Hmmmm that coffee is good. For me writing a story is best in the mornings when I feel fresh. It’s like drinking a cup of coffee. Some like it black, other’s like a little sweetener and a little cream helps mellow it out. Just like a good old cup of Maxwell House, some are good to the last drop.
Wormy Bennett. I ever tell y’all about Wormy? I think I said something about his brother Charles one time. I grew up with both of them. They are as different as night and day.
This story is about Wormy. He grew up in Birdville. That’s a section of town across the tracks where poor white folks have lived for the past hundred years. If you drive through Birdville (all the streets have bird names), you wonder if a building inspector or a health inspector ever dared to drive through it. Not so bad anymore, but once upon a time it was…. Well I’m glad it got better.
You could say that Wormy is a product of his environment. I say that with tongue in cheek because I do know a lot of good people that have come from Birdville.
Years ago when I was working at the jail, I was putting some prisoners in the court chute cell, outside of the Duval County Courthouse. I looked up and noticed that Wormy had used a lighter to burn a message into the ceiling. “Wormy Bennett, been here so many times I can’t count.”
After his first ten year sentence, when I saw Wormy for the first time, I was amazed at his prison tattoo. On his back across the top was scrolled the words “SWAMP MASTER”, beneath it was a scene of a woman skinning a gator by the bayou. Large cypress trees with over hanging Spanish moss surrounding a pool of water, complete with palmetto bushes and large cypress trees.
When you see a tattoo like that, you know this man has done some time. In fact, Wormy was a celebrity behind bars. There, he was somebody, known to violate the rules and wore his non conformist attitude like a badge of honor.
I was sitting with my nephew Whistle at Richard’s one day with a couple of other guys burning a fat joint. Richard was the neighborhood drug dealer, known for selling pot and pills. Wormy enters the house without knocking. He had an Uzi hanging from a strap draped across his neck and shoulder.
Nobody moved. We all knew Wormy, no one in the room had a scared bone in their body. Wormy says “Every body sit still, stay right where you’re at.” Whistle passed me the joint, I hit it and passed it to Richard.
Wormy says “I ain’t here to rob you,” then he set what looked like a couple ounces of coke in a baggie (but in eality it was flour) on the table and said,“I just knocked a black dude off for this dope, I got the law on my ass and I need some money to run with.” He stood back then and grabbed the Uzi with both hands and waved it across the room. He said “I’m gonna leave this with you and I’m gonna take all the cash you got on you for payment, you can pay me the rest later, I gotta run.”
Richard still had the joint and he said “Wormy, you want a shot gun?” He wasn’t talking about a real gun, but a “shotgun with the joint,” but the way he said it was funny and broke the ice. Wormy said “hell yeah,” and bent over while Richard blew smoke up his nose.
Just about that time Whistle said, “Hey Wormy did you steal that BB gun from Clyde?” (Clyde was Whistle’s little brother).
Wormy straightened up and said, “Yeah, it looks real as f__k don’t it?”
Then two Police Cruisers went by the front of the house, creeping past. Richard asked Wormy if they were looking for him. Wormy chimed in “Yeah, I just knocked off the Racetrack for a pack of cigarettes and a six pack of beer.”
Richard told Wormy that he shouldn’t be bringing the heat down on him just because he wanted to go home. Honestly Richard was right I think. Wormy was just pulling some crap so he could go straight to jail and then back to prison, without passing go or collecting 200 dollars. Once guys get “institutionalized”, they prefer prison life.
Next I heard about Wormy he was still a free man. He had hooked up with a Marissa, a married gal from Birdville that was intrigued with the “Thug Life” that Wormy’s persona represented.
Marissa got tired of supplying Wormy with beer and cigarette money and letting him abuse her on a daily bases. She went back to her husband who was a drunk, for the week end before deciding to give Wormy another chance.
I was at the Racetrack getting some gas, when Wormy came up to me wanting to know if I wanted to buy some pussy. Pimping wasn’t really Wormy’s style. He was always up to something. I looked around and didn’t see any girls. I asked Wormy “Where they at?”
He tossed his head towards the other gas pump and said “C’mon over here and I’ll show you.” I saw Marissa’s car, a Lincoln, I think. I didn’t see her until Wormy raised the trunk lid and there was Marissa, tied hand and foot with a gag in her mouth. Looking straight up at me with pleading eyes.
Wormy said “I can hook you with all of that you want, cheap.” Me thinking that Wormy was playing another joke told him “Wormy that ain’t funny. You could get some serious time for that.” He said “She’s a damn whore and that’s how I treat my whores.”
I was uncomfortable as hell. I was half a mind that he was serious, but as long as I’ve known Wormy, I never ever heard of him trying to hurt any body. I still remembered him as a kid. As far as I was concerned, his skinny ass couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. I didn’t want to fall for any of his tricks. I just told him that he needed to get some help, but the first thing he needed to do was get that girl out of the trunk of the car.
I went in to the store seeking to put some distance between him and I, looking for some one to give me a hand, when I came out, the big car was gone. An hour later I was driving home and saw the Lincoln pulled over at the next gas station down the road. The police had Wormy lying on his belly, hands cuffed behind his back, guns to his head. I couldn’t help but to think “Well he got what he wanted, Wormy’s heading home.”
You would think that with all of the things on his record, that Wormy would have got some serious time, but he didn’t. Marissa had stood up for him in court and told the judge that it was mostly her fault. Wormy got six months at the county P farm. Anyone that has done any time will tell you that the last place you want to serve time is in the County.
When you do County time you have to work. They make you conform or you face the “Goon Squad”. They will kick you to sleep. Even so, Wormy was a celebrity; he got a cushy job at the Police Impound lot.
After a few weeks working at the Impound lot, Wormy got stir crazy. He started swiping radios and personal effects out of cars that were impounded.
One day a group of us were at my nephew Clyde’s in “Booger Bottom.” Booger Bottom is another place inside the city limits that thrived on being outside the fringe of government control. It was a dead end dirt road, full of pot holes, enshrouded by trees to keep it looking mysterious and keeping the outside world at bay.
Clyde’s place was surrounded by “fly high” pens. Circular field wire enclosures that were six feet in circumference and about twelve feet high. These were designed to keep fighting roosters in. The only activity they had room for, was to jump high into the air and try to fly out. This built up the strength in their legs and wings, physically it gave them the advantage over another bird in the fight.
Glen (Clyde’s older brother) and I were helping Clyde secure the pens to the ground so they wouldn’t get knocked over when we saw a police car coming straight at us, at a high rate of sped. It was coming so fast that the car was flying over one pothole and crashing into the next, almost like a “Dukes of Hazard” episode.
Too late to run, I don’t think any of us had any warrants on us any way, we stood up to face the music.
It was Wormy. He couldn’t take it any longer. Good behavior didn’t mean anything to him, in his mind, making him a “Trustee” was their fault. He had stolen a bunch of car radios and got caught. They were gonna send him back to lock up. He filled a police car’s trunk full of radios and hauled ass. The bad thing for him, was the car didn’t have any gas. He was running on Elvis.
Wormy said he was in a hurry and needed some gas. Glen traded him 5 gallons of gas for a couple 2 or 3 radios and Wormy was gone in a cloud of dust.
I don’t remember where they caught him but all he got out of it was some more country time.
Next I remember hearing is that Wormy did some time with Larry Bagley Jr. who got a life sentence for car jacking while he was out on “CRD,” (Controlled Release). When Wormy got out, he befriended Larry’s Dad. He had about 10 acres out behind the “P” Farm around Thomas Creek Fish Camp
Wormy had heard that you could get a Commercial Fisherman’s Captain License “on line.” Since Larry’s Dad had a little money, some waterfront property and a few boats, he invested in the program for the two of them and soon they were awarded “Captain’s” Licenses. Part of their endeavors were growing and selling pot, since Thomas Creek is connected through the swamp to Nassau Sound, it would be easy to figure that they had a hand in smuggling pot too.
Wormy killed two giant hogs running wild in the woods. The two hogs weighed about 500 lbs each. They decided to have a bar b que at the Thomas Creek Fish Camp and sell bar b que dinners. This meat hadn’t been hung properly and the hogs (two males) had never been castrated so the mostly fatty meat didn’t really taste all that good, but still the aroma of cooking meat and melting fat was enough to draw a crowd
Their problem was that they were within about 1500 feet of the County “P” Farm. Some of the customers for the dinners were corrections officers. Somehow when the smell of cooking meat drew them near, they got wind of the pot operation too and the two of them got busted and next thing you know, Wormy is back home again, not for long, but long enough.
You might think that this was the end of Wormy’s tale but no, let me get another cup of coffee and I’ll tell the rest, as it was told to me.
Wormy finally got his chance to go “home.” Back in his element he got back to work, running the yard. I don’t know how he did it, but I heard his “fall partner” was transferred to the same prison. Something unusual by today’s standards.
Wormy got back to sitting in a circle of eager listeners, drinking black chicory coffee that they sell in prison and retelling his escapades to anyone who were still there from the last time he was “in.” He and Larry were still tight. His buddy had family that sent him commissary money and Wormy would roll his cigarettes for him out of loose leaf tobacco for 5 cigs a pack.
While these two were still serving their time, the Gulf Coast suffered a massive oil spill. It ruined the lively hood of the commercial fishermen in that area.
I know y’all have heard of “Deep Water Horizon” with Mark Walberg. You know the BP oil spill. It was the same one as that.
Wormy hatched a plan to get a PO Box in the Pascagoula area and with the help of a jail house lawyer, put in a claim. His buddy was just about at the end of his sentence and didn’t want no part of it. For him, enough was enough. Wormy, with still lots of time left didn’t flinch. He carried his plan out and joined the massive law suit against B P.
I heard that Wormy collected over a couple hundred thousand dollars while he was behind bars, where he still is today. I heard that his fall partner, Larry Bagley has passed away. Wormy bought his brother Charles a new car and I heard that he saved the rest, just drawing enough for “taylor mades” so that he doesn’t have to roll “rips” for someone else anymore. He’ll be getting out soon, this time he’ll be a rich man. What do you want to bet, that it won’t make a bit of difference.
Wait let me finish my coffee, yep, it was good, to the last drop.