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AUDIO CLIP: Well, raising cattle has long been a staple of life in America’s heartland. It’s a pastime. That’s big business for America’s ranchers, but it’s also becoming an even bigger target for crime. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a steady increase in cattle thefts across the state, with some industry experts estimating the losses in the millions of dollars, often known as cattle rustling. Stealing cattle is a crime as old as the American West, yet today, thieves are taking full advantage of modern day tools to ply their age old trade.
RODDY PIPPIN: Well, if I was born in Houston, you know, I’d probably consider stealing Lamborghinis and Porsches. But you know, I was born in bumfuck Egypt and cattle made the most sense at the time.
Cattle rustling’s when you deprive livestock from honest working people. The stories are, and I’m sure they’re true, that west of the Pecos, you were hung for it by the neck until death. Although everybody you’ll run into still says, “you’ll get hung by the neck until dead or they can still hang you in Texas for stealing cattle.”
I got so sick of hearing that in prison. The law doesn’t say you can hang people. We had a hard time with hanging Saddam Hussein. If you pass something around for a million times, they believe it’s gospel. Another big reason I filed that motion to be hung by the neck until dead. And some of them morons still said, “well they could if they wanted to.”
A Texas Ranger once asked me, he said, “Were you raised on a ranch and your family had cattle and horses?” I said, “I never owned one until I stole one.”
My name is Roddy Dean Pippin. I was born in McKinney, Texas, Collin County. Where was I raised? Pretty much anywhere you can think of in Texas I’ve been there. If it’s a dirt road, I’ve been on it.
Oh God, I was in the saddle when I was in diapers. I remember a story my mom told me. She had a horse that she had as a child. And it was around for some years when I was a child. I was sitting on it in diapers and the truck sounded a horn on the highway. Honeybee took off running down the highway. And my mom found me a couple miles down the highway, smiling, sitting there, horses just sitting peaceful, eating grass.
I can remember racing my horse down alongside of, you know, the South Pacific, and climbing the ladder to the top, thinkin I was some kinda character from the past. That was really just a fantasy life along with the rest of it. I’ve wished I would have been born 150 years ago. It would have put me at a perfect age for fighting at the Alamo. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about doing time. I could have died for a good cause.
At age 5 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which was extremely brittle and hard for anybody to embrace. You know what I mean? Ended up with a really really rare condition called MOGY, which means your blood sugar is triggered by brain activity. Normally it was in my sleep, so my blood sugar would be 200 one minute, and the next minute it would be 12 and I’d be having a seizure violently.
I had real volatile low blood sugars, high blood sugars. So my mother took me out of school for 6th grade. Homeschooled me. And that’s because of my diabetes. Teachers and kids were scared of it.
Went back to public school when I was in 7th grade. It was a little awkward at first, you know, I was very quiet. I lived on a 580 acre ranch and I didn’t see anybody for those years. I fit in pretty good. I played sports and stuff, so even though I was quiet, I was competitive. High school was high school. It was fun. Still dealt with my diabetes, and yeah, I worked full time job, ranch work.
So after school, I worked until dark. Every day and on the weekend, I worked 12 hours. Working on the ranch was incredibly enjoyable, even when it was honest. It was just not easy due to the diabetes. I had a lot of low blood sugars. Most of the time I don’t even remember it. Sometimes they were really compassionate, and then sometimes they were fucking irate. They didn’t understand it. One of them thought I was drunk one time. I’ve had law enforcement take me to jail because they thought I was drunk at first.
When I got out of high school, I went to college at Sul Ross State University. My major was criminal justice. I wanted to be a state trooper, then I found out I couldn’t carry a gun, so. Why couldn’t you carry a gun? Diabetes. It’s more like you can’t get a CDL, a commercial driver’s license. Public safety issue. Probably a good reason. Same reason I couldn’t go to the military. So it kind of killed the ambition. I was young and naive and just dropped out.
I’d just been let off from a job in Denton, Texas. I was working at a plant called Safety Clean. I was working my ass off and always worked hard, but I’d had several low blood sugars on the job. My boss had just told me that I’d become too much of a liability. I drove the forklift into a pallet that was stacked full of 50 gallon drums and they were filled with antifreeze. And I passed out and fell off the forklift and tipped all the drums over and woke up with a huge ass rash on my side, boss dragging me out of the shit.
Anyway, he called me into the office after they got me cleaned up and he said we can’t keep you hired anymore. And he laid me off and told me you’re one of my hardest workers and I hate to lose you. So he gave me a 500 bonus and I took off down the road. I had a $20 bill and a silver dollar in my boot that I always kept there as basically a safety net and uh, just in case I fell on hard times. That’s pretty much all I had. Took off and got down in the dumps, and I went about 20 miles down the highway until I heard the livestock report.
AUDIO CLIP:We’re on the land with Jody Fry from. Producers and Cargill, San Angelo. Jody, how did the cattle seal go? Went pretty good. Best demand for those young, heavy bred cows and some uniform groups of young Cal pairs. Uh, better quality steers. Four to 600 pounds from one 40 all the way up to a high of two 10, mostly 1 55 to 180 5. Better quality pepper calves, four to 600 pounds.
RODDY PIPPIN: The livestock report is basically just telling it what the market value on cattle and pigs and sheep goats is. Kind of like the Wall Street Journal of livestock. In the beginning, I just heard the price of beef was like 92 cents a pound. And I said, god damn, a thousand pound cow’s gonna be worth nearly a grand. So, I just made this decision to start stealing cattle, and it just made sense. And I like working with livestock, so I said, we’ll make some of those old western novels come true. So we’ll kill two birds with one stone, effectively. I’ll fuckin get rich.
I didn’t go out and steal dairy calves. I was looking for little beef calves, and the ones that bring the most money are clearly Red Angus, Black Angus, solid colored calves. Baldies were fetching good money then, which are calves with a white face and black body. Everybody has calves. Every poor person, rich person, everybody in between has calves, middle man, everybody.
It really all came together with me out road hunting and I’d find calves along the fence that were just covered in afterbirth and just been born, and the mother was still weak from labor and jump over the fence and grab one and jump back over the fence. They’re unbranded, they went straight to the sale barn, they were easy, there was no risk there, virtually. Unless somebody saw me with a telescope from ten miles away, you know what I mean? I was in the middle of nowhere and I could see in all directions.
Maybe it was a fake confidence and that’s why I don’t remember being nervous. You don’t go into something saying, hey, I’m gonna get caught.
Cattle are a funnel animal. They follow each other, so there’s a lead cow in every herd just like there’s a king rooster in every flock, so the rest of the herd will follow that one. There’s always a lot, one down one side. So you’ve got a, like a loading chute, a loading corral, and you funnel them up in there. They’re all in one big line, and you’ve got a gate at the end. And then there’s a jump chute where you jump them out in the trailer.
Well, I say, hey, you’ve got to have a trailer. So I went around country roads until I saw one. Got out and clipped the gate with a pair of bolt cutters, which I’d never used to steal anything with until that moment. Went in, broad daylight. Hooked up to the trailer, cars passing on a country road. Come out the gate, wave at somebody, they wave back, and I know it’s okay and continue to press on the gas and go for it.
Basically, I would case every ranch, watch it for a week to two weeks, see if anyone came around or how much traffic there were. What the trucks look like, when the travel occurred. Cause you don’t even know when there might have been a night worker that lived down the road or something. Worked a night shift at a prison or somewhere.
I mean, I would write down details and keep a tablet. But when I would go to a ranch, usually it was a period of two weeks that I would watch it. But I would put little twigs in the dirt where the tire tracks were going in the gate. And I would check it every day, sometimes twice a day. If the sticks had been run over by the wheels of the vehicle or truck and trailer that were going in there, I knew when the travel occurred and how often they fed the cows or whatever they were doing.
I would get the cattle used to me by being around. Sometimes I’d spend a period of a week or some days spending the night out there with a campfire. I always kept some cattle cubes in my pocket or in a bag or satchel that I carried with me. I got to where, within a month, I was doing it every other night, and I would sell the following day at a sale barn. So I’m selling three or four times a week. And if I could have done it more, I would have.
I had to get it far away from the place that I stole them to sell them. So if I stole in Oklahoma, I’d sell in Texas. But a lot of times I was driving from Vernon, Texas all the way down to East Texas to sell. So that’s hours and hours away.
There was this one instance at a Baptist church that I attended, and the sheriff of Wilbarger County did too. And we had cook offs, because I grew large gardens and had a lot of time to do it and we fished a lot and hunted a lot. But, there was a steer, a fatted calf you might say, of the sheriff’s herd that I barbecued and took to that community get together at the church. And I can remember him coming up and along with his wife and she was like, “Can we have some of this beef?” And he was like, “yeah, we sure would enjoy it. Mr. Pippin, it’s some of the best barbecue we’ve ever eaten”. And I said, “You can have it all, it’s yours. And indeed it was his.” The hide was laying out behind the barn where I just skinned it the night before with his brand on it.
I kind of over time became an artist with a branding iron. I could change anyone’s brand into whatever I wanted. Hair branding was a trick that I’d actually got the idea from a Elmer Kelton book I had read whenever I was a young man. Early in the spring is where everybody does their roundups. So when the calves are born in late winter, you can go in and basically use their brand, which you get off of the older cows, and just hair brand it so you don’t press it into the cow’s flesh as hard, and you just burn the hair off. From a distance it looks like the calf has already been worked and branded, shots have been given, and then once the steer or heifer is nine months to a year old. You go back and you brand it with your brand and make worksheets up on it showing vaccinations which would bring another 50 to 100 each head. The only way you could tell that I had changed the brand is by skinning the cow and seeing the original brand.
Most money I ever made on one cattle heist was a little more than $19,000. It was a lot of money. The other big checks have been 13, 14, 15. I stayed low profile at first for the first six months, I didn’t buy new clothes and it looked better that way. There was an area where the rich ranchers sat and drank coffee, so eventually I introduced myself.
My cowboy hat went from being some $20 straw hat to a 600 – 700 dollar Resistol. Eventually, I wore three piece suits and ate with cattlemen downtown. I stepped into a whole different world, so to speak, and I dressed nice where the rest of the old ranchers didn’t even dress that nice. They probably looked that good on Sunday morning going to church, but I hate to sound like a son of a bitch again, but I was a good looking young man, so whether I was courting a girl or talking to an old rancher about buying steers or heifers or exchanging, I posed myself as a legitimate businessman in a western world, and it, I fit the piece at the time.
I had custom 44’s made, and they had antler grips on them. I kept notches for every herd I ever stole. I burned it into the grips. They were made out of elk antlers. They were nickel, and they had 24 karat gold triggers. And I had custom holsters made out of Swedish leather, and they had roses and barbed wire engraved on them.They were beautiful holsters. I would walk into the bank with those pistols on. I remember the first time the teller being so nervous and I said, I’m here to make a deposit, not a withdrawal. I saved every bit of my money all the way through. I say every bit of it, minus some fuel for the most part, and a new truck. And I bought the new truck out of necessity because I wrecked the old one, one night I got shot at, I had nearly got caught.
But I saved the money all the way until the end. Majority of it I buried in the ground in a Remington box. Seemed the appropriate place since that’s the way they did it in the movies. I just vacuum sealed mine so it wouldn’t rot.
The Red River was my highway, you know what I mean? There was no fences there. It covered my tracks. I could push the herds through the water and no one ever knew where the hell they went. And the storms were my time to do it in. Pandemonium was my best friend. Snowstorm. Rain. Covered my tracks with the moisture. Anyways, most people aren’t out at 2 a. m. in a storm. They’re sleeping at home or, you know, next to the fire.
I was coming back across the Red River, and it was starting to rain really, really hard, so hard that it was blinding. It was torrential rain, and it started to hail, and there was a lady on the side of the road reaching in the back door of her car. It was an older car, the hood was up, so I guess she was having mechanical problems.
I was pulling a trailer which was empty because I had already sold the cattle. And I had a wad of cash that I had cashed in Oklahoma Bank. Anyways, she was reaching in the back door and I’m pretty sure she was reaching into a baby. I just saw it out of the corner of my eye, but as I swerved to miss her, I had that trailer on, and I crashed through the concrete barrier on the bridge, and went straight off into the flooding Red River.
I think I was starting to have a low blood sugar, too, because once I had kicked the windshield out of my pickup, I had spurs and boots on still, and it was hell getting the window out, but it had broken so it was kind of in shards. It was easier to get out that way, otherwise I’d have drowned. I had the windows up, of course, because of the rain.
There was a man and woman camping because it was deer season, I believe. And the lady was giving me orange juice and feeding me marshmallows on the side of the river. Because supposedly her grandpa had diabetes, therefore she thought that’s what was wrong with me. And I had lost my boots at that time, so I just had socks on. And once my bloood sugar had rose, um, I made friends with them. Shook their hands and everything. All they had was a four wheeler at the time, and they were hunting. Therefore, I departed, made my way back to the highway, and walked probably a better part of 20 miles. I’d walked all the way back into Vernon, Texas. And my socks by the time I got there, my feet were bloody. My socks had holes all in them because of the sticker burrs and stuff in the ditch.
I’d walked into the dealership there, the Chevy dealership, and paid for that truck in cash. Because I remember I was filthy. And the dealership man looked at me like I didn’t even have enough money to pay for it. I counted 100 bills out and bought the new Chevy truck and drove off in it. I still don’t know where the truck and trailer is to this day, and I imagine it’s buried up in some sand somewhere down near Lake Texoma.
I only targeted the big ranches that I felt were corrupt, or ranchers. And some of these ranches weren’t vastly huge, but you know, there was something not right about them. They fed a corrupt system somehow, or another official. I only targeted people with authority that were corrupt in some way or another.
PRODUCER: Is that a decision early on?
RODDY PIPPIN: No, the first few calves, no I don’t know who the hell owned them. But the first place I ever stole big cattle at, grown cattle, yes, targeted an official with authority that I’d read or heard numerous times, not just through gossip, but was corrupt in some way or another. The reason I targeted judges and lawmen was because there was something reputeful about their character.They were corrupt in some way or another. And sometimes it was at the home personally. They’re in their own home life. They molested one of their children. They beat their wife for numerous years. And everybody knew it in the community. So let’s find a better man, god damn it.
I was doing it on my own in the beginning. But it didn’t take me very long. I run my mouth. No one actually knew each other, so from the beginning when I called somebody, we went alone and that’s just all there was to it and we never met at the same places, so we never met at the house. We’d meet somewhere out in the pasture or something. We’d go fishing together and then we’d go steal cattle. No one ever had any suspicions about each other because no one was ever directly involved with one another. The Red River Gang was basically me and nine others. Routinely accompanied me whenever I’d steal. And it began with the twins.
DARRELL MALONE: I’m Darrell Allen Malone, and uh, I’m in Byers, Texas. Texas is beautiful, it’s pretty, but at the same time, you gotta watch your ass, because we don’t play around here. You step out of line, there’s somebody gonna put you in your place. And then it’s not saying to be afraid of Texas, it’s just, just have your respect for your fellow man and your outlaw.
I’ve known Roddy all my life. We’ve become friends on the school bus, actually, in Decatur, Texas.
RODDY PIPPIN: David and Darrell are Identical twins and we hung out throughout my youth pretty much every weekend.
DARRELL MALONE: We kind of hit it off as kids. We would sit on the bus and tell stories. Talking about hunting and fishing. I mean anything under the sun that we could maybe get away with. We were always competitive on what big of a scheme we could come up with. Playing tricks on teachers, bus drivers. I caught this big lizard. on our route. So I got this lizard and I let it go on the school bus and oh my god they were hanging out the windows. The bus driver had to pull over so I won that month’s competition. We’d just go hunting, fishing, running down the creeks. Anytime he’d come over we were just always outdoors.
RODDY PIPPIN: David and Darrell are the two primary people that I rustled cattle with when I did rustle with somebody. They were one of the few that probably embraced my diabetes and I didn’t tell anyone about it until David and Darrell. I told them pretty early on. I don’t, they knew within the first couple months that I was stealing. And to prove to Darrell that I did it, I remember driving up to the trailer in Bowie Texas.
DARRELL MALONE:I had no suspicion that he was rustling cattle until he showed up one day with the crate in the back of the truck.
RODDY PIPPIN: They lived in a trailer park. I was on the cell phone and I said, come out here man, I’m gonna show you something. And he’s like, what is it? You know, he’s in there laid up. It’s a weekend with his girl.I was like, get the fuck up and come out here and look at the goddamn, what I got. And he’s like, all right, and come out the door and just stood there like in awe for a second, just looking at the truck and trailer. Motherfuckers were moving in the trailer part. And I said, man, I’m still on the phone. He’s got the phone in one hand, just holding it like in silence, both of us, neither one of us talking.
I said, man, I got to get the fuck out of this fucking trailer park. But I just wanted you to see it. And he’s just shaking his head. I said, when I come back through here, if you want half of the next load, you can go with me.
DARRELL MALONE: I was like, do what? Steal some cows, I mean. I never thought about doing that before.I had no idea what it was worth or what it could bring, you know.
RODDY PIPPIN: I was looking for someone to ease me a little more so I didn’t have to be as quick in the lot and I could load bigger loads and not just use this little 16 foot stock trailer. I wanted to use 30 foot gooseneck.
With any farmer, they’re going to go check on their cattle in the evening and then they’re going to be at home eating supper. So, right before dark, you go and throw some cattle cake in your cow lot, and then after dark you come back that night, get them all rounded up in the lot. Then you close the gates, and then you come back two or three o’clock in that morning, load them up, and you’re gone. Sweep your tracks out, be sure you don’t leave any fingerprints, and get them from one state and go sell them in the next.
DARRELL MALONE: That’s how we started, and then it kind of progressed into big trailers, 18 foot trailers. And then we started getting goosenecks full of cattle. I mean, and then we started doing it big and we were good at it. We were very good at it. It was a four year reign there.
RODDY PIPPIN: We split the cash 50/50 all the way through. That was just part of the bargain. I was still going out every other night. I was stealing cattle and every day I was casing the fields looking for other cattle to steal. But one of them was going out with me pretty regular until one of them needed sleep, and then I’d do it alone. Yeah, we never did it together, all three of us.
It was just one at a time. We all knew each other’s business. We knew exactly what was going on, but we couldn’t split the checks three ways. I can’t give an exact number of how many cows I stole. But I’m sure I stole more than a couple thousand. Someone was asking me how many cattle I’d stolen. I told them the first one was too many. Cumulatively, I think as a total we made a million dollars, somewhere in there.
I was reading the Wall Street Journal, buying land, building fence. I don’t think I used any of it foolishly. I was pretty frugal with it. I made donations to the American Juvenile Diabetes Association. I dropped fat wads of hundreds in the local Baptist church offering plate. There was a number of different, some of them even, I’d prefer not to mention, but places I donated money.
There was a lot of mess ups. I’ve had some bad low blood sugars. I was just rounding the cattle up one day on this ranch and an old man come by and I thought, oh shit. I thought he might be the ranch owner. Rolled his window down, was real, real friendly. Stuck out his hand, so I stuck my hand over the barbed wire fence and shook it. He introduced himself as James Peterson.
He asked me what I was doing there and why I was there and I said, “So, uh, Mr. Jeffrey,” I just come up with these names on the fly cause I didn’t know where else to pull the name from other than my ass. I said, “Oh, Mr. Jeffrey got sick.” And he’s like, “Yeah, that lung cancer sure has been hell on him.” Shit, maybe this old man was just having a foggy moment or something. But otherwise I just pulled that name out of the sky and it just worked. Which is pretty crazy.
So we just began a little dialogue and he fed me more and I worked off of what he fed me. He asked me, “You want a hamburger or something from town?” I was like, “Oh no, I’m fine.” He left and I sat down by the fence, I guess. I had a low blood sugar. He showed back up with a hamburger and a soda and a fucking milkshake. And he bought it. The exact kind of hamburger that I always order. Double meat bacon cheeseburger with jalapenos on it and a Diet Coke. Which I’m diabetic, so you know what I mean. I woke up, we were sitting there side by side eating. He’d help me get something for my blood sugar. And finally, he suggested we pray, and he prayed, and I never saw the man ever again. But I left the cattle out and I never came back to steal those, and I never went back to that place ever again. I always felt like it could have been an angel or something, maybe an omen.
I always knew that I was gonna get caught. I think what bothered me the most was my parents becoming suspicious and asking questions when I was showing up in three piece suits that cost five grand and pickups showing up in my driveway that were thirty five. I think it was without question, it’s basically, “We know you’re doing something and it can’t be legal. You need to stop. We raised you better than this.”
It became an adrenaline rush and it was, maybe that’s my vice, it was an addiction like any drug. Klepto. Mine just got bigger quicker. I told a lawman one time I said it’s y’all’s fault I wouldn’t have all these goddamn indictments if Y’all would’ve caught me sooner and been better lawmen.
Everybody has their day, so every thief pays his dues eventually. Was I hoping it was gonna happen? No. But I think in the back of my mind I knew it was coming. I didn’t say I’m gonna do one more and I’m out, but I did lie to myself and God, basically. I’d say, “God, this is my last time.” I’d hit my knees at the end of the prayer, basically. I’d end it by saying, “Please don’t let us get shot and please don’t let us get caught.”
God, someone had been watching us. And I was probably overheard. I don’t know though, but there was this time that I’ve always questioned in my mind. Darrell and I were up at the U. S. Cellular and I was talking.
DARRELL MALONE: Roddy dropped his cell phone in one of the cattle lots. So, we went up to buy a new phone in the hometown that he lived in.While we were up there getting the phone, and this was, you know, about the fourth year. So we were pretty comfortable in the whole thing. And he got to talking a little too much up there at the cell phone place. He said, I might drop it in the cattle lot or something like that. So he’s trying to buy a protective case for it.
And come to find out that the lady that worked at the cell phone place was a lady that lived in the same town Odell that he lived in.
RODDY PIPPIN:Did she hear us? Was I yelling it out? No, and I wasn’t even talking about stealing, but I did make some remark because she said, what do y’all do for a living? And I popped off and said I’m in the cattle business.
DARRELL MALONE:Maybe this person was connected with somebody that was affiliated with the courthouse. I mean, people watch people in a small community. She got to noticing that it was late at night, once a month, once a week, we’d be pulling up with cattle. And she kind of got suspicious of it and thought that wasn’t right, that these guys are pulling up this late at night with cattle so often. And she contacted the rangers and that’s how it all came about.
RODDY PIPPIN: The day we got caught, I was stealing from a guy over in Quannah, Texas that was a pillar member of the community, and Darrell and I were wrestling this herd.
DARRELL MALONE: It was me, Roddy, and my ex. She was nine months pregnant at the time.
RODDY PIPPIN: Their girlfriends at the time were never supposed to come with us. It’s hard to keep your girlfriends from ever knowing, but he showed up with her, and I understand why she was pregnant with his firstborn. Anyways, we had to leave her at the house. We had to come back to the community that night and we had to pick her up, but it’s not his fault. That’s that.
We stole the cattle at night and we jumped four calves and four cows up into the trailer. Finally, we got back over to the house, pulled through that small community, Odell, Texas, pick her up.
DARRELL MALONE: She was with me and Roddy was in his truck with the cattle and I was following behind him and we get not two miles down the road and this truck keeps passing. I think it’s a brown Dodge. Keeps driving by and flying by and then hit turn around. I called Roddy on the cell phone. I was like, “Do you see that truck? And he’s like, “Yeah, I see it.”
RODDY PIPPIN: And I’m not going very fast because this particular truck, it was an older pickup and it wouldn’t go that fast. If I’d had any sense now, I’d have jumped them out and stopped, jumped them out on the highway and turn around, went home.
DARRELL MALONE: I said, “What do you want to do?” He’s like, “I’m going to hit the next dirt road.” First dirt road, I’m going to take it.
RODDY PIPPIN: She stayed all the way behind me and I turned off onto this little dirt road. Just made a horseshoe shape through the country. Darrell had already passed me by then. Hauling ass towards town.
DARRELL MALONE: So he goes left, the truck follows him. And I’m like, screw that. So I just keep going straight.
RODDY PIPPIN:She turned in right behind me. Not that I regretted that. Would have made me feel better had she gone on. I saw her coming. I even stopped at one point, and got out on the road. And I remember jamming it in reverse. And I thought she was going to wreck she was trying to back up so fast. But they were a good hundred yards behind me. It was her and her husband. They stayed behind me. And I lit that last cigarette before the red and blue lights came on. But they stormed towards me. It wasn’t 30 seconds later. I mean, I saw a lot of cars from coming from the north.
DARRELL MALONE:We didn’t make it a mile down the road and we got pulled over by local police there and they drew, you know, guns drawn. I’ll never forget this, I looked over at the Texas Ranger and I said, Is this still a hanging offense in Texas? And he looked over at me and smiled real big and he said, I ain’t got too expensive on ropes, boy.
RODDY PIPPIN: By the time I got out on the road and “You take your hands off your head, we will shoot with lethal force.” And I’m thinking, the whole time, this is a lot over a theft. These people really do value their cattle more than they do their wives and their daughters and their TVs. That’s part of the country.
DARRELL MALONE: They can legally detain you for six hours and mine and her story matched up and we were just up there visiting an old friend and they had to let us go.
RODDY PIPPIN: I can still remember just holding that cigarette in my mouth and blowing smoke rings. That’s where it all ended. Had to get on my knees, middle of the highway, and I got arrested.
I remember it raining, just kind of reflecting on the past two years and my bad deeds had finally caught up with me. I got reckless. I used poor judgment in the end. I’m not even sure why. I just had a hard time figuring out life at the time. I was young, dumb, and naive, and just, my diabetes has always been a struggle, but that’s not the reason. I could have done an honest job. I was just immature and searching for direction.
That night, they only apprehended me for the cattle that I had at the time. It’s not like anyone knew for certain until I told them. So, I saw no reason to not tell them about the rest. I confessed to everything I’d ever stole, every half inch wrench I’d ever stole, every tractor window I’d ever stole out of a tractor.
When David and Darrell were arrested, both of them said, hell no, fuck no. And the original story was, me and Darrell were just old childhood buddies and we were on a fishing trip. And him and his girl had come down there to fish.
PRODUCER: You gave up everyone?
RODDY PIPPIN: Yeah. Yeah, I did. So I sold my two best friends under the boat. I don’t know if I did the right thing or not. By confessing, I, I, for me, I did. Telling on Darrell? No. But, um, maybe it changed us for the better, I don’t know. I like to think it did, but, you know, I did him wrong. I mean, I thought it was pretty much overwith.
DARRELL MALONE: Three days later, I hear a beating at the door. All kinds of stuff were going through my head, especially in that three days. I’m sitting there sweating bullets like, surely they ain’t gonna crack him, they’re not gonna crack him, you know, they’re not. And then, three days later, they came and got us.
I guess it took three days for them to finally crack Roddy. Me and my wife were laying in bed, and I thought it was my brother beating on the door, you know, I was like, oh wait, and they just kept beating and kept beating. And I was like, shit, it’s all over. I finally get up and go to the front door and I just jerk the front door open expecting my brother to be standing there and it’s a Texas Ranger and he’s like, “your freeloading days are over” and grabs me and slams me down on the porch and handcuffs me and I’m like what the hell?
They told me that they were there for the cattle. That’s why they were arresting me but they didn’t tell me at that time that he snitched. That’s the only thing that could have happened. I already knew. I was pissed. Felt betrayed. Felt hurt. Eventually, I went to trial. I took it to a three day jury trial. And on the second day, they brought Roddy in and he testified against me on the stand.
When I saw him come in the courtroom, as soon as he walked through the door, I was staring at him and I was just watching him. And the whole time, he never made eye contact with me. Not once.
RODDY PIPPIN: It was emotional. It was a conscious decision on my part. I looked at him one time when he was sitting there. Couldn’t look anymore. It was that look of broken heart, as you know. His baby had, I guess, just been born. So I passed the mother and the baby in the hall on the way out. That made it even worse.
DARRELL MALONE: That’s not my friend anymore. Known him all my life and after getting caught and said he’d never tell on me or nothing like that, if anything did happen, and then doing it, I was, I was expected to see him. I had blood on my mind. I was going to beat him to death if I could. I was headhunting. They sentenced me to 24 months in state jail.
I appealed my case, and I was out on appeal bond for almost two years. So, from that time, he got transferred to another unit before I hit the unit that he was on.
RODDY PIPPIN:I guess I started stealing in 2001, got apprehended in 2004, was arrested late 2004, and, uh, served time for nearly a decade, nearly 10 years. There was not a trial. I took a plea bargain. I was sentenced to four two year state jail terms, and they were to be served consecutively, one after the other.
I’m not sure prison was the best experience for me. It was pretty rough. They did their damndest to kill me down there. I had extraordinary difficulties getting basic medical treatment. I went into a coma twice, two different times. And I probably had literally multiple thousands of hypoglycemic episodes. Most of them were in the teens and single digits. Had doctors from the American Presidential Diabetes Foundation testify saying I should have been a vegetable.
AUDIO CLIP: The convicted cattle rustler is back in jail tonight. 25 year old Rodney Pippin pleaded guilty to stealing cattle and farm equipment in 2003 and in 2004. He was sentenced to 8 years in jail, but Pippin has a rare form of diabetes and says the medical treatment he received while in custody was not adequate.So in 2007, he was released on shock probation and has been living under house arrest with his mother. But Pippin was ordered back to jail to finish his sentence. And although he believes that move could kill him, he’s determined to keep a positive attitude. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. So I’m going to turn myself in today, I’m going to keep my head held high, I’m going to keep praying, and I hope everything works out for everybody.
RODDY PIPPIN: They whoop the shit out of me on a regular basis, but hell. Some ways I guess I deserved an ass beating, but I wouldn’t do anything different when it comes to prison. I towed a fine line. I paid severely for it. I believe some of it – I know some of it was intentional. I was told later it was, and we’re sorry, but this is what we have to do, because we’ve been asked by a warden and such and such, and that came from a judge or such and such.
I filed a motion to be hung by the neck until dead with the Hardiman County 46th Judicial District Court. A few weeks later, I was released. Court of Criminal Appeals ordered my immediate release. They talked about hanging me for years. They didn’t have the huevos. They didn’t have the nuts to do it. I asked them to kind of put their foot in their own mouth for them, I guess.
When I got out, I got back in the world. Went to work. Tried to reform what kind of relationship. I went to work on a drilling rig, and it was about a year, and I finally decided to call him. I tried to get a hold of him, so I called his mom.
DARRELL MALONE: At that time, I was still kind of vengeful. At the same time saying, I might want to talk to him and maybe make amends, but in the back of my mind I was trying to play it cool and play it nice to find out where he’s at. But really, I was calling to see if I could get a hold of him, I was going to whoop his ass.
I called and his mom told me that it’s probably a good idea that it doesn’t get a hold of him. And finally, me and my twin brother, we met him up at Frilly’s in Decatur. We both got together.
PRODUCER: What was it like the first time you contacted them?
RODDY PIPPIN: I expected them to beat the fuck out of me and then we’d shake off the dust. I knew we’d be friends, or maybe not friends, but I knew we could shake off the dust. Wipe the blood away and get on with it, but they agreed to meet with me.
DARRELL MALONE: It was a little tense at first. We were like, what are we going to do about this, man? Uh, are we going to kill him or are we going to be, he’s going to be our brother again?
We had that little anxiety. We sat there and shot the shit and just talked about everything and then we parted ways. When we left the bar, I still didn’t feel like it was reconciled. I was still angry and then my twin brother passed away and he showed up at my brother’s funeral. I was grieving, but at the same time, it was a lifelong friend too. And he’s either going to be my enemy or my friend. I chose friendship.
We’ve had so much history from when we were growing up, from when we were kids and I couldn’t get rid of those memories of the good times we had and all the memories that. I mean, he grew up with us. He was basically like one of my brothers. We talked about it quite a bit, and what kind of made us so forgiving is when he broke down and he was sincere about what he did. I mean, in his apology, he was very, we knew he meant it.
RODDY PIPPIN: It’s probably easier for David to forgive than Darrell. Darrell said it’s alright, and David did too. And I’m sure both of them hang on to it as an issue. I even think Darrell probably still does, even though he doesn’t bring it up like he used to. It’s still there, I know it is. I think it’s an emotional, personal violation to somebody who once trusted you.
I mean, he went to prison because of me, and that’s all there is to it. Well, he did end up going to prison. He did. Darrell’s the only one that went to prison.I know that as a friend, to me, he’s no different than he ever has been. I know that the only difference in my friendship to him is that I’d take a bullet for him.
Yeah, there would never have been a hesitation in taking a bullet for Darrell Malone.
DARRELL MALONE: He needed me in a time of need, and I’ve helped him out quite a bit. I’ve saved that guy’s life. I can’t count on both hands since his accident.
RODDY PIPPIN: The accident was 2013, October 10th, 10:30 PM. I was unloading a large piece of equipment out of the back of my pickup. It weighed a thousand pounds. And I pushed it to the edge of the tailgate, because my memory is foggy about it, because of the low blood sugar and the hypoglycemic episode that I was having.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been unloading it had I used my normal judgment. But the blood sugar was low, therefore I guess I jumped off the tailgate. I was trying to, like, lean it over or pull it towards me. It was so foolish looking back at the foggy memory. Anyways, I couldn’t hold it. I jumped off the tailgate and it just came down and hit me around the head. It burst C4 and C5 and cracked C6 and C7 in my neck, leaving me a complete quadriplegic.
I believe we all have, we’re appointed to angels. We’re not to worship the angels, but rather give thanks to God for them. Sometimes I believe they stand in the gap to allow us to have another day and another chance to reflect on ourselves and our past behaviors. I knew I was paralyzed instantly from the neck down, and I just laid there, couldn’t move.
And I probably laid there for over an hour. For a little while, I thought that I was the one that held it back, but I believe it was a higher power that allowed it not to take place and not to kill me, because if it would have slipped, it would have cut me in half. Anyways, they care-flighted me from the fire department there in Gulfway once they loaded me on the ambulance to Waco Trinity Baptist and that’s where I spent my first two months in spinal cord rehab.
DARRELL MALONE: When we started to reconcile is when he was still in tear memorial after he broke his neck. I went down there and visited him at tear and I stayed about a week and a half down there with him. And when he got out of the hospital that’s when we started reconciling everything, like building our friendship back and just as much help that he needed after he got out of the hospital. I think he helped me just as much because I needed a friend and just somebody that I know. And because I was in a big city, a different place, I didn’t know anybody.
RODDY PIPPIN: In the past when I needed to wipe my ass, our relationship was awesome. He’s picked me up off the floor more than once. Tended my low blood sugars probably several dozen times. But yeah, I mean, it couldn’t be better.
DARRELL MALONE: Here we sit today and I mean, it’s a crazy story. It’s a hard thing to get over something like that, but that’s all water under the bridge now.
RODDY PIPPIN: There’ll probably always be that seed of mistrust in it, but that’s why we don’t commit crimes anymore. You know, I’m the one that screwed him over so it’s never changed. Other than that, yeah, I feel bad for that. Still do. I hate myself. I tear myself up when I think about it. I know I’m not gonna ever snitch on him again.
I’ve made the best of it. I like to think, trying to survive it. It’s no fun, but anyways, life’s pretty miserable in a lot of different ways. Hell, I get to see the sunrise. I wasn’t born disabled. I got the first 29 years of my life and good health. I lived out my childhood fantasy and I guess that’s being a criminal.
I used to always say back in the day, when someone would ask, “Why don’t you put a lock on your gate?” And I’d smile and tell them the only thing a lock does is keep an honest man honest. And when I broke into a place, I always cut the lock. And I always put a brand new lock back on the gate and hung a key there for them. And of course, I kept a key. And in a lot of cases, those people actually use that same lock, and I never hit a place twice when it came to rustling cattle. But I did come back to fish and hunt.
An old man once told me that I met years ago. His name was Willie Hart and he died at the age of 105, I believe. He told me that if you live long enough to hear the stories that other men tell about you, then you’ve lived a fulfilling life.
Have you ever heard of a song called The Master’s Call by Marty Robbins? You should listen to it, man. You gotta check it out. It was my favorite song, still is today, still brings tears to my eyes, reminds me of my buddies and everything we did.
This is The Master’s Call by Marty Robbins:
When I was but a young man, I was wild and full of fire, a youth within my teens but full of challenge and desire.I ran away from home and left my mother and my dad. I knew it grieved them so to think their only boy went bad. I fell in with an outlaw band, their names were known quite well. How many times we robbed and plundered, I could never tell. This kind of sinful living, leads only to a fall. I learned that much and more the night I heard my master call.
One night we rustled cattle, a thousand head or so. And started them out on the trail, at least in Mexico. But a north wind started blowin and lightning flashed about. I thought someone was calling me, I thought I heard a shout.
Then at that moment lightning struck, not twenty yards from me. And left there was a giant cross, for once there was a tree. And this time I knew I heard a voice, a voice so sweet and strange. A voice that came from everywhere, a voice that called my name. So frightened I was thinking of sinful deeds I’d done. I failed to see the thousand head of cattle start to run. The cattle they stampeded, were running all around.
My pony ran but stumbled and it threw me to the ground. I felt the end was near, that death would be the price, when a mighty bowl of lightning showed the face of Jesus Christ.
And I cried, O Lord, forgive me, don’t let it happen now. I want to live for You alone, O God, these words I vow. My wicked past unfolded, I thought of wasted years, when another bowl of lightning killed a hundred head of steers, and the others rushed on by me, and I was left to live.
The master had a reason, life is his to take or give. A miracle performed that night, I wasn’t meant to die. The dead ones formed a barricade, at least six or seven high. Right behind it there was I, afraid but safe and sound. I cried and begged for mercy, kneeling there upon the ground. A pardon I was granted, my sinful soul set free, no more to fear the angry waves upon live stormy sea, forgiven by the love of God, love that will remain. I gave my life and soul the night the savior called my name.