My Favorite Dysfunctional Family

By: Christina J. Johns




RA File

I guess you could say that the Spraggins were my third favorite dysfunctional family - right behind my mother's extended family which was first, and my own immediate family which was second. But, I'll tell you about that some other time, after a few people have died.

During the time I knew the Spraggins family, or clan, it consisted of Nida, the mother and five siblings - Nicki, Dale, Teri, Boots and Little Neal. There was no father, since Nida had already shot their father (or the father of at least some of them) in the face at the Shangrala, the nightclub they owned. She'd done it in front of all five children. Nicki left after that; and didn't come back until Boot's funeral.

Dale was my husband's favorite drinking buddy when he was going through his second divorce. He had found out that his wife of twelve years had been having an affair for five of them. She told him the problem was that he "Just couldn't accept her for what she was."

And, just before she ran off with the other man, she talked Gayle into adopting her son by yet another man, so he would have to pay child support for both his own son and the other child.

It wasn't pretty, but instead of feeling sorry for himself, he decided to party. He and Dale burned down every beer joint in Alabama for three years .

But, the party was brought to an abrupt end when Dale got arrested and sent to prison for 35 years. Dale was working a construction job, and the employer cheated him out of some money. So, Dale decided to fix him. He his girlfriend got obscenly drunk and broke into the construction site. Because there were five or six separate trailers, belonging to five or six different companies, Dale was charged with five counts of felony theft. He wasn't difficult to catch. After stealing the stuff, Dale and his girlfriend sped away, only to turn around and go back to the scene because they forgot to get Boot's wire cutters. The sheriff was sitting there waiting for them by that time. This was one that Nida couldn't get Dale out of.

But, Dale was fortunate. Unlike most of the people who go to prison, he cleaned up his act, got in AA and got a sponsor who got him out of prison in three years. Now, he goes to AA meetings all the time, goes to church, has a house and a yard and a wife who drives a Pink 1960's convertible. But, if Dale cleaned up his act, he was the only one in the family.

Boots spent his rather short life as a poly-drug abuser. As far as I know he never held down a job in his life.

Teri at one point had a small country store, but mainly she sold drugs out the back door. When Dale got married, she didn't show up until the reception. I asked Little Neal where she'd been. "Probably out stealing things from the cars in the parking lot." He replied.

And then there was Little Neal. I don't know why, but we were shocked one night when we were channel surfing and came up on the show COPS just in time to see Little Neal, being arrested for murder. It was only his second. Little Neal and his wife owned a business selling refurbished trailers called Repo-City, and Little Neal took a dim view of people stealing out of his trailers.

His solution was well within the good-old-boy Southern working class tradition. He got a gun and killed the guy. Two murders and he never spent a day in jail. Hey, it's Alabama, what do you want me to say?

I only saw Nicki once, at Boot's funeral, but I wouldn't have trusted him with my fork. He was essentially a super-good-looking version of Dale. He was, in fact, so good looking that you could imagine him charming old women out of lots of money, and I think that's pretty much what he did. Nobody knew though, for sure.

He was scary, and had mannerisms I associated with ex-cons - nervously looking around, always on edge, a body like a coiled spring, ready to react to anything at any minute, with lethal violence if necessary. I wouldn't have wanted to be alone with him.

He and Little Neal arrived at the reception after the grave-site ceremony, looking fluished and mean. Gayle told me that they had gone and broken into the trailer of one of the paulbearers and gotten some guns the guy stole from Boots.

Now I ask you, is that a family or what?

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