Chapter Seven: Hopelessly Entangled

Channelview-Avenue C Trailer Park

Spring of 1994

I needed a fresh start. That's what I kept telling my family, friends and myself after we moved back to Channelview. I'd worn out my welcome at Northshore Middle School and had been dreading returning that Fall. Eugene and his family helped us find a comfortable 2 bedroom trailer in a trailer park on Avenue C, a place where they lived years before. In the living room of our new place I discussed the situation with my parents and Eugene. Everyone agreed that Channelview was a better area than Cloverleaf. Eugene said I'd enjoy going to Alice Johnson Junior High, where there were supposedly better teachers and, according to Eugene, a much cooler student body. Again, Eugene and I vowed we'd straighten our lives out and be the first in our families to finish high school. For the first time in a long time I felt optimistic about my future and truly looked forward to getting back on track academically and in life. I just knew the move to Channelview was a step in the right direction.

Then I stepped out into the trailer park. I'm not the type to lament about my fate and minimize my own responsibility, but there's no doubt that the environment in which we are reared and the people we are surrounded with have a great influence on our behavior and development. The trailer park on Avenue C, like most trailer parks and apartment complexes in Channelview, was a den of thieves and thugs. Most of them were teenagers and young adults from Sterling Green and the nice parts of Channelview. They were rebellious, white and Hispanic kids who were attracted to the thug life; wannabe gangstas who didn't have to live that lifestyle out of necessity, but rather did so to piss their parents off. They liked to hang out with the real white trash in the poor areas, sag their baggy pants and dress gangsta, yet they listened to a mix of gangsta rap, metalcore and even country music. Because they had money to buy drugs and carry guns they thought they were "real" and hardcore. Jessie had warned me about some of these boys. "Those dumbasses have nice parents and good homes to go to, but they like rolling with us. They're a bunch of whiney little punks." Jessie was known to strong-arm the Channelview gangstas for their dope and guns when he ran into them. He got away with it because he was a legend on the east side, I guess.

A couple of days after we settled into our new place I ran into Aaron from Cloverleaf. He was with a small group of teenagers around the front porch of the trailer across from mine. I walked over to say hello to him nd a couple of the aforementioned Channelview gangstas named Weasel and Chris; they were fraternal twins. I knew Mandy, then a 15 year old with long, straight brown hair and a birthmark on the side of her neck, through Rusty's ex-girlfriend Ki, and, of course, Aaron was the dude I used to skip school with, but the rest were new faces. Amy lived in the trailer with her mother, Monkey, and her younger siblings Amanda and Bobby. Monkey and her ex-husband Farmer were from Cloverleaf and were old friends of my brother and James Terry. Farmer was a giant cornfed country boy who, according to my brother, gave Monkey her nickname. Farmer said, "When she sits down in those tight shorts she always wears you can see her monkey - that's why I call her Monkey!" Apparently, Farmer liked to punch on Monkey and once she finally woke up she left him and moved her kids to Channelview. Shortly after we moved next door, Amy, Monkey's daughter from another marriage, moved back down from North Carolina where she'd lived with her biological father. She later told me that she couldn't stand Farmer and that he was the reason she left Texas.

Monkey was an old barfly and crackhead. She left Amy alone for days at a time to play mother to her siblings. Consequently, their place was often packed with teenagers who constantly loved to party. The day I met Amy Aaron said, "I got a case of Busch beer in her ice box and little Baby G pinched some weed from his old man's stash, so it's on!!" We spent the rest of the night getting toasted with Amy's stereo blastin' out death metal and gangsta rap while us boys tried to get into the girl's panties. Amy had shoulder-length, curly blonde hair and big brown eyes with porcelain skin. She was, literally, girl-next-door cute, but she wasn't easy. While she entertained our constant flirting, she was actually pretty shy and was kinda insecure. None of us got anywhere with her that first night, but Chris and Mandy rocked the trailer in the back bedroom.

About a week later Amy confided in me on my front porch. She'd agreed to be with Aaron but didn't like how crazy he sometimes acted, and he could not keep his mouth shut. He'd told all of us Amy let him feel her up one night, and it bothered her, the rumors. I was surprised that she even liked Aaron. He had a face full of acne and could be really annoying and I told her as much. "Amy, you're one fine ass chick! You could do WAY better than Aaron!"

"Oh yeah?" She giggled. "With who?"

"Uh, hello!?" I was pretty confident. Maybe it was all the drugs? "Don't you know I've had the hots for you since I first laid eyes on you?"

"How could I not, Robert?" She smiled. "I like you. You're cute. But I've already started something with Aaron and I should give it a chance."

"Okay, I understand. I just think you're so beautiful." She didn't resist as I fingered her hair back from her eye and leaned in for a kiss.

Later that evening Amy returned to my place. My dad and brother were already asleep, but my mom hung out with us for awhile before crashing out herself. Once we were alone, Amy said she broke up with Aaron. She said her mother was home so she wouldn't need to be there for her siblings. She had that look in her eyes when she asked, "Can I spend the night here?"

"Sure you can." I was floating on clouds.

She squeezed up against me on the couch and we kissed and made out for about thirty minutes before my pager vibrated. It was Dough Boy. I called him and he asked if I wanted a sixteenth of coke for $50 bucks? That was a steal of a deal. I turned to Amy and asked if she wanted to do some coke? She shrugged and nodded yes. I asked her to wait on me while I drove my brother's truck to Dough Boy's off Woodforest, said it shouldn't take more than ten minutes. She told me to hurry back.

I put the truck in neutral and pushed it down the driveway at a safe enough distance to start without my folks hearing. I drove to Dough Boy's house and made the exchange with him. I ended up staying there for about 45 minutes because everytime I got ready to leave someone I knew showed up and I got caught up in conversation. By the time I made it back Amy was asleep. I crawled up behind her on the couch and kissed her awake. She said it was about time I got back, that she changed her mind about doing coke and all she really wanted was to have my lips back on hers. We had sex on the couch and fell asleep together.

Amy was my girlfriend for about 3 weeks. I was just the second boy she'd been with and, no, Aaron wasn't the first. Her first was a guy from North Carolina. I ruined things between us because, like Aaron, I couldn't keep my mouth shut. I told a room full of teenagers that Amy and I did all kinds of things sexually that we never even did. I was simply exaggerating to my peers, as boys are sometimes disposed to do. The rumors spread like wildfire and Amy was crying when she confronted me. "You don't kiss and tell, huh? Fucking asshole!"

Running With Thugs

Though I never joined a gang and almost never dressed "gangsta," I ran with a few thugs as a teenager. On Avenue C it was Weasel, Chris and Aaron, at first. We'd get high and sometimes drunk together and party at not only my trailer park but several others up and down the Channelview train tracks. We used Weasel and Chris' money to pay for everything, and when it ran out we burglarized their grandparents' house. The next thing I knew I was out stealing again every night, inextricably entangled in the fast life once again.

We met a pair of brothers in their 30's living in my trailer park. Theirs was one of several trailers where we hung out and got wasted. The cool brother was named John and he owned the car. His brother James was a freakin' weirdo and we all thought he was gay. James couldn't stand us doing drugs in his trailer and he incessantly bitched out John. To get away from his brother, John took us out cruising.

John drove us any and everywhere we wanted to go. We paid for the gas and got him high, so he didn't mind whatever we wanted to do. Even if it involved him waiting in the car while we burglarized houses and buildings and toted the stolen stuff to his car. Nor did he mind us strapping diesel tires to the roof of his car after we stole them from parked 18-wheelers. I'd learned from Boo, Eugene's step dad, that a used tire would easily sell for $100 bill at Key truck stop on I-10 and a new one went for $150 a pop. He did get a little nervous at times, but he didn't mind being our getaway driver; he just wasn't cool with breaking into a place with us.

One of the reasons John was so compliant is he was addicted to smoking crack. He blew all of his money on crack rock. Soon, we were all either snorting cocaine or smoking crack together. We'd sleep all day and wake up in the evening to go out and rob and party, then we'd crash out around dawn and get up and do it all over again.

One night Aaron said he knew where a pistol was, a .380 semi-automatic. We'd already traded Weasel and Chris' guns for cocaine and needed a pistol, or so we thought. The .380 was under the seat of a truck on a piece of property out of New Highway 90. It belonged to one of Aaron's brother's friends and he didn't want to be seen near the place, so I went to steal it. I had to hop a fence and bust out the front window with a rock, quickly get the gun and run back through a field at lam. The gun was mine, though, so I wasn't complaining.

They wanted to sell the gun for crack; I wanted to use it to rob people for their crack. We'd added another dude to our group, a 26 year old crackhead from another trailer park named Mike. Mike said we could ride into cracktown and jack black crack dealers who sold crack on street corners all night long. We'd already been buying dope from such areas throughout Houston and had even pulled some "Zulu" moves, which is when a dealer sticks his hand into the car to show you the sizes of his rocks and you slap his hand and speed off with the dope in the car. You could only get away with that a couple of times in an area in the same car before they'd recognize you and start shooting.

Mike had a plan. We would wait until after 3am on a Saturday night, after the dealers had made most of their money for the night, when there were only a scattered few left selling dope, then we'd move in and rob one. One dealer that we'd been observing kept opening a meter box on the ground and I deduced that he kept the majority of his dope in it in case the police showed up. John was supposed to stop by the guy, and Weasel, in the front seat, would ask him for a $100 piece. If the dealer stuck his hand in the car with a lot of rock Weasel would simply Zulu him and we'd burn off. If the dealer didn't have much dope Mike would draw the gun on him while Chris and I jumped out and shook him down for all his drugs and money. We'd also check the meter.

The plan went horribly wrong. Just as the dealer reached into the car with the dope Mike shot him three times in his mid-section and he spun to the ground screaming in agony, clutching his side. The other black dealers in the parking lot of the apartment complex nearby ran away at the sound of gunshots. I freaked out and started panicking, and John was about to race off when Mike got hostile and pointed the gun at him and demanded he stop the car. Mike then told Chris and Aaron to get out and "Shake the nigger down." They quickly got his money and what little dope he had and John got us out of there as fast as he could.

Mike apologized repeatedly on the freeway. Everyone was freaking out, anxious to get back to the trailer park and lay low for awhile. First we had to get rid of the gun. We didn't want any pistol used in a shooting. Mike directed us to an apartment complex on the outskirts of Northshore where he said he knew a dealer who'd buy the gun and sell us some crack for the money we got off the guy Mike shot. We waited for over an hour after Mike had asked us to wait in the parking lot while he went to take care of business. Aaron and I went looking for him finally and never found him. He burned us. Thankfully, I never saw Mike again.

We never knew how seriously the black dealer was wounded or even if he survived. He was shot in the side with a small caliber weapon so he probably made it. I hope he made it. To this day when I think about that night I can still hear his scream after he'd been shot and fell to the ground writhing in pain.

How Do I Love Thee?

Not long after Amy Perry dumped me I began seeing Niki Collins again. Niki and I were together for awhile when I lived on Corpus Christi Street. I split up with her when she took Jennifer's side over mine after Joe's ex-girlfriend said I put the moves on her. I did not, but that was the end of Niki and me back then.

Niki was at the Shamrock on Sheldon Road when I ran into her. She seemed super excited to see me, to tell me that Jennifer wasn't her friend anymore and how sorry she was for siding with her. I invited her over to my new trailer, more than willing to forget about the past.

We were in my bedroom making out when Dough Boy popped into my room. Dough Boy was several years older than me, an old school gangsta from back in the days when even Jessie and Eugene were in the Mob Squad gang. He was a slightly chubby kid who always wore Dickies pants and wifebeater shirts and a pair of Chuck Taylor's. He was a funny dude and hella cool to hang out with, but at that moment I wanted him to get lost. He sat down on the bed next to Niki and winked at me. He put his hand on her leg and asked, "How about you let me and Lil Robert get some of that sweet-sweet?"

Niki didn't protest at all. She was completely cool with whatever we wanted to do. I wasn't comfortable with it though. Dough Boy must've noticed my reluctance because he grabbed my hand and shoved it between her legs. Niki covered ma hand with hers, encouraging me, but I didn't feel right so I got up and left the room.

Dough Boy stormed after me and was visibly upset. "What the fuck, Lil Robert?! She's a straight freak. I pulled a train on her before, dude. Let's go tear it up!"

"Naw, man. I'm cool. You can have her."

Dough Boy got pissed at me and told me to go back inside and have my fun. He walked off and I went back inside to talk to Niki. She said she didn't want us both, that she just wanted me, but thought that was what I wanted so she just went along with it. I made it clear that I didn't want anyone else touching her, that she was my girl. We ended up having sex and talking until about 10pm when she had to go home. My brother drove us to her place and I kissed her before she got out and promised to call her.

Niki and I were together for a couple of months. She called me one day to tell me her grandfather had died and she'd be out of town with her parents to be with relatives for about a week. She said she'd miss me like crazy and would call as much as she could. I told her I'd miss her too and couldn't wait for her return.

Steven Canable was fresh out of TYC (Texas Youth Commission) and hanging out with some of us in my bedroom. He was a couple of years older than me and, even though his parents were middle class and he didn't have to be a criminally-minded gangsta, he was well-respected and quite popular on the east side. He used to be Eugene's best friend and was his first fall-partner. We'd been partying with Steven, welcoming him back to the freeworld, and it was a Friday night so we were trying to figure out what to do. Suddenly, an idea occurred to me. I picked up the phone and dialed Niki's number, just to make sure their house was empty, then I laid out my plan for the night.

After the shooting John quit rolling with us, so we didn't have wheels. I told everyone to be ready around midnight, when my parents and brother would surely be asleep, then I pushed our truck down the driveway and used it to hit Niki's house. It wasn't the first time I stole our truck to commit a crime and it wouldn't be the last.

Once we were inside Niki's house I told everyone to stay away from her bedroom; the rest of the house was fair game. We loaded my truck with their entertainment center, her father's gun rack and rifles and anything else we thought we could fence off. Her brother had a dirt bike that I wanted but it wouldn't fit in the truck with all the other stuff already loaded, so I let Steven - the oldest of the group - drive my truck back to the trailer park and I rode the bike.

I had to push the bike down the train tracks before starting it because I didn't want any of Niki's neighbor's hearing it and calling the law. It took me a minute to get used to the bike. I had to be careful along the gravel until I got to Ridlin Road, then I gunned the bike as fast as it would go down the street. I opened the throttle wide and felt free and wild, without a care in the world. I slowed down to make a turn and misjudged the angle. I flew into the ditch one way, the bike the other. I totaled the bike in the exact same spot where Jessie lost his leg years before, but I came away with just a few bruises and scratches.

When Niki returned home she called me. "Robert, did you rob my house?"

"Huh?" Her bluntness made me nervous. How did she know it was me? "Your house was robbed?"

"Yeah, and my parents know it was one of my friends because my room was not touched. My TV and VCR are still there; everything else is gone."

I denied it and acted offended that she would even suspect me. She said she didn't care. She'd been fighting with her parents for a long time by then and she was sick of living at home. About a week later she called me and said she was running away. I told her to meet me at my trailer park where it meets the train tracks at midnight. I said we could live in an empty trailer for a few days until we figured something out. She said she would steal about $400 cash from her father's wallet and her mom's jewelry so we'd have some money to work with.

I had a few hours to burn before midnight. Steven Canable and Dough Boy showed up with three really hot high school chicks from the northside of Houston. One of them was a country girl with curly brown hair and she wore the tightest Rocky Mountain jeans I ever saw on a girl. Steven said they were headed to a trailer park on the other side of Channelview and wanted me to join them. Rocky Mountain Chick had been giving me the eyes and Steven winked at me and nodded at her, which was all the incentive I needed.

I thought I could go with them and hang out for about an hour or so and then catch a ride back in time to meet Niki. But everything fell to pieces on me. Something happened and Dough Boy had to leave with the ride. I should have left with him and had him drop me off but I dropped the ball on that. To top it off Steven and Rocky Mountain Chick were rubbing all over each other and I was clearly out of the picture on that front, so I ran home as fast as I could.

I was over an hour late. Niki was nowhere to be found. The next day she called me from Pasadena and said she waited on me as long as she could before leaving and catching a bus to a friend's place. I gave her some lame excuse but she didn't seem to buy it. I think she realized that I wasn't worth the effort. That was the last I ever heard from Niki Collins.

Backyard Trouble, Again . . .

Junior and his clan moved into a trailer on Avenue C right after we did. Dad often said Junior was his favorite nephew and Junior always seemed to live near, around or with his Uncle Sam. And as much as his kids embarrassed me, I had a lot of fun with them over the years. They looked up to me and liked to follow and emulate me.

One evening I was in Junior's livingroom playing Nintendo with Troy when I noticed the Mexican woman in the trailer next to theirs put some cash in a tin can above her washer. I could see her clearly through the front window. A light bulb flashed above my little criminal head.

They were a group of four middle-aged Mexicans, probably in the country illegally, all working and saving their money towards something better. I deduced as much after I found several stashes of cash and coins in their trailer and rummaged through their stuff. I'd recruited my cousins Billy Wayne, Troy and Tonya to help me break in without telling them about the tin can. I went straight to it once we gained entry, then found the other stash spots in a mattress and speaker in the bedrooms. There wasn't much of anything else worth stealing besides the money and a pair of cowboy boots that Troy coveted, so I gave each of my cousins some money and admonished them to keep their mouth shut.

The cowboy boots got us busted. I didn't think Tory was stupid enough to wear them outside, but he did and the Mexicans saw him. I'd hid the money, about $400, under my trailer until the heat died down, but it never really did. Junior was evicted on the spot and he moved to Bridge City, Texas. I was suspected, but my cousins didn't implicate me so the landlord couldn't take any action against my family. My dad knew I was involved, though, and he knocked the shit out of me and wouldn't let me outside. It was an indefinite punishment, but it was futile because he couldn't enforce it while he wasn't home, which was the majority of the time since he worked.

Pensacola, Florida

Summer of 1994

My dad surprised us all when he said we were moving. He had his paycheck from Bill Dee's, Steven had several hundred dollars, my mom cashed Tammie's $400 SSI check and my dad shook me down and found about $300. I asked, "Where are we moving, Dad?"

"I ain't decided yet, but together we got over $1300. Should be enough to get us the hell away from here."

We loaded our truck with our dogs and the things we valued most then headed East on I-10. We stopped at our family's places in Beaumont and then Orange, and for a moment I thought we might try to find a place in one of those cities, but we got back in the truck and crossed the Louisiana state line. Somewhere around New Orleans I asked if we'd find a place there? My dad said, "Naw, I'm thinking maybe Alabama or Florida. Be nice to live by the ocean . . . We'll settle down wherever feels right, okay?"

We spent the night in Gulfport/Biloxi, Mississippi. The city was sparkling with its casinos, and it was pretty down by the Gulf with all of the fancy boats. Dad wanted to keep going, though, and we drove on into Alabama and the city of Mobile. Mom had relatives there, people she hadn't seen in over 35 years, and we took a break at their place while she caught up with them. They were old country folks, simple people without a television set. It's no wonder I grew bored quickly there and couldn't wait to get back in the truck.

Dad stopped at a truck stop/diner in Pensacola, Florida. We bought burgers and drinks and ate out by the truck while my dad flipped through a local newspaper and Steven walked the dogs. We rode around the city about 45 minutes before my dad parked in front of a trailer park and asked us what we thought of the place? The trailers looked to be in good shape with fenced in yards, the roads were smooth asphalt and there were lots of nice shade trees. The rent was cheap, they paid all the utilities including free cable television. We loved it. Dad said we could pay a month's rent and if we wanted to move deeper into Florida later we'd leave once next month's rent was due.

Steven and Dad wanted to crank up the tree service, at least until my dad could find a steady job. We had the saws and all the gear and a good truck; all we needed was to establish ourselves as a Florida tree company. All that required was $20 worth of business cards from a printing shop that boldly stated "Pioneer Trees of Florida" with our phone number and address.

I landed us our first job in Florida, a $350 dead oak tree that didn't require a haul-off. In Houston we could've gotten over $500 for that same job, but we soon discovered that the cost of living was higher in Florida and people weren't as willing to pay for tree work as in Texas. Still, we lined up a month's worth of jobs and had plans for the upcoming hurricane season. Hurricanes hit Florida almost every year and there's good money in the clean-up, as Steven, James Terry and John learned when hurricane Andrew hit Florida the previous year. In two weeks time Steven alone made several thousand dollars. Of course he blew it all on drugs and strippers and didn't have a penny to his name when he returned to Texas, but we knew we could do clean-up work and rake in the cash if a hurricane hit. My dad said we'd be the attorneys of the tree business, but rather than chase ambulances at the scene of accidents we'd chase hurricanes.

We ran out of pot a week into our stay in Florida. Knowing that every trailer park had at least one pothead living in it, Steven and I decided to take a walk through ours. We met a couple in their mid-30's who smoked. They said they had a connection to score quarter ounces for $60! I was blown away. In Houston I could get a full ounce for $40-$50, and it was quality bud. We didn't have any other options since all the weed in Florida was expensive, so we bought a quarter.

The woman, I want to say her name was Janice or Joyce, had a couple of kids close to my age. They lived with their biological father on Gulf Breeze, an island just off the coast with a five mile bridge connecting it to the mainland, but spent a lot of time with their mom at our trailer park. Her son's name was Mark and he was a year younger than me, and his sister, Jenny, was a year my senior. They both had long brown hair, like their mother, and were a couple of skater kids.

Mark and Jenny became my best friends in Florida. They showed me around the city and introduced me to all of their friends, mostly stoner/surfer/skater types. Their dad was a lawyer who owned a badass two story beach house on stilts. Jenny used his credit cards to pay for the neverending party we had the entire time I knew them, and she even bought me some clothes for school. Mark and I would be in the 8th grade together that Fall and he promised I'd love it at his school. Apparently he had quite the female following at school, so said Jenny.

Jenny was gorgeous with her tanned skin and sexy curves, but she was unfortunately off limits since she had a boyfriend, an awesome guitarist named Joker who often hung out sith us at their place down by the beach. But they had a friend named Sarah, a cute blonde chick who usually wore cut-off shorts, tank tops and sandals. She wasn't hooked up with anyone and, Jenny once joked, I always seemed to find myself seated next to her.

One night down by the beach is still beautifully etched in memory. A huge bonfire illuminated the bright, white sand and deep blue Gulf of Mexico. The tide was rising and a cool breeze blew through my hair as I sat next to Sarah. We were passing a joint of good ganja back and forth, teenagers in shorts and bikinis were laughing and hanging out all around us and a boom box was cranked up to "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden. The wind picked up, bringing with it the salty smell of the gulf, and Sarah pressed her body closer to mine. I wrapped an arm around her and she placed her hand on mine, showing me her stainless steel ring. "You see that?"  A couple were intertwined in the 69 position on the ring. How did I fail to notice that before? Sarah smiled at me and said, "I'm all about that right there".

That night we all partied at the beach house, smoked some of the best weed I've ever had and played strip poker. I felt like I was in paradise.

Sadly, our stay in Florida ended after just a few months. We were on a tree job in a neighborhood of Naval officers when Steven accidentally rammed the truck into the side of a Navy captain's car. My brother was attempting to back the truck up to our trailer, but the gear shaft slipped into neutral and the truck rolled into the captain's car as he passed by. Rather than pay a fine or spend a few nights in jail (he had prior tickets from Houston that showed up on the cop's computer), they decided to leave Florida and move back to Texas. My dad was homesick and wanted to live around his family more than anything else, I believe.

Today we all agree that leaving Florida was the worst thing we could've done. I wasn't out stealing while there, I was enjoying the beach and the company of my new friends. We were making money in the tree business, but we packed and left . . . . Sometimes I wonder what life would've been had we stayed in Florida?

Channelview-Eugene's House on Woodforest

Late Summer of 1994

Everyone knew Eugene and Jessie's house on Woodforest Boulevard because it had the big weeping willow out front with lawn chairs under it. We liked to sit in their yard and get stoned watching the traffic pass by. Those who knew us honked and shouted at us and we waved and screamed back.

After we decided to return to Texas Mom called Gene and she invited us to live with them until we could get back on our feet. Joe had just gotten out of juvenile detention so it was cool to catch up with him. I told everyone how amazing Florida was, and for once my stories didn't need embellishment.

Besides Colleen driving me crazy sun-bathing in the tiniest bikinis I ever saw in their backyard, there were two incidents that stand out from our brief stay with Eugene on Woodforest. First, I stole Amanda's father's guns. Amanda was Heather Hanson's cousin and she lived just down the street from Eugene. She let us hang out at her house and relax in their Jacuzzi in the backyard while her parents were at work. I found a 9mm Berreta, a .380 Luger and a l-shot .45 in her parents' closet and easily smuggled them outside.

I went to Juan and Ernesto's in Cloverleaf to sell the guns. They were both gone, but a kid named Harley bought the 9mm from me for $200 cash and an 8-ball of coke. I left and returned later hoping to sell the .380 and ran into Charlie Morgan. Charlie was 6'-4" and over 250 pounds. He was perhaps five years older than me, and his daddy owned a lot of rental property in Cloverleaf. His sister Tomisina used to be Colleen's best friend and was so hot that she was in Playboy in the late 1990's. Charlie sold weed and coke and thought he was hardcore gangsta. He was an abrasive asshole and I never liked the dude. My cousin Chucky sold him some diamonds that Charlie later claimed were fake and he wanted his money back. That day at Juan's he asked me, "Where's your stupid ass cousin Chucky?"

"In Corpus Christi, last I heard."

"That sonofabitch owes me."

"Good luck with that," I laughed. "Know anyone looking for a .380 Luger?"

I handed him the gun, without the clip. He acted offended and told me to give him the clip. Reluctantly, I did. I wanted $200 for the gun. He dropped the gun in one pocket and pulled out a $20 dollar bill from the other. He tried to hand it to me and I let it fall to the ground. "Fuck no, Charlie! What kinda shit is that? I want $200 or whatever that is in dope!"

"Since Chucky is your cousin you owe me. This makes us even."

Charlie wouldn't listen to reason. There wasn't a damn thing I could do at that moment because he had my gun. I'd wasted the last bullet from the .45 so it was useless. My friend Kurt had driven me over there and I had to get back into his car empty handed. I caught up with Charlie about 6 months later in his daddy's Cadillac with Ricky and Jose Romero. I unloaded about five rounds from Jessie's .38 into his trunk, not trying to hit anyone, just fuck the car up, and he burned rubber down the street.

The other incident I will never forget from our stay at Eugene's involved that .45 l-shot pistol. I had it hidden in our truck, under the front seat. We'd rented our truck a couple years back and stopped making payments on it when we moved to Florida. I was in Eugene's livingroom one day and decided to step outside for some reason just in time to catch a repo man hooking our truck to his wrecker truck!

I screamed at the top of my lungs and broke for our truck. All I could think about was the pistol under the seat. I yanked the door open and dove into the truck just as the wrecker pulled out of the driveway. The door to our truck was wide open as the wrecker drove down Woodforest with me in the cab. I got the pistol and secured it in my pocket, knowing they'd have to stop sometime.

Jessie, my father and brother were right behind us in another car. Apparently they heard my scream. When the repo men pulled into the parking lot of the Kroger super market at the intersection of Woodforest and Beltway 8, I jumped out of our truck. I ran to the driver's side of the wrecker just as he rolled the window down and punched him right in his face as hard as I could. My brother restrained me and the repo man explained to my dad that he had to take the truck. We were without wheels and in a real bind, once again.

Bridge City, Texas-Tenney's Apartments

Late Summer of 1994

The little town of Bridge City is squeezed between Orange and Port Arthur, Texas and gets its name because you can't get to it without crossing a bridge. It's easily my favorite town in Texas, and I was lucky enough to live there twice and party there countless times. It's a hub for college kids who love to party and have plenty of money to do it with. It's not that there are any clubs or spectacular sights in Bridge City; it's really just a small town that you'll miss if you blink, but everywhere I went there were lots of young people doing lots of drugs, playing rock music and partying their hearts out.

We lived there for a couple of weeks the first time, in an apartment with Junior's family. John and Michelle also lived there at that time. I think he was transitioning from Marcy's place in Orange to his house in Orange and was still building his drug clientele. Most of the time we lived at the Tenney apartments I hung out with John, helping him weigh out and sell dope, staying stoned 24/7, flirting with all the older chicks that came through to buy weed from him. I remember trying to impress a group of co-eds one night by slamming Budweisers. Alice in Chains played in the background as I got as drunk as I've ever been in my life. I threw up all over John's floor and the next thing I recall is being back at Junior's and my dad telling me to kick my feet as if I were swimming, it would help stop the spinning in my head. I've never been a big drinker and that night explains why.

Our stay at Junior's in Bridge City was cut short because, once again, I couldn't stop shitting in my own backyard. I befriended the apartment owner's grandson, a boy close to my age that lived in the house next to the complex. He was about to begin the 8th grade and he laced me up on what to expect at Bridge City Junior High. He invited me over to his house to lift weights in the garage and play video games in his room. He tried to impress me by showing me his grandfather's .44 revolver. It was a beauty, and it was a big mistake on his part. I went to use his bathroom before I left that day and unlocked the window.

I bided my time for a few days, until I was sure no one was home, then I snuck over the fence and through their bathroom window to steal the gun. I took it to John and asked him to give me a half pound of weed or $250 for it. He said he was headed to Houston that night to score 20 pounds of weed and would give me the pot when he returned, so I have him the gun.

I was busted before John could leave Bridge City. Someone saw me enter the house through the window and called the manager of the apartments. A crowd of people were in front of Junior's apartment when I walked up and I was told to produce the gun or the police would be called. Thankfully, John hadn't already left! I returned the gun and the manager told Junior to get rid of me and my family or everyone would be out on the streets. Dad called Uncle Bill.

Vidor, Texas-Uncle Bill's House

Fall of 1994

Uncle Bill lived in the little country town of Vidor, between Orange and Beaumont, Texas on I-10. It's infamous for being a racist town, the Klan capitol of Texas. Back in the early 1990's the town made national news after they built some housing projects and bused in some black folks from Beaumont. Violence erupted between the newcomers and the ignorant protestors who "only want to keep our town clean." I recall at least one person being murdered, a poor black woman, and there was a sign that read "Don't let the sun set on your nigger ass!" just down the road from the projects. I recall driving past those projects years later, when the violence and tension had long been quelled, and seeing it surrounded by a barbed wire fence. It looked more like a prison than an apartment complex.

The truth is I didn't perceive Vidor as a racist town. Uncle Bill said, "Vidor is not racist. Sure, there are a few closet Klansmen, ignorant white trash, but generally this is a friendly country town that embraces all cultures. Heck, just go down to the high school after class and see all the younguns dressed like they're black, listening to rap music." His step daughter, Monique, was a guest on Gerwaldo after the racial violence at the housing projects and she defended the people of Vidor as being good country folks and denounced the horrendous actions of a few ignorant protestors.

Uncle Bill lived on the dead-end of Cherry Street, a gravel road off in the sticks. He had a nice 3 bedroom house with a pretty good sized pasture out back with a stable and a few horses. The country singer Clay Walker grew up right across the street from Uncle Bill's place. Uncle Bill said the Vidor police had to put up a barricade at the end of the street to keep all of the excited teenage fans from crowding his house when he came down to move his momma up to Nashville, Tennessee.

I'd never ridden a horse until we moved in with Uncle Bill. Monique helped me saddle one of their horses and taught me how to ride as her husband Roger, a city boy who didn't want any part of a horse, sat on the back porch laughing at me. It's a lot of work, getting a horse ready to ride, but the freedom I felt riding through Bill's pasture made it worth it. I pretended to be a cowboy out in the woods with a .22 rifle, looking for supper. The one time that I fired a shot atop the horse it startled him and he threw me off!

Uncle Bill helped us get on our feet. Not only did he allow us to live with him for free for about a month, he loaned us his Ford pick up truck to go out and do tree work in. We found work in and around Vidor and before long we got our own truck, a good Chevy with a 350 engine, and a trailer to haul loads off with. In no time we were able to move into our own place out on Highway 105 in Vidor.

There's one memory from living with Uncle Bill that I'll never forget. They were squares so we couldn't get high anywhere around their property. We had to go visit John when we wanted to get high. I did meet a dude a few years older than me, a huge country boy named Jimmy that I rode the bus with, who smoked weed. He invited me over to his trailer to get drunk and stoned with him and his uncle on the weekends. They grew their own smoke in their backyard. One Friday night I was at Jimmy's hanging out with him and his uncle, listening to Hank Williams Jr. While most of the folks in Vidor weren't racists, these boys certainly were. After about a 12 pack of beer Jimmy got all excited. His eyes lit up as he asked me, "Lil Robert, you wanna come to Beaumont with me and my uncle? We gone have a good ol time fightin niggers!"

"Um, sorry Big Jimmy, but I promised my brother, I'd be home by 9pm and ride out to Orange with him. Maybe next weekend?"

Those were a couple of the craziest country boys I ever met.

Vidor-Highway 105

Fall-Winter of 1994

We were happy to have our own place again, to get our tree service back off the ground. We rented a nice 2 bedroom trailer nestled in the woods on a hill out in the country. Junior and his bunch moved into a house in Vidor to help us out with the tree business. The problem was that there wasn't a lot of work to be found in Vidor. Most country folks don't want to pay others for work they can do themselves. But there were new neighborhoods all over the Golden Triangle where people would gladly pay for tree work. John's tree business was flourishing and he had jobs lined up for several months, so when we needed work he passed them onto us, or we collaborated with him and did the really big jobs.

Things were looking up for us, though. We had a phone line installed, we got new furniture and cable TV, and my probation was transferred to Vidor. We'd already had it transferred once to Pensacola, but the people at the Justice Department in Houston were very accommodating and understanding.

I started the 8th grade at Vidor Junior High and became an instant celebrity. A lot of the kids thought I was cool as ice water because I was from the big city of Houston, where all the bright lights and gang members were. Everyone at Vidor was white except for about 10 black kids and perhaps 15 Mexicans, but everyone got along with them. There was an allure amongst the student body at Vidor for the gangsta lifestyle and, even though I wasn't exactly "gangsta", (I dressed like a skater) I grew up in Houston and lots of kids wanted to hear stories about my life there.

Everything seemed to flow smoothly at first. I enjoyed my classes, passed them all with ease, met some cool people and even had a sweet country girlfriend. The trouble began after the principle saw me with my arms wrapped around my girlfriend in front of the cafeteria before class one morning. She had her back pressed against my chest and our hands were together around her stomach. The principal called me to his office and said he'd heard the rumors about me being a gang member from Houston. He said he'd reviewed my record and knew all about my convictions, that he wouldn't tolerate that type of behavior in his school. I got upset because, in my mind, I hadn't done anything wrong. I was not a gang member! I smarted off to him and he suspended me for three days for "inappropriate contact with another student".

Over the next month or so I stayed in trouble. I thought I noticed a subtle change in my teachers after that first suspension, as if they'd been talking about me, and I just felt like they were out to get me. They drew a hard line with me and I repeatedly crossed it, and my grades began to suffer. My flippant attitude got me sent to the principal's office almost daily.

Finally, the principal placed me in alternative school at the high school. Why they thought alternative school was some kind of punishment, I don't know. At the alternative section of Vidor High school I attended classes from 11am to 3pm, all of the teachers were laid back, you could work at your own pace and if you needed help the teachers had plenty of time to work with you with only about 12 kids per class. As long as we completed our assignments we were free to do whatever we wanted in class, including sleep or play games. It was there that I first learned to play chess with a group of boys from the high school. I really enjoyed the game, the way it engages the mind, the war-like strategies you utilize.

I met a kid named Jessie Miller at Vidor junior High who later followed me to the alternative school. He dressed like a prep, but hung out with the stoners and metalheads, the group I gravitated towards in Vidor. A lot of them were in high school, just starting to drive the cars their daddy bought them, and the thing to do was cruise around town and get stoned. They'd pick me up and we'd ride around with the windows rolled up, smogging out with some good bud, listening to bands like Candlebox, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails. It's not like there was much else to do in Vidor.

Most of the time we got our pot from Cousin John. He lived about 30 minutes away though, and sometimes it just wasn't worth the drive. One evening I came home with Jessie and we were out of pot. Jessie told my brother and I he knew where to score half ounces for 50 bucks. It was more than what we were used to paying, but much easier than making the drive out to Orange.

My brother drove Jessie and me to the dealer's trailer. Steven gave Jessie the 50 dollars and he walked to the trailer. We noticed a black car with two country boys leave about 10 minutes later, then Jessie returned and said the dudes in the car went to pick up the weed. Steven was furious. He didn't like going through one middle man much less two. We waited for about 45 minutes for the black car to return before we started banging on the door of the trailer. An older couple answered and they said they didn't know anything about any weed, that their boys went to a bar in Beaumont. Jessie apologized and promised to get things straightened out, but we knew he'd been burned.

We dropped Jessie off at his house and went home to break the news to my father. He'd been drinking and was waiting on us to get high. After he heard our story he said he wanted to pay those boys a visit. My father, brother and I returned to the trailer. The black car was still gone. We waited for about 15 minutes, hoping to catch the dudes in the car, until my father finally snapped. He jumped out of the truck and grabbed a bottle. He filled it with gasoline from a can we used to gas up our saws, stuffed the bottle with a rag and lit it on fire. He chunked the bottle towards the trailer and, thankfully, the rag fell out as the bottle flew harmlessly through a window. We fled the scene.

A week or so later we stopped at the gas station to gas up after a tree job and the black car was parked at the gas pumps. Steven said, "That's them boys' godamned car that burned us!"

My brother and father walked towards the entrance of the store. One of the dudes who burned us stepped out of the store and right into my brother's fist. They fought for a minute as my father chased the other dude around the side of the store. No one was in the idlying black car so I opened the door and was about to drive off in it, but Steven stopped me and told me to get back into our truck. He said, "We proved our point, now let's get the fuck out of here." Before I got back into our truck I sliced a couple of the tires on the black car.

Part Time Dealin'

Cousin John was rising fast in the dope game in late 1994. He had a nice white house in The Cove, an all-white neighborhood in Orange, Texas, where he sold weed and coke. He made frequent trips to Houston to buy large quantities of marijuana at discounted prices, then he'd break it down and make a killing distributing it in the Golden Triangle, where the prices for dope skyrocketed compared to Houston.

One Friday night I was over at John's hanging out, jamming out on his guitars with him, helping him sell dope and making a little cash on the side. I had about $150 in my pocket and I bought a quarter pound of weed from him. He and Michelle were preparing to make a dope run to Houston where they'd stay the weekend and see the Pantera concert with James Terry and his wife Sheryl. John said I could sell my weed to his customers at his house while he was gone, but I had to first sell the little weed he was leaving behind.

Chucky and I were holding the fort down while John was gone. By Saturday night I'd sold out of everything except for the half ounce we were smoking out of. I had over $350 in my pocket and had plans on buying a half pound from John when he returned so I could do it all over again the next time he made a trip to H-Town.

While John was away Chucky broke his television. He was drunk in the livingroom, slam dancing and acting like an overall idiot, and he bumped into the entertainment center. John knocked Chucky around when he got home, but he still had the problem of having no television. He could sell some weed or coke to get a new one, but I asked him to just sell me the 9mm pistol he had that I wanted for $300 and he could use that money for a new TV. He agreed and I went home with my new gun.

Once again I made the mistake of showing my dad a pistol. He asked me where I got it and I explained everything. He let me keep it for a couple of days, probably thinking there wasn't much harm I could cause out in the sticks, then he took it from me and returned it to John. John gave him $50 in food stamps and a half ounce of weed for it! John tried to give him more, but my dad wouldn't accept it since John was always giving us money and weed to smoke. My father again told me I had no business with a pistol and warned me about him catching me with another one. No problem, that was the last one I ever showed him.

Bridge City-Trailer on the Highway

Winter of 1994 - Early 1995

I can't remember why we left Vidor, but I'm pretty sure we moved to Bridge City again to be closer to John. We rented a small 2 bedroom trailer on a three trailer lot next to the highway between Bridge City and Orange. We couldn't have been there more than 6 weeks; plenty enough time for me to stir up trouble at school.

For those people who think Vidor is a racist town they ought to check out Bridge City. We had just one non-white student at Bridge City Junior High, a Mexican boy who actually lived in Orange. But the lack of minorities had nothing to do with why I loved going to school there. Rather, it was the large contingent of lesbian Goth chicks and how open they were with their sexuality. I'll never forget the first time I saw two girls Frenching each other in the hallway. I couldn't concentrate the rest of the day!

Since John lived so close to us I went over to his place most days. He always had a tray full of shake under his coffee table and I took the liberty of rolling a Marlboro Red box of pinner joints from it about once a week. I took the joints to school and sold them for $2 a piece. One of the girls that I sold a few joints to got caught with them and she snitched on me. I denied everything when the principal called me to his office. I told him she likely lied on me because I rejected her when she asked me out, said she wasn't my type. He looked skeptical. Without much to go on besides the girl's word, all he could do was send me home for the day, as a precaution I guess.

I passed the bike rack on the way off of the premises. I noticed a sweet GT Vertigo bicycle with a weak combination lock 'securing' it to the rack. These kids obviously didn't have any idea about security. I easily busted the lock by stepping up on the locking mechanism and forcing all of my weight down. I rode home in style.

Later that day the principal called my mother and asked if she saw me with the bike. She looked up at me on the couch and stared daggers at me and I knew what the call was about instantly. What I didn't anticipate was her telling the principal the truth! Fortunately, the principal didn't call the police; he did suspend me for three days after Mom brought the bike back.

When I returned to school I could feel everyone's eyes on me as I walked through the hallways. I'd already heard through a friend that the bike belonged to a football player, and the dude was talking shit about me. I'd seen the kid around and just knew I'd have my hands full since he was about 75 pounds heavier than me. He approached me at my locker and I braced myself. I could immediately tell he was nervous when he stuttered, "Ya-you the one stole my bike?"

"I didn't know who it belonged to. I just needed a ride home after ol girl ratted me out. My bad, man."

Surprisingly, he relaxed a little and shrugged it all off, said he thought I knew who owned the bike. He seemed relieved that I provided him an out. I presume my big city reputation stole some of his confidence. He shook my hand and said it was cool. Later that day I was hanging out with him and his friends down the street, riding their bikes and getting them stoned.

The End of The Road

Channelview-227½ Dell Dale

Early 1995-August 1995

The inconsistency of the tree service is largely to blame for our return to Channelview. It was wintertime and jobs were scarce, so my dad called up Gary Wilborn and asked if he could have his job back. Gary never objected when my father wanted to pursue his tree service ambitions, and he always welcomed him back at Bill Dee's.

            The last place I ever lived in the freeworld was 227½ Dell Dale in Channelview. Eugene and Jessie had visited us in Vidor and Bridge City and once they heard we were moving back to Houston they told us about a vacant 2 bedroom trailer where they were living. The trailer park is about 150 yards from 1-10 on Dell Dale, right across from the Pink store where they sold the best chopped barbeque I ever had for $1 a sandwich. An old, blonde hippy chick named Memory Layne, who ironically couldn’t remember five minutes ago after a life of drug and alcohol abuse, lived in a white house at the front entrance. There are huge potholes in the gravel driveway and a couple of different sets of apartment buildings on the right side of the road as you enter. Just beyond the apartment there are a line of about 10 trailers stacked to the right, side by side, with two lone trailers at the end of the driveway.

            We moved into the very last trailer. We had a huge front yard, a chain link fence dividing our yard from the woods. We built Razor and Sizzor a doghouse next to the fence and chained them to large oak trees, and we set up a table under the shade trees by the front porch where my father and his buddies could hang out each day after work. It felt like a nice little setup for us.

            Joe Day was living with Jessie and Eugene three trailers down from us. We’d spoken several times after he got out, when Eugene was still living on Woodforest, but we never got to have a heart-to-heart because he was always on the move. He was always laconic and reserved, but his time in detention seemed to make him even more distant. He wasn’t running the streets anymore, wasn’t out stealing and robbing and everyone was proud of him. I finally got to talk to him alone at my trailer on Dell Dale and he said he felt like he had been ruining his life before, that being away from his friends and family sorta woke him up. I thought I understood what he was saying. Or at least I wanted to understand, but I later learned that until you actually experience what he went through then it’s impossible to truly understand.

            Joe still smoked pot and drank occasionally, and, as I found out about two weeks after we moved in, he wasn’t opposed to taking a trip down LSD Road with us! Joe, Eugene and I took three hits of double dipped Beavis and Butthead acid one afternoon. We were hanging out in front of their trailer with Abraham Soto, a 20 year old Hispanic dude who was a genius on the guitar. He played music for us while we tripped balls, chain smoked cigarettes and drank orange juice. Just as the acid started to kick in we were laughing at anything and Abraham asked us if we were high or something? I told him we were tripping acid and he started messing with us. He grabbed handfuls of sand and our eyes followed his fists as he made bird and jet sounds, then he’s slowly open his fists and everything turned into sand with the echo of his maniacal laughter!

            The same came from the pile in front of Jessie bedroom window where he had his friend with a dump truck unload it. Jessie was all about keeping the trailer park clean and well-maintenanced. We helped him trim the trees and wash the trailers, cut the grass and clean the windows. The sand was for the potholes that we later filled. This particular night, while we were on acid, Joe, Eugene and I found ourselves atop the pile of sand playing it in like little kids. I was utterly fascinated by the sand, its mystical dimensions, the magical kingdoms the three of us built that night. I remember when we first started playing in it my dad was hanging out at the table in front of our place and the sun was still out. We’d gotten totally lost in our fantasies and the next thing I recall my dad was yelling from his truck at us at 5:30am on the way to work, “You boys been out there all night playing in that sand?”

            Yes, we had been, and we’d remain there for several more hours building tunnels and sand castles, preparing for the inevitable war we’d wage on each other!

            At first, life at the trailer park on Dell Dale was somewhat reminiscent of the times in Cloverleaf when we all first met. We cut trails into the woods beside the trailer park and built a clubhouse out there. Nearly every day we were out there in the woods, enjoying nature and each other’s company. We even took pellet guns out there and shot each other during our wargames. Eugene was always an easy target because he had no grace about him as he tried to hide. Be still for a few minutes and you’ll hear him tripping over branches and rummaging through the bush. In fact, it wasn’t until we lived in the Dell Dale trailer park together that he finally cut out the Bee-Bee that I put in his neck a few years before in the woods between the Beltway and Cloverleaf!

            Mom enrolled me at Alice Johnson junior High, where I completed the 8th grade that year. They stuck me in alternative classes on day one after the principal reviewed my extensive record and noticed I was on probation. I went to class with a group of 20 other kids from 10am-2pm in a classroom behind the school, sectioned off from the normal students. Again we worked on assignments at our own pace, the teacher was laid back, and the rest of the day was ours once our work was completed. The teacher said once all the assignments were completed from the curriculum of our grade level, we would immediately pass to the next grade. Thus, I completed the 8th grade by late April that year. I was informed that I was eligible for alternative school at the high school the next Fall, where Eugene was already attending classes, and if I took care of my business there I could complete the 12th grade in just over two years time. That was certainly the path I planned on taking.

Pulling My Own Weight

We had a lot of traffic in the trailer park. Jessie and Eugene kept a crowded trailer, Amy Perry and Monkey were living in the apartment up front and they had lots of company, plus there were three dope dealers living at 227½ Dell Dale and they all had a steady flow of people. After I moved in dudes like Dough Boy, Richard “Lips”, skinhead Kurt, and many others liked to hang out at my place, and they often brought carloads of youngsters with them, again, it was a constant party at our trailer park.

            Of the three dealers in the park I only knew of two…at first. There was a Mexican in the second set of apartments who was buddies with Ernesto Senior and he sold cocaine by the gram. Jessie was selling weed but I didn’t know where he was getting it from. He was secretive about it when I asked him. Then, one night, I watched him leave the old school Mexican’s trailer just a couple of trailers down from his. I walked over to Jessie’s room and he was busting open a half pound of weed, weighing it out in quarter bags.

            His name was Javier and he barely spoke English. He was Abraham’s Uncle. I often saw him working on his red Econoline van and a white Chevy pick up in front of his trailer and had spoken to him a few times in passing. After I figured out where Jessie was scoring from I decided to pay Javier a visit the next time I saw him outside and get to know him a little better. With the little Spanish I do know and the little English he knew we were able to maintain good conversation. He was in his early 40’s and originally from Monterey, Mexico. He’d brought his wife and kids up to Texas in search of a better life, and a part of that better life, I later learned, was him driving weed up from the Valley a couple times a month. I’m talking several hundred pounds per trip. He worked at a tire shop on Sheldon Road as a front; his money was made trafficking weed. He looked at me curiously when I first broached the topic of weed. I asked him if he smoked? “No smokey nothing cept cigar…Me selly a little sontime.”

            “Oh yeah?” I played it off. “I’m looking to selly a little myself. Got a lot of people looking to buy some, just looking for a good deal…”

            Javier stared at me for a moment, mulling it over. He told me to wait there and he disappeared into his trailer. He returned with a quarter pound of weed in a Ziplock bag and handed it to me. “It’s good sheet, Wedo. Is weigh out mucho bueno. You gimme $100.”

            “Uh, I don’t have any money right now, but…”

            “Ta bueno. You pay when you selly. No problem.”

            I could break a quarter pound into four ounces and each ounce into four $20 sacks in the Channelview market. I built a nice clientele form selling to people in the trailer park and flipped a quarter pound in less than a week on average. Soon, I branched out and started selling cocaine and a little LSD on the side. All I had to do was kick back at the front of my trailer with my friends, stash the dope in the broken down car by our place, and people would show up looking for drugs. If I wasn’t home, my mom or Joe, who was alternating from my trailer and Jessie’s, would make the sell for me and leave my money in my tin can. In no time I was flipping more dope than anyone in the trailer park. Jessie later got mad at me because I would sell to his clientele when he wasn’t home. What was I supposed to do when they came to me looking for dope and he wasn’t home? He thought I should just tell them to return later, but people didn’t like waiting for their high. It became an issue between us that following summer.

            By this point my father didn’t trip on me selling drugs. Steven was working at a pipeyard and he and my father’s checks combined didn’t pay all the bills. Whatever money I could come up with helped immensely. As long as I wasn’t out robbing and stealing, he didn’t mind me selling a little weed. He didn’t know about the coke and LSD, I don’t think.

            What my father didn’t approve of was the flood of people knocking at our door at all hours of the night looking for dope. An old dope fiend banged on our door late one night, just as my father was about to crash out, and he threw the guy off the front porch! I told my customers not to knock on my door after 7pm…no exceptions!

            The problem I had with selling cocaine was, oftentimes, I did my own supply. I discovered the hard way that you can’t do any if you intend to sell it, at least not until you sell everything you plan on getting rid of. Let’s say I got an 8-ball and broke it into $20 papers. If I set x amount of papers to the side to sell and y amount was my personal stash to snort, I had to sell the x pile first, otherwise I ALWAYS dipped into the stuff to sell. It got so bad that I’d snort into my profit every single time.

            Steven used to do coke with me and my friends on Dell Dale. We’d wait until our father would crash out and I’d break us out some lines. I would tell them that the pile of coke I raked out would be all we’d do. The rest had to be sold. Yet after the pile was gone and everyone was gone, Steven invariably asked me to break out one more line. We’d be laying there fighting the white dragon in the dark, trying to get to sleep, and he’d call my name to see if I was awake, knowing I still was. “Robert…Robert! I know your ass is still awake ‘cause I’m zinging my ass off over here! Let’s just do one more line and we’ll go to bed. I promise.”

            No matter how many times I told him no, we ended up doing one more line. One more line turned into two and I ended up doing everything up with him. The coke business turned out to be a disaster for me.

            Occasionally I sold crack. A dude in his early 20’s named Jason, from California, taught me how to rock powdered coke up with heat, a little water and baking soda. There was more money in crack, but I soon learned that it was more trouble than it was worth.

            Before I learned how to rock coke up I got burned by a Mexican from Sterling Green. He was a gangbanger named Pelon and I met him at the Spaghetti Bowl, a drainage ditch where I used to skateboard. We got to talking and I told him I sold coke, and he said he sold crack. He asked if I wanted to trade a gram of coke for crack and I said sure. I gave him my pager number and we talked later and set up a rendezvous.

            My friend Kurt was about 25 years old and a Hammerskin skinhead. He wore blue jeans or cutoff shorts with a chain wallet, white supremist t-shirts and Doc Marten’s. He drove me to meet Pelon at a carwash an Woodforest. We picked Pelon up and dropped him off at a street corner in Sterling Green. He said he had to go get the dope from his house. I watched which house he walked into and we made the exchange, then Kurt and I left.

            Kurt lived in the middle of cracktown, in an all black neighborhood. In spite of his professed views, he was cool with the dealers in his apartments, getting high and partying with them many nights. We went to his place after meeting with Pelon so he could shower and get ready for a night out. Afterward, he asked me to break out the rock, he wanted to do a hit. He got his pipe and brillo pad and I broke him off a piece to smoke. He lit the pipe and the “dope” turned black. It was wax. I’d been burned and I was steaming hot.

            Kurt had a .22 automatic rifle. I made him drive me back to the house that Pelon entered. I knocked on the door and no one answered, but there was a car in the driveway. A brand new car. Angry, I sprayed the car with bullets and we raced out of Sterling Green.

            I got out of the crack business because I couldn’t have the crack heads coming to my place. They drew bigtime heat. Once, I was sitting on my dad’s recliner with my girlfriend on my lap and a trailer full of friends. This filthy old man with long, dirty hair and beard dropped by. He smelled like he’d just crawled out of a dumpster. He was shaking badly as he kneeled before me and asked for a $20 rock. He repeatedly called me “sir,” and thanked me when I broke him off a piece of dope. I imagined my dad walking in and finding that dude in our place; all hell would break loose, so I put a stop to the crack business.

Bad Company

By the summer of 1995 I was hooked on cocaine again. Almost every dollar I made selling drugs went towards my habit. Around this time Baby G had started hanging out at my place, and Chucky moved in with us. Baby G was 13 years old, but he’d been raised by thugs since he was 9 years old; plus, his dad sold weed and meth in Channelview for years, so he was accustomed to my lifestyle and had some street smarts.

            When the drugs ran out we hit the street to make money, to feed our addictions. Kurt drove us around at first. We did any and everything to make money. It started with stealing diesel tires from parked rigs to get a quick $100, but it evolved into burglaries, auto theft, purse snatching and Zuluing dope dealers. You tell yourself that you can stop doing coke at any time, that this bump will be your last, but once you start chasing the white dragon the way we did that summer you’ll do almost anything to stay high.

            Every group has a natural leader. Though Chucky and Kurt were the oldest of our group, everyone followed my lead and trusted my instincts. When I told Kurt to pull over at a motel and wait for someone that looked worth robbing, he never questioned me, nor the target I decided upon. If I told Chucky and Baby G to be my eyes while I stole a car from a parking lot, I trusted that they’d remain in their positions and alert me at the first sign of trouble. Inside a house during a burglary we left when I said it was time, and we didn’t even bust into a place unless I gave it the green light.

            We wreaked havoc on Houston and the Golden Triangle that summer, showing no discrimination for who or what we robbed. We hit churches and sold their music equipment for drugs. We busted into a small Mom and Pop store on the highway to John’s condo in Port Arthur and ransacked the place, getting away with a few hundred in cash, several boxes of cigarettes, a few cases of beer, and a trunk full of munchies. I still have the scar on my right arm from crawling through the front entrance and having a piece of broken glass fall on my arm. Baby G once tried to snatch a purse from an old lady at a shopping center in Orange and she put a death grip on her purse and slung him to the ground! We rescued him and laughed our asses off about it. Baby G wanted go after the old lady and get her purse, but I made him get in the car; she deserved to keep her purse after that!

            My father had no clue about these nocturnal activities, otherwise he’d have beaten us half to death. My mom knew I was up to no good, especially the time she caught Baby G and me in a stolen car. She cried and begged me to get rid of it and stop my bullshit. I promised I would, but again I was hopelessly entangled. I stayed up all night doing drugs and chasing after girls, jumping from party to party, robbing whoever crossed my path. Kurt finally broke away from the group, as did several others that sometimes rode with us, but Chucky und Baby G came with me as we danced with danger and ran wild and recklessly until the wheels fell off.

Ray and Jane

Not long after I moved into the trailer park on Dell Dale, Ray and Jane Yardbrough moved in the trailer next door with their two year old daughter, Roo-Roo. Ray was in his late 20’s, Jane was closer to 40, and they were good country folks. Once they got settled in I found them sitting on lawn chairs in front of their trailer and introduced myself the best way I knew how: smoking a joint with them.

            Ray was strung out on crack when we first met, as was Jane. I sold them a few $20 papers of coke-before I knew how to rock it up- and Ray said, “Fuck this shit. Can you score some rock?”

            Of course I could. He drove me to a crackhouse out on Clinton Drive and I got him $200 worth of rock. In fact, part of the reason I started selling rock was because Ray was spending his money on Clinton Drive and I wanted a piece of that action.

            Ray and Jane quit doing crack cold turkey. Ray knew there wasn’t any future in cocaine, plus he had a couple of kids (one from another marriage) and really didn’t want to waste his life chasing that high. They’d become friends with my family, Gene’s family and most of the trailer park. Jane and my mom hung out most days watching soap operas and smoking weed, and Ray would get drunk with my dad and Jessie in our front yard a lot of nights. On weekends we sometimes barbequed together. Everyone was glad they were off the crackpipe.

            Several things worked to alienate Ray’s family from mine. Jane had a beautiful, blond 15 year old daughter named Nicole from another marriage. Nicole came to Texas from Georgia to spend the summer of 1995 with Jane and Ray, and all of the boys who frequented the trailer park loved to flirt with her. Out of respect for Jane I didn’t make any move on her. I never showed a single sign of interest, though I did see her and was attracted to her.

            I guess something about me appearing uninterested, while everyone else sang her praises, made Nicole focus on me. She probably wondered if I was gay or something! Soon, she began overtly flirting with me, to the point that I couldn’t help but notice her. Jane must’ve recognized this because she gave me the okay, basically telling me she was cool with it. So, I made Nicole my girlfriend.

            Ray never said a word against it, but I could feel his disapproval. Their place was a popular hang out spot for people in the trailer park, and I recall several instances when he’d snap at her over minor things like her chores or the clothes she wore. I don’t blame him, in retrospect, for disapproving of our relationship. I was the worst kind of influence, and it was wise of him to want better for his step daughter.

            One afternoon, while Ray was at work, I was over at Jane’s with a bunch of the boys from the trailer park. Nicole didn’t get high, but I liked hanging out with Jane and getting her high, shooting the shit at her kitchen table. A little earlier my brother asked me and Joe to come over to my trailer and get high with him. He didn’t want to get stoned alone. I kept putting him off every 15 minutes as he stuck his head out at our back window and yelled over to me until he snapped. Nicole was by my side, along with Joe, Eugene and Abraham, and we mocked Steven from Jane’s front window. It pissed him off and he pulled his penis out and shook it at us.

            I’d like to believe that he didn’t see Nicole pressed against me, that he thought it was just boys, but I think he was just so angry that he didn’t care who was at the window. Nicole told Jane and she became instantly incensed. She told Ray, and although he never confronted Steven, he was clearly upset with him.

            Another time, after the incident with Steven, I was at Pay’s with a trailer full of people getting high. As the night grew old people began to leave. Ray and Jane retreated to their bedroom to crash and finally it was just Nicole and I in the livingroom and Baby G at their kitchen table, watching television and smoking cigarettes. Nicole and I fooled around under the blanket for awhile, but she cut me off when she thought she heard a noise. She whispered that she was worried Ray would catch us and asked me to please leave. She wasn’t hearing my pleas to stay, so I grabbed Baby G and we left.

            No sooner did she kiss me and shut the door did Baby G reach under the back porch and pull out Jane’s purse! I was furious, grabbed him and put him in a headlock. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Stealing Jane’s purse?!”

            “Chill out, Robert! Let me go!”

            I let him go and watched him rummage through the purse. He said there wasn’t anything in it of value and he threw it over the fence and into the woods. I explained that Jane was my friend and it wasn’t cool to steal from her, but the damage had been done. He was my partner in crime and there wasn’t much more I could do to him.

            The next day Ray accused me of stealing the purse. I swore it wasn’t me, that I’d never do such a thing, but he wasn’t buying it, he said I wasn’t welcomed at his place anymore and he warned me against seeing Nicole. She snuck around to see me when she could, but my relationship with Ray and Jane was irreparably damaged.

Running Out of Luck

After Kurt broke away from our group we needed wheels. Some nights we’d simply steal a vehicle. I’d become proficient with a Slim Jim and dent puller. By late June, though, we used Baby G’s dad’s car, a beat up 1980 Ford Granada, to go out joy riding and stealing…without him knowing. We’d wait until he locked himself in his bedroom, then Baby G swiped his keys and we were off into the night.

            Chucky, Baby G and I were cruising down by the San Jacinto River and Market Street one night, scoping out a house we had targeted for a burglary. After Baby G made sure no one was home, we backed up to the house and forced our way inside. Inside the house, we stole television sets, VCRs, a stereo system and about 12 rifles from a gun rack. We were running in and out of the house, loading stuff into the car, when I saw a brand new Chevy step-side truck pull into the driveway next door. I stuck my head back inside the house and told them about the ruck and to get in the car fast.

            I drove away and the Chevy followed us, even with the pedal to the metal the Granada barely reached 60 miles per hour! I tried to shake the Chevy by making sharp turns and driving through parking lots and down back roads, but the guy in the truck stayed right behind us the entire time. I ended up crashing the car into a ditch. I dove out of the passenger side window because the driver’s side was blocked off by hedges, and Chucky followed me, we fled into someone’s yard, found a patch of woods and disappeared from the scene of the crash.

            James Terry lived about a mile away. Chucky and I made it to his house and broke into it. James and his family were in Port Arthur at John’s house. We waited there for about 30 minutes, wondering where Baby G could be? We finally decided to chance the streets and walk back to my trailer park, about five miles down I-10.

            We were exhausted once we made it to my trailer. I just knew Baby G had been caught. Would he snitch on us? I hoped not.

            Suddenly, headlights illuminated my driveway. My adrenaline shot sky high at the sight of the Ford Granada pulling into the trailer park! Baby G pulled the car perhaps five feet into the park before bursting out with a rifle and aimed it at the Chevy truck! The dumbass brought them right to my trailer park! The Chevy peeled out down Dell Dale at the sight of the weapon and Baby G drove the car down to my trailer.

            Baby G said he couldn’t leave his daddy’s car in a ditch, said his old man would kill him. He somehow managed to back the car out of the ditch-while the Chevy idyled by at a safe distance- and then he tried to elude the guy for about an hour by driving through Channelview. Realizing that was a futile plan, he drove to my trailer park. We quickly unloaded the car, hiding most of the stolen stuff in the woods, and I stashed the rifles behind Eugene’s trailer.

            Baby G drove his dad’s car back to his apartments, just across I-10. He returned and we devised a plan. I didn’t want to leave all that stolen property in the trailer park. We decided to walk over to Baby G’s apartments and try to steal a vehicle, then use it to move the stolen stuff to James Terry’s house. We had to get a move on before the Chevy showed up with the law.

            The guy in the Chevy was the son of the homeowners we burgled. After Baby G pulled the gun on him he drove over to the pink store and waited a bit for Baby G to leave. He then followed Baby G to his apartments, sure that Baby G was unaware of him behind him, and determined that the Granada was from there. He called the police and reported the crime from the pay phone at the apartments. Perhaps in our fatigue we failed to snap when we saw the flashing lights at Baby G’s apartments because we figured the police’s presence was unrelated to us and walked to the back of the complex to wait for them to leave before stealing a vehicle. Afterall, it was a common sight, cops at those apartments.

            We were sitting on the staircase when several officers ran down on us and arrested us. They placed us in the back of a police car as they raided Baby G’s apartment. His father was found masturbating to a porno with a pile of meth on the table and a couple pounds of weed in the closet. He was also arrested. The cops took us back to my trailer park and we watched as they recovered the stolen property from the woods with my father. There was nothing my father could do that night to save me: for the first time in my life I was going to jail.

Harris County Juvenile Detention Center

July 23-31, 1995

Chucky, Baby G and I were handcuffed to a bench at the Wallisville substation for about 15 hours before we were moved. Chucky was an adult so he was taken to Harris County jail. Several months later he plea bargained for five years TDCJ time. It was the last time I ever saw Chucky. Baby G and I were taken to the juvenile detention center on West Dallas Street.

            We went through the intake process together. They deloused us and showered us, gave us blue state pants and a white t-shirt. Medical personel examined us and we spoke with a psychologist and other staff while we were classified. He was 13 years old and small for his age so they put him on the 2nd floor with kids his size. I was 15 with a prior record so I was shot up to the 4th floor and placed in a cell with a big Mexican kid who was asleep, thankfully.

            It was after 10pm and I was sleep deprived. I unrolled my mattress on the floor and crawled under my blanket. Hidden under the cover and truly alone for the first time all day I cried and felt sorry for myself. I had no idea what laid in store for me. I knew it was my third burglary so it couldn’t be good. I cried myself to sleep thinking that I really fucked up bad this time.

            My cellmate was released the next morning and I celled alone the rest of my time there. I wasn’t allowed out of my cell for the first 48 hours except to shower and go to my 24 hour detention hearing, were a judge denied my release. A chaplain came to me the first day there and brought me a bible. He was kind to me as he tried to explain Christ and my need for salvation. It wasn’t so much that I understood the message as I was scared, alone for the first time in my life, and I knew I needed some kind of saving. The chaplain hugged me and let me cry on his shoulder and pour my heart out to him. I said I was a bad, bad kid who never listened to my parents and teachers, who always thought I knew everything. I explained my drug addictions and my inability to shake the monsters that kept calling my name. He seemed to understand everything I told him and he said, “Why don’t you just give it all to Jesus? He loves you so much that he died for you, for all of mankind.”

            I prayed with him and I gave myself to Jesus, just as he explained it.

I read my bible every day and tried hard to understand it. I wanted the peace and love the chaplain seemed to radiate; I wanted to break out if the lifestyle I lived. Most of all, I guess, I wanted to be free again, so I prayed to God to please give me another chance.

            After my 48 hour observation period I was allowed to go to the dayroom and recreate with the other detained kids. We watched TV together, went to the gym to play basketball and volleyball, and we talked. One of the boys in my group, a white kid from Sugarland, listened to my story and said, “You’re definitely going down, man. Three burglaries in two years? I’d say they will give you 1 year in TYC at least. Maybe six months if you cry in front of the judge.”

            All the others agreed with him. I went to my room, as they called the cells there, and I cried and cried, prayed to Jesus not to let me be in jail that long. Yet in the back of my mind I just knew those boys told the truth. Some of them had already been to TYC multiple times for less. So I tried to brace myself and accept my fate. I prayed for the shortest sentence possible and promised Jesus I would do better if he made them go easy on me.

            On July 31st I was taken to the courthouse. My parents and brother stood with me in front of judge Pat Shelton. They wore their best clothes and I thought they looked really nice. I tried to look strong in front of them and tell them I would be okay in TYC. I felt their love and support and was happy and proud that they were there for me. My lawyer said something about a strict new probation called S.O.S (Serious Offender Supervision) that she planned on asking the judge to consider for me, but I didn’t think he would do such a thing.

            After my lawyer and the attorney for the state spoke their cases, the judge asked my parents if they had anything to say? My dad said he helped the police recover the stolen property and even brought the guns that were found in the trailer park later that day. He explained that he’s been to prison in the past and that he wanted better for me. He tried and tried to teach me right, and he expressed his hope that my time away from him had woken me up, as I professed. He begged the judge for mercy and swore he would do everything in his power to show me a better way of life.

            Apparently, my father’s word reached the judge. Pat Shelton gave me 2 years of S.O.S probation. He said it would not be an easy probation to complete. 80% of those sentenced failed it within a month. If I failed I would automatically receive a 2 year term at TYC. Would I accept the terms of the probation? Yes sir, I would!

            Shock is the only way to describe the turn of events that day. I was free to go home with my family right then. I just knew it was a miracle from Jesus and I explained it all to my parents and brother on the ride home and promised them I was done with the life I’d lived.

A Tragic Turn of Events

I had a new lease on life, I thought. The 8 days I spent in jail seemed to change me, make me a new person. I never again wanted to feel lonely, isolated and afraid as I had in the cell by myself. All of my friends-Joe, Eugene and Jessie- greeted me when I got home and again I vowed to them that I was straightening out my life and would focus on finishing school. I’d had my taste of jail and it was bitter; it wasn’t the life for me, I assured everyone.

            Part of the stipulation to my probation was I couldn’t be outside of my trailer for even one second unless I had a medical emergency or appointment. This was to be enforced for the first month of the probation. The probation officer assigned to me would also show up every day, unexpectedly, for the first month to check on me. He said if he even caught a single hair on my head outside he’d revoke me and I’d be in TYC within a week. I promised him that I would follow the rules to the letter.

            Since I wasn’t allowed outside I spent my days sitting in my bedroom at our front window, staring off into the trailer park. My friends would come up to the window and hang out with me there, tell me about life in the “freeworld.” Life was a little boring those first few days, I confess, as I tried to keep my promise to God and read my bible everyday. Yet I was determined to fight the good fight and get myself together.

            Then it all came undone at the seams. Eugene and Joe were hanging out with me in my bedroom one night. I reiterated my goals in life: stop getting high, finish school, complete my probation and stop the life of crime I’d been living. During this conversation Eugene somehow let it slip that Ray and Jessie had some of the guns from the burglary and I should just let them keep them. Huh? I’d thought my dad said he turned all of those guns over to the cops. Joe said he did, but Jessie kept a couple and Ray kept one. They could tell I was angry that Ray had one of the guns and they tried to calm me down, but it stuck to my mind like chewing gum in hair.

            My father and brother were struggling mightily with the bills. I didn’t have money for school clothes or school supplies. We were lucky to eat once a day. These are the things that crossed my mind and, ultimately, influenced my decision to go to Javier and get a quarter pound of weed fronted. I figured I could sell weed from my window and use the money to take care of the things we needed, and then I’d get out of the dope game. Afterall, may old clientele still showed up looking for weed, so no harm no foul, right?

            Ray had discovered the rifles on Eugene’s trailer the morning of my arrest. I was cool with Jessie keeping a couple because he was like family, but Ray clearly didn’t like me anymore and I wasn’t happy about him having one if what I ignorantly thought of as my guns. So I confronted him about it. He denied having any of the guns, said he gave them all to Gene. I asked Joe and Eugene if they could be mistaken and they said they weren’t, but I should just let it go. I tried to let it go, put it out of my mind.

            On August 9, 1995 I was in my window when Ray and some of his coworkers pulled up to his trailer for their lunch break. On impulse I decided to jump out of the window and confront Ray again. I said, “Look Ray. I know you kept one of the guns. You can keep it, just give me $30 for it. We’re doing bad right now and I need all the money I can get.”

            Ray became hostile and red in the face. “I told your punk ass I ain’t got no goddamned guns! Now you get your sorry ass away from my trailer before I beat your goddamned ass, boy!”

            “Fuck you bitch!” I screamed back at him. Who the hell was he to yell at me? My ego got the best of me. We shouted back and forth at each other for a minute before my mom came outside and demanded that I get inside. She told Ray to stop threatening me and to go on. Like a dumbass, I told Ray on the way inside my trailer, “I bet my dad and Steven don’t tell me get inside when they get home bitch!”

            About an hour later I took a risk. I ran over to Eugene’s trailer and found him and Joe in Jessie’s bedroom. I told them everything that transpired. I can’t recall verbatim what all I said, but I was boiling hot and I didn’t want Ray to get away with stealing from me and threatening me. I was merely venting to them, not asking for their help to murder Ray, as Eugene later testified.

            My brother arrived home from work after 5pm. I told him about Ray. Just after 6:30pm I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life and told my father all about Ray. We talked about it and my brother promised he would whoop Ray’s ass when he came home from work. In the places I grew up, a fist fight was a common way of handling problems.

            It was Friday night and Ray liked to go to the bar on Sheldon after work, I later learned at trial, and get home by 10pm. By then my parents were asleep and Steven and I had discussed the situation. He said we should let it go. Ray was our neighbor and we had to live next to him. Besides, didn’t I want to stay out of trouble? Of course I did. I agreed with his logic and was content with forgetting all about it.

            As I prepared to lay it down for the night I heard Ray pull up. A moment later I heard his front door slam and him yelling. I pulled the curtain back and saw Ray between our trailers, his arms flailing in the air and he was screaming something like, “Get your goddamned ass over here! I will beat your motherfucking ass!”

            I learned through Jane’s testimony at trial that Ray’s dog had gotten loose. I mistakenly thought he was calling after me when I turned to my brother and told him Ray was outside talking shit. He told me to put my boots on and then he went to wake our father up.

            I was the first to exit our trailer. As soon as I rounded the bend and Ray’s truck came into view I saw him leaning into the driver’s side door. Immediately I thought he was searching for the gun. At trail Jane said he kept an extra dog leash in the truck. I yanked him from his truck and smelled the alcohol on his breath as I drove my fist into his face. In seconds Steven was there, wrestling Ray to the ground. As they grappled I tried to help by kicking at Ray, but I hit Steven and backed up, letting them fight.

            Out of the corner of my eye I saw my father running to the scene. Before he arrived Ray broke free of Steven and ran behind his trailer. My father and brother gave chase. I stayed where I stood as my friends from the trailer park gathered around, asking what was going on? I said, “Ray was talking shit and he’s getting the fuck beat out of him.”

            Jessie walked towards the back of Ray’s trailer, to see what was happening. There was a fence to the storage company back there and the woods so it was pitch black and we couldn’t see anything five feet ahead from us. A moment later my father appeared, covered in blood, and Steven mumbled something about Ray pulling a knife and getting what he deserved. My father ordered me into our car, which we’d recently traded our truck for, then he and Steven went inside to get my mother.

            We fled the scene in two cars, one belonged to Gary Wilborn. We rode to the Northside and dad dropped the car off at Bill Dee’s, then we rode to Port Arthur, Texas and stayed with John at his condo.

            All my father or brother mentioned about what went on behind the trailer was Dad stabbed Ray. I didn’t think Ray needed to be stabbed; Steven was doing a good job fighting him.

            We stayed at John’s for about a week. I woke up one morning and started playing the guitar with John as Steven rolled joints. Dad came into the room and showed us a newspaper article. Ray was dead and he and Steven were wanted for murder and we couldn’t simply move and it all goes away. My father was headed to prison, and possibly Steven.

            John didn’t want us staying at his place. He had a newborn kid and didn’t need the heat there. We went to Cousin Carrol’s in West Orange and she allowed us to stay there until dad could figure something out.

            While we were there I met a girl named Christy that I fell in love with, probably the first girl that I actually loved in my life. I was on the front porch of Carrol’s with her husband Mike, watching their kids play in their front yard. Christy lived in the apartment building next to their house and she came down the stairs in a tight pair of shorts as I sat there with Mike. She had curly dirty blonde hair and wore glasses. I turned to Mike, “Damn, that girl is fine! Look at that nice little ass!”

            Christy lived in the upstairs apartment with her little brother and their guardian, an old friend of their mother’s. After I made the comment about her butt, my little cousins ran to her and ratted me out. Christy told them to bring me over to her place. They yanked on my shirt. “Robert! We told Christy what you said about her butt and she wants to see you NOW!”

            I met Christy and we joked about how embarrassingly honest kids can be. She was super cool, very easy to talk to, and all I did over the next 10 days or so was hang out with her. We got stoned and she told me about the roller coaster life she and her little brother had lived with their crackhead mother. They were living in a cat and their mother would lock them in it in the middle of crack town while she sold herself to dealers for dope. The woman who took them in after their mother went to prison had grown up with their mother and seemed to have a heart of gold. She didn’t mind at all that I stayed up half the night with Christy, discussing our futures and falling deeply in love.

            It was in the wee hours of the morning of August 22, 1995 that I left Christy’s apartment to crash out at Carrol’s. My brother was in the kitchen cooking eggs and asked if I wanted some. We shot the bull for a bit until I heard Carrol’s dog barking outside. I opened the front door and caught about 20 cops creeping up to the house. I slammed the door and yelled, “RAID!”

            I’d mistakenly thought that it was a dope raid since Carrol sold weed for John. Like John, she’d been raided several times in the past.

            I ran into the kids’ room and pretended to be asleep in their closet. I heard the cops in the livingroom shouting orders. They found me and asked why I was in the closet? I said I slept in there. Before they could question why I slept on a pile of toys a cop in the livingroom said, “Here he is! Howard Pruett, it’s tattooed on his arm. You are under arrest!”

            “What’s he under arrest for?” I heard my father ask.

            “For murder! If you don’t shut up you’re going down, too.” A cop said.

            The orange police had their information confused. Since my father and brother share the same name they thought they were looking for one suspect. I was a juvenile and my name didn’t show in the initial warrant. They cuffed my brother and took him outside, closing the front door behind them.

            My father, mother and I were in Carrol’s bedroom. Dad got dressed and I said, “They’ll realize their error and be back soon. Let’s jump out the window and run!”

            “No, son.” My dad looked tired. “I ain’t running no more. They’ll catch me sooner or later.”

            “Fuck that, dad! Let’s go!”

            I opened the window and motioned my father to follow me. I jumped outside and hopped a fence, ran through a back yard and into the woods. My father wasn’t behind me. I kept running anyways. It took me about an hour to find civilization. I walked until I found a familiar road and followed it to a dope house that John controlled. I called John from there and he sent someone to pick me up. I was taken to Vinton, Louisiana to a trailer out in the sticks where John kept the majority of his dope. John said I’d be safe there.

            A couple of days later I decided to turn myself in. Junior, who finally told me he was the one to call the police on my dad for the reward while he was on his deathbed in 2008, said the cops told him that they would seek the death penalty on my father if I didn’t turn myself in. John advised me to stay put, but I thought that they only wanted me for questioning so o called my mom and told her I’d drop by Carrol’s where she was at to see her before I turned myself in.

            I met my mom at Christy’s apartment around 11pm. I explained to Christy why I lied about not being able to begin school with her the following month, as she hoped I would. She seemed to understand. I was protecting my father and had told her I couldn’t go to school because I was on the run for violating my probation. I hugged my mom and assured her everything would be okay, that they’d let me and Steven go really soon. Afterall, we hadn’t killed anyone.

            Christy’s front door exploded open and the police poured into the apartment with their guns drawn, demanding everyone get down with their hands on their heads. I was arrested and extradited later that night to the juvenile detention center in Houston.