Sherwood's Rules

Sherwood Cryer lost his redneck empire the same way he built it: in a tangle of lawyers, women and country music

Later, when Sherwood was absent, the troop returned with more police. In the driveway, searching for hidden loot, they found a machete tucked inside a bumper. Inside the house, those who didn't know Sherwood were struck most by the number of guns lying under the beds, on the beds and in lockers -- pistols and rifles and machine guns, dozens and dozens of them.

When Sherwood began losing the property, again the property was destroyed. After he and Debi were evicted from the house, the fuse box and all the wiring were discovered missing. The hinges and knobs had been removed from the doors, and even the peephole was gone. Someone had splattered paint on the walls. The gardenia bushes had been uprooted and thrown in the pool. Cheri Sue had always been fond of gardenias.

Sherwood's employees would follow the trucks that hauled away the property, and at least a dozen times, the locks Cheri Sue used to protect it were filled with glue. After Sherwood learned the lawyers were coming for Minnie's Cadillac, the car disappeared, only to be found in flames behind G's Ice House. And after the estate took over the beerhouse, it went up in flames too -- on the day, said Cheri Sue, that Sherwood cleaned it out.

Sherwood hired an expensive lawyer (with borrowed money, he says) and has filed three lawsuits against Cheri Sue. The one he seems most excited about is a federal case that also lists as defendants the Pasadena police department, the city of Pasadena and Kenny Peloquin. According to the suit, Sherwood "has been the innocent victim of a campaign orchestrated" by the defendants to deprive him of his constitutional rights, primarily through illegal search and seizure.

The accounting of events differs wildly from everyone else's, but the lawsuit is most peculiar for never mentioning that the property involved was in dispute. To Sherwood, it never has been, but the courts have a different view. His case has been delayed until the settlement of the estate.

Everything that Sherwood has taken so far -- including a "borrowed" $110,000 found above the ceiling tiles at G's -- has gone to pay other debts, and Cheri Sue has accepted that she'll get nothing. Having lost the family Sherwood built, she has begun assembling a new family from the people Sherwood has rejected. Though he only claims five children, Sherwood is rumored to have about a dozen running around Pasadena. Among his bastards, said Cheri Sue, "I've found I have a really nice younger sister." And among his enemies, Cheri Sue has embraced Mickey and Vivian Gilley. She visits them as often as three times a week.

She's trying to get on with her life, but three times a day, she gets silent phone calls. One day a year ago, she said, someone in the special crimes division of the district attorney's office called to say Sherwood might be trying to have her killed. Cheri Sue, in the end, lost faith in her daddy.

"He's not a nice person," she said.

Hire someone to kill Cheri Sue? It made no sense to Sherwood. She was his daughter -- he loved her! And besides, "I've always felt that if you want someone shot, you do it yourself. That way no one squeals on you."

He denied all crimes of vandalism and arson, and he swore there was no money stashed anywhere. He had a few regrets: Probably, he should have made Minnie his wife. (He recently married Debi.) Probably, too, when the Mafia offered $1 million for Mickey's contract, he should have sold. Mickey would be living up to it to this day, he'd guarantee that.

"I'm glad to know he's wondering if I'm after him," said Sherwood, "but if I'd been after him, he'd have been gone by now."

Gilley's Club is still listed in the current phone book. It's spelled without the "e" and the number rings at G's, where out back, Sherwood is still making mechanical bulls. People from Argentina and Istanbul call to order them. The bulls are becoming the big thing in foreign places, but Sherwood knows it will never be like it was in America.

Outside G's, there was a big caldron on the fire, and just to give them rednecks something to live for, he said, they were having a crawfish boil that night and some titty dancers. He still had work to do. The lawyers have taken everything but G's, and he swore he has no money stashed. But what would he do if he lost the icehouse?

"Fuck," said Sherwood, "I'll just be like the goddamn grass. I'll grow up somewhere else, if I ain't too goddamn old.

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