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In Chambers

| Summer 2016 5

another. He was at the time in our jail charged with

felony forgery. Frank was so valuable to the sheriff that

he asked to have the charges handled as misdemeanors

so Frank could serve all of his time in our jail – and do

the cooking. The judge agreed, a deal was struck, and

Frank got sentences totaling several years in our jail.

About two years later and during the Vietnam war,

Frank wrote the judge. He indicated that he had a

chance to become a seaman on a ship under contract

to the government of Vietnam. If he could get on that

ship, he would be in Vietnam waters for over three

years. He promised that if he wasn’t killed, he would

never enter our jurisdiction again for the rest of his life.

All of the county criminal justice officials finally agreed

to give Frank some trustee credit and cut him loose

early.The ship was to leave the Port of Beaumont at 3

p.m. on Saturday.The Port is exactly one block from the

jail, and the judge ordered the sheriff to release Frank

at 2:50 p.m., drive him to the ship, watch him board and

see the ship sail away.

At precisely 2:50 p.m. Frank got in the sheriff’s

car for the one block ride. Next to the only red

light at that time was a small building known as

“Smokey the Bar.” Frank asked the deputy sher-

iff if he could go in and get some cigarettes as

the ship wouldn’t get to Vietnam for three

months. In a few moments, Frank was

back in the car, rode to the ship and

the deputy watched it sail away.

The next week I received

a forgery complaint from

Smokey the Bar. Seems

Frank went in there

and forged a check

for the cigarettes.

Now that’s a

criminal. Not

only did he

commit a

new crime,

but he

used a deputy sheriff as the get-away driver! They don’t

make many like Frank anymore. By now Frank is cer-

tainly deceased and probably residing in an exceptionally

hot environment. I’ll bet anything that he’s figured out a

way to steal gasoline from the devil!

And finally, there was the Old Gray

Fox.He

was called

that because he had a full head of thick gray hair, and he

could break into almost anything. His specialty was safe

jobs, and he was a recognized expert. Unfortunately for

him, he got caught fairly often and spent a considerable

portion of his life in prison.

But his reputation as a safe burglar remained strong.

Let me tell you just how strong.Our police once caught

two burglars and were interrogating them about other

crimes they had committed.The police told them they

would only file one charge against them but wanted to

clear the books regarding their other offenses.

And this is the story they told. They had entered a

local business one night by cutting a hole in the roof.

Once inside, they attempted unsuccessfully to open

the safe. Nothing they tried worked. So in desperation

they picked up the phone and called the Old Gray Fox

who was at home asleep.

They described their problem and he told them to

put their punch in a particular location. But that didn’t

work. So he told them to place their drill in another

spot on the safe.Again, their attempts failed.

So the Old Gray Fox got dressed, drove down to the

building, climbed on the roof, dropped down to the

office and opened the safe for them. Seems there was

almost $40,000 in the vault and the grateful burglars

asked him what part he wanted as his share.

The Old Gray Fox told them that this was their job

and he didn’t want anything but in the future if they

couldn’t handle the job, don’t call him at home when he

was sleeping! Now that’s a professional.

Way back then, so many criminals were professionals

in the sense that when they were caught they knew it.

And all they tried to do was lower their business ex-

pense and get as little pen time as they could. None of

them would ever think of physically hurting an officer

or anybody else for that matter.

In their minds, they were crooks – but besides being

thieves, not really bad people.

Things have gotten so much more dangerous through-

out the years.Violence has become the overwhelming

focus of our modern day criminal justice system. So in

a strange way it’s refreshing to remember a time when

most of the crooks were characters. Not killers.

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