Friday, February 02, 2018

The lawman and the outlaw: How cattle rustling and drugs are roiling rural America

This is a story of two men – a lawman and an outlaw – and of promising lives shattered, of families betrayed, and, maybe, just maybe, of redemption. It is a story of a crime as old as the country (cattle rustling) and of a scourge as new as last night’s news (methamphetamine use). 

The first time Scout Thrasher stole two cows and hauled them across a state line and sold them, he was 17 years old. After he pocketed the cash and drove home, his stomach-churning fear of being caught in the act turned to euphoria. “After you make that much money that quick, [there’s] really no other way to do it,” he says. Over time, Mr. Thrasher became convinced that he was invincible – that the law enforcement officials devoted to tracking down cattle rustlers in this state of farms and feedlots and ranches would never get him. Not Scout Thrasher. “I had that mentality that I was bulletproof,” says Thrasher. “They couldn’t catch me.” Jerry Flowers thought otherwise. Mr. Flowers is a veteran city police detective turned “cattle cop” who looks as if he just stepped out of a Louis L’Amour novel: He wears a bone-colored cowboy hat, cowboy boots, bluejeans, and a pinstriped vest with a badge pinned to it. His belt buckle is the size of a small hubcap. His white mustache droops from his upper lip like a horseshoe. Flowers spent 36 years at the Oklahoma City Police Department battling every conceivable form of crime, including gang violence. In April 1995, he was one of the first officers to rush into the wreckage of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, where 168 people died in a truck bomb attack by Timothy McVeigh. Later he took a job as an investigator in a special state agricultural crimes unit. Working with eight field agents, he drives thousands of miles across Oklahoma each year probing reports of farm thefts and break-ins. That means trying to stop things like cattle rustling. That means trying to stop people like Scout Thrasher. The trails of Flowers and Thrasher would eventually intersect at, of all places, a ranch owned by Thrasher’s grandfather. The younger Thrasher, desperate to raise money to support a drug habit, stole cattle from his grandfather Dean, the man who had raised him and taught him how to handle livestock, how to be a cowboy, how to be a man. When Flowers finally arrested Thrasher for that heist in August 2014, it seemed like an open-and-shut case. But Thrasher’s outlaw career didn’t end there, nor did Flowers’s pursuit of him...more

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Add low down stinkin horse thieves to the list too.