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..

Over time, the criminal underworld of Angelina has evolved. Virtually all of the moonshine stills are gone, and the 1970s pot farm craze has abated. Crystal meth is at the heart of just about every social ill in the white community.

For the past several years, Sergeant Allen Hill has made guys like Bull Durham his top priority. Where his boss Henson has a golly-gee demeanor and a twinkle in his eye, the brawny, bull-necked Hill cusses up a storm and loves tearing it up in his leisure time.

On a ride-around of east Lufkin's meth country, he explains how he and Tom Matthews are the entirety of the Angelina County Sheriff's Department's narcotics squad, and they subsist off what they can seize from drug dealers. No tax money funds them. Behind his office, he has a whole warehouse full of captured meth labs, video equipment, a flashy BMW and a late-model pickup, and bicycles that he's gotten from raids in the past couple of years. This is just the swag they are keeping for official use, destroying or donating to area children. The rest has been auctioned off to pay his salary and overhead.

Lawman Henson and misfit Durham share a moment in the chapel of the Angelina County Jail. Although he's arrested Durham dozens of times, Henson says he's a great guy when he's off the meth.
John Nova Lomax
Lawman Henson and misfit Durham share a moment in the chapel of the Angelina County Jail. Although he's arrested Durham dozens of times, Henson says he's a great guy when he's off the meth.
Late last year, James "Bull" Durham accidentally torched his mother's house and car when a "shake-and-bake" meth lab caught on fire. Durham now denies that version of events even though he pleaded guilty on an arson charge and faces 20 years in the pen.
Andy Adams, Lufkin Daily News
Late last year, James "Bull" Durham accidentally torched his mother's house and car when a "shake-and-bake" meth lab caught on fire. Durham now denies that version of events even though he pleaded guilty on an arson charge and faces 20 years in the pen.

Meth is king, it's where the money is for the dealers and, in Hill's view, it's what is doing the most damage to his community, more than crack and infinitely more than transient drug couriers. "If somebody's gonna come through here from Mexico on the way to Chicago with a hundred pounds of weed, how is that my problem?" he asks. "I have to use my resources the best way I can."

He drives past one scene of rural squalor after another: trailers falling apart at the seams but nevertheless occupied by meth heads, packs of dogs running free amid trash heaps and burned-out cars. Most of these pooches are East Texas curs, but in one predominantly Hispanic trailer park, there were also little packs of semi-feral Chihuahuas. Hill says Hispanic drug dealers, most of whom at least claim to be affiliated with gangs like MS-13 or Mexican cartels, are increasingly getting into selling cartel-made, Mexican-imported "ice"-style meth instead of cocaine or crack because there's much more money in it these days.

Backroads like these were quite recently the stomping grounds of the local chapter of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a meth-addled white prison-based gang. For much of 2010, town talk centered on a series of trials relating to a 2009 kidnapping and beating of a local woman on the orders of her spurned lover, Stevie "Caveman" Wallace. Caveman was a captain in the Aryan Brotherhood, and most of his cohorts were tweaked out on meth when they stuffed Wallace's ex in the trunk of a car, drove her to a remote cemetery and beat her to within an inch of her life. Wallace is now serving life for the incident.

Caveman was also once a suspect in the area's other highly prominent Aryan Brotherhood case: a 2007 double homicide committed on the orders of AB "general" Carl Carver, who is also now doing life. (Several of the conspirators in that case were reportedly in the middle of a meth binge when they helped blast the victims in the head with a shotgun.)

And in March of this year, local law enforcement proudly announced that it had arrested the area's last active ranking Aryan: Thomas "Tommy Guns" Smith. He was taken into custody in the trailer park home of a nurse who evidently got bored with her hitherto-unblemished life and took to both meth and bad boys. Smith is now doing five years.

But even with the local AB bigwigs behind bars, meth continues to cut a swath through east Lufkin. One day last year, Hill took down three labs in a single day. And there's still so much more work to do. Easing up to one intersection, Hill says that he knows of no fewer than five active cooks within a mile's radius. "Every one of 'em I've put in jail, and they're either out on probation or bond," he says, and adds that he plans to catch them all in the act again soon.

It's a timing thing, he says. You have to know when they are cooking and sweep in immediately. He's good at it: He's caught people with syringes in their arms and dope stashes in their laps. In one case, Hill burst into a room at Lufkin's Motel 6 in which he found a cook in the bathroom frantically trying to pinch closed a balloon containing deadly phosphine gas, a meth by-product. If that cook's fingers had slipped, everyone on the scene could have been killed. People in the grip of the addiction just can't seem to stop, he says. One local was caught with a shake-and-bake lab in the trunk of his car in the parking lot of the local probation department.

Hill worries some about the long-term physical consequences of raiding all these labs. In some homes he's raided, the meth fumes have corroded metal doors and in one example, the casings on some rounds of .50 caliber ammo. Hill wears a respirator, but he draws the line at a chemical suit, especially in the summer. "I could either die of cancer down the road, or a heat stroke today," he says.

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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

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.

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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