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Dust Bowl Days

held the pants up. His shirt was clean white except for the blood stain on the celluloid
collar. The blood was frozen and he was frozen. His hair looked to have been cut by a
barber. I knew I was goin’ to be late when I headed over to the Sheriff to tell him about
the body. I was hopin’ there would daylight enough to get a shot at somethin’ for dinner
before I got home. An occasional snowflake came swirling out of the grey.
Sheriff Braxton was locking up to go home early. He was not too happy to hear there
would be outside work in the evening hours. ÐCan you go get Donnie for me?“ the sheriff
asked me. ÐI will meet you two down there.“ Donnie was the part time deputy. ÐDon’t
touch nothin’ ”till I get there,“ he said as he unlocked the office to go back in.
Donnie Braxton was Sheriff Braxton’s nephew. ÐKeep it in the family“ was their
philosophy. Donnie lived in an apartment over the Dew Drop Inn and was the bouncer
for the saloon in the evening. He pulled on a heavy coat and gloves when I told him about
the body. He pinned his six pointed deputy badge on his coat since it was official
business.
We got to the ditch on foot as the sheriff pulled up in his model A. Donnie and the sheriff
climbed down in the ditch and pulled the body loose from the frozen ground. When they
had the stiff man turned on his back and some of the leaves cleaned off his face, I told
them I had seen him before.
ÐHe was stealing pecans from our tree by the road.“ I told them. ÐThat was two days ago.
It was warmer and he was drivin’ a fancy car. I had my gun and I told him to stop. Pa saw
what was goin’ on and came down by the road. He looked like he knew the man. Pa said
to him, ”I see you are a travelin’ man.’ The man looked mighty relieved and Pa told me to
lower the gun off him.“
ÐPa told the guy he could have all the pecans that were on his side of the fence. The guy
pulled out a pillow case from the back of his car and started loading up on pecans. Pa
went back up the hill. I think Pa saw the guy had on a Masonic ring on his hand. Pa is a
member of the lodge here in Hackett.“
ÐThis guy told me his name was George. He invited me over the fence to look at his car.
It was a Packard funeral car. It wasn’t a hearse. It was like the family limousine. It had
fold down seats in back. The guy, uh, George here, told me he was sleeping in and livin’
outa the car. He said he won it in a poker game in Ft Smith. There were little polished
metal signs in the windows that said, ”Bowen’s Funeral Home.’“
There was no fancy car and no Masonic ring now. Just a frozen guy the sheriff and
Donnie were trying to load in the back of the sheriff’s car. It was hard for them to get his
joints to bend enough to get him to clear the door. Finally, they gave up and stood him up
in the rumble seat. Sheriff Braxton had some rope so they tied him in place so he
wouldn’t fall out. They drove off with George kind of leaning forward over the top of the
Model A.
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