By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note: I had no trouble at all coming up with the theme music for this article..It’s “East Bound and Down” from the smash 1977 hit film “Smokey and the Bandit.” It’s got toe-tappin’ energy. Go to any search engine, you’ll find it. Make sure you keep the link because, sure as shootin’, there’ll be some morning or other when you’ll wake up ornery and irritable, the world too much with you. This tune will cheer you up in a flash… and make you smile. Just as this article’s going to do….
“a’we gonna do what they say can’t be done!”
You’ll never understand this story until you see the culprit. Born March 22, 1991, “Colt” Harris-Moore was a teen-ager until just the other day. He still looks like a teen-ager, and 16 or 17 at that. And he has the look of a fresh-scrubbed Disney character, all firm flesh and smiles and “yessir” and “thank you, ma’am”.
He’s a big boy; a really big boy, 6 foot 5 inches tall, 205 pounds. He’s a boy’s boy and you know, with that wicked grin, he’d be mischievous… but you’d bet your bottom dollar he’s a good boy, not a mean bone in his body. But there’s a dark side to this story, and it’s a good idea to get that out right away, so you can make up your own mind about this important matter.
“Colt” Harris-Moore grew up in his mother’s house in Camano Island, Washington. It was a zoo there; chaotic, disruptive, a mess. Neighbors said they made several calls to Child Protective Services, believing he was neglected or abused. His father, Gordon Moore, used drugs and was in prison while Colton was a toddler. When he was just twelve years old, his abusive father walked out during an argument at a family barbecue after attempting to choke him.
According to his mother, Pamela Kohler, his stepfather died when he was about seven years old, and from the time Colton was in first grade, she knew there was “something off about him”, “sort of a disconnection.” He wouldn’t listen to his teachers, starting altercations at school and would sometimes deliberately break things at home.
According to a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, Harris-Moore said that his mother drank and became mean, breaking his possessions. Any way you slice it mother and son lived in a snake pit of anxieties, fears, and dark depressions… a place to avoid and escape from.
At about the age of 7, Colt started living in the wild; it was better than what he got at home.
It was then he learned his craft as an agile, nimble thief, motivated by what he could get, of course, but increasingly, as he sharpened his skills, pushing the envelope, showing himself how far he could go, how good he could get. He was determined to excel…
He started with robbing the vacation homes of people from far away places; rich, they’d never miss the stuff so easy to purloin, all indications of the stable, ample life he could only know second hand and would never have. They had so much; he so little. Why shouldn’t he just help himself? There’s hardly a kid, even those from the “best” homes who didn’t steal something, sometime. But if they were lucky, they got caught and learned a thing or two.
But Colt didn’t get caught — yet. And so he got better and better. And the game more exciting. He wanted to know, he had to know just how far he could go….
And so it began.
The authorities all knew about Colt… although even in his early days he had no trouble outsmarting them. Still, he got his first conviction for stolen property when he was 12; by the time he was 13, he had three more. Now diagnosed with depression, attention deficit disorder and intermittent explosive disorder, he reckoned he had nothing to lose. Each conviction bought him just 10-days in a detention center, or in community service.
In 2003 things changed and the stakes went up. He stole a neighbor’s camcorder; the police found it in his room. This time he got a sentence with bite: three years. He looked in the mirror, liked what he saw, combed his hair… and walked out of a halfway house. It was April, 2008…. and the Barefoot Bandit was about to show America how folk heroes are born….
“We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.”
Now this master thief, gifted by God with a cherub’s face and a dazzling smile, got serious.
With adolescent energy and grit and determination which any entrepreneur could envy, he found his vocation… and ran with it, bare footed. He stole just for the joy of stealing. It didn’t seem to matter what he stole… although he favored toys that could move him on… for Colt was a moving target… the fastest of all.
He pinched bicycles automobiles, light aircraft, speedboats.
He was a boy who liked speed… liked turning it on, turning it up… the wind always blowing through his hair… getting away from mother, from teachers, from court-ordered psychiatrists… and from every other trammel and inhibition.
“I’m east bound just watch ol’ Bandit run.”
He zoomed east with manic energy and no purpose whatsoever except to keep on moving. The crazinesses added up: he stole flight manuals and flight simulators… so he could steal planes…
He would often slip into homes along the way to soak in a hot bath… or steal ice cream. He stole a credit card to order bear mace; remember, he generally slept in the woods. He stole another card to order a pair of night vision goggles for $6,500.
On May 30 or 31, 2011 police found a handwritten note and $100 at a veterinary clinic in Raymond, Washington. The note said, “Drove by, had some extra cash. Please use this money for the care of animals.” He signed it “Colton Harris-Moore AKA ‘The Barefoot Bandit.’ Camano, Washington.” It was just the kind of thing a real folk hero would do.
And so America began to root for this boy who robbed with his shoes off, in the freedom of bare feet. He moved, always fast, through states he saw only as a blur… authorities everywhere eager to nab him…
“… he’s hot on your trail and he ain’t gonna rest ‘tiill you’re in jail”
And so it went…. running… robbing.. running some more through Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois… over 100 thefts and counting.
“So you gotta dodge him… you gotta duck him”
And so he did… and while we paid bills, bought groceries, went to work, the image of that boy whirring through time and space grabbed us and grew. We knew he’d get caught…. we just hoped it wouldn’t be for a while yet. We knew he’d go to jail for a long time…. but he had freedom, real freedom… albeit purchased at a staggering price.
It all came to an end in Harbour Island, Bahamas, July 6, 2010. He was about to steal a boat, bless him, and local police shot out the engine and grabbed him. Colt had a gun to his head when apprehended. It’s a nice point about whether he’d have been better off using it.
Instead they apprehended him and, in due course extradited him back to Washington State and law and order in the shape of U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan. She knows nothing of folk heroes and her rage about the boy and his celebrity is palpable. She made sure Colt would never benefit from films, books, or anything else. It won’t matter… we know Durkan is right, doing her job… but she is not the stuff of Americana. Colt is… and she knows it. So do we…. movie, or not.
“Keep your foot hard on the peddle… son, never mind them brakes.”
* * * * *
About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding