Friday, February 05, 2016


Every little country store has a bank.  Or, at least around here, they call it a bank.  Little country stores are cash-heavy enterprise s, or they were in the '80s before the advent of debit cards.  The "bank" was the cash bag kept in the store to provide change for the days business.  Normally $300-$500, depending on the needs of the store.  Any excess went to a real bank as the day's deposits, but every little business kept its bank for day-to-day operations.

There was this little store in northwest Louisiana.  We'll call it Anne's Store because Miss Anne ran it.  She had been in the store business most of her life.  She got there every morning about 5:00 a.m., opened the place, put on coffee and started a tray of biscuits in the oven.  It was a small store in a one-horse town and it provided a place to get bread, sandwich meat, milk, basic groceries.  Miss Anne also ran a breakfast/lunch counter.  As such, the store became a meeting place, a spot for working men to park their trucks out back and meet with crews.  The logging industry was big in that area.

I was the parole officer assigned to that area.  As such, I drank coffee at Miss Anne's counter several times per month.  Many of my parolees worked in the logging industry, and when they came by in the mornings to meet their crews, I could check on them.  Being one of the few police officers in that geographical area, I was on speaking terms with just about everybody.  Like small towns all over America during that time, there were no secrets.  Even though I worked for The State, I knew the local constabulary and they knew me.  We worked together frequently, depended on each other, shared information freely.

Next door to Miss Anne's Store, there was another building, an old, defunct general store.  It had been closed for a decade or longer before I was assigned to the area.  It sat there vacant, the ragages of time slowly taking a toll on the building.  In the very back of that store was a small storeroom, with a restroom.  A standard toilet and wash-basin.  Which brings us to a fellow we'll call Hick'ry.

Hick'ry (not his real name) was somehow familialy entwined with the past operators/owners of the store building.  As I recall, the building itself was entrapped in that legal limbo called "an heir property".  Hick'ry himeself may have owned a portion of the building. Hick'ry had been to the pen a couple of times for burglary and after his latest conviction had come under my supervision.  Hick'ry also happened to live in that small storeroom in the building next to Miss Anne's store.  One bare lightbulb, a cot and a small restroom provided all the basic needs that Hick'ry desired.

One morning, I got up early and headed over to Miss Anne's store.  I wanted to get there early and check on a couple of parolees I hadn't seen that month.  They were pulp-wooders and met the crew at Miss Anne's.  I got there just before daylight, and Miss Anne met me at the door.

"Get in here quick," she said.  "I've been robbed. Somebody broke in here and got my bank."

I asked if she was okay, and she was.  She hadn't been robbed so much, as burgled, but I drew my revolver and made her stand by the front door as I cleared the store just in case the burglar was still there.  After I was convinced we were alone, that the burglar had gone.  I told her to call the sheriff's office.  She led me to the little stainless steel sink beside her cook-top and showed me a muddy footprint in the sink.  The window above the sink was open.

I went outside and got my flashlight, walked around the side of the building to the window.  The ground outside was soft and I could see a trail of footprints leading across to the abandoned general store.  I followed the trail around the building to the back, where the final muddy footprint ended at the door to that storeroom.

I unholstered my revolver, pushed lightly on the door and it swung open.  The floor of the storeroom was littered with beer cans.  Hick'ry lay on the cot.  Drunk.  Very drunk. He was snoring loudly and Miss Anne's bank bag lay on his chest.  I backed out of the room and took a breath.  About that time the deputy rolled up.  He was a young fellow, named Tony.

"Morning, Tony." I greeted him.  "You want to make an arrest?"

I showed Tony the trail leading from the store, I showed Tony the muddy footprint on the storeroom step, then I pushed the door open and showed him Hick'ry sleeping, drunk, with Miss Anne's bank bag on his chest.  "That, sir, is what we in law-enforcement call a clue."

Tony snorted.  "Help me get him up."

We put the Habeas-Grabbus on Hick'ry, cuffed him and stuffed him.  I stayed with Tony long enough for him to get Miss Anne's statement.  A couple of weeks later, Hick'rys parole was revoked and several months after that he pled guilty to yet another count of burglary.  The judge sent him back down the river for an extended stretch.

I wish they were all as easy as that one.


Anonymous said...

Dumb crooks are the best I guess.

Old NFO said...

Hopefully Miss Anne came out okay... Losing that 'bank' could have been a disaster if she was running close to the bone.