The age-old question of nature versus nurture.PLAYLIST
Artist – Title – Album
Jerry Nations – Bull rider
I loved it. It was like fighting death. I knew that that son of a bitch could kill me. It was like I’m challenging it. “Try to kill me. Let’s see what’s up.”
Hell yeah. It’s a better rush than fighting, especially when you get on them mean-ass bulls. Mean, mean. Like demon mean.
It was in a little square pen that’s probably, I’d say, maybe three and a half foot by 10 foot. Climb down there in that little old pen and get on top of him and you put your hand through a little handle in your rope. Pretty much you’re tying yourself to this darn bull.
They put a rope … What they called it? A flank. They put it around between his balls and his ding-a-ling. Whenever you pull it tight it’s squeezing between his balls and his ding-a-ling. It’d be where our taint would be.
They squeeze the shit out of it and that’s why he’s kicking up. He’s trying to get thing off his old ding-a-ling. You’re on top of him so he’s thinking that you’re the one messing with his old ding-a-ling so he’s trying to hook you.
You ain’t got but a second or two. You don’t want to set there long because the bull is going to get antsy. You slide up there, bend down like that, and then you shake your head. Soon as you nod your head they open up that chute gate and the show’s on. It’s shake, rattle, and roll.
You got to flip it over. Texas always goes up.
This is my Samsonite briefcase I acquired close to 20 years ago. Kept it because it’s tough and I knew that I’d want to keep all my notes and stuff from when I was doing research.
This here is the adoption records. It’s … Crap. What you reckon? Couple hundred pages full of adoption records? The social worker will come do reports on us and tell how we’re progressing or me acting up, me being violent towards other kids in the homes and stuff like this.
Going through all them foster homes … Shit. And them kids making fun of you for being adopted and shit like that, you don’t feel up to standards, especially when all your adopted brothers are sisters introduce you, “This is my adopted brother.”
Why can’t I just be your brother? Why do you got to let them know that I’m not yours? You know what I’m saying? Why can’t I just be your brother? That’d eat at me.
My adopted dad, he was 45 years old whenever he adopted us. That says a lot about the man. When I was 45 you couldn’t have paid me to adopt another kid. They were very spiritual. They made sure we sat down and ate as a family. We prayed as a family. Before went to school we had Bible study as a family.
When a beer commercial would come on we’d have to get up and turn the TV down because my dad did not want that beer advertisement aired in his house, which is commendable. The man’s got his beliefs and he stuck by them, didn’t budge. That’s how strict he was. Very strict.
First time I got my butt whooped it just devastated me, good old-fashion Baptist whooping, but he loved us.
One night we was riding and I got slammed and I got my privates stepped on. My left nut swolled up so big I had to walk on crutches. It looked like a purple orange. I come in the house and I’m having to limp. I had my cowboy hat over my britches because Mother was up.
I come walking through there. They said, “What’s wrong?”
I go back there. I lay down on the bed. I’m praying for death because it hurts so bad. My old nad was already starting to swell.
I’m sorry for being vulgar in front of lady. I’m giving you the truth.
They come back there and said, “Boy, what’s wrong with you?”
I said, “Daddy, he got me in the nuts.”
He just laughed and turned around and walked out. Hell no, he didn’t help me. That’s pretty much what you want is what you got. He thought I would quit but two weeks later I was on another. I could die doing this but it’s a cool way to die.
Remember when we had that state representative Jerry Johnson? Our church went to Six Flags one time. I had to be in probably middle school then. We was going to Dallas, up there at Six Flags. I seen a couple of them billboards. Elect Jerry Johnson. State representative and stuff. I was like, “Wow.”
That used to be my name because I was Jerry Lee Johnson Jr so I knew their name. I was sitting there thinking, “Wow, man. That would be cool if he was my biological dad. Might get paid or something. What’s up?”
If you’re looking for somebody, you want to be rich. You damn sure don’t want it to be murderers and stuff like that.
We grew up out there, a little old community called Grand Bluff, way out in the sticks. Country folk living. Ain’t a whole lot to do in this town. You either go and have sex or fight. If you go to the bar, you’re looking for somebody to go lay with or you looking for somebody to beat up.
Come 12:00, if you aint got you one cornered up, time to go hit the parking lot with somebody and just box a little bit.
I don’t jack with folks my size because the little will jack you up. Bet you a bit old boy. He quick to jump on somebody little but you just wear his ass out. That’s kind of a thrill.
I think I’ve got … What? 17 arrests and 37 charges or 25. It’s crazy.
My last girlfriend, she’s never been arrested. I don’t comprehend that. How can you go through your whole life and 50 years old and never be arrested?
Do you think it’s like you haven’t experienced life if you haven’t been arrested?
You ain’t had fun. When you have lots of fun that’s when you go to jail.
The first really bad charge I got was dating this girl Candy. She got pregnant and I thought it was mine so I married her. I found out where she’d been seeing this other guy Jimmy while she was seeing me.
I spazzed out over it. Got up the next morning, smoked me a big old fat joint, and started drinking whiskey. Did me a few shots of whiskey, started drinking beer.
When we went over there to her house, to go and get my clothes, Candy and her brother Jason and her brother Cody was there. They was kind of scared of me because I was wound up and hollering and raising hell. They wouldn’t let me in the house. They called the law.
The law sends one dude up there. He come up and he grabs me by the arm and said, “Look here, son. You need to leave.”
I pushed his arm off. I said, “Look here, motherfucker. You better let me alone.”
Turned around and started hollering out her. “Hey, bitch! Give me my freaking clothes!”
He grabbed again. Said, “Son, you need to leave. You need to come on.”
I turned back around again. I floored him. I ear-checked him. He kind of stumbled back a little bit. When he did, I just started peppering his ass. I beat him up.
I seen the rest of the cops coming so I hit the woods. I get out there in the woods and I’m watching them all show up over at Candy’s house. My buddy Mike was there watching. They got him down. Me being the good friend I was, I come out the woods. I jump on this other cop and start whooping on him, trying to get him off my buddy.
That’s when the rest of them got a hold of me and they beat the shit out of me. They tore me up pretty good. That was my first serious charge, aggravated assault on a peace officer times two. Five years probation. 40 hours community service.
From then on mainly assault is what I got in trouble for. I just liked to fight.
One day Glen, my biological brother, come to me and said, “What do you think about finding our parents and stuff?”
I said, “Shit. All right. I guess so. Whatever you want.”
We went and applied for the state adoption records. Get the records and about this right here, about an inch and a half of papers and stuff. I start reading through it.
What did you expect before you actually got the records?
I didn’t expect it to be that bad. Horrible stuff. They’re murderers. Serial killers.
Carl was my step-dad. He was the main one. Sherman is my biological grandfather. Ginger, my biological mom, was Big Carl’s wife at the time. Then you had Carolyn, which was Sherman’s wife. My Uncle Danny, he killed that couple there in Dallas.
Then you had Tammy, my biological aunt. Robert, Michael. Glen, my biological brother. That’s what? Six kids and four adults. 10 folks. That’s crazy.
That’s a crowd of people.
Yeah. Like a band of gypsies going around, just going from place to place.
Ginger would go out and write hot checks and get us a whole bunch of cool stuff. Carl and Sherman, they would go to a place. Go in there and have coffee. Whatever.
If there was a little young girl, whenever they got through having their coffee, they’d go around back and drag her out and carry off and rape and beat her. Kill her. Dump her. When they’d come home, we’d leave.
Washington. Florida. Texas. Utah. Wyoming. Colorado. They done it all over. They’re evil people. Real evil. Like mean, mean. Like demon mean.
One thing that I sort of wanted to show you was that I got some of the police files. Would you read it sort of out loud to us?
All right. Ginger Taylor was interviewed at the district attorney’s office on November 13, 1972. That was four days before Glen’s birthday. And related the following story.
After leaving Salt Lake City in August, 1971, they stopped before dark and all but the children went inside. After a short time Carl instructed Ginger to move the car to the backdoor with a waitress, Leeora Looney. Sherman got behind the wheel and Carl and the waitress got in the backseat.
Carl almost immediately began forcibly removing the waitresses clothing and then raped her in the backseat. The waitress than began screaming. Carl attempted to silence her by slapping her. When that failed Carl said, “If I can’t shut you up one way, I’ll do it another.”
Carl then strangled her with a piece of rope or a string from her apron. Sherman continued driving until they found a dirt road leading into a pasture. Carl and Sherman then dragged the waitress from the backseat. Ginger than heard several shots and Carl and Sherman returned to the car.
They then returned to Cheyenne and Carl later told Ginger, if she told anyone about the murder, that she would also be killed.
Once I got the adoption records everything just fell into place. I was back here in the bedroom in our trailer house we rented, was reading through them. I’m down there at the end of the bed, on my knees, holding the bed like this, trying to breath and just trying to fathom what in the fuck I just read.
About three or four pages into it I went in there and started throwing up because it fucked with me that hard. Sorry about the F-bomb but that’s the only word strong enough, how it jacked with my head.
I get these pictures back and everything is color too, has color to the pictures. I can picture Carl that time, whenever he started beating on me. I woke up on the bathroom. I could remember ducking my head down and I can see his feet, see the veins in his feet. A toenail that was on his right foot had a little black dot where he dropped something on it.
Me and Glen, digging in the backyard, playing in the dirt, we’re sitting there farting around, just digging, and then you see something here looks fleshy. If you dig around it some more and you feel it, it’s not cold. I guess it’s ground temperature.
I start to see pieces of a finger and stuff. I’ll dig and dig and there’s a hand there. So I freak out. Run up there and tell Ginger and Carl. Carl freaks out and just is like, “What are y’all doing out here messing around?”
Us being in a car, I remember them making me and Glen get out. “Don’t you look back here” and shit like that. We’re in the front seat. The noises we heard stirs up some wild shit in your head.
What’s going through your mind right now?
Why the fuck would they have us around that shit?
When they caught us, the police caught Ginger and me and Mike and Glen. We were in the car with her. We’re going to do something and then all of a sudden Ginger just stops the car. She said, “Get out! Get out! Get out! They’re going to kill us! They’re going to kill us! Get out! Get out! Get out!”
Glen got down on the floorboard and I’m on top of Glen for some reason, thinking they going to kill him too or whatever. They come up, run over. You hear them hollering and screaming and shit. They fucking open the door and they drag her the fuck out. Didn’t see her again till I was 29 years old. Didn’t see her for 25 years.
What happened to everybody?
They all went to prison. I think Liz and Ginger both got around five year if I remember correctly and then they got out. Was it Sherman wound up hanging his-self in prison? Trying to get my mind back focused. Y’all done got me throwed off for a second but it’ll be all right.
Do you want to take a second?
No. It’ll be all right.
My Uncle Danny, he did time but he got out for a little while. He messed with a little girl or something like that. Went right back in. I’m thinking he’s dead now.
Carl is still alive.
Is he in prison?
Yeah. In Canon City.
Canon City. That super-max prison.
Yeah. Guess it’d be. Colorado. He’s still alive.
It’s hard to really comprehend that kind of crime but what’s really kind of hard to comprehend is that’s your people. These people are blood kin. This is what this family does. That’s where you came from.
I wanted to meet them. You know what your mom and dad look like. I didn’t. I wanted to know.
It took me a couple days before I’d call her. Pretty sure I’d been drinking that night too. I called her. I said, “Is this Ginger?”
She said, “Yes. It is.”
I said, “On July 22nd, in 1967, did you have a little boy named Jerry?”
She said, “Yes. I did.”
I said, “Well you’re talking to him.”
It was odd. She didn’t talk with no Texas accent. She talked kind of fast. You could tell she ain’t been around here in a while. I guess she was overwhelmed because you could hear the rattling in her voice.
I remember telling her about Glen being good, doing good, and all this stuff. I said, “I’d like to meet you,” and we set up a date.
Glen was in South Carolina so I got Glen a plane ticket. I flew him to Florida with me and then we both got a plane together and flew to Dallas to meet Ginger. We’re in the airport. Me and Glen was walking down yonder ways. Her and Tammy come walking by.
Tammy was my biological aunt. I want to say she was like 13 when we all got separated. Tammy and Ginger had walked by. I told Glen. I said, “That’s your momma right there, boy.”
I just knew her. They walked right by. She didn’t know shit from Shinola. Didn’t know us from nothing.
We walked behind them. I went, “Ginger!”
She turned around and started bawling and run over and hugged on me and stuff. Hugged on Glen.
Fucking me up twice. I ain’t going to lie to you.
This picture, it’s showing me hugged up on her. She’s got her arm around me. You can see I’m wanting to be happy but I still ain’t trusting this motherfucker. You know what I’m saying?
It’s crazy. You can see the family resemblance. Nose. Ears. The way our faces are shaped. The chins. I got the cleft chin. Do I look like my momma? Do I look like my daddy? I look like my momma.
I actually got a baby picture from her. I’ve got it there in the house. I am knee-high to a [inaudible] and I’m wearing a little old cowboy hat. I got some little old cowboy, black britches on. I thought that was weird, me being dressed up in the cowboy outfit, because I pretty much been living a cowboy life. My whole life.
Me, Tammy, and Carolyn, we hit it off. But Ginger was reserved. When I tried talking something, she’d start crying. I said, “One thing that sticks out in my head is we was in a motel.”
I didn’t know where it was but I remembered it had orange curtains and orange bedspread. You could put money in it and the bed would vibrate.
That was where we was saying at during the Leeora Looney abduction, murder. All that crap. That was the little girl they pulled out of the little donut shop. Whenever I started describing that, that’s whenever she realized, “He remembers more than probably what he should.”
She started crying. She said, “Oh my god! How do you remember that?”
Why do you think that made her cry though? What was she crying about?
Just a little bit of guilt, a little bit of remorse. She kind of had a knowing of what she put her kids through. You can be an evil person but you still got to have some little bit of heart for your kid, I would think. Maybe that pushed her away from me.
You’re finally getting to talk to the one that you belong to. She created you. Yet she didn’t give a fuck about you enough to keep you safe.
When you’re a kid, you’re vulnerable. That’s your Momma and Daddy’s job, to protect you. That motherfucker couldn’t do that shit. I still felt kind of unwanted. Just weren’t no connection there. None. No bonding moment or nothing like that. Just didn’t happen.
Maybe talked to her a couple times since then and that was it. I quit having anything to do with her. Just closed that chapter. I’d say that was a turning point.
We fought some here and there but from that to all the time. Constantly fighting people, doing mean shit. The alcohol. The drugs. The fighting. It’s like it unleashed something. Like I was trying to beat that pain out of me.
When I find out different things and have them memories start popping back up, that’s when you’ve got to use the harder drugs to get rid of those memories.
My left … I don’t know what vein that would be right there in your elbow. I’d take that son of a bitch. I’d put me about 50 units of good old methamphetamines in you. You [inaudible] for a minute and get your shit together.
That’s why that shit’s so addicting. The one little shot will take all that away. All that pain. All that shit in your head. It’s easy to do you a big old shot and you’re done with it for a day, two days. Once I started making it, it was like I had an unlimited supply and it always good dope.
How do you cook?
First of all, you go get you a bunch of them ephedrine pills and get you a coffee grinder and you grind them up into a powder. You make you some anhydrous ammonia. You take fertilizer, two tablespoons of Red Devil Lye, and then you pour just a drop of water in there. It starts a chemical reactions. Gas, blowing out.
You have your hose and you stick your hose inside a Coke bottle and your Coke bottle is submerged in dry ice and acetone. It turns it into a liquid. When you get you enough liquid out of that bottle, you take the liquid and you pour it over.
First you got to take two batteries, lithium batteries, and peel them and get the lithium strips. Drop them on your powder. Then you take your anhydrous and you pour it over the powder and the batteries then start … You pour it through coffee filters. Takes most of the impurities out of it. Makes it fall down into a powder form.
I done some stupid shit up till then but not like cooking-meth stupid.
That feels like stupider.
At the time it didn’t. At the time it was very fulfilling.
I ain’t going to lie to you. The rush off of it’s better than any sex you’ll ever have but it’s a false satisfaction. You’re tricking yourself into being satisfied. Just fighting demons with a demon. Because that methamphetamine, that’s a demon. Takes your soul. But it worked.
When I was cooking dope, I knew I was going to prison. I just figured it would be state prison. State, you get 20 years, you might do two or three on it and be on parole. But I never dreamed that it would be federal. I would never have to do like 90% of my time.
Got sentenced to 69 months. Once I got to prison and actually had to be mean, when you’re sitting there stopping on a guy’s head, you feel evil. I’ve been in fights before where pretty much mutilated a person. I’d get mad, mad. It’s scary. I can be cold, cold, cold.
I carried it to extreme. I tried biting a guy’s ear off one time. Wound up spitting out the whole top part of his ear but the cartilage stayed on. Because I wanted him to look in the mirror every day and see that ear gone and think of me.
It makes me look back then and think, “Wow.”
I want to blame it on the alcohol. I want to blame it on the drugs. But shit like that I think is in the core.
We used to fight chickens all the time. When it was legal. You had a bloodline. You got the mean ones and you bred them and you got mean chickens out of them. It’s in their gene. That’s what they’re bred for. They’ve been fighting for 100s of years like that.
Humans are the same. I’ve always been wound up. I’ve always been a fighter. I got to thinking, “Shit. I got the evil gene. They had to pass something off to me and it wasn’t good.”
I have been trying to find tape of some of the interviews that your family did as part of the law enforcement investigation. About a week ago I was able to find one. I would love to play it for you and see what you think of it.
Got that old greasy-ass hair. 1970s sideburns and shit. Clean shaven. But he’s got these penetrating eyes. You can damn near look in his eyes and look straight into the pits of hell.
But you can tell the coldness, casually talking about killing these folks. I haven’t heard his voice in 40 years. More than 40 years. It’s crazy. That hick accent. You never forget that.
I know what’s sad is I sound like the motherfucker because I got the old country accent shit. Fucking pisses me off.
I don’t want to sound like him. I don’t want to look like him. I don’t want to have that look. I want to do shit about him. In fact, I even want to be fat again because the son of a bitch is skinny.
I want to be nothing like him whatsoever. Boy, I tell you. I’d ear-check that son of a bitch in half a second. I guarantee you I’d win this time. Promise you that. Promise you that!
I just picture myself connecting him right inside of his … I don’t give a shit if I broke my hand again or not. Just feeling that. And then be talking shit while I’m stomping him.
Do you think you’d ever just stop fighting all together?
Oh my god. I wish I could. That last time I broke my hands. It sucked. I’m getting too old for this shit.
I know that’s sad. I’m 51 years old and still doing that shit. But I don’t want people to think they can just run over me or talk out the side of their neck to me any way they want to. I give respect. I want it back. I’m not near as bad as what I used to be.
Thank God for golf.
Before we pack up could you introduce just where we are?
We’re at Carthage Country Club in Carthage, Texas, out on 79. My little safe heaven. This is my little safe world where I come to enjoy myself and live a good life.
It’s very … Sort of peaceful out here.
Very. Hear the birds?
I have been working for the Carthage Country Club for … Next month it’ll be a year and a half. I do a lot of mowing, a lot of keeping the place looking nice. I love my job.
I play golf all the freaking time. Bare minimum, I play golf three times a week. The only sport that I have ever been this wrapped up in is bull-riding.
And it is very different from bull-riding.
Totally opposite. You ever heard of anybody getting killed for playing golf?
Pick it up?
I can be your caddy.
If I make this, I will be on a par three. I’ve made two shots so that would be a birdie. Now I’m nervous. I don’t want to mess this up. I have never birdied this hole before.
Boo-yah! Hell yeah! Oops. I’m sorry.
And I got witnesses. I just birdied number two. Hell yeah. Now I kind of want to go play 18 holes but I’m going to quit while we ahead.
Hell yeah. I am tickled shit-less. One good shot like that, shit. I’m good rest of the day. No rush or nothing but it’s a feeling of gratification like I’m getting to where I’m wanting to be.
Nick van der Kolk, Host and Director
Ryan Katz, Producer
Julia DeWitt, Producer