| 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
only did 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 GrayFox.He
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.