Hemphill County in the Rearview

by on December 7, 2021 :: 0 comments

photo "Home Totem" by Tyler Malone

My mom had called me earlier that day to let me know that my brother Randy had called her to let her know that he was in jail down in Texas. She also told me that dad was not going to bail him out. It seemed that both him and his friend Red had been charged with possession of marijuana. I told her not to worry about it. We were on strike at the mill where I worked. I had a little money in a savings account. I told her I would drive down there and get him out.

It was 1975. Back in those days, even a small amount of weed in Texas could land you in prison. So I sat at my kitchen table with road maps of Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas in front of me. On one side of a piece of paper, I wrote down the highways I would take to get down to the Texas panhandle. On the back side of the paper, I wrote down the highways I would switch onto that would take me back to central Illinois. This was long before GPS.

When Randy got laid off from a a local factory, Red asked him if he wanted to come with him to work on oil rigs in Texas. Randy liked Red and thought a change of scenery might be good. So off he went with Red, headed for the oil fields of the Texas Panhandle.

Red was an interesting character in those days. He lived in a little house out in the country. He had a couple coonhounds. He had a 1959 Harley. He hung around with friends who also rode Harley motorcycles. He liked to smoke weed. He sold marijuana for extra cash and so he could smoke free. He worked off and on, but never stayed at one job for very long. Red had long, light colored red hair that came down past his shoulders. He often wore it in a ponytail. He had a lot of girls that he spent time with, but no steady girlfriend. And Red liked his beer.

In those days, I drove a 1973 LeMans Pontiac. I got in my Pontiac and left for Texas about four in the afternoon. In Missouri, I got behind a semi that was going like a bat out of hell. I followed him all the way to Texas. He got stopped for speeding when he crossed the Texas border. I hadn’t had much sleep the night before leaving for Texas, so I pulled into a motel parking lot.

When I laid down on the bed in the motel room, I was almost asleep when the bed in the next room started squeaking and occasionally the headboard would hit the wall between our rooms. It was annoying, but I finally dozed off anyway.

Early that morning, I pulled into the town of Canadian, Texas. I drove up to the county jail and parked my car. I told a deputy I was there to bail my brother out of jail. He told me he would be right back and left the room. I walked over to the bulletin board to look at wanted posters and photos pinned up on it. The photos showed deputies escorting long haired young men up the stairs to the jail cells. Captions on photos said things like, Hippy hater, Hippy killer, or Pot patrol, shit like that. The deputy came back and took me in to see the sheriff. He was sitting with his feet propped up on his desk. He wore cowboy boots. Behind him was a coat rack with a cowboy hat and his gun belt hanging from it.

The sheriff said, “Your brother is in a peck of trouble, son.” I could have laughed but thought it unwise. I said, “Well, I’m here to bail him out.” The sheriff called the bondsman. Then he told me that this was gonna cost me $1,500. I told him back in Illinois 10 percent came to $1,000. He said, “This is Texas, son. Everything is more and bigger.”

After I paid his bail, me and Randy got in my car and took off out of Canadian, Texas. I said, “Nice guys.” Randy said, “When they arrested us, there were two of them. One of them had a gun on us the whole time, and said, ” Don’t make a move, boys. Don’t even blink or you’ll die in total darkness.” We both belly laughed. Randy wanted to stop for a beer. I told him, “Let’s wait till we get to Oklahoma.”

When I looked in the rearview, I saw what looked like dust trailing behind the Pontiac. Another glance told me it was steam. I pulled into a gas station. The attendant showed me that my heater hose had been cut. He replaced it and told me it was a good thing we stopped, because it was a long way to anywhere on down the road.

I got Randy back to Illinois. He started working a job that he stayed with and paid me back the $1,500 when he got it saved up. He never did have to go back to Texas for trial. I guess when election time came around, the sheriff and bondsman were exposed as crooks.

It’s a lot easier for both of us to stay out of jail these days. And pot is legal in Illinois now.

editors note:

So much from the past is already up in smoke.  Breathe in; breathe out. Breathe. ~ Tyler Malone

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