The Wizard asked me to contribute to a remembrance of Dick Motherfucker. As Lee Hays once said of Pete Seeger, “what the Wiz proposes, she don’t take no noses.” Still, I attempted to beg off on the grounds that it’s a daunting task to write about DMF while protecting the more-or-less innocent. Understanding that, she said I didn’t have to tell the whole story.
Good thing, too. It’s all about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.
Politics? The deepest political discussion I remember with Dick took place in the Rag office, and I was one of his antagonists. One of several. Dick was defending the slogan “Smash the State!” and some actions that grew out of it.
I was and am from rural Oklahoma, showing up in Austin by way of the civil rights movement and the U.S. military. I took Dick for an ex-GI, which turned out to be true. I was, by the time I showed up in Austin, so dedicated to militant nonviolence I was ready to be known as a coward in the service of my new determination not to fight.
The cops had come into Vulcan Gas Company, turned on the lights, and started rousting people, looking for where that sweet smoke was coming from. The Austin Police did stuff like that in those days.
Well, Dick started a fight with them, and managed to incite himself a small-scale riot. I had not been present, but I was trying to spin the facts such that the cops started it, which they had in the cosmic sense. No roust; no fight.
Dick was having none of it.
“You bet your ass I started it!”
“If you’re going to smash the state, you gotta start somewhere! You gotta teach people to stand up to that shit!”
So it was that the slogan became the subject of what started as half a dozen of us calling Dick a dumb ass and quickly segued into a memorable Dick Motherfucker soliloquy.
“What are you all doing here, anyway?”
We ticked off the usual burrs under our saddles: racism, sexism, imperialism, and the goddam Vietnam War. Acid and pot and sex with the lights on. Then as now, freedom wore many faces, but Dick insisted the solution wore only one: “Smash the state!”
He discoursed on each social evil we wanted to correct and ended each verbal paragraph with a rhetorical question: “What’s the answer? Smash the state!”
I was reduced to pointing out that his “state-smashing” had gotten him some don’t bumps on his head and a trip to the cross bar hotel.
He didn’t care. He really didn’t care. He thought the Motherfuckers had to set an example and the time would come when the police would not dare to hassle Vulcan Gas Company. Little did he know.
Almost ten years later, I would be a judge of the Austin Municipal Court. An earnest young officer, having heard the tales of the “hippie judge” and how my appointment signaled the demise of civilization, but having found me pretty normal in one on one conversation, ventured to ask if I had ever heard of the Motherfuckers?
I told him I had and asked what he had heard about them?
He laid it on me that the Motherfuckers were a revolutionary organization. OK so far, but he made them sound way more organized than I had ever been able to observe. I mean, seriously, how do you organize anarchists?
Then the young officer, eager to show the hippie judge his encyclopedic knowledge of the radical left, offered his pièce de résistance. To become a Motherfucker, he assured me, a young woman had to submit to a gangbang and a young man had to kill a police officer.
After dealing with the results of my coffee going down the wrong pipe, I asked him how many Motherfuckers were in Austin?
He gave an absurd answer in the double digits.
“And,”—I went in for my rhetorical kill of a police officer—“how many APD officers got killed?”
He assured me that all the Austin Motherfuckers were “outside agitators,” and put the lack of body count forward as evidence. At that moment, I understood there was no winning that contest, any more than I could pry Dick loose from “Smash the state!” Dick would have relished the infamy.
The last time I saw Dick Motherfucker in the flesh was also after I had become a judge. I was in Shipe Pool with my then-toddler son Paul, and this was during the time I had to watch Paul like a hawk when he got in three feet of water.
“Hey, Judge!” That voice sounded familiar. There was Dick, standing by the edge of the pool. I moved over next to him where we could talk.
After exchanging pleasantries, I said that if he knew I was a judge then he knew I had an obligation to turn his ass in. His was, if memory serves, the last of the Chuckwagon 22 indictments still outstanding, because he had jumped bail.
“Dick,” I explained. “You need to turn yourself in. Things have really changed in Austin. Bob Smith isn’t DA anymore. Ronnie Earle is. Remember him, the only Municipal Judge who could give a fair trial in a political case? Nobody is up for resurrecting a political case that was bogus to begin with.”
“I’m sure Jim Simons would represent you. C’mon, Dick, this is your chance to make this warrant go away. The computers never forget a warrant.”
Dick chuckled. “Do you think that silly shit is the only warrant I’ve got? I just wanted to see you and I pretty well figured you would turn me in if you couldn’t talk me in.”
“Dick, I haven’t switched sides. The system has. I didn’t promise anybody anything except I’d follow the law.”
“Yeah, that’s the problem. Hey, I’m not mad at you. You were a law and order type back when you were getting put in jail. I just wanted to see you. Why do you think I came when you were swimming? Nice haircut. Oh, and I can’t help noticing you wear a bathing suit now.”
With a big grin, Dick put on his shades and walked away. The next communication I got from him was an e-mail from Columbia.
In my next contested election, Bob Smith gave me money. The lawyer who would steer Ronald Reagan’s Travis County campaign was on my steering committee. I guess I had, in a way, become the state, or at least part of the civilized oasis that is Travis County.
Dick Motherfucker? They claim he died, but I like to imagine him somewhere fairness has yet to penetrate the justice system and the only law is a bully with a badge. Dick Motherfucker in Ferguson, Missouri or in Cleveland. Dick Motherfucker selling loosies on Staten Island. Dick would tell victims of the bullying exactly what to do: “Smash the state!”
Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.