My Time With Rufus And Rocky
January 4, 2016 (Fault Lines) — When I tell people I used to live and work across the street from a moonshiner, they usually laugh and think I’m exaggerating. Rufus and his son Rocky* were the real deal, and the first years of my life in the law were all the more interesting because of them.
One day during regular business hours, the power went out at my West Irish Street office. This was in the middle of a client meeting, and I was a touch concerned as I was in the middle of printing out a contract for the prospective client. I went out onto the deck of the double-wide trailer that was the office of Quest Conflict Resolution and my home, and surveyed the street.
Rufus was outside, with a set of bolt cutters and wearing huge utility gloves. He looked up at me, and without a word asked, “Oh did I just cut your power? Shit, I’m sorry. I was just trying to cut the bitch that lives next door’s!” He then laughed a hoarse laugh and went back to whatever misdeeds he was in the midst of committing.
Rufus’s next door neighbor was a God-fearing ex-wife of a Southern Baptist Preacher who couldn’t stand that her next door neighbor sold the devil’s brew at all hours of the day. Because of a seedy divorce and a major dust-up with her former husband, who was head of the local hellfire and brimstone congregation, she was in a bit of a bind. Her daily routine consisted of her calling the cops on Rufus and his son Rocky, and the cops ignoring it because they knew she was just trying to complain. Rufus and Rocky would eventually get wind of her antics and do something to mess with her.
Rocky wasn’t in much better shape than his dad. A terrible alcoholic, Rocky made his money in cockfighting rings around the region. He had a habit of bringing girls home who didn’t share in his predilections, which often led to fights that woke me up at 2 or 3 a.m., when the train tracks near my office failed to do so. Apparently hearing, “DAMMIT ROCKY I’M SICK OF YOU BOGARTING THE LAST JOINT IN THE HOUSE,” is more of a wake-up call for a young criminal defense attorney than a train’s horn.
Eventually, I made an effort to talk to Rocky and Rufus. Turns out the two were really nice people who hated the government and wanted to be left alone. Neither had the skill set to get a traditional “job,” but Rufus’s family brewed moonshine for generations. Rufus never wanted to go legal, either. “The time I give the Feds one damned dime of my money is the time I put a bullet in my brain,” was his motto every time I brought the subject up.**
Rocky just got really good at cockfighting, and making bets on birds. Like his daddy, Rocky wasn’t keen on John Law*** getting any of his dough. I would often pick his brain about people I needed dirt on, and Rocky would usually know them. The one case that made me leave Guardian ad Litem work behind was closed due to Rocky’s knowledge of a deadbeat dad’s involvement with a drug cartel.
Both were simply humans who wanted to do what they pleased without government intervention. Their chosen professions weren’t legal, but involved unique skills they both acquired through their respective lives. And when they found out a lawyer worked and lived across the street from them, and knew that lawyer wasn’t a snitch who would rat them out to the authorities, they put their trust in me. And that trust led me to several cases that were resolved favorably for clients, both in the criminal and family sectors.
I think of Rocky and Rufus these days because I recently sold the old West Irish Street double-wide to a bail bonds person. She was nice enough, bought the property for the right price, and we closed on the deal in short time. When we were in negotiations for the closing, I asked her about Rufus and Rocky’s home. The response shook me to my core.
That house burned to the ground some time ago, Mr. Seaton. I don’t know what to tell you.
Recently I went back to my hometown to work a DUI. Before I went there, I did a quick drive through of my old West Irish Street office to confirm the new property owner’s claims. Sure enough, all that was left of Rufus and Rocky’s home was the foundation. Everything else was gone.
Rufus and Rocky may never read this. For all I know, they’re off doing their respective thing in another location. I just hope they’re fine and raising hell wherever they are. My first years as a lawyer wouldn’t be as memorable without them.
*Obviously the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
**Most moonshiners have this mentality. Going legal costs a ton of money and Federal oversight, so they elect to skirt the law.
***A nebulous term encompassing law enforcement and government. When you’re in the mountains, “John Law” refers to anyone associated with the government you don’t like.