· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge:
The Highest Highs and Lowest Lows·
It’s Sunday evening, September 11, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Pearl Albrecht, 15, and Delbert Wright, 14, are visiting while sitting on his front porch swing.
“Delbert,” said Pearl, “it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me! I’m only fifteen, but Rorabaugh-Wiley is paying me for being me, I mean, for dressing up like Charles Lindbergh.”
“Now, tell me again,” said Delbert. “Does the department store still want to display my plane in one of their front windows?”
“It’s already on display,” replied Pearl, answering the same question for the third time. “The window dresser, Mrs. Entwisle, said she was going to talk to you about offering you merchandise for loaning them the Spirit of St. Louis.”
“Now some bad news,” continued Pearl. “Sheriff Brown told me that Mrs. Anna Kelly, the police matron, wants to talk to me. I told him I didn’t do anything wrong, but he said it was about me smoking fags at the Fall Festival Frolic. Do you remember the old people who were rude to us?”
“Pearl,” said Delbert, “my memory is still foggy about that night because of my concussion. Sorry.”
“Well, a couple of decrepit busy-bodies should have been minding their own beeswax,” continued Pearl. “Instead, they started lecturing me about smoking cigarettes. I can’t believe it, but I exploded, just like my father.”
“I remember Sheriff Brown,” said Delbert, “and that he’s invited us to visit the county jail and meet his dog, Old Pal.”
“That’s right,” agreed Pearl. “He said after the State Fair we’d get together, have a tour of the jail, and eat fresh cherry pie that his wife bakes.”
“I asked Sheriff Brown if Mrs. Kelly could talk to me at school or while my father was at work in the salt mine,” continued Pearl. “I told him that if my father finds out the police want to talk to me, things won’t be pretty at our house.”
“I’ve looked everywhere for him,” said Fay, as he and his wife discussed their missing dog, Pal.
“Where could he be?” asked Cora.
“I’m going to drive around the neighborhood again,” said Fay. “Last I heard, the city still hasn’t hired anyone to respond to dangerous animal calls. I might even stop by and talk to the former dogcatcher, James Woodson. He’s been hired recently by the city police force. It just isn’t like Old Pal to run off. I hope he hasn’t been injured.”
“If Woodson’s not the dog catcher, then how can he help us?” asked Cora.
“He might be on emergency call or know who’s taking the calls,” said Fay. “I just don’t want Pal shot the way our Venus was killed, by a police officer. We know Pal’s not vicious and he doesn’t have rabies, but he’s not friendly to strangers.”
“I sure hope Pal will turn up,” said Cora. “At least some people have seen the lost-and-found ad you put in the News.”
“And I was feeling so good,” said Fay. “The county commissioners really came through. I’m so glad to get rid of that old Dodge touring car. On my round-trip to Oxford, the new Studebaker standard-six drove like a dream machine. One of the prisoners even commented that if he ever needs to borrow another automobile, he’ll be sure it’s a Studebaker.”
“Are you excited about going back to school tomorrow?” asked Pearl to Delbert as they swayed on his front porch swing in the dwindling daylight. They reflected on their first summer as neighbors and best friends. Pearl, for the first time in a long time was developing a concrete plan to escape her family. She wanted to talk about her future.
“I know I’ll miss seeing you so often if you work after school,” answered Delbert. “I’m not really excited about anything just yet,” he said slowly. “My parents aren’t even sure about me leaving the porch. We’ll see how I’m doing in the morning.”
“You know me,” said Pearl. “I’ll do anything to get out of my insane asylum, my family torture chamber. At school I feel safe, but there’s a chance I may be visited by the police matron tomorrow. Can you believe it, on the first day of school? Now that I’m working, I’ve got to stay out of trouble.” Pearl smiled, thinking of her suddenly bright future.
Pearl heard her father yelling as she entered the back door of their house on Avenue A, west.
“I’ve already given you money for Pearl,” he said. “Do you think money grows on trees?” he asked sarcastically.
“Harvey, listen to me,” explained his wife, Mary Adella, “she can’t go to school without school books. It’s just common sense.”
Mary opened her mouth but stopped before speaking. She looked surprised at what she had just said to her husband. She had crossed an invisible line. Now, she prepared to suffer the consequences.
Pearl stopped before entering the living room. If I go in the room, will that make things better or worse? she asked herself. Trying to read her father was as potentially dangerous as attempting to cross a minefield in a war zone. Does mom need me? Can I help her?” she thought.
Just then, Harvey picked up the shotgun he kept near the front door. He violently smashed the butt of the weapon into Mary’s face. Pearl heard the bone-shattering crack from the other room, causing her to wince and panic.
Screaming, Pearl rushed into the living room, her arms raised, reaching for the shotgun as blood from her mother’s nose spurt into the air and onto her dress. “Daddy, stop!” Pearl yelled. “Stop hitting mommy!”
Reacting immediately, extending his two arms, Harvey shoved the side of the shotgun into Pearl, pushing her away and down to the floor. He then threw the gun towards a chair, but his rage hadn’t subsided. With a balled-up fist he hit his wife again in the face, this time in her cheek.
“Who do you think you are?” he shouted at Mary. “If you had any common sense, you’d keep your mouth shut! Now, clean up this mess and stop crying!”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.