Aug. 6, 2007— -- Duane "Dog" Chapman has been a bounty hunter for more than 27 years. He was made famous in 2004 when TV cameras began following his exploits on a reality show called "Dog the Bounty Hunter."
His new book, "You Can Run but You Can't Hide," which goes on sale Tuesday, gives the reader a look into the gritty, dangerous world of bounty hunting.
Read the book's first chapter, "I Am Dog."
My name is Duane Lee Chapman. My friends call me Dog -- Dog the Bounty Hunter. For more than twenty-seven years, I have made a living hunting down more than seven thousand fugitives. I wear that honor as proudly as my shiny silver fugitive-recovery badge that hangs around my neck.
In the old days, there weren't enough lawmen for all the criminals on the loose, so sheriffs posted hefty rewards to capture crooks on the run. Legends of the Wild West, like Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and Billy the Kid, all made their living hunting bounties. Now, I might not be as famous as some of those guys, but I am the greatest bounty hunter who ever lived.
A lot of people think of me as a vigilante. It's true, my recovery tactics are far from conventional, but I rarely fail at finding my man. For me, failure has never been an option. To get attention or be noticed in this world, and believed, loved, and trusted, you had better be extraordinary, especially nowadays. In my life, extraordinary stuff happens all the time.
Bounty hunting is not a game. It's definitely not for the meek or faint of heart. I don't do it to prove I'm a tough bastard or smarter than some other guy. I do it because I have been there. I have been the bad guy. I know firsthand how messed up the system can be. Despite it all, I still believe in truth and justice.
To be certain, bounty hunting isn't your average nine-to-five job. But then, I'm not your average guy. I have had guns pointed in my face so many times I've lost count. I've survived having the trigger pulled more than once or twice. I have been stabbed, scratched, beaten up, and hit with every imaginable (and unimaginable) weapon of choice -- chains, boards, tire irons, golf clubs, and crowbars. I've been tossed through windows, pushed through walls, and shoved through doors. Does that make me a tough guy? You bet your ass.
I was born in Denver on February 2, 1953. My parents were Wesley and Barbara Chapman. Mom was half-Chiricahua Apache, which gave her beautiful thick, long, dark hair and a medium skin tone. Her eyes were an expressive chocolate brown that spoke from a stare without ever having to utter a single word. She had a way of looking into you, not just at you. Mom taught me to see people for who they are, not for the color of their skin, their race, or religion. She was a devout Christian who lived her life according to God's word. She instilled those same beliefs in me from the day I was born.
I have always been proud of my Indian heritage. I never once gave a second thought to my mixed background or to how others might see me as being a little different. I've always had a pretty distinguishable look. Hell, it makes me easy to identify in a lineup.
My dad, Wesley, also known as "Flash," had dirty-blond hair and piercing blue eyes. I am built just like him. He wasn't particularly large, though he was remarkably strong and fit. He had the most gigantic hands I ever saw. Dad was a navy welder, serving for many years. Flash earned his nickname boxing welterweight, because he moved with great speed and finesse. His boxing career was rather illustrious: He never lost a fight. Flash was a tough son of a gun -- a real scrapper.
From the outside looking in, my childhood was pretty normal. Mom and Dad lived a decent middle-class life in Denver, Colorado. My two sisters, Jolene and Paula, and my younger brother, Mike, and I were not very close growing up. We all played together and probably watched too much of my favorite television programs, like The Lone Ranger, Sky King, and The Green Hornet.
Every summer, I looked forward to joining my mom on her annual trip from Denver to Farmington, New Mexico, down to Sister Jensen's Mission. Even though Sister Jensen's congregation was primarily made up of Navajo from the local reservation, they all loved to hear Mom spread the word of God. She wasn't an ordained preacher, but she was mighty and powerful in her love of the Lord and her unshakable faith. Until the age of twelve, I tagged along as her helper, passing out hymn sheets and collecting tithes.
One of the first life lessons I remember Mom teaching me was that God sees all of us as His children, which makes us all brothers and sisters. Listening to Mom preach gave me a will and inspiration to live the way God intended us to. I wanted to grow up to be just like her -- to live a righteous, good, honorable, God-fearing life.
As a young boy, I never knew that other kids didn't get hit by their dads. I thought it was a rite of passage to have my father knock me around. I simply didn't know anything different. I can't recall any long stretch of time in my young life when my dad didn't hit me. He used a special paddle he'd made from some old flooring. Flash whacked me on the back of my legs and bare ass until I was black and blue and so sore I couldn't take another hit. To this day, if I get a sunburn anywhere on my body, it reminds me of my childhood and Flash's beatings. Just thinking of the abuse I endured can make me cry.
As a way to toughen me up, Flash began to teach me the basics of boxing. Although he never hit above the shoulders, I wasn't allowed to show any emotion after he threw a punch. A jab to the ribs, a left hook to the body -- whatever came at me, I was expected to take it like a man. But I wasn't a man. I was a young boy looking for love and approval from my father. I was desperate for his affection, so I ignored the pain. Sometimes I even thanked him for it, as if I deserved what he doled out.
Because of my religious upbringing, I thought my dad was punishing me for being a terrible sinner. Until very recently, I never understood that none of his abuse was my fault. I just thought that was how all dads treated their sons, and yet I swore that I would never beat my kids. I wanted the Chapman family abuse cycle to die with Flash.
I was eleven years old when I first saw the movie The Yearling. I was very confused by the father's reaction to his son when he told him he'd done something bad. The young boy's father hugged his son and told him he loved him for being so honest. If I went to Flash to confess I'd messed up, all I got was the paddle or the back side of his very large hand against my cheek. I wanted the father from The Yearling, so the next time I screwed up, I told my dad. Instead of praising me, Flash hit me harder than ever. I was so upset I ran away from home. I rode my bicycle all the way to Fort Morgan, fifty-eight miles from our house in Denver. I would have gone farther, but I was too hungry and tired. I called my mom's dad, Grandpa Mike, to come get me. I never told him why I ran away. If I ratted on Flash, Grandpa would have killed him.
On the weekends when I wasn't at church with Mom, Flash and Grandpa Mike taught me how to hunt and fish. Living in Colorado gave them a lot of options to show me the ropes. I was pretty good in the woods. I loved to camp out, make meals over an open fire, and listen to their old hunting stories.
Flash made a sport out of finding new and undiscovered spots to hunt. He always made me feel like we were great explorers on a mission, going places, discovering secret locations no one else knew about. It was fun for a little kid. Flash was a survivalist. His navy training taught him how to make any situation work. His instincts in the great outdoors were the finest any son could ask for when learning to hunt. He showed me how to track everything from deer to fox, pheasants to ducks.
Flash and Grandpa Mike always made us hike to our locations. They were afraid we might get shot by some drunken hunters if we rode on horseback. We never took dogs. I was the dog. It was my job to figure our course.
I spent the first twenty-three years of my life on the wrong side of the law. For most of my childhood, I ran with gangs and bikers. The only thing I knew about the law was a thousand ways to break it. I got pretty good at that. It took a murder-one conviction to make me decide to change my life from committing crime to fighting it. It might seem strange that a man with my criminal past is so passionately concerned with what happens to the victims of crime. I have been misjudged, misinterpreted, and misunderstood for most of my life. I have spent the last twenty-seven years trying to be one of the good guys. I love God, my wife, my children, and my career. In spite of those efforts to be seen as a moral man of virtue, I am still viewed as an ex-con, a criminal, a killer. I am many things, including those just mentioned. Put it all together and you will see: I am Dog.