Texas Tweakers

James "Bull" Durham burned down his mother's house while cooking meth. In Angelina County, the jail is full of guys like him..

Hill disputes just about every one of the findings and stats except the one showing the imported Mexican meth is up. And as Durham succinctly puts it, "When the laws do somethin', the junkies are gonna do somethin'. They're never gonna stop it."
_____________________

This time around, that something has been the advent of the shake-and-bake lab. Now the line between meth fiend, dealer and cook has been blurred as never before.

Older methods of meth cooking, the so-called "Nazi" or P2P and red phosphorus styles, took more time and more expertise.

The many moods of James "Bull" Durham: Over the course of an afternoon, he ping-pongs from sadness to mirth to rage. Behind Durham is a mural painted by his former mentor in the meth trade: the late "Iodine Mike" Russell.
Photos: Joel Andrews, Lufkin Daily News
The many moods of James "Bull" Durham: Over the course of an afternoon, he ping-pongs from sadness to mirth to rage. Behind Durham is a mural painted by his former mentor in the meth trade: the late "Iodine Mike" Russell.
After the fire that claimed his mother's house, the scabs on James Durham's heavily inked torso tested positive for meth.
Courtesy of Angelina County Sheriff's Office
After the fire that claimed his mother's house, the scabs on James Durham's heavily inked torso tested positive for meth.

"It took them about 18 hours to get the meth oil and another 20 to get the finished meth from that," Henson says of the Nazi method. "You could smell it — they used ether to kick it off and it smelled like rotten eggs." Henson says the users reeked of their product, too.

"My wife and I could go to Walmart and you could smell the Coleman fuel," he says. "They have sores on 'em called 'spider bites,' but they are really blisters and they're always scratchin', and when they bust, you can smell it. Those chemicals want to come out."

In the old days, meth labs were located deep in the backwoods. What's more, some of the components, chemicals like P2P and anhydrous ammonia, were somewhat hard to come by. That's not the case today with shake-and-bake labs. Today, any fool can go on the Internet and look up a recipe, obtain all the components easily and whip up a batch inside of an hour in his or her home, a motel room or even a car. Sergeant Hill showed how it was done in about 15 minutes. The final distillation takes place in a plastic soda or Gatorade bottle.

"Now I can walk in one store and come out with all the ingredients for a lab," Durham enthuses. "One store! I can go to Walmart right now and come out with the best dope you ever seen in your life. Throw some lithium in there, a little fuel, a little bit of red lye, you got it goin' there. It's called a reaction and you've got a good reaction, you've got good dope. It just ain't gonna be as pure as the other dope."

"Everything that they put in it except for the Sudafed has a skull and crossbones on it: iodine crystals, Liquid Heet, Drano, muriatic acid, Coleman fuel," Henson noted earlier that day.

Meth heads like Durham don't mind the idea of literally fueling themselves up. Durham looks on his own meth recipes with pride. "When shake-and-bake first started it was trash," Durham says." But then I started lookin' at it and figurin' out ways of my own."

He prided himself on his technique. He was not one to just slop everything together and shoot up a quick fix. Call him the Guy Fieri of meth: "It's just like macaroni and cheese," Durham says, a big grin showing his full set of white teeth. "If you take that and throw it in a pot for three or four minutes, you can just throw in the cheese and eat it. But if you let it slow-simmer for eight or ten minutes, then put you in a lil' milk and some bacon bits and some butter, and then put the cheese in there? The bomb! Right?"

Durham says his dope always had the key quality meth freaks craved. "They want legs, and what legs means is they want to ride for a matter of days. Boom!"

He says that his trips to Walmart often turned into chemical searches. He would read the labels of every fuel, cleaner, solvent and medicine. "It's just a habit," he says. "And if you see somethin' that has sulfuric acid, you're gonna go, 'Hmmm.' 'Cause if that's in there, you can find a way to take the rest of the stuff out. You can separate it. They put it together, and if you know how to separate things, then you got it. That's how shake-and- bake came about and now it's bad to the bone."
_____________________

Thanks to relatively poor soil, Angelina County has long stood apart from the rest of East Texas. The first Anglo settlers were not slaveholding cotton farmers but Scotch-Irish backwoods folk. Culturally, the county was less moonlight-and-magnolias Dixie than a little pocket of Appalachia, where pioneers, often from similarly hardscrabble areas of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, wanted nothing more than to carve homesteads out of the Piney Woods and river thickets, farm a little, maybe raise a scraggly herd of tough cattle to drive to market in New Orleans. They also wanted to brew up a little whiskey and subsist on the bass, catfish and perch they hauled from the Neches and Angelina rivers and whatever they could trap and shoot on dry land. In 1861, alone in East Texas, Angelina County voted against secession. (Their electoral peculiarity continued through the 20th Century — Angelina County was the seat of power for swashbuckling politico "Good Time Charlie" Wilson, a.k.a. "the liberal from Lufkin.") They were, and are, a self-sufficient breed, good with their hands, bluntly honest and leery of all central authority.

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28 comments
Filldaddy
Filldaddy

Good to know they got rid of those dangerous pot heads who drove under the speed limit and patronized the food businesses in the county.  Hopped up meth heads are so much better!)

doctropic
doctropic

Congratulations on your Best of the West award for this piece, John. I hope you're working on turning this story into a novel - the quotes are priceless, but it's your writing style that makes the piece.

Lan
Lan

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Lan
Lan

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on  Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

Lan
Lan

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on  Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

Lan
Lan

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on  Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

Dedicated_Dad
Dedicated_Dad

There, but for the grace of G*d, Go I.And YOU, too...

ChauncydeF
ChauncydeF

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Great, great piece, John, the most painfully graphic I've read in a long time. And I'd say that there are plenty of stories like this built around the money and desperation that is inherent in the drug trade, be it meth today or alcohol back in the 20's.

My knee-jerk reaction to all drug stories is to legalize drugs period. That's what Buckley said back in the 80's and I haven't found an example yet to dissuade me. Until this. Sorta.

But...these stories are all based on a couple things: profit motive and individual addiction. As you point out, even if we eradicate the labs here, demand for the drug is enough that someone will fill the vacuum. (Mexicans in your piece.)

If on the other hand, we legalize drugs, there will still be a small percentage of addicts, say a fixed rate of 5% (other recreational drug users will not suddenly explode into dysfunctional folks who lose their jobs and families and all that matter...in other words they won't become addicts). But, meanwhile, the gov't can take over the trade, bond purity, eliminate the profits, and still do a campaign against usage, like the PR campaign against tobacco, alcohol etc., and treat the problem of addiction for what it is: a public health problem.

They can do that with the vast savings from the very expensive 'war on drugs', which has proven as useless as prohibition, and continues to create colorful criminals like Bull Durham.

If we simply continue to combat the law of supply and demand, we waste money, lives and the rest of our resources that could actually give hope to the most hardscrabble backwoods and inner city people whose smarts could benefit us all.

Poshpoet
Poshpoet

I have a dear friend addicted to meth, it seems nothing else matters. Addiction rules or governs theirs lives as a symptom of the real problem society faces. Some of those caught up with meth have no where else to turn and those with loved ones, turn there backs because they know there loved. Go figure. Images of any abuser should be labeled counter productive unless drugs are concerned. Idealistic behavior is ramp-id because we through curiosity write stories giving them a certain importance, while corrupting a young mind, who may innocently read these articles. www.poshpoetry.com

alehound
alehound

"He shot me not in the ass but in my asshole," too funny...

guest
guest

bull durham is a liar..he was no 11 yr old he was 15 and an abusive drunk crackhead...he didint work to support his family it was to buy crack and whiskey.He did have his own place and a common law wife for many years but she lived in a nightmarish hell as he rose to his psuedo power...i feel extremely sorry for this woman and "Krystal" and whoever his new girlfriend is he is never gona change...but at least he is behind bars and cant hurt her like he did the ones before her

Voice of Con-$cience
Voice of Con-$cience

Kent Henson is a genius. Not only has he figured out a way to increase awareness of the lurking danger that "shake and bake" labs pose in his community by explaining how to spot possible "meth labs" (acetone cans, red-lye, coleman fuel), "tweakers" (bad teeth, smelly blisters, head-lights, likely living in a trailer or burnt out house somewhere on a backroad) where these criminals shop(Walmart:) and what they shop for(E and anything with a skull and crossbones), he has also figured out a way to increase the number of "labs" in his and many other areas( which cant hurt his income and/or budget), by making it sound like a cake walk to breeze to the corner store, grab some ingredients, throw them together and have some dope by the time you get home, ensuring that every curious teen, money hungry waitress and any motivated drug addict will run right out and give it a shot. Bravo Sheriff! Make sure to set some of your money aside for counsel, it looks like you'll need it.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Man, Dave Grohl has really let himself go.

T.E. Bell
T.E. Bell

Another buzzing, sparking example of Mr. Lomax' especial genius. He has a command of image, phrase and timing, be it in scathing little widgets, or in long thumbsuckers like this one, that could serve as a masterclass for writers in the Post New Journalism style.Write on, writer, write on 'til the dawn.T.E. Bell

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

This was a great read.

I wonder if there is any difference between these dope cooks and the booze cooks of years ago during prohibition who died an early death because they used their own poison?

Apparently quality control procedures have never found favor with these guys.

And it sure sounds like the same breed of police officers are chasing after them!

nonsequiteuse
nonsequiteuse

It's tough to pick out the greatest tragedy in a story full of them, but how awful to consider how Oregon has enacted legislation that has reduced the scope of their problem, and to realize that Big Pharma will go to the mats to prevent us from seeing this kind of benefit nationally. I saw a Frontline episode, years ago, that said that we had a chance to completely head off this problem in the same way the Quaalude problem was stopped - we, the US, had the chance to control the production of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine completely. We would not have a meth epidemic had we been able to intervene at that point. Tragic. Great story, John. Keep shining the light.

Championshipvinyl73
Championshipvinyl73

a damn good article. I couldn't help but think of Rory Cochrane as Billy Mack in "Love and a .45" as I read it. It took loneger to read the article as it did to actually watch 'Spun" but it was well worth it. Bull in an exonerating biopic? Not likely. As an inspiration for a central character in a cult classic "dope" type of film? Possibly.

Shellymillwee
Shellymillwee

Incredible story. I was born in Lufkin and still have family there so I truly believe that it's important to put a spotlight on the drug issues there. Kudos to Lufkin law enforcement and John Lomax. Excellent article.

Darth
Darth

Yes, let's glamorize and bring notoriety to these idiots.

Robin
Robin

I like to joke about East Texas as much as the next non-East-Texan, but it's nice to read about the decent people in this article trying to fight the good fight. Ultimately, however, this is a heartbreaking story with Greek-level tragic underpinnings. I know and love a couple of meth addicts. (One just got out of prison for the (I lost count) time, and the other repeatedly and earnestly measures his sobriety in days.) I don't have the words to describe how much I hate that shit.

brent82
brent82

I totally thought of Ronnie Dobbs when the Sheriff said, "well what about that time I caught you stealin my lawnmover?"...hilarious!

T.E. Bell
T.E. Bell

So I WASN'T the only one who thought it!

Shkskn

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

That's exactly what I want people to take from this story. Thanks.

MadMac
MadMac

Yeah, because nothing says glamor like a colostomy bag.

Darth
Darth

Absolutely! Colostomy bags rule.

 
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