Regular readers of this newspaper are probably familiar with a fellow known as “Lockwood man.”
He has made multiple appearances in the paper over the years, as this sampling of headlines will remind you:
“Lockwood man charged with 8th DUI,” “Police say Lockwood man assaulted neighbor,” “Lockwood man charged in sex case,” “Documents trace Lockwood man’s crime spree” and “Lockwood man, Tasered 4 times, finally arrested.”
I decided to go behind the headlines and talk to Lockwood man, to see for myself what he was like, what was on his mind.
I found him, as you might imagine, in the county jail, where he was awaiting arraignment on charges stemming from an incident involving a crowbar, a stolen case of beer and a stuffed badger.
Jail authorities allowed me to meet Lockwood man in one of the little rooms where inmates confer with their lawyers, rather than having to speak with him through a thick pane of glass, for which I was grateful.
Lockwood man had longish, wiry hair just starting to go gray, a prominent nose that looked to have been broken more than once, red, bleary-looking eyes and bushy sideburns that drooped to his jawline and then sloped up just short of making contact with a mustache that he was constantly stroking with his thumb and forefinger.
“I don’t sleep so good in here,” he said, which explained the bleary eyes. “You think I’d get used to it, but I don’t. There’s always somebody coughing or wheezing or thrashing around. But anyway, what can I do for you?”
I explained that I was there out of simple, anthropological curiosity, hoping to learn more about Lockwood man and to share my findings with readers of The Gazette.
“Well,” he said, “there isn’t much to tell. I was born in Huntley, family bumped around — Laurel, Hardin, Great Falls for a while — and I just had a thing for trouble, no matter where we lived.”
“Yeah, you know, garden-variety stuff at first. Taking out mailboxes with a baseball bat, slashing tires, five-finger discounts at the Kwik-Way, that kind of stuff. And then I just got in deeper and deeper. We’d bust into houses, boost a car or two, steal guns, and of course we were always drunk or stoned.”
“Yeah, I had associates. You’ve seen them in the paper, too. ‘Area man’ was one of my best runnin’ buddies. Him and me used to have a contest — who got more headlines in a year. One year I beat him in the count, but he had the best headline hands down: ‘Area man assaulted friend with poached deer’s head, authorities say.’ Wow. You can’t top that.
“And then there was ‘Shepherd man.’ We had some sprees, I’ll tell you what. One time Shepherd man was cooking some meth and damn near blew up my trailer. He did burn it down, which was bad enough, but at least we got out.”
I asked him why he turned to a life of crime. Was there childhood trauma, too many video games, an overabundance of junk food?
“Aw, I don’t want to go there,” he said. “I mean with the excuses and all that. My folks were OK and I never wanted for nothin.’ Just seems like I had a bent for it from day one. It’s like the lame dolly said, ‘Follow your bliss,’ or something like that.”
“The Dalai Lama?”
I asked him, regardless of how it all started, whether he had any regrets.
“To tell the truth, I did sometimes feel a little rotten about giving Lockwood a bad name, giving it a ... what do you call it?”
“Right, astigmatism. I mean, there’s lots of good people in Lockwood, like anywhere else, and I kinda feel like I let those good people down.”
“Thanks for agreeing to speak with me. Is there any message you like me to carry out into the world?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Tell my girlfriend that I still love her. When she gets out of prison and I get out of here, we’re going to have some fun.”
“What’s her name?”