ocean's 91

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Graphic Design class project. Assignment was redesign the book/story with images.

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  • Oceans 91

    At the age that most men are either dead or dozing in their La-Z-Boys, enjoying retirement, JL Hunter Rountree began his second career: robbing banks

  • and stooped. One of the other tellers would tell the police that he looked to be in his seventies or eighties; the teller he robbed thought he was about 80. They were off by at least a decade: Rountree, known as Red to almost everyone who knows him, was born in 1911 -- just one year after Bonnie and two years after Clyde. He was married at 20, a millionaire at 50, bank-rupt at 60, widowed at 70; and only then, when most men are luxuriating in the relief of their retirement, did Red Rountree begin his second career. He began robbing banks in his eight-ies, he was finishing up a three-year sentence in a federal prison in Florida when he was 90, and when he walked out of the bank with an envelope full of cash and the cops already alerted, he was full 91 years old, and he wasnt kidding, not at all.

    I was born in a farmhouse about seven miles south of Brown-wood, Texas. This is Red speaking, ancient history told by one who lived it. And the doctor didnt get there for two days -- and when he showed up, he was drunk as a buggy. He spent the night, and circumcised me the next day. Hes sitting on a metal folding chair in a cinder-block room in the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, a tiny little town on the edge of the plains. Hes six feet tall and 160 pounds, and time has bleached all the color out of him; his skin is pale to the point of translucence, his beard is white, and he walks with a metal cane. He stares through thick glasses, not maliciously

    Are you kidding? the girl behind the teller window said to the man standing on the other side of the glass. It was the morning of August 12, 2003, soon after the First American Bank of Abilene, Texas, had opened and the man had walked in, crossed the floor to her station and handed her an enve-lope with the word ROBBERY written on it in red marker. He was tall, and he was wearing a blue baseball cap and black long-sleeve shirt. At first, the teller didnt understand what was happening. What do you mean? she asked, and the man got irritated and told her to go over to her drawer and put the money in the envelope hed given her. Thats when she asked him: Are you kidding? He wasnt kidding at all. His name was JL Hunter Rountree, and he pointed to her station and demanded again that she put the money in the envelope. Still, the teller couldnt quite believe it. She turned to another teller, who was standing nearby and said, Im getting robbed. Is he kidding? the other girl told her to go ahead and put the money in the envelope -- twenties, tens, fives, and ones, plus a little bait money, marked so that it could be traced back to the bank, it came to just under $2,000. As the teller tripped the silent alarm, the robber turned and walked out of the bank, got into a white Buick Century and drove away. Heres what made the teller balk: The scalp around his cap was bald and liver-spotted; the body under his shirt was thin

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    but with the fixed uncertainty of the aged. Even in grey prison jumpsuit, he looks like someones favorite great-uncle; he looks, incongruously enough, like Pete Seeger, and he speaks with a thick East Texas accent. Hes explaining how he became, quite likely, the oldest bank robber, in U.S. history, and as benefits his achievement, hes taking the long way. I lived on this farm until I was 6 years old. It was the sorriest farm I have ever heard of. We had cotton, we had corn, we had turkeys in quantity. We had sheep, we had milk cows, and when I was a 3 year old and they went to milk the cows every night and every morning, I had a tin cup and Id fol-low them, and Id get that hot milk and drink it. He tells this story and his eyes glow, as if he can still taste it. My long-term memory is good, he says, and you believe him. My short-term memory, I dont have, he says, and you believe that too. No fooling. At times I cant hardly remember my name. But he can recall a time so distant that an automobile was an un-common sight. My fathers father had a drayage company-- A what? Thats like a trucking company, but with horses, big horses. So he talks. He tells a near centurys worth of stories, and tells them as much, it seems, to keep the tales alive as to convey anything to his visitor. They might as well be legends, ballads, bedtime stories; theres no one to confirm them, no

    one left in this world who knows Red Rountree well or knows very much about him. Everyone hes ever been close to is dead: his parents, his wife, his stepson, his brothers, his in-laws, his friends. Hes been orphaned by time, and its as if hes recreating a world by remembering it out loud. Listen: Farmers in Brownwood had an account at the grocery store and an account at the dry-good store. And they charged things, and at the end, when they sold the crops and got some money, they went and paid. Didnt have a very good crop one year, so JL Hunter Rountree is my name. JL King was the dry-goods man, and Hunter was the grocer. I used to work for JL on Saturdays, when I was going through high school. He talks: the 20s, work for the Santa Fe Railroad, col-lege, then back to the farm to wait out the Depression. In the early 30s, one of his brothers got him a job working in the oil fields in Duval County. It was around then that he met his first wife, Fay, a waitress with a young son named Tom. Less than a year later, we got married. The boy was 4 years old, and he become my boy. This was 1933. Red Rountree was a fortu-nate man: It was a fifty-year love affair, he says. He was lucky in business too. After the war, he started Rountree Machinery Co., and soon he was wealthy. Buddy Rountree, Reds nephew, now 74 years old, remembers seeing the couple on those few occasions when they came by to visit

  • the rest of the family. Fay was a nice lady, a real sophisticated type person, he says. Red gave her everything she wanted. He had a big business and a lot of money. She came to a fam-ily reunion a time or two, but she didnt mix very well. She was just different kind of person; some people mix and some dont. Rountrees, we get by and do what we have to do, but she liked nice things and fine jewelry and clothes. That was a good life, a good time. But Sophocles had it right: count no man fortunate until he has died, and Red Roun-tree had a long time left to live. First his stepson was killed in a car accident in Galveston. Then Red sold Rountree Machinery and put a million dollars in the bank. He played a little golf, he did a little fishing, but retirement didnt agree with him, and in time he took out a bank loan and bought a shipyard down in Corpus Christi. I was stupid, he says. It costs more to build the ships than you could sell them for. We would sell them for about $750,000, and it cost about $1 million to build them. Each one. Then the damn bank pulled the note on me. I could have made the payment. I could have compiled with me obligations to the bank. The lawyer for the bank, I hated him. The judge just said, Pay up! He was cruel. And the bank called in the note, and I had to go bankrupt. Bankrupt, and then his wife got lung cancer. It was the roughest year I spent in my life. The last year she was alive, I didnt get twenty feet from her. I didnt try to do any business.

    I spent all my time with her. Red was 75. Widowed, alone, restless. Whats a man to do? He leans in to tell his part, half proud of the memory. It is, after all, where the road to notoriety begins. I went crazy, he says. I did crazy things. First among them was marrying a 31-year-old woman whod picked him up in a bar in Houston, an act so benighted that these days Red cant remem-ber her name. Before I met her, he says, I thought the way you got drugs was you went to the doctor and got a prescription and went to the drugstore and got drugs. She taught me differ-ent. She had a baaad drug problem. After six months of being with her, I started doing drugs with her. I did marijuana. Co-caine. Rock. Ive smoked crack. I never did do much heroin; I was afraid Id get strung out. About a year and a half later, I divorced her. So there he was, broke, burned, old and ornery, with nothing, it seemed, left to lose. In 1998, at the age of 87, Red Rountree robbed his first bank.

    He cant remember where he got the idea, or what he was thinking, and hell be the first to tell you he was a little bit stupid about it. He just marched into a bank in Biloxi, Mississippi, and demanded some money. A customer at the drive through window saw him, dialed the police on his cell phone, and that was that. They caught me real quick, says Red. I was given

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  • turn to felony at an age when most men spend their afternoons nodding off happily in an armchair? He told a reporter in Flor-ida that he did it for the money. Now he says, I didnt neces-sarily need the money. I was getting over $1,000 a month from social security, and I cant spend $1000 every month. He told the police who picked him up after the Abilene robbery that he did it out of hatred for the bank that put him out of business. Now he has a different reason. Hey, he says, when I rob a bank, when I walk out the front door, I get a rush. Just like Id taken a shot of cocaine, and it lasts a whole lot longer. It starts when I pick up my envelope, and it feels like I just had a shot of cocaine. Why? I cant answer. I like...to rob...banks. As hobbies for the elderly go, this has its charm, but the reasons for it are more elaborate than that. The fact is that no one plans to live to be 90. How could you plan for such a thing? To outlast everyone you ever love