Rides and Tales

Observations From Behind Bars

Insomnia (7.21.07)

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The chopper in “Ghost Rider” looked like the one Jesse rode. His was orange, though. I rode it but it was set up for a man much taller than I, someone Jesse’s height, well over 6′ tall. He was nearly that tall when they kicked him out of school at the sixth grade, saying that if he hadn’t learned to read by then, then it just wasn’t going to happen. He was illiterate, but he was smart as a whip and tough as a boot, his background being that combination of Irish and American Indian found in so many gifted bar fighters.

After Texas outlawed gill netting, he became a legend on our part of the coast. He continued to gill net, staying a step ahead of the game wardens for the longest time with his cunning tactics, like a modern Francis Marion or a white Pancho Villa, maybe.
After they finally caught up with him and burned his nets, he dabbled in sales of different types of contraband.
When the government moved Vietnamese onto the Texas coast, Jesse and a couple of running mates hired on in Seadrift to sit armed in boats at night and protect crab traps against the poaching of the newcomers (the press tried to paint them as Klansmen, oppressing the Asians).

So, I’m not sure why, but in the mid seventies he and three buds drug up from Nueces County and headed for the hay fields in the East Texas piney woods.
(One of the boys had been writing letters to Jesse’s wife for him since she went away. The women’s prison was up in that part of the state, so that may have had something to do with it.) Haying is very hard work.

They lived on the outskirts of a small town that, to this day, isn’t home to more than a few hundred souls in a county populated mostly by colored folk. When one of the four decided to head back to Nueces the white population of the town declined by 25%. They had a white sheriff, but he lived over in the next county. I tell you all of this so you will know just how conspicuous the guys were the day they robbed the town’s bank.

Rob a bank, go to jail, and jail, my friends, is where Jesse finally learned to read.

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Written by fiddle mike

February 6, 2008 at 1:49 am

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