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..

And it went on like that through the decades. As the boys got older, they even started fighting back against their tush hog of a daddy. "It's like Hank Williams sang, 'Family Tradition,'" chuckles Sheriff Henson. "They've stabbed each other, beat each other, you name it. Lotta times when James'd come in beat up, his brother or his daddy done it to 'im. They fought like cats and dogs. There's been a few times I've had all three of 'em in the back of my car."

Once Durham started going to jail, he couldn't stop. (Neither could Brad: He's now about a year into a 30-year stretch for robbery. James says Brad was once a member of the Aryan Brotherhood but has been "exed-out" because he was a crackhead who "messed with the blacks" and "didn't take care of business.") Since that first arrest, James has been busted for engaging in organized criminal activity, theft, public intoxication, DWI, burglary, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, manufacture/delivery of meth, evading arrest, tampering with evidence, fraud, forgery and arson.

And yet by 2004, between stints in county jail, the state jail and state prison, where he says he witnessed horrors "that could make a billy goat puke," Durham managed to find the time to claw his way to what he claims was almost the very pinnacle of the Lufkin meth trade, just two notches below the kingpin: the now federally incarcerated Mike Keene.

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.

"When I was a kid growin' up, Mike Keene was just a name," he says. "I never thought I could be that big some day. I was just a dope fiend chasin' dope. Then I started meetin' people who knew them and then I became one of them because I listened, I minded 'em, I wasn't doin' all my dope, I was slangin' it and maintainin' and doin' what I'se s'posed to do. Bringin' in all the money."

Durham says Keene ran his operation out of a bunker-like Lufkin scrap yard. "All that man did was give orders," Durham says. "He had cameras set up all around his wrecking yard, armed guards, Rottweiler dogs, pit bulls, thousands of fucking cars and a huge fence. All that wasn't there to stop break-ins."

For Durham, these were the salad days. He had four cell phones — some for business, some for family, some for fun. He'd ditch them all weekly and get new ones. He claims he had two bodyguards and never walked around with anything less than $20,000 in cash. He also says Keene bought him a flashy Lincoln Continental. (Sergeant Hill scoffs at that tale: He says Durham's Lincoln was a rattletrap old junker that once belonged to his dad. Basically, Hill scoffs at anything Durham says about his life in the drug trade beyond him admitting to being a meth freak and low-level cook and peddler.)

Back then, Durham had more meth than he could handle. "It would just start gettin' good on me at 15 days," he says. "When I'd start gettin' to 20, 21, 22 days, that was when it was time to chill out." Unlike many meth heads, he paid attention to his health and appearance. "They say meth rots people's teeth out. Well, it does. You know why? Lack o' brushin'!" He barks up a laugh. "I've been doin' dope since I was 11 and I have some big teeth, but they're healthy and strong. And I kept eatin' and drinkin' Gatorade. Lotsa Gatorade. That's how you kept your body refreshed, nourished."

The power, money, fake friends and dope whores went to his head, he says now. He started to believe he was invincible, to think he was able to buy off cops or hire lawyers to get himself out of any jams. He also didn't give a flip what his neighbors thought about his unconventional lifestyle. "If my yard needed a Weed Eater and it was three in the mornin', I got that headlight on and I'm out there mowin' the yard right then and there," he laughs. "I didn't give a damn what my neighbors thought. This is America! That's what my daddy taught me. I was not thinkin' I was embarrassin' myself. I didn't care, 'cause I had the power. I had the money, I didn't give a damn. I'm Bull Durham!"

Eventually, Durham fell out of favor with Keene. According to Durham, shortly before Keene was arrested, the Lufkin kingpin stripped Durham of his guns, bodyguards and prized Lincoln because he believed that Durham was too "hot with the laws." In February of 2004, Durham got caught trying to swap a shotgun for crack and cash, and after attempting to evade cops, he was arrested and given six years in the pen. After paroling out and violating a couple of times, he got out in 2010, just in time for the worst year of his life as a free man.

Once out, he hooked up with a troubled, recently widowed woman who Durham claims had a pill problem. It was a tumultuous relationship, and part of the reason he was at his mother's house when it burned down was that he and "Krystal" were on the outs.

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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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