From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR
From experience gained as a little boy in a little town, I can tell you that if you’re going to be a bank robber, you need to cover up any tell-tale physical giveaways. Sometimes, even a panty-hose stocking won’t help.
I re-learned this much later in life when told about a guy in Ruston who’d long-ago robbed a service station. He didn’t have any ears. So when the police asked the attendant for a physical description, one of the first things the guy said was, “Well, I noticed right off he didn’t have any ears.” It wasn’t five minutes later that the police apprehended the careless robber, counting money in his den; the officers had simply run through in their brains the list of non-ears homeowners in town – you can imagine how small that number might be – and then pointed their cruiser straight to his front yard, where he sat behind a screen door counting 5’s and 1’s.
Cricket, one of my hometown heroes, fell into this sad set of criminal, ones with an eye for the prize but no real smarts concerning how, exactly, to get there. Step A was get a gun and Step B was fill up the truck with gas and Step C was target a location. But after that, the plan was shaky. Cricket learned the hard way.
He’d been an All-State football player, this despite having lost a big toe in a shotgun accident in a misspent junior high existence. The accident had happened because he’d fallen asleep in the woods with the gun on his foot. He was called lazy, and he probably was, unless he was your hero. And he was no less than that to me and the rest of the elementary school gang who watched him tackle ball carriers on Friday nights, knock people down right and left, and run to daylight when we had the ball. He even punted. With his big-toeless foot. What some people called lazy, we boys called efficient. Cricket was the man.
But he turned down scholarship offers after he learned he’d have to go to class in college, and that sad fact relegated him to the tobacco fields with the rest of us. I was still little and a tractor driver; Cricket and the grown guys did the heavy work. But it could get to be unpleasant for everybody, there with the snakes and the mud and the gummy tobacco in the big fields of my little South Carolina hometown.
It was in weather like this, the back-end of a steamy, sultry summer, that is happened. It rained all night and was still drizzling that morning, making the fields too wet for work. It’s a long story that Keever or Mertie or Mr. Peabug or most anyone back home could tell better, but the short version is that Cricket decided to bolt boredom that day. Some of us went to the city pool. Some of us went fishing. Not Cricket. He told his two scrawny twin cousins to get in the truck, handed each a bandana like the one around his own neck, and headed toward town and our little First National Bank.
With bandanas over their faces, the trio walked in to a small building about the size of the average garage. Only the teller – a young farmer’s wife – and Miss Jean Watson, perpetual bank president, were there. Once inside, things progressed quickly: Cricket was slow in life, fast in competition.
In the minute it took for them to get in and out, Cricket made two huge mistakes. One, he called the teller by name when he asked for money. Two, when Jean, a pear-shaped woman, started to get up from behind her desk, he made an unkind weight reference when telling her to sit back down, though her weight was largely hidden behind stacks of loan requests.
It was a half hour later when Cricket’s uncle, Zimp Ivy, walked in on the three barefoot boys counting money in Cricket’s bedroom. Zimp happened to be the sheriff. When she’d called in the robbery, Jean had already told Zimp about Cricket’s third mistake. “If your nephew plans to rob more banks,” she said, “he should probably wear shoes. At least on the foot that doesn’t have the big toe.”