Thursday, April 1, 2004

Beats Watching Oprah

From the Santa Fe New Mexican:

SPUR, Texas – “Red” Rountree shuffled into the bank and surveyed the teller windows.

He had done this twice before and knew the best way was to pick a bank within a full gas tank’s drive of home, hit it early before there were too many customers and then never, ever return to that city.

He handed two manila envelopes to the teller. On the first, in red marker, was written “ROBBERY.” The second envelope, he told her, was for the money.

“Are you kidding?” the teller asked the bespectacled man with nearly translucent skin and wrinkled, knotted hands.

“Hurry up and put the money in the envelope or you’ll get hurt,” Rountree told her.

As the teller complied, Rountree became the oldest known bank robber in U.S. history. He was 91.

Sitting in a wheelchair now at the Dickens County Correctional Center, at the edge of the Texas Plains, Rountree puts his hand to his forehead, coaxing memories from a brain fogged by age. He’s 92 and is serving a 12-year sentence, the equivalent of life for someone his age.

He can’t remember when he decided to rob the First American Bank in Abilene. Or even what he planned to do with the loot – $1,999. But he does have one answer.

“You want to know why I rob banks?” Rountree said. “It’s fun. I feel good, awful good. I feel good for sometimes days, for sometimes hours.”