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It’s Tuesday, November 14, 1899, at the Reno County sheriff’s residence attached to the jail, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Sheriff William “Bill” Long, 37, and his under sheriff, Ed Metz, 60, are drinking coffee.
Sarah “Cassie” Baker Long, 28, is supervising the feeding of 16-month-old Clella Elizabeth.
Alex Millar, 63, the jail’s turnkey, is waiting for the sheriff and under sheriff to pick up two prisoners. The lawmen will be escorting “Diamond” Dicks and Ed Clark to Lansing Penitentiary via train.
Jacob “Diamond” Dicks, 29, former salt raker at Western Salt Works, who murdered his foreman, Jacob Shenefield, 39, with a shotgun, is in a good mood.
Ed Clark, 58, former local attorney, convicted of being an accessory after the fact of the murder of W. C. “Clarence” Boyd, is still pleading his innocence, though the Kansas Supreme Court has denied his appeal.
“We see a lot of tragedies in this work,” said Cassie. “The murders make the headlines and the funerals are well attended, but what about the families after the burials?
“When Diamond got drunk and murdered his boss, two families, including ten children, were upended to their core by his temporary insanity. Ten children no longer have a father to help care for them.”
“It’s going to be a harder life for everyone, that’s for sure,” agreed Bill. “The men were the wage earners.”
“Lydia, Diamond’s wife, has fewer choices now,” said Cassie, “the family was near poverty before the killing.”
“At least Diamond had an income,” said Bill. “Being a salt raker is hard work.”
“The alcohol was a contributing factor to Shenefield being murdered,” said Ed, “but shooting anyone in the face with a shotgun is cold-blooded.”
“Bill, you told me during the trial that Diamond’s face was lined with sadness,” said Cassie, “that he made a good impression on the jury.”
“He displayed regret,” said Bill, “but no one can really know if it’s regret at killing his boss or regret at facing a long term in prison away from his family.”
“I’m not defending Diamond,” said Cassie. “I think he was rough on Lydia, but Superintendent Shenefield wasn’t innocent either. I believe Lydia’s testimony about how Shenefield forced her into improper relations after he moved Diamond from the day shift to the night shift. He hounded her at night until he found an unlocked door.”
“There were some salt rakers who testified that Shenefield had bragged about how he was going to get next to Diamond’s wife and then he told them each time he succeeded,” said Bill.
“Shenefield was acting like he was reporting the score of a baseball game,” said Cassie. “He began by promising Lydia that he’d increase Diamond’s pay if she cooperated, then threatened to fire Diamond if she didn’t do what he wanted, and finally promised he’d make sure her husband was never hired again by anyone in town unless she gave him what he wanted.
“What were her choices?” asked Cassie. “He kept saying he wanted to get acquainted with her. He made improper proposals; she begged him repeatedly to go away. Shenefield told her that if she didn’t yield, he would go to the salt block and tell the workers that he had had the desired relations with her. He had the nerve to tell her, ‘You might as well have the game as the name.’”
Cassie concluded her take on the squalid affair by asking Bill and Ed, “How could someone like Shenefield be so smart, yet so stupid?”
Neither Bill nor Ed attempted to answer her question.
“When Lydia told her husband what had happened, he went crazy,” said Bill. “I think the jury did about as good a job with their task as they could. Some of our citizenry are pleased and some are angry with the sentence of ten years for second degree murder.”
“Diamond nearly saved you a trip to Lansing when he attempted suicide,” recounted Cassie. “Cutting his artery with that piece of glass and being quiet about it was a desperate act.”
“When Alex found the bucket half-full of blood, he didn’t think the doctor could save him, but he did,” said Bill. “Surprised me.”
“You know, he’s changed his life purpose since his recovery and sentencing,” said Cassie. “I believe he’s seen the light. Now he’s thankful that he received the minimum sentence. He promises to follow the rules at the penitentiary so he can shorten his time. He talks about taking care of his three children when he’s released.”
“Time will tell,” commented Bill,. “We’ll see how he handles his years of hard labor in the coal mine. I’m still having a hard time with Diamond begging the judge to be merciful just prior to his sentencing. I know Diamond was extremely intoxicated when he shot the superintendent, but he showed no mercy.
“Recently he’s been telling Clark that digging coal in the mines 700 feet underground, will be rough on the old man. Clark responds that he’d prefer instructing a Sunday school class if they have one.”
“The men will manage,” offered Cassie. “At least they’ll each have a roof over their head and food on the table. How about the women and their children? They’ll shoulder a great deal of anxiety because of the actions of their husbands. Mrs. Shenefield and Mrs. Dicks will need a lot of help from family and friends.”
“We have one child and we’re busy,” said Cassie. “How will Mrs. Shenefield, with seven children and without a husband, cope? Lydia Dicks has three little ones and a husband sent away for years. I’ll bet their children are split up if they haven’t already been sent to relatives or adopted out.”
Little Clella sat quietly, using a spoon to eat her meal. Then, the infant said, “Mama,” as she held up her empty cup.
Cassie wrapped her arms around the seated child and whispered, “I love you, baby girl. Mommy and daddy will be here for you.”
Clella squirmed in her mother’s arms, as Cassie kissed her daughter on the neck. “No,” said Clella, as she held up her empty cup and again said, “Mama.”
Bill and Ed stood up, ready to collect their prisoners for the trip to the passenger depot.
“Ed,” said Cassie, “even though Diamond and Clark are acting all cooperative and happy, please be careful.”
“Will do, Mrs. Sheriff,” responded Ed, as he gave her a half-salute.
“Bill,” said Cassie, “Clella and I will wait for your safe return. We love you dearly.”
“Love you, too,” said Bill, as he kissed Cassie on her lips and Clella on her forehead.
Cassie told Clella, “Say, ‘bye-bye daddy.’”
Clella again lifted her empty cup to her mother and cried out louder, “MAMA!”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.