used to heat the building's water; the sewage treatment plant, the waste recycling center.
The small shopping center that they built last winter contains a boutique, beauty parlor and Post Office. In tribute to the Rajneesh master, the streets through the center of it are paved with red volcanic ash.
Rajneesh, who took a vow of silence two years ago, lives in seclusion in one of the canyons. He speaks only to Sheela Silverman, his personal secretary and "mother" of the ranch; on one occasion he spoke with immigration officials in Portland who have tried to deport him.
The only time his disciples see him is when he drives one of his Rolls Royces through town in the afternoon at 2. Then they line the streets, hands clasped prayerlike until he passes by. After the Rolls is gone, the Rajneeshees laugh and embrace. Some are moved to tears.
Those who do not understand the peculiarities of this religion cannot comprehend how so many people could leave homes, families and jobs to follow a mysterious gray-bearded man who does not speak.
"It takes total surrender to be there," said Sky, a disciple who has opted to live in the San Juan island in Washington State instead of at the ranch. At the Rajneesh summer festival held last week, Sky joined 15,000 disciples from around the world who made the pilgrimage to Rancho Rajneesh.
The presence of another resident at the ranch has served to fuel the notion in Antelope that these educated, once-successful people are somehow mesmerized by their Indian guru.
Shannon Jo Ryan, daughter of U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.), who was killed in 1978 in Guyana when he was investigating the Rev. Jim Jones' Peoples Temple, moved here not long after the commune was organized.
Ryan, who now calls herself Ma Prem Shannon, no longer gives interviews, Rajneesh spokesmen say, because too many parallels have been drawn between Rancho Rajneesh and Jonestown.