My Little Town 20010309: Dee Kirkendall

(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Those of you that read this irregular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile of so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

I never write about living people except with their express permission, so this installment is about a long dead denizen of Hackett.  I never learnt what Dee’s real first name was; everyone just called him Dee.

He was a deputy sheriff just about forever.  This was in the mid 1960s to around 1980, give or take.  Here is what I remember about him.

Dee was the stereotypical southern deputy.  He sort of looked like the actor who played the CIA operative in the Bond films, except he was not quite (well, not nearly) as handsome as the actor and bigger around the waist.  He was around my age now when I became aware of him.

At the time, deputy sheriffs wore light tan uniforms, and had Barney Fife hats.  What impressed me most, as a child of around six or so, was the sidearm that he wore on a very wide belt.  Guessing today, I would believe that it was a Colt .38 calibre revolver with about a six inch barrel.  That was very impressive to a kid my age at the time.

Dee was a native, and his family still lives there.  I do not what one had to do to become a deputy at the time, but college or specialized training was NOT part of it!  We are talking the early 1960s, folks!  At the time, Hackett did not have its own police, so the primary law enforcement was left up to the Sebastian County Sheriff, a Mr. Fred Hayes as I recall.  That, like in many jurisdictions, was an elective position, but deputies were not elected, so they were likely to survive changes at the top.

I remember when I was VERY young that Gene and Katy’s (see the previous installment in this series) store had gotten burglarized, and my dad called the sheriff’s department.  This was long before 911, and to call Fort Smith from Hackett was actually an operator assisted long distance telephone call!  We are talking about 1964 or so.  By the time that Dee showed up, the burglars were long gone.

Dee came in and Dad told him what he saw, and he took the report.  That pistol still attracted my attention.

In the late 1960s to the very early 1970s Hackett became quite lawless.  We had people literally rustling cattle and serving the illegal hamburger in a cafe.  We had several other folks shooting out streetlights (the mercury vapor ones had just been installed, and the thugs HATED the better illumination).  One time, Billy Israel fell off of the roof of one the the buildings whilst Dee and crew were coming after him, and broke both arms in several places!  It was amusing to see that thug in two casts simultaneously, because he was a very bad man, with no redeeming qualities.  Though I do not know it for a fact, he is almost certainly deceased now, since he was around 40 then, and lived very hard.

Slowly, Hackett became more lawful, and all of the street fun disappeared.  I missed it, because I lived in a house with a balcony upon which I could sit, unobserved, and observe what was happening.  Most of the confrontation was about what they thought to be “attractive” women, but I never thought that they were.  They looked sort of harsh to me.  I preferred Jo Susan, but both of us were much younger, had better training, and never touched each other.  Hell, we were not even teenagers then.  But that is off point.

Dee, finally and with help from the State Police, ran out the outlaws and Hackett was once again serene.  Too, too serene!

I was a bit older when Dee took a very drunk teenager to jail.  The law was clear, so he should have taken him in, but Dee said something that still sticks with me.  It just happened that Dee nabbed him just outside of our yard in daylight, and the kid (I have no idea who he was) was vomiting.  My parents came out to see what the commotion was, and as Dee did the sheriff thing, knocking the kid to his back and otherwise abusing him, said, “He is goin’ to feel REAL good tomorrow!”  Bastard.

Let me leave you with this for just a minute, but ask you to think about the ultraconservative and combative attitude that he often exhibited.  This will become not only important, but extremely poignant and even bizarre later.  Please stay with me for a bit more.

His son, Louis, likely still living, but since I have nothing negative to say about him, here, I will mention him.  Louis was a big boy, likely around 21 or so, tall and not what anyone would call trim.  I remember when I was around 16 or so getting my Dad’s truck stuck in mud at the farm.  Regardless of how hard I rocked it, I just could not get it out of the mud.  I walked the mile or so to town, and found Louis.  He fired up his tractor and drove out to the farm, with me riding against the drive train and the fender.  (Those of you who know tractors will understand where I was standing).  Dad always kept a chain in the back of the truck, and Louis and I attached it, and he pulled me out in about ten seconds.  When I asked him what I owed him, he said, “Weeeel, if I git stuck, you come an’ hep me out.”  I never got that opportunity, but will take this one to thank him for helping me.

Louis liked to load his own shotgun shells, and liked to experiment with new, and heavy, loads.  One day he tried a new experiment, and the chamber of his shotgun could not contain the pressure.  It exploded, taking a significant part of his right face and jawbone with it.  He was in hospital for a long time, but survived.  He always carried a scar from it.  A cautionary tale:  READ THE LOADING BOOK before you try new things.  Louis was my friend, and I need to see if he is still with us.  Not likely before this is posted, but near the top of the list of things that I need to do.

Now back to his father, Dee.  Fred Hayes, mentioned before, busted a big pot farm around, as I remember, maybe 1975 or 1976.  It turned out to be the Great Ragweed, Ambrosia trifida, which grows in immense fields around Hackett, but only causes allergies.  It does have a very superficial resemblance to pot, in that the height of the plant is similar, the color is similar, and that the leaves are very vaguely similar.

Here are two pictures of a plant and its various leaves.  Next are pictures of Cannabis sativa.   You can see the similarities and differences.

Photobucket  Photobucket

These photographs show the general outline of the plant and the leaf structure.  Compare them with those of pot, next.

Photobucket

The next election cycle, Dee decided to try to become the elected sheriff, and his campaign slogan, I kid you not, was just this:

Dee knows pot.

He lost, but he was right.  Now, please come back to the suspension that I had asked you to hold.

Dee got hurt, I would say, in the very late 1970s or early 1980s.  He lost blood, and had to have a transfusion to save his life.  He was retired from law enforcement at the time, but lost a lot of blood.  In my little town, it was most likely a farming accident, but I was busy chasing women, and finding who I thought would be a lifetime mate at the time, so I do not remember exactly what his injury was. He was taken to hospital, taken care of, and received enough blood to make him well.

Those transfusions were laden with HIV.  Dee recovered quickly for having his missing blood replaced, and that lasted for several months.  Then the HIV virus took over his immune system, and at the time there was NO defense against it.  As a matter of fact, it was only beginning to be recognized as an infection.

Dee died, a very early victim of AIDS, just about before we knew what AIDS was.

Looking back, even his harsh treatment of the drunk kid might not have been that bad.  Louis told me years afterwords that Dee just took him home, hoping to instill the fear of God into the kid that it might be worse the next time.

So, do only big cities have trouble with HIV?  My Little Town lost someone who, even though of all of his faults, turned out to be a pretty good guy.  That was just as the infection was becoming recognized.

I always welcome comments about your little towns.  I have gotten some wonderful ones.  Please offer more.

Warmest regards,

Doc

3 comments

  1. all of our little towns?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

    • Xanthe on March 11, 2011 at 2:05 am

    but you might consider Little Italy in Chicago a small village until itself.

    My father told me we could go out and get pizza on a Friday – this was a real treat for us.  This was about 1947 or so.  I was curious where he’d gotten the money.  Nine year old girls are aware of parents’ budgets – they’re told often enough.

    Oh elections are coming up and they paid me $4 to vote for XXX.  Daddy – daddy you can’t take that money.  Oh, don’t worry honey – I’ll vote for who I want.  That’s stupid of them to give you the money.

    Lots of people who have money are stupid, honey but you know what.  They stick together.  That’s a strength.    

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