Is there really a Bubba? I’m chuckling to myself right now thinking about this question. The short answer is Hell yes there’s a Bubba! But it’s not that simple, and Bubba may not be who you think he is. Most people have an image in their mind of who Bubba is, and it’s an image no doubt shaped by Hollywood and fiction authors with vivid imaginations.
Bubba is a name and a term that has its roots in prison lore. Bubba is an individual who preys on the vulnerable for sexual purposes, is the puller of all psychological strings, and is sometimes keeper of the peace. Over time, as the mainstream became aware of this name, it became magnified in popular culture, being magnified again and again until it became a force unto itself. The sheer mention of Bubba often conjures up stark images.
Most everyone in This World has another name. These names are coined by one’s peers and almost always out of respect. I know guys called ‘Spider,’ ‘Wolf,’ ‘Cali,’ ‘6-9,’ ‘Tex,’ ‘Spaz,’ ‘Mav,’ ‘Lilly,’ and ‘Daisy,’ amongst hundreds and hundreds more. For example, Spider is called ‘Spider’ because he has a tattoo of a spider (he also keeps spiders as pets); Wolf has a tattoo of a wolf; Cali is from California; 6-9 is very tall; Tex is from Texas; Spaz can be a bit of a spaz, and Lilly and Daisy are gay and prefer to be called by those names. You see?
Sometimes there is a ‘Bubba,’ someone who is coined Bubba and has allowed the name to stick. I have known a few guys who went by Bubba over the years, and yes, a couple of them were your stereotype Bubbas. Sexual predators, extorters, scammers, and users. The other one, well his first name really was Bubba.
During my first year of incarceration, I was fortunate enough that some old school convicts pulled me aside and educated me to the ways of This World. Amongst a list of many things they told me to be aware of, Bubba was at the top. Sure, there were the tried and true adages like ‘always pay your debts’ and ‘never snitch’ and ‘never steal’ and ‘always keep your word,’ etc. But the one thing that rose to the top was beware of the Bubbas.
So who is Bubba, anyway? Bubba is everywhere and anywhere at all times. He’s always watching, and he’s always waiting for that right moment to sweep in and prey upon the unsuspecting and the vulnerable. Bubba is a thug or a drug dealer or a gang-banger. Sometimes he’s a murderer or a thief or a drug addict; other times, he’s that convict that is always bashing his gay peers but has sex with men in secret. Sometimes he’s married with four children; he’s that model inmate that goes to church every weekend; he’s a rapist or an alcoholic. Or he’s none of these. Bubba is a term and a way to describe anyone who preys on others for sexual pleasures.
If you are young and incarcerated, the Bubbas of This World are out for you. You may not see them, but like a lion in the field, he sees you and he’s patiently waiting. This then is a story about my encounter with Bubba. It was my first year of incarceration. I was young, broke, and had no support from anyone. My family had abandoned me, my friends had fled like field mice, and I was alone in a terrifying world. Worse, I was green behind the ears. Just what Bubba looks for.
I was walking across the dayroom to go outside to the yard. It was a summer afternoon, and the only thing on my mind was to get out of the cell block for some peace and quiet. I had almost come upon the exit door when a mountain of a man stepped in front of me.
“Hey, ya’,” he said. “What’s your name?”
“Christopher,” I replied, looking up at him. He was a white guy, about 6′ 6″ tall. He had a couple of strange tattoos on his arms that I couldn’t quite make out. I estimated he was probably all of 325 pounds. I was dwarfed by him! Most importantly, I knew who he was. Guys had warned me about him.
“Hey,” he continued, “ya’ need a new pair of shoes?” Clutches within his hand was a new pair of Nikes. He looked down at mine and said, “Those look like they’ve seen better days.”
I looked down at my shoes. Yeah, I thought. I needed shoes. The pair I was wearing was worn through to the soles in spots.
“No thanks, but thank you,” I answered. “I don’t have the money for a new pair.”
Bubba lit up. “Aw, ya’ can get these”–his hands were out, shoes in hand–“and ya can pay me back.”
“I don’t have any money.”
“That don’t matter. You can pay me when ya’ get some money.”
No way, I thought. I’m not falling for this.
Bubba, having sensed my caution, suddenly switched tactics.
“Aw, hell,” he said. “Ya’ go ahead and take ’em. They was owed to me and I can’t wear them any no how.” He pointed to his feet as if to show that he was genuine. No doubt, the shoes were too small for him. “You take them. Pay me whenever you can.”
“No thanks, but I appreciate it,” I replied.
Without me realizing it, Bubba switched tactics again.
“Hey, ya’,” he said again, “I know you don’t know me. And I bet ya’ been told I ain’t no good, but that ain’t true. Some guys around here don’t like me cuz I be helping guys. I just wanna help you, b’cuz I can see ya’ need some help. So here, take these,” he pressed. Bubba then tried to put the shoes into my hands. “I don’t want nothing back for ’em. To prove to you I just trying to help, you take these and you owe me nothing. If you want to, pay me back some day, or you could sell them and buy ya’ a new pair and keep the left over money.”
Wow, I thought. Maybe guys didn’t know what they were talking about. Bubba seemed like a nice fellow, and he was willing to give me the shoes. Hell, those have to be worth a hundred bucks! I thought. I could sell them and buy a cheap pair and maybe have 80 bucks leftover. I could make 80 bucks go a long way.
Bubba could tell I was wavering and poured on.
“Yeah, I help everyone I can. No one should hafta struggle to get by,” he said. “I work in ODR and can get hamburgers and fries and fried chicken every day. Why ya’ think I’m this big?!” He laughed and pointed at his belly. “I don’t kick it with many people, but I know a good person when I see one. You’s a good person and I wanna help.”
I felt my stomach grumble. Man, he works in ODR! I thought (that was the Officer’s Dining Room). They had all the good food there. And what did he say? He gets burgers and fries every day?!
“No,” I lied. I was hungry. I was always hungry, because I had nothing.
“Yeah, you’s hungry. I’m gonna get you some burgers today when I get off work.”
And that’s when the war began. In my mind I fought a legion of demons. On one side, a group was saying, “Christopher, what are you, stupid? This guy’s trying to help you out! Why are you torturing yourself?!” On the other side, I heard, “No, don’t listen to them; it’s all a trick! He’s trying to trick you! Remember what the guys told you about him!”
Bubba made a quick tactical shift and went in for the kill.
“Here,” he said again, offering out the shoes. “You owe me nothing. Take ’em, cuz I gotta get to work.”
I was about to accept the poisoned chalice, when suddenly I heard a voice in my head say, “No one gives you anything for free in The Joint. There’s no such thing as something for nothing.” It was the voice of an old school convict I had met in the county jail while awaiting my transfer to This World.
And as if to confirm this, Bubba said it again:
“You owe me nothing.”
“No thanks,” I said. “I appreciate it, but I’ll pass.
I saw perplexion cross his face. Then like a pebble dropped into a pond, it rippled away and Bubba changed tactic to the long game.
“Ya’s alright,” he said. “I just wanted to see if you’d accept something from a stranger.” He leaned down toward me like an old friend about to tell a secret. “You gonna be alright. I gotta go, buy if ya’ need anything you’s just come to me and I’ll help ya’ out. Okay?”
“Okay,” I said.
And just like that, Bubba was off into the crowd. I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking I had that man wrong. He seemed nice enough. But that’s what Bubba does. Master of Deception!
A few days later, the damnedest thing happened. Four guys got into a fight with Bubba down in the recreation bathroom. They knocked him out cold and took from him the very shoes he had tried to give me. Apparently, Bubba had tried to give them to another new guy, but unbeknownst to him, the guy he tried to give the shoes to was friends with the guy Bubba had stolen the shoes from in the first place.
I quickly saw Bubba for who he was. He was one of the smoothest predators to walk these hallways; always on the prowl, and always playing the same game. The sad part of this whole story is that he would be successful many times. I watched as he preyed on men who were none-the-wiser, trapped them under their own fears and insecurities. Lured them into his web like the spider, and simply waited for the next victim.
Who is Bubba? Now you know.
2 thoughts on “A Conversation with Bubba”
Another fascinating account of prison life; I was so absorbed reading about Bubba that my environment disappeared. A collection of such stories would be a best-seller.
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