Monday, August 30, 2010

Jules Loh

(AP Photo)

Jules Loh, retired great AP feature writer, has died. Read his AP obit here:

Here's his famous, 600-word profile of revenue agent "Big Six" Henderson:


Associated Press witer

LOUISVILLE , Ky. (AP) - In Kentucky‘s moonshine hollows, one name still strikes awe: Big Six Henderson

Big Six Henderson busted up more stills in his time than anybody in history. If that is not so, at least it is the legend. When moonshiners talk about Big Six Henderson, the line between truth and legend blurs.

“I don’t know what the record is,” Big Six Henderson allowed, thinking back on his days of prowling around in alien corn.

“I know I raided more than 5,000 stills and sent more than 5,600 moonshiners to prison. You could figure it up. I’ve kept a copy of my daily reports for every day I was a revenue agent.”

That was for a span of 28 years until he retired a few years ago, and it figures up to roughly a still every other day. The saga of Big Six Henderson, though, is hardly told in dry statistics.

The moonshiners Big Six Henderson tracked down imparted heroic dimensions to him and respected him as much as they feared him.

“Mr. Big Six,” one woman said when he came to haul her husband off to jail for a third time, “we’re proud to have folks know we know you.” More than a few moonshiners named their children for Big Six Henderson.

One even named his mash barrel for him, painted “Big Six” on it and talked to it fondly.

“Good morning, Big Six,” he said to the barrel one day. “Why don’t we just run ourselves off a little batch, you and I. What do you say to that, Big Six?’’

“That you’re caught, Thurlow,” Big Six Henderson said, stepping out of the mist.

At 75, Big Six Henderson is still impressive to behold. He is a bear of a man, 6-foot-4, with a think bush of white hair and eyes the color of wet turquoise. His mother named him William; Big Six was the name he picked up when he was going to law school and throwing a baseball after the fashion of Christy “Big Six” Mathewson.

His career as a lawyer was a rapid as his fastball.

“My first and only case was defending a guy who broke into a warehouse. He was guilty as hell, but I got him off. I decided if I had to make a living that way I might as well be a holdup man and at least be honest about it.”

There is nothing complicated about Big Six Henderson’s sense of justice.

So he became a federal treasury agent, a “revenooer” as they are known in the hills, and went it with a single-mindedness that became the stuff of myth.

Big Six Henderson can smell a still from 10 miles off. “Actually about two miles if the wind is right,” Big Six Henderson corrected. Big Six Henderson can shoot a pistol out of your hand at a hundred yards. “Well, the way that got started was by accident. I was aiming at the man’s belt buckle.”

It was no myth, though, that he could creep through the woods as quiet as smoke in his green raiding suit and could run like a deer for miles. Usually he didn’t have to run after his quarry.

“Homer, halt!” he shouted at one fleeing moonshiner. The man froze in his tracks.

“I’m halted, Big Six, I’m halted.”

He was a legend in his time, all right, and not just because of his uncanny skill and his zealotry. He also has a reputation for fair play and decent treatment of the moonshiners he caught.

“I never regarded them as doing something evil, just illegal,” Big Six Henderson said, “and I never abused them.” The big man thumbed through a sheaf of his faded daily reports, looking wistfully at the names.

“Killed a few, but never abused them.”

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