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..

While Hill talks tough, the human toll gets to him. He tells of one heartbreaking bust in which he had hoped to arrest a young girl's parents before her school bus dropped her off. He hit a snag and the raid was delayed by an hour or two. When the half-full bus dropped the girl off, her schoolmates saw her yard full of cops and her parents cuffed and stuffed in the back of a car. "And it was right before Christmas," Hill says. "It can be pretty tough."

Henson says they've started enhancing the punishments of dealers and cooks caught with children in their midst. He's found kids' toys and baby shampoo in the same bathtub used to cook up a batch of meth. "We started getting CPS involved and testing the kids, and if they test positive, we turn around and file on the parents for endangering their children," he says.

Back on the Angelina County backroads, we pull up to what's left of the Durham home. A charred square on the ground next to a scorched tree marks the site of what used to be Ruth Durham's home, but behind where it once stood, James Durham built himself a shack resembling less a residence than a clubhouse for a precocious delinquent. An apparently well-fed and friendly dog still lives in the yard. The shack's walls are decorated with collages made up of cut-out photos of hotties and his favorite band Metallica, alongside hand-drawn pictures of dragons and other monsters and a Rebel flag. Plastic bottles are strewn about the floors, a musty, bare mattress squats in one corner and there's a 40-year-old TV in what passes for a den. Even after Hill has carted off lots of evidence from the scene, the yard is still littered with empty Sudafed blister packs, stripped lithium batteries and other meth-related detritus.
_____________________

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.

If you took Huck Finn out of antebellum Missouri and dropped him into East Texas in the 1970s, you'd have young James Durham. And if Huck Finn had grown up in East Texas when Durham did, he probably would have wound up just as strung out. Other aspects of Durham's upbringing are Dixie-fried Dickens: Durham says he got hooked on meth when he was 11 years old and working full-time as an off-the-books catfish skinner for $20 a day. (Throw in two parts Winter's Bone and one part Breaking Bad and a dash of The Wire, and you have The Ballad of Bull Durham: Lufkin's Most Hated.)

He says he maintained like that for years, just another hardworking dropout stiff with a monkey on his back. He didn't cause anyone any trouble until his brother Brad Durham stuck him in the guts twice with a butcher knife in the early 1990s. He says that sent him spiraling into crack for a time. He says Iodine Mike weaned him off crack by turning him on to red phosphorus meth, and it's been Katy-bar-the-door ever since.

Some of Durham's dirt-road country boy raising sounds almost idyllic today, as when he talks about his mama's homemade mayhaw jelly and the peaches, plums and figs he and his brothers would wrest from treetops all while they swatted at bees and big guinea wasps. They were too poor to wear shoes in the summertime, so Durham's feet were so leathery he could tramp through the brambles and pick blackberries barefooted. All of this was done out of necessity. The Durham family needed everything James and his brothers could pluck from the East Texas foliage, drag out of the rivers and sloughs, and shoot in the swamps.

And what a Pap Finn of a dad old man Durham was. Durham says he was a "real bad alcoholic" who stood six-foot-four and weighed 390 pounds. Henson, who along with Hill disputes many details of Durham's version of his life in meth, doesn't exactly scoff at that estimate. "He probably was 400 pounds there towards the end," he says.

"Mama taught us goodness and the Bible, but daddy was mean," Durham says. Asked if his dad was a mean drunk or a mean sober, Durham says: "He was mean period. He was just a mean tush hog. You take Highway 94 out towards Groveton and there's a strip of bars across the [Neches] river — there used to be Slim's, the Jug and about four others. Nobody across that river could whoop my daddy. He taught us to take no shit and that's probably part of my problem right now. I just don't care what nobody thinks about me no more."

Ask James Durham why his brother stabbed him, and he'll tell you an epic tale spanning the years back to when they were six and eight. That was when the brothers caused the family's entire flock of Dominicker chickens to drink themselves to death by serving them a barrel of their daddy's homemade muscadine wine. On their dad's return from a week away, the boys got the thrashings of their young lives, and once their dad was done with them, Brad beat James.

Brad then wanted revenge against their dad, so he poisoned the family's catfish pond with mothballs. Another round of beatings followed, with the crap rolling downhill to James, as usual. He later got his own form of vengeance by sniping Brad out of the top of a fig tree with his Christmas gift: a Daisy Red Rider BB gun. James dropped the gun, ran home and told their mother Brad had shot him with the Red Rider, and thus won a temporary victory. Once mama was out of sight, Brad took his vengeance yet again.

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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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