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From Dec. 1, 1944, to Dec. 31, 1952, my father was sheriff of Lancaster County. Times have certainly changed.
Daddy was a rather closed-mouthed individual, which worked sometimes, but caused him considerable anguish at other times.
The area media and The Lancaster News were critical because he rarely gave interviews or issued press releases on criminal cases.
Only in his later years did he confide that it was up to magistrates and judges to determine guilt and folks shouldn’t be tried in the court of public opinion.
Now, it was a Saturday night ritual at our house to gather in the upstairs kitchen, where the bedrooms were, and listen to the stories broadcast on the radio. It was also the time Mama went over my schoolwork, and prepared her Sunday morning lesson for the elderly ladies in the church. She remained busy even after I crossed the hall and slid in between the covers.
Sometimes I heard Mama and Daddy talking about some of the stuff bad people were doing. He told her that a federal tax agent was coming to town on Friday to destroy an illegal whiskey still. Seems a black market sugar ring was centered in Lancaster County. Daddy said he didn’t believe it, but he had to work with the eager agent or maybe he would be getting a visit from J. Edgar (Hoover) and then he laughed. To tell the truth, I heard bits and pieces of their conversation and filled in the rest when Mama and I got a chance to talk.
I had so much school stuff on my mind that a whiskey still was the least of my concerns until I came home Friday afternoon and saw my daddy stripped down to the waist and getting hosed down by my mama right out there by the hosepipe connection next to the garage. His clothes were in a pile on the ground.
Mama said, “Go on in the house and get your daddy another towel or two.”
Gosh, I felt I was gonna bust out laughing, but good sense told me to keep a civil presence.
I was given the job of trying to get the stink out of that brown suit and clean up his slippers. Well, sir, I did my best. The suit we carried to Mr. T.A. Parker at Davis Dry Cleaners.
Mr. Parker began to laugh when he got wind of the odor. Mr. Parker said, “Looks like Major fell in a pig pen.”
Mama couldn’t hold it any longer and burst out laughing.
The slippers were too far gone and I understand the ration board gave Daddy some extra stamps so he could buy another pair.
Soon thereafter, I got the details behind the big smell. With the eager revenuer’s nose to the wind, Daddy, Oscar Adams, Jesse Adams and Sammie Harris made their way through some blackjack trees and high grass until they came upon a quiet whiskey still operation. A scattering of Mason jars, a huge batch of smelly mash and a few sacks of sugar.
No one was around the operation and that upset the agent.
Daddy said that just like the revenuers in the picture shows, he began swinging an ax, smashing the still and the vats of mash.
That’s when it happened – he swung the ax and a whole batch of smelly mash spilled over on Daddy. He was covered from head to slippers. As they say in the movies, their plans went wrong.
Daddy, covered in old army blankets to save the car seats, got back to the courthouse office where Deputy Sheriff C.C. Crimminger was holding down the fort, so to speak.
Mr. Crim laughed and my daddy lost it. He told them, “One more outburst and the office would be filled with new deputies come sun-up.”
That’s when he came home. I don’t remember that brown suit he was wearing ever being worn again. With all the cleaning fluid in the world, it still smelled like a pig pen.
Mama had just about had it, I really think if she had gotten hold of that little federal agent, she would have wrung his neck.
That copper trough in the cow barn most likely came from that Friday morning raid.
Years later, Daddy said, “Never put a federal tax agent in charge of anything.”