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· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge: Blinded by Corn Whiskey ·
Hello readers. I’m Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge and I’m recalling my days in January 1927, after arriving in Hutchinson, Kansas. Don’t ask me what happened this morning because my short term memory is iffy, but I remember my first days in the Salt City. Ninety-three years ago I was in total darkness, inside a package sent though the U. S. mail, when I overheard conversations in the sheriff’s office. Outgoing Reno County Sheriff Jesse Langford was getting ready to free me from my temporary enclosure.
“Finally! It’s about time. In a moment I’m going to get out of this dark place and be able to breathe. To see. To meet Sheriff Fay F. Brown and people in Hutchinson and Reno county. It seems like I’ve been waiting forever. I figure it’s been a week since I was boxed up in Denver.
“It won’t be long now before I’m introduced to Sheriff-Elect Fay F. Brown. I sure wonder what he’ll be like. But first, I’ll be meeting Reno County Sheriff Jesse Langford. I’m fine with that. Jesse’s the outgoing sheriff. He sounds like he’s been faithful to his pledge to work towards law and order.
“Maybe I’ll meet his wife too. Her name is May. She’s been the cook and matron at the jail where she and Jess live. How would you like to live upstairs in a jail house, asleep in the middle of the night, knowing that’s when prisoners like to escape?
“The Langford’s have a son named Harvey. He may not be around here for me to meet, but at least he’s alive. He was nearly murdered by car thieves when he was sixteen years old. I heard all about it.”
“This here has got to be Brownie’s badge,” said Sheriff Langford as he started opening my outer package. “Glad it arrived in time,” he continued. “Of course, with or without this special badge, he’ll be taking his oath of office at high noon tomorrow in district court.”
I am a special badge, thought Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge, still a bit dizzy from having been thrown around like an inanimate object.
“Well, look at that!” said Sheriff Langford, as he held the brand new badge up to admire. “I’d forgot a badge could shine that bright. Let’s see, Sheriff Reno County, Fay F. Brown,” he read. “It’s spelled correctly too. Sheriff with two f’s and Brown without a letter e at the tail-end.”
“Oh, my stars!” gasped Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge while staring at Sheriff Jesse Langford’s Badge. “You’re beautiful! We’re obviously closely related, part of the same Reno county family. You’ve held up pretty well after four years of wear and tear. I can only imagine the stories you could tell.
“Your Sheriff Langford reminds me of a 47 year-old artisan I met back in Denver,” continued Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge, “because that friendly fellow also smiled with his entire face, especially the same gray eyes. The most notable difference is that your sheriff is clean shaven. I see he’s got a charming dimpled chin, and he’s becoming in his suit and tie. There’s his hat—a brown felt fedora—resting on his knee.
“I don’t need to be a detective to know that your Sheriff Langford is never without his hat. His face and neck are as weathered as a farmer’s yet his upper forehead’s as white as a baby’s behind.
“Brownie’s going to like the looks of this sheriff’s badge,” said Langford. “He sure deserves it. Most people know that Fay’s been my undersheriff most of the last four years but they don’t understand his dedicated community service over the last decade. And I’m not just talking about his personal sacrifice of being blinded in one eye.
“When I took office, I relied on him due to his extensive experience as a Reno county deputy sheriff and his years on the Hutchinson police force. In the last decade he’s held about every rank there is in city and county law enforcement, including, for a few months, chief of police. On the other hand, my work experience prior to law enforcement was that of a farmer, clerk, and auctioneer.
“I remember the mild February day back in ‘23, just a month into my first term as sheriff. There were three of us out on liquor raids at farms: Fay was undersheriff, just days before taking office as police chief; Deputy George Duckworth, a former sheriff; and myself.
“The first raid was about seven miles east of town on fourth street at a place called the Twin Houses because in the early days, when they were built by the Bucklin sisters from New York, they were connected by a big hall or covered porch. But during our raid the dwellings were separate, the hallway long gone. I recall we made three arrests after seizing two quarts from one house, and two 15-gallon iron kegs of high test alcohol from the other.”
“From what I’ve heard from my mother,” a shaky voice said, “a married couple, Dan and Mary Bucklin, pioneers from New York, lived in one of the twin houses. Dan’s sister, I believe, lived in the other house.
“The husband must have died years earlier,” said Langford, “because I thought both ladies were spinsters. One of the people we arrested was George Frits. He was a bachelor who rented from Mary and had a reputation as a naturally kind person who cared for her when she was ill.”
“At one time,” said Shaky Voice, “Frits was a member of the Hutchinson fire department. He drove a fire wagon horse team.
“My mother recalls parties where guests would dance down the hall from one house to the other. The story goes that after Dan died, the two women didn’t get along, so they had the connecting hall torn down. I do remember about a year ago when Mother made a point of telling me of Mary’s recent death and that her remains were sent back east.”
Sheriff Langford continued his story. “The second whiskey raid, the one where Fay was injured, was about ten miles northeast of Hutchinson during the late afternoon. The crows were yelling like paid lookouts. Jake Nichols and his wife were leaving their house when we walked up to it. As we approached, Mrs. Nichols—I don’t recall her first name—was carrying something in her apron, and began fleeing across a field. I told Fay to catch her, and in short time he did.
“She crashed together two quart fruit jars she’d been holding, trying to destroy the evidence. I can still hear the shattering glass and see Fay’s head jerking backwards. Only one jar broke, but it sent a spray of fine glass and corn whiskey into Fay’s face that temporarily blinded him. That is, we hoped it was only temporary.
“Later that night, Dr. Stewart removed a dozen particles of glass and a large wood splinter of wood from Fay’s right eye.
“We arrested Jake Nichols and his wife. The next morning, before Justice Cox, they pled guilty to possession of whiskey. Since there was no evidence of Mrs. Nichols purposefully trying to hurt Fay, and they had several small children who needed their care, there were no additional charges on her. Fay’s injury was considered an accident.
“They were both released from jail after paying a total of $250 in fines, plus costs. I can understand why County Attorney Harry Brown decided not to press charges. That’s how attorneys are trained to think. You need to prove intent. However, in light of Fay’s permanent injury, it seems to me that they got off lightly. After all, it was a reckless act committed during a crime.
“Fortunately for the people of Reno county, Fay has never given up his effort to improve himself. He never tires when working a criminal case and he will continue to give our citizens efficient service. He’s honest, fearless, and a square-shooter.
“Tomorrow, Fay will take office with two good eyes.”
The Kansas Authors Club www.kansasauthors.org is a statewide organization that encourages and supports great writing. It’s divided into seven districts. In Hutchinson, Reno County (part of District 6), we have monthly meetings at Hutchinson Community College. http://www.hutchcc.edu You’re invited. Questions? Contact Jim Potter, firstname.lastname@example.org