Robbie Futch lived in Pilot Point, Texas. I first met him about 22 years ago. He was working as a rough neck on an oil rig when some men from a different rig across the street “got up to they’s own tits in the whiskey” and decided to pull a few pranks on Robbie and his crew. Robbie is a hot head so things escalated rather quickly. Someone on Robbie’s rig (i.e. Robbie) retrieved a shot gun and, according to Robbie himself, fired a few warning shots “up into outer space.” It seems that one of the bullets lodged in the back of a fellow who was working on the other rig. Almost killed him. So that “stupid sumbitch” decided to sue Robbie and Robbie’s employer. “Pretty sumbitchin’ chickenshit,” if you ask Robbie. “Sumbitchin'” was Robbie’s favorite adjective.
I met Robbie when he came to my office to give his deposition. The insurance company for his employer hired our law firm to defend him. He was wearing a black MIA/POW T-shirt. Robbie stood about 6’4” tall and packed about 300 pounds of petrified muscle. He had once been a bouncer at Billy Bob’s, the “World’s Largest Honky-Tonk.” And you can just bet Robbie was the tonkiest honky Billy Bob’s ever saw. When I shook his bear hand he jerked me close and said: “Boy you’re a little fucker. I hope you got a mean bite.”
We went into the conference room where I attempted to describe the deposition process. I explained that he would be required to take an oath to tell the truth.
“Whose truth-mine or God’s own?” he smiled.
I didn’t really know how to respond so I continued: “Let’s talk about the night of the incident. What do you remember?”
“How much do I need to remember? Cause when my memory’s good, my answers ain’t.” This was going to be a long day.
We went to the conference room and I introduced him to the lawyer who was going to be taking his deposition. While the court reporter finished setting up, Robbie turned to me and whispered of the other lawyer: “He’s the Orville Redenbacherist lookin’ sumbitch I’ve ever seen.”
Then we got started. The other lawyer said: “I need to go over some of the ground rules before we begin. First of all the court reporter will be taking everything down. So I need all of your answers to be oral. Do you understand?”
“Oral” said Robbie with a sideways smirk.
The lawyer tried to corner Robbie but Robbie was pretty cagey. There had been a previous altercation between the two roughneck crews the night before the incident involving gunplay.
The lawyer wanted to know whether anyone was hurt in the fracas.
“I don’t think so,” said Robbie, “Oh wait I take that back. I do believe Virgil was kicked in between the fracas and the belly button.”
The lawyer probed Robbie about his reckless past. Robbie had been arrested for several alcohol related offenses. Mostly drunken disorderly.
“Do you have a problem with alcohol?”
“Are you a partier?”
“What do you mean?”
“You tell me. Do you like to paint the town?”
“Not really as much as I used to.” There was a long pause. “But I can still give it one hell of a varnish!”
“Were you working for MND Drilling at the time?”
“What did MND stand for?”
“Hell if I know. We always joked that it stood for “misfits, numbnuts and dipshits” but I don’t think any one of those is right.”
We settled the case shortly afterward but I became Robbie’s lawyer from that point forward. Needless to say, his problems were unique. They would typically involve a long and convoluted fact pattern combined with a healthy dose of corporate or governmental oppression followed by an altercation and ending with the ultimate query: Can they do that?
There was a repossessed mobile home that was swooped off of its foundation by the bank just two days before agents from the ATF came out to raid the place. When the ATF agents arrived they found Robbie and his 7 year old daughter sitting on a rock next to a campfire outside a small tent making breakfast. There was the time Robbie was trying to fix his neighbor’s bug zapper and caught the neighbor’s front porch on fire. The neighbor then tried to have Robbie prosecuted for arson.
Then there was the time his daughter got kicked out of school. She had a truancy problem so the school assigned her to a different district but it was too late for her to enroll for the next semester. Robbie described his rant at the school board meeting thusly:
“So I looked at them stupid sacks of shit on that Board and said ‘We’ve got a girl here who is gettin’ sent to a different school because she’s missin’ too much school but now she cain’t go to that school so she’ll have to miss a whole semester.’ Then the head cockeyed sumbitch just looked at me and said ‘Well Mr. Futch I don’t know what to tell you.’ So I said: ‘Do you get paid to sit up there flat on your ass and tell people you don’t know…..huh?….because if you do then I’m gonna get a petition signed to get you a raise cause you’re so godamned good at it.’ Then I left outta there.”
Robbie wanted to know: “Can they do that?”
I replied: “I believe they can.”
Robbie had his answer. “I guess I’ll just have to home school her then.”
But I’m really not giving Robbie his proper due. He was a loyal and faithful friend and a hell of a patriot. He was a single Dad who tried to cobble together a decent wage and raise his daughter in the midst of the lingering fog of the Vietnam war. We talked about his war experience once.
“Some sumbitchin’ shrink told me I got post traumatic stress disorder. I told him I got pre-traumatic and present traumatic too. I was scared shitless before I left and the entire three years I was over there.”
But Robbie never complained about having to serve. He thought it was an honor. He was dealt every kind of miserable, poor hand one could draw but he played them all straight up. Until he just couldn’t. He killed himself around Christmas last year. I hadn’t spoken to him in awhile so I’m not sure what finally pushed him over. But on July 4th I like to think of the Robbie Futch’s of this Country. Men who serve without remorse or proper recompense. Men who don’t involve themselves in petty politics because they’ve seen the opposite of democracy and know that alternative is “some kind of shit.”
So here’s to the unsung and the forgotten heroes this July 4th. Turn off your TV and put down your newspaper and thank God for people like Robbie. And if anyone tries to tell you this Country is on a trip to Shitsville, go ahead and give them a swift kick…right square in the fracas.