The Beginning of the End of a Criminal’s Career

RMlogo The Beginning and the End of a Criminal's Career

The technical legal term for what I did is “B&E,” which does not mean the beginning of the end, though it could be. In a spiritual sense, it was the beginning of the end, for which I will always praise God. But in the legal world, it means breaking and entering. It’s when a criminal wants something so much that he breaks into a place to steal it.

Only Dopes Do Dope

I had a drug business during my high school days. Robby, the oldest brother, supplied me with marijuana, and I would sell it for him. I never made a profit, or you could say that all my profit went up in smoke. I had a specially made jacket where I sewed several pockets on the inside. Each hidden pocket had different “brands” and sizes of marijuana so our customers could choose what they wanted, e.g., Columbian, Acapulco Gold. They would line up in the restroom between classes to shop.

As my little business grew, I needed some scales to weigh the marijuana. Someone suggested that the “Thomas boys” could break into our local high school. The science department had quite a few scales. I am not sure who concocted this brain-dumb idea, but Gary and Dwayne were on board, so we made a plan.

Part of our motivation was a business decision. But, honestly, it’s what we did; it’s who we were. I started stealing when I was 12 years old. I was 15 when we decided to break into the high school. Like Bonnie and Clyde, the shelf-life of a thief is usually short. During this disturbing season in my life, we broke into two church buildings and stole things from various local stores and malls.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need (Ephesians 4:28).

Sodas and Cigars

The first store I remember ripping off was a “mom and pop,” called J. L. Austins. It was a local hardware, food store on Main Street in Wingate, NC. We would enter through the back door, which had an unlocked screen during the day. We crawled in on our hands and knees like cats, maneuvered to the soda box, and took what we wanted. Then crawled back out to enjoy our haul.

The last time we broke into Austins was the day we were training my friend, Joe Woodson. Joe was a bit green but eager. We had crawled in, ducking from the sight-lines of the front counter. Joe was following us, but rather than crawling, he walked in standing up. He then let the door slam behind him. It made a loud noise; we were startled at his blunder, as all the “cats” rotated their heads and stared at him wide-eyed. Someone from the front realized what was going on and hollered in our direction. That was the end of our hardware store escapades.

Another short season, I stole cherry blend cigars from a local one-person gas station on Highway 74. Joe and I would go into the woods to smoke. We did this the entire summer. That fall, we went out for the midget league football team. The coach had us running laps around the Wingate Elementary School baseball field as part of our drills. Joe and I finished dead last. We could not breathe.

Those practices ended my cigar smoking days.

The End of My Crime Days

We continued our life of crime up to that fateful high school break-in. We would have gotten away with what we did, but the law was suspicious of some things they thought our older brothers were doing. They were on their trail, looking for their secret hideout.

Their trail led to one of our grandmother’s out-buildings where they found our stash from the high school. How ironic: they were looking for their stuff and found ours. I do not know if they ever found what they were looking for from my brothers, but what the police weren’t looking for, they found, and it was a significant turning point in my life.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, and what I felt was unfair back then was God’s kindness to me.

Streaking, Throwing Eggs, and Destroying an Airplane

RMlogo Streaking, Throwing Eggs, Destorying an Airplane

I wrote the purpose of these blogs in my “Apology” for this website. I need to say this to you because of the next batch of family stories. I write these posts for my children. I want them to know what it was like for the “Thomas boys.” One of the biggest problems we have in our country today is that there are several generations who have no clue what it is like to suffer. They have only known a flourishing America. To forget where you came from is to slip into things you’ll regret.

Our three children have lived a blessed life, and they will tell you that if you ask. They do not have my categories, experiences, or darkness. I’m not writing to glorify an evil past (or brag or “one-up” you, or any other misguided interpretation). I want our children to know that God’s grace works and the gospel transforms. I don’t want them to assume they can deviate from God’s path, and it will go well for them.

I began my life by walking down an evil path, and then I found the gospel (Christ). Our children have never known anything but a gospel environment. I want them to see how things could be if they choose to walk from the blessedness of all that they have known.

They Call Him the Streak

We five brothers were notorious for doing pranks. Some of them were fun and funny, while others were mean and regretful. In the mid-seventies, streaking was a big rage. Remember Ray Stevens? To streak, you have to get bum-naked and run through a crowd of people.

One day, I was perusing the Monroe Enquirer and saw a picture of my brother (Gary) on the front page. Yes, the big picture that they put at the top. He was sitting on the back of a rag-top, naked, riding down the main drag of Wingate College (now Wingate University). The front page! Literally. I was so impressed at his boldness and thankful it was not me.

The Egg Caper

My grandfather had chicken eggs. Lots of them. Papa Grant had an entrepreneurial spirit, though he was more like Fred G. Sanford than anyone else. He had scores of washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators in his yard.

Mama Grant accepted it.

One evening Robby and Joey stole some eggs from our grandfather and took them to Wingate College and began throwing them into the windows of the dorms. In those days, there was no air conditioning; they used window fans. When those eggs “hit the fan,” gooey slime splattered all over the dorm rooms. I have always imagined a college student finishing up his term paper on a manual typewriter, and he could not make any mistakes. Remember “whiteout.” This prank made a colossal mess and incited several students.

The chase was on.

Robby, being the athlete, jumped a nearby ravine and kept going. Joey, who was following close behind, tried to leap the large ditch but came up a yard short. He landed on the dark side of the bank. The first thing to make contact was his knee, which caught the corner of a concrete block. It knocked his knee to the backside of his leg. Joey was in screaming pain. The ambulance and police showed up at the same time.

I believe he went to the hospital first.

Is That Your Plane?

Dwayne, the youngest, demolished an airplane that belonged to the neighbors of one of his friends. Dwayne’s friend said the plane was his, as I understand the story, and Dwayne did not believe him and told him so.

The young boy “proved it” was his plane by attacking it with a club. I’m not sure what that proved, other than they were dumb. Dwayne joined in with his buddy. They threw rocks through the windows and beat the body up with sticks. They totaled the airplane.

Dwayne and his friend were about 12 years old. They were too young to prosecute.