Kinfolk Who Impressed Me
Many years ago, my brother-in-law, Earl Spears, was Sheriff of McDonald County, MO. Earl was one quarter Cherokee and had an easy-going way about him. He looked a lot like a movie star of the 1950s called Jeff Chandler – High cheekbones, slanting gray eyes and very fit. He married my sister when I was eleven years old and I grew up idolizing him. He was droll and understated and was the source of many interesting events in my young life.
Earl was sheriff for 12 years or three terms. The pay was paltry, but as crime wasn’t overwhelming it was a pretty good life. At the time, there were no retirement benefits for county officials, so he was never well to do, but so rich in personality in a dry, comic way. He was a crack shot and because he felt he might use his pistol before thinking, he usually kept it in the glove box of the squad car.
He seldom gave out traffic tickets, leaving that the Highway Patrol, but on one occasion, he gave a speeding ticket to a young man from the next county.
Soon after, the young man was in one of the McDonald County watering holes, bellied up to the bar and bitterly complaining about having got a ticket. One of the regulars slowly leaned back and said, “Son, you have to understand that here in McDonald County we have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Your problem is, you ain’t one of the people.
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After he was sheriff, he worked for a state agency for a few years. He decided to retire as it involved a lot of time away from McDonald County where he wanted to spend his time. I was invited to his retirement party at the Shangri-La Motel and Dining room, a local hangout with good food and generous drinks.
The bartender was a strapping young woman named Susie, who could go bear hunting with a switch. In other words, she was very capable of handling anything that came down the pike. Several of Earl’s colleagues came down from Jefferson City to bring the blessings of the Capitol to his new life. The party was a lot of fun. I remember that we all had a very good time teasing Earl and enjoying good company.
The next day, as was a frequent custom, we met again at the same place to relive the fun. Susie was on duty again and as she handed around the usual drinks, she said off hand. “One of those guys from Jefferson City kept patting me on the butt last night.” The testosterone level went stratospheric. How dare a stranger even touch one of our fair maidens? What did he do? Why didn’t you tell us!” echoed around the table.
Well… said Susie. “I didn’t mind that much. He was such a gentleman about it.”
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My Cousin Gene was a most interesting character. He was a superb horseman and kept quarter horses as a hobby. He then decided that the horses needed a companion, so he got a goat to fill that role. Soon after, his Cadillac needed some repair work, so he was given a dreadful old loaner car – beat up fenders and a smoking tailpipe. Getting bored one day, he decided to go over the local watering hole for a cup of coffee and catch up on the news. The goat trotted along behind the car so on an impulse, he opened the back door and took the goat along.
Arriving at the Shangri-La (probably the most misleading name, ever), he took the goat in (yes, he did that) and introduced him as a very treasured prize sire that he had to treat very specially in order to keep him in the mood for his reproductive duties. After a time of genial conversation, Gene and the goat headed for home.
As they topped the hill (at a rapid clip with smoke billowing from the tailpipe) toward Pineville, Gene was stopped by a local Highway Patrolman, Merle. G. who approached the old car cautiously. He looked inside and said "@#$ Bunch, what are you doing! I just radioed Carthage headquarters and said I was in pursuit of a vehicle that appeared to be on fire and that there were two occupants – the driver and an old man in the back seat. "
Guilelessly, Gene launched into his “story” about the goat being very special. He said, “He gets a little high strung, and I have found that if I take him for a ride and sing little goat songs to him, he settles right down.”
With that Merle again commented most unfavorably about Gene's ancestry, threw up his hands and said. “You get back to Pineville and I don't ever want to see that goat in a car again!”
It goes without saying that Marilyn misses her late cousin Gene. He was a wonderful story teller and the source of endless amusement.
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