OPAL'S STORY by xumiaomaio

VIEWS: 3 PAGES: 34

									                           OPAL’S STORY
                            By Chuck Tatum

                         CHAPTER THREE
                    THE SHERIFF’S INTERVIEWS

      “You look like you have had it for one day. Why don’t you let me
help you to your bedroom, Mr. Young?” said Bill Tatum.


      “Bill, don’t worry about me, I’m alright here on the sofa. But I
could use a shot of whiskey. There’s a bottle of Jack Daniels in the
lower drawer of the china cabinet and there are some drink glasses in
the kitchen. Would you mind getting them for me?”


      “Sure thing, Mr. Young, but first let’s get a pillow under your leg.
We need to prop it up so the blood won’t settle in your foot,” Bill
replied.


      “Don’t bother on the whiskey, Bill. I’ll go look for it. You help
Charlie,” Bacon said.


      “I don’t want to get comfortable, the Sheriff of Rogers County
will be here after me in short order,” Young told Tatum.


      As Tatum was arranging a pillow for Young’s foot, Bacon was
looking for the whiskey in the china cabinet. After he found it, he got
three glasses from the kitchen and returned to the front room. Young
had fallen asleep. Bacon poured about 2 inches of whiskey in the
drinking glasses and handed one to Tatum saying,

                                     1
      “Let’s have a little pick-me-up.”


      They both put it down in one swallow. Bacon poured two more
and handed one to Tatum, asking


      “Are you related to the Young’s?”


      “No, I’m not,” Tatum replied. “I’m a salesman for the Lincoln
Welding Company out of Forth Worth. Mr. Young invited me to his
house for Sunday dinner.”


      “Bet you never expected anything like this to happen, did you?”


      “No.”


      “How do you know the Young’s?” Tatum asked Bacon.


      “I’m a friend of the Young’s through the Teague’s. I happened to
be at the Teague’s home when we got word of the shooting. So I went to
see how I could help. I never expected anything like this to happen,
either. It’s a tragedy.”


      “Yes, it is that,” Tatum replied. “And there is more to come.”


      They both downed their whiskey in one big swig. Bill Tatum
heard a loud knocking on the front door.



                                    2
      Bacon said, “I’ll get the door, Bill, you just stay where you are.”


      One of the men standing at the Young’s front door had a police
badge in his hand, holding it up to the door screen he said,


      “I’m Lt. Muskie with the Tulsa police Department and this is my
assistant Sgt. Phil Bowes. We are here to talk with Mr. Charles Young
about the shooting incident this afternoon at Farmer McMillan’s house
out near Catoosa. May we come in?”


      “Yes, I guess so. Mr. Young is sleeping, I’ll see if he can talk to
you now. I hate to wake him, he’s just fallen asleep,” Bacon replied.


      “It’s alright, Newton, show the gentlemen in. I have to talk to
them sooner or later. I can’t sleep anyway, my leg hurts so bad,” Young
said from across the living room.


      Bill Tatum was talking all this in. Lt. Muskie introduced himself
and his assistant to Mr. Young. Young told Lt. Muskie,


      “Mr. Tatum is a friend of mine and a houseguest.”


      Lt. Muskie said, “Mr. Young we need to talk to you alone, could
your guests excuse themselves?”


      “I’m under pain medication for my leg wound and somewhat
drowsy, so I prefer that they stay,” he replied.

                                     3
      “Alright, it doesn’t matter if they stay or not. We are here on
another subject, Mr. Young. Our job is to investigate the role your son
Malcolm young played in the shooting incident. The shooting and
killings happened, as you know, near Catoosa, which is in Rogers
County. We, the Tulsa Police, have no jurisdiction out there. Your son,
Malcolm was a member and officer of the special police. By state law
we have to investigate the shooting death of any officer of the law,” Lt.
Muskie explained. “So if you are up to it, please tell me how your son
Malcolm was involved.”


      “Involved! Involved! No damn way was my son Malcolm
involved. They shot us from ambush! He had only left the car when
this goddamned Farmer McMillan shot him in cold blood! Malcolm
didn’t have a chance to do anything!” Young replied.


      “Did Malcolm have his service weapon with him?”


      “No Malcolm didn’t have a gun with him.”


      “Who do you think shot Malcolm?”


      “Think?! Hell, I know it was Farmer McMillan. I saw him do it,
then he shot me in the leg and it was his son who shot my son, Clayton
from ambush! You should arrest McMillan for murder tonight!”


      “We can’t do that, Mr. Young. We have no jurisdiction in Rogers
County,” Sgt. Bowes replied.

                                     4
      “Did Malcolm shoot at McMillan?” Bowes asked.


      “Hell no, he couldn’t have, he didn’t have a gun! I told you
Malcolm didn’t have a gun to shoot anybody with!” Young responded
angrily.


      “All right, let that part rest. Tell us all what happened at the
shooting, Mr. Young,” Bowes said.


      Young’s jaw dropped, he had nodded off.


      “Let him sleep,” Tatum said. “I don’t think he is up to being
questioned any more after what he’s gone through today.”


      “I see what you mean. What do you know about this affair, Mr.
Tatum?” Lt. Muskie asked.


      “Only what Mr. Bacon and Mr. Young told me. I stayed here at
the house.”


      “What do you know, Mr. Bacon? Were you there?”


      “No, Lt. Muskie, I didn’t get there until it was all over. I used my
car to take Mr. Young, Opal and Clayton to the doctor in Catoosa. The
doctor wouldn’t help Mr. Young. He told us to go to Oklahoma
Hospital in Tulsa. Which is what I did. Clayton was dead at the scene.



                                     5
I understand he had just been along for the ride. Charles and Opal
didn’t want to believe he was dead.”


      Young awoke again saying, “It was a setup. We were ambushed!
I only shot back out of self-defense. McMillan first was the first to fire.
We never went there to shoot anyone. I only wanted to teach that
stupid farmer a lesson in manners.”


      Lt. Muskie asked, “Mr. Young, did your son Clayton have a
weapon?”


      “No, Clayton didn’t carry a gun. I was the only one with a gun. I
had my Winchester double barrel. I only used it in self-defense!”


      Tatum was disturbed at Mr. Young’s frankness and asked, “Lt.
Muskie, does Mr. Young need an attorney?”


      “Not on our account. We are only interested in what happened to
Malcolm. But he should be careful when he talks to the Sheriff from
Rogers County. Anderson, the county prosecutor is ambitious. Some
say he has his eyes on the State House in Oklahoma City. He cold use
this shooting as a jumping-off point for Governor! Not much has
happened in Rogers County since Will Rogers was born.”




                                     6
ROGERS COUNTY, SHERIFF’S OFFICE, AUGUST 24, 1924


        The telephone was ringing off the hook as Sheriff J. E. Herndon
entered his office. He could hear it ringing from the toilet down the
hall.


        “Damn phone always rings when you are on the can. Must be
something real important for it to ring so long on Sunday afternoon,” he
thought to himself.


        Sheriff Herndon picked up the telephone with his left hand
around the slender shaft of the instrument, sat down at his desk,
propped his feet on the edge and pushed his white Stockman’s hat to the
back of his head as he lifted the receiver to his ear and said,


        “Hello, this is Sheriff J. E. Herndon speaking. How can I help
you?”


        “Sheriff Herndon, this is Farmer Wade Whitley out in Catoosa.”


        “Yes, Whitley, how can I help you?”


        “Been bad things happening out here. There’s been a big
shootout and some men are dead, Sheriff.”


        “You don’t say? Are you sure they are dead, Whitley?”



                                     7
      “They sure looked dead to me, Sheriff.”


      “Where did this happen, Whitley?”


      “McMillan’s farm across from The Timber Ridge Church.”


      “Who’s been killed?”


      “I don’t rightly know who the two city men are, but one of the
dead men is Homer McMillan, Everett McMillan’s oldest boy,” Whitley
replied.


      “Oh my God, Whitley! This is horrible, just horrible. I will be on
my way out there as soon as I can round up my deputy. Luckily you
caught me at the office. I was on my way home for Sunday dinner.
Whitley, don’t let anyone leave the crime scene,” Herndon responded.


      “Can’t do that, Sheriff. I’m not out there. I’m calling from the
doctor’s house in Catoosa.”


      “I understand, Whitley, I understand.”


      Herndon called his wife and told her to go ahead with Sunday
dinner without him.


      “There’s been a shooting out near Catoosa and three men are
dead. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.”

                                   8
       “Who was killed?” his wife asked.


       “Don’t rightly know just yet. Farmer Whitley says one of them is
Everett McMillan’s oldest boy, Homer. The other men are from Tulsa.”


       Herndon next called his deputy, S.G. Renaker and told him to get
down to the Sheriff’s Office as fast as he could.


       “We have work to do out at The Timber Ridge Church.”


       “What’s happened, Sheriff?” Renaker asked.


       “We’ve got three men dead in the middle of the road out across
from The Timber Ridge church from a shootout. Don’t be asking
questions over the phone. Get on over to the office. I want to get out
there as quick as we can. I will tell you the rest on the way out to
Catoosa.”


       As the Sheriff’s Model T approached The Timber Ridge Church,
Renaker said,


       “God, look at all the people milling around like a herd of cattle!
It sure doesn’t take long to get a crowd at a shooting!”


       The Model T rolled to a stop just outside McMillan’s driveway.
One man separated from the people and walked toward the Sheriff’s
car.

                                     9
      “Are you McMillan?” asked Sheriff Herndon.


      “No my name is Bates Weaver, my house is just up the road
apiece.”


      “Where is McMillan? In the house?”


      “No. He went in the ambulance with his son,” Weaver told the
sheriff.


      “Just hold on. I want someone to tell me what happened here.
Where are the dead men Farmer Whitley told me about? And tell me
who all these people are standing around talking.”


      “These people are neighbors of the McMillan’s and are here to
help if they can,” replied Weaver.


      “Are any of them witnesses?”


      “Some are and some aren’t”


      “Mr. Weaver are you a witness?”


      “Yes, Sheriff, I saw it all.”




                                      10
      “Mr. Weaver I want you to tell me exactly what happened and
don’t leave anything out. Go slow so my deputy can write it all down.
Do you understand me?”


      “Sure do, Sheriff. I saw it all. It’s the fault of them city men from
Tulsa. They started shooting first, and Mr. McMillan and homer were
just defending their home.”


      “What started it all in the first place is what I want to know?”
Herndon asked Weaver.


      Weaver told Herndon about the set-to between the three Teague
girls and Lillian Young on one side with Cora Piguet and her friends on
the other. That it had started last Sunday after Sunday school and how
the taunting and bickering had escalated into a hair-pulling fist fight.
He told how Jack Piguet, Cora’s brother had stepped in to try to stop
the fight and that during that fight Opal Teague got both her eyes
blackened. He related how Lillian Yong had told people around the
countryside it was Jack Piguet who did it.


      Weaver told Herndon that Jack Piguet was telling anyone who
would listen if anyone said he gave the Teague girl a black eye, that
person was a liar. Weaver said that earlier that day, about noon, Mr.
Young and Jack Piguet got into an argument in front of McMillan’s
house, across from the church and that McMillan told them they
couldn’t argue in front of his house. He said that McMillan told Young



                                    11
he had best get on down the road or up the road, he didn’t care which,
just as long as they weren’t arguing in front of his property.


      “That’s when the city feller Young got in his car and drove away
telling McMillan he would be back later with the law,” Weaver said.


      “Go on, Mr. Weaver, tell me the rest of what happened. When
did the shooting start and how are you involved in this fracas?”
Herndon asked.


      “When I heard city men were coming back to get McMillan, I as a
good neighbor and friend, came down to help. I thought I could act as
a moderator and avoid any bloodshed, but I was wrong. I didn’t know
Young was going to bring so many guns and men with him,” Weaver
replied.


      “Were you armed?”


      “Yes, I brought my ten gauge with me to protect Mr. McMillan
and his family. Oh yes, I did bring my pistol, just in case.”


      “Just in case of what?” Sheriff Herndon asked.


      “Just in case those city fellows brought their guns and they did!
That’s what started the shooting, Sheriff. That tall city feller, I guess
his name is Young or so people told me, said if I didn’t get out of his



                                     12
way he would kill me. Lucky for me I knocked his shotgun into the air
and I would be dead right now!”


      “What happened next, Mr. Weaver?”


      “I can’t rightly say, Sheriff. It all happed so fast! When I
knocked Young’s shotgun up, it discharged into the air. It was then it
all started. Seems everyone except me was shooting. All of a sudden I
saw two of the men who came with Young laying smack dab in the
middle of the road. I don’t know where Homer was. He had been at the
corner of the house. It looked like this to me: Young shot Homer with
his shotgun, Homer and McMillan returned fire only in self-defense.
Young fired first.”


      “Where were you when the shooting started, Weaver?”


      “I ran and got behind my car. I’m no fool!”


      “You getting all this down on paper, Renaker?” the sheriff asked
his deputy.


      “Every last word, Sheriff.”


      In a loud voice Sheriff Herndon told the crowd, “If there are any
witnesses to these shootings, don’t go away. I will want to talk to you as
soon as I can.”



                                    13
      From the noise you could tell a car was coming at a high rate of
speed. It left a mile-long cloud of dust that seemed to linger forever on
that hot August afternoon. The car slowed as it approached so as not to
bring a whirlwind of dust into the assembled crowd. The bright blue
Chevrolet turned and pulled into the middle of McMillan’s front yard.
Some people had to scurry out of its way. The man getting out of the
Chevrolet coupe was Mr. Anderson, the Rogers County Attorney.


      “Why didn’t you call me before you left?” Anderson asked
Herndon.


      “Didn’t know I had to, Mr. Anderson. How did you find out I
was here?”


      “I heard about the shooting on the grapevine; it’s all over the
county. Bad news travels fast. I called your office and didn’t get an
answer so I called your wife who told me you were on your way to
Catoosa. Looks like you could use some help,” Anderson replied.


      “Sure could, Mr. Anderson. If you will work the crowd and see if
there are any more witnesses, I have to continue my interrogation of
Mr. Weaver. He saw it all, in fact he was in the big middle of it!”


      “Sorry for the delay, Mr. Weaver, can we continue?” Herndon
went on.


      “Sure we can, just ask away.”

                                    14
      “What happened to the two city men that were shot? Are they
dead? Where are their bodies?” Herndon inquired.


      “Sure looked dead to me Sheriff. One went in the ambulance that
took Homer away. A man in a private car picked up the second man.
He took one of the dead and a woman that could have been the dead
man’s wife or girlfriend, from the way she was crying and carrying on.
This same car also took Mr. Young away,” said Weaver. “He was shot
in the leg, but he could still walk.”


      “Shot in the leg, was he? But he could still walk. Couldn’t be too
bad a wound or he couldn’t walk.” “Make a note to call the Tulsa
hospitals to see if they ended up there,” Herndon said to Deputy
Renaker.


      “Yes, sir. I can handle that. I can handle that, all right, Sheriff as
soon as we get to a telephone,” replied the deputy.


      From the front porch of the McMillan house, McMillan’s children
were watching what was happening.


      “Weaver, are there other witnesses?” Herndon asked.


      “Not that I know of,” replied Weaver, “except Everett, that’s Mr.
McMillan.”



                                        15
         “McMillan doesn’t count. Sounds to me like he was one of the
shooters. That’s all for now, Mr. Weaver. Thanks for your help.”


         “Sure, Sheriff. Just let me know if I can help anymore. I live
right up the road, my name is on the mailbox, Bates Weaver.”


         Turning to his deputy, Herndon said, “Let’s load up and get into
Catoosa so we can phone the Tulsa hospitals to see where all the dead
and wounded are. Right now I have three dead men and no bodies.
This is the strangest murder case I ever investigated.”


         Sheriff Herndon was forty-four years old and serving his first
term as Sheriff of Rogers County. How he handled a high-profile
murder investigation would be important to his chances or re-election in
two years. Herndon closed his eyes to get his thinking straight. The
next people he wanted to interview would be Young and McMillan. He
needed to question the three men who came with Young from Tulsa.


         “If Young is at home in Tulsa, can I get to his house and question
him tonight or do I need the help of the Tulsa Police Department?” he
wondered to himself. He made a mental note to call the Tulsa Police
Chief.


         “Mr. Anderson, one question,” said Sheriff Herndon as he turned
to leave, “do I need to clear my investigation with Tulsa County
Attorney’s office before I question the alleged shooter, Charles Young?”

                                       16
      “Wouldn’t hurt to check in with them. Let them know what’s
going and all,” responded Anderson.


      “Ok, I will. Looks like we’ve done all we can do for now. My
deputy and I are headed to Catoosa to use a telephone to call the Tulsa
hospitals to see if they have Mr. Young and the bodies of the dead men.
Do you mind staying and continuing to question these people, Mr.
Anderson?” asked Sheriff Herndon.


      “Sure, I will. Go on and make your phone calls. I’ll handle
matters here.”


      The Model T, with the deputy at the wheel was leaving a long dust
cloud in its wake. The Sheriff told the deputy to back off the throttle,
that he wasn’t in any hurry to get killed in a Model T Ford. A road sign
indicated Catoosa was only a mile ahead. They had made good time.


      “Where to first, Sheriff,” inquired Deputy Renaker.


      “Doctor White’s house. If they aren’t there at least we can use the
good doctor’s phone to call the hospitals in Tulsa.”


      Dr. White’s house was at the east end of Catoosa. Some said the
doctor’s house was the finest home in Catoosa. It saw two hundred
yards back off the road. His house also served as his office. Sheriff
Herndon started to knock on the door when Dr. White met him. He

                                    17
didn’t invite the Sheriff into his office, figuring it was cooler outside on
the front porch steps where a small breeze was blowing.


      “Guess you’re here to check up on the shooting victims?” Dr.
White asked.


      “That’s right, Dr. White. Just what is going on sir, can you tell
me? I need to know right away!” the Sheriff replied.


      “All I can tell you is this, Sheriff, Homer McMillan is gravely
wounded. The other man in the ambulance is dead. I sent the
ambulance on to the Oklahoma Hospital in Tulsa to see if they can help
poor Homer. He didn’t look he was going to make it, either.”


      “Less than twenty minutes ago, a second car arrived. One man
was wounded in the leg. The second man appeared to be dead. I sent
that car on to Tulsa, also. I don’t want to get mixed up in a family fight.
I don’t want to get the McMillan clan mad at me for helping outsiders.
Besides, I never get paid in these shooting cases.”


      “Thanks, Dr. White for your help. Can I use your phone to call
the Oklahoma Hospital?” Herndon asked.


      “Sure, Sheriff, step into my office. The number is in the
phonebook on my desk.”




                                      18
      It took awhile for the long distance operator to get through to the
Oklahoma Hospital in Tulsa. It was confirmed by the Oklahoma
Hospital personnel that three men were dead, and one man was
wounded. Two men were DOA, the third man died in the emergency
room. One man was treated and released.


      Opal Young saw a beam of sunlight poking from around the edge
of the window shade. She noticed dust particles flickering in the muted
light. She had been waking up for a minute and falling asleep again for
more than an hour. The strong sedative Dr. Chalmers had given her
the night before was wearing off.


      Each time she awoke, she willed herself back to sleep. In her
semi-hypnotic state her mind flashed back to a country road. Shotgun
blasts echoed through her brain. She could see a man lying in the road;
he wasn’t moving. She ran to the prone figures, she rolled the body
over she couldn’t look at the face. Opal willed herself back to sleep. In
sleep all of yesterday was erased. Clayton was still alive.


      They were at their little honeymoon house safe and protected the
only thing they had planned was to attend Sunday dinner at her in-laws
house. What could be safer than going to Sunday dinner? Opal didn’t
want to ever wake up and find her world shattered. She wanted to sleep
forever.




                                    19
      Charles Young had a bad night. He couldn’t sleep. The pain
from the bullet hole in his thigh was overpowering his need for sleep.
He had polished off the last of the whiskey. But the real reason for his
not being able to sleep was the magnitude of yesterday’s events. His
mind went back in time and replayed Sunday’s events in slow motion.
He could see Clayton falling, then Malcolm. He could feel his shotgun
rise and kick. He could hear the blast and smell the gunpowder, as he
shot at a target at the corner of the McMillan house.


      The target dropped his gun and staggered behind the house.
Young relived the impact of the bullet in his leg; the pain was like a
shearing hot poker. Young remembered dropping his shotgun and
grabbing his leg with both hands, wrapped them around the wound as if
pressure would kill the pain. He could recall his half-funning, half-
staggering retreat to the opposite side of the county road. Self-
preservation took over. He had to escape the line of fire.


      First he looked at the farmer’s house from where the shots had
come. Then he looked down the road and saw his two sons lying dead.
This would be the first time, but not the last Young wished the bullet
had entered his head instead of his leg. Young wished he was dead, but
he ruled suicide out as an option. He still had a wife and a large family
to support. He would have to face the consequence of his actions.


      Margaret Young’s first waking thought was she had lost her two
sons. She started crying, and mourning their loss. She tried to stop
crying, but tears flowed from her eyes as from an inexhaustible source.

                                    20
      Tatum had gone back to his boarding house about midnight
Sunday and had a hard time getting to sleep. Monday morning he was
up early, performed his toilet, changed clothes and was on his way back
to Charles Young’s house by eight o’clock. Tatum has promised
Charles young he would be back early to help in any way he could.
There would be lots to do. Funeral arrangements must be made for the
two dead sons. There would be questions from the law to be answered,
newspaper people would be clamoring for additional details. Monday
promised to be a busy day.


      The Young’s other children realized that a dreadful thing had
happened to their big brothers, Clayton and Malcolm. Some were old
enough to know that their older brothers were dead, their father had a
gunshot wound in his leg, and their mother was still in bed and wouldn’t
come out. They knew, too, that Opal was in the other bedroom and they
could hear her sobbing and crying through the bedroom door.


      Mrs. Alice Cooper, the wife of one of the owners of the Mount
Cooper Boiler Works and long-time friend of the Young family, had
arrived at seven-thirty and had taken charge of the Young children,
seeing to their baths, dressing and a breakfast meal.


      Shorty Conner, Charles Young’s friend and companion from
yesterday’s events arrived at eight o’clock. Bill Tatum arrived at eight-
fifty. Mrs. Alice Cooper answered the insistent ringing telephone.
Finding out who was on the line, she called for Mr. Conner to take the

                                    21
phone call. The Tulsa Mortuary Company wanted to receive burial
instructions for the two Young boys and wanted to know if the family
had plots at a cemetery.


      Mr. Connor told the mortuary company he wasn’t a member of
the Young family, but he would inform the family and decisions would
be made soon. Mrs. Cooper offered Bill Tatum a cup of coffee. When
Conner finished on the phone he joined Tatum at the breakfast table
and Mrs. Cooper brought him a cup. Connor told Tatum of the
conversation with the mortuary company. Mrs. Cooper listened in.


      “I have no idea what Charles’ financial situation is, I know
undertakers want money before they do anything for the dead,” he said
to Tatum.


      Tatum told Connor, “I don’t either, so we must discuss this with
Charles to see how we can help.”


      Mrs. Cooper said, “Let’s not worry Charles or Margaret with
funeral details at this time. He has enough troubles on his mind and
doesn’t need to be concerned with money for the mortuary or burial
plots. My husband and his partner, Mr. Mount will advance any burial
expenses.”


      The phone rang again. Shorty took the call; it was Sheriff J. B.
Herndon of Rogers County on the line. He wanted to know the
condition of Charles Young, because if he wasn’t dying he wanted to

                                   22
question Charles Young about his role in the shooting that happened
yesterday at the McMillan farm. Shorty told Sheriff Herndon that
Young wasn’t feeling very well and was in a lot of pain.


      Sheriff Herndon told Shorty Conner, “Tell Young not to leave the
house, I am on my way to question him and other witnesses, including
you, Mr. Connor and Opal Young.”


      Bill Tatum and Alice Cooper could tell the gist of Shorty’s
conversation because Shorty had the bad telephone habit of repeating
the other person’s conversation out loud to himself, as if trying to
remember it so he could recite it later.


      Shorty told Alice and Bill, “That was the Sheriff of Rogers County
on the other end of the line. He wants to question Charles, Opal and
me. The Sheriff said Mr. Young isn’t to leave the house.”


      Alice Cooper responded, “Not much chance of that. Charles’s leg
is severely wounded, and I don’t believe Opal is in any condition to be
questioned today.”


      Tatum and Connor finished their coffee and went to inform
Charles Young of the impending visit of the Rogers County Sheriff.


      “Do you think you need to speak to an attorney before talking to
the Sheriff?” Connor asked Young.



                                     23
      “Don’t see any need to. I will tell the Sheriff exactly what
happened. The McMillan’s ambushed us! They shot and killed my
boys. They fired first and I fired back in self defense after I was shot in
the leg,” Young responded.


      “Mr. Young some serious things happened on the road out at the
church. You might want to talk to a lawyer before talking to the Sheriff
from Rogers County. After all, anything you say can be held against
you in a court of law,” Tatum told Young.


      “I will be alright, don’t worry. I didn’t do anything wrong. They
shot first, I shot back in self-defense. You remember, don’t you,
Shorty?”


      “To tell the truth, things happened so fast I don’t know what
happened,” Shorty replied.


      At the Roger County Sheriff’s Office in Claremore, Oklahoma
Sheriff Herndon asked his deputy to get the number for the Tulsa Police
Department, after hanging up the phone from his conversation with
Shorty Connor.


      “I don’t know the number, it’s long distance. Dial the operator,
she has to ring it for you anyway,” replied Deputy Renaker.




                                     24
         “Don’t you think I know it’s a long distance call to Tulsa? After
all, there is a reason why I’m the Sheriff and you’re only my deputy?”
Herndon replied as he dialed O for the operator.


         A pleasant woman’s voice came on the line. It had a singsong ring
to it:


         “Hello, Sheriff Herndon this is the long distance operator. How
may I direct your call?”


         “Betty, you shouldn’t be calling me by my name. Someone might
be listening in on our conversation.”


         “Oh no they can’t. You’re not on a party line.”


         “Well, Betty that’s good to know and I didn’t know that, but let’s
forget all that now. I have County business to look after. I wan you to
get the Tulsa Chief of Police on the line for me as fast as you can.”


         “Is this about the shootings and killings that happened out at
Catoosa?” she inquired.


         “Betty, don’t ask questions. Just get the Tulsa Chief of Police for
me. I need to talk to him!”


         “No need to get made at your sister. You must tell me all about
this case when you get back from Tulsa.”

                                       25
      “How did you know I was going to Tulsa? I never told anyone.”


      “You don’t have a party line, but little brother, remember an
operator can listen in on any line, at any time!”


      Sheriff Herndon made a mental note to watch his conversations in
the future. His sister was a good woman, but she liked to gossip.


      “Hello, Chief, this is Sheriff J. B. Herndon on the line. I need to
talk to you about procedures and protocol on a case I’m working on. I
have three dead men in the morgue in Tulsa. I also have a man who has
been wounded in the leg.”


      “Is his name Charles Young?”


      “Oh, you have already read about it in the Tulsa newspapers,
have you? I figured you must have. It was on the front page of both
papers. What do I need? I need your permission to come in your
territory and question Charles Young and other witnesses. After all,
I’m in Rogers County and you’re in Tulsa County. I don’t want to step
on anyone’s toes,” replied Sheriff Herndon.


      “That’s real nice of you, Sheriff. No problem, just come by the
Police Department and I will send a detective along to assist you,” said
Tulsa County Police Chief.




                                    26
       “All right, would 10:30 be ok?”


       “No problem”


       “Ok, Chief, very nice of you to be so accommodating. I didn’t
think it would be a problem, but I wanted to run it by you first before
we came busting in.”


       “Just come by Police Headquarters and the detective will assist
you.


       “Remember, if you ever need my help in Rogers County, I’m at
your service. Goodbye,” said Sheriff Herndon.


       Turning to his deputy, Herndon said, “Get the Model T out. Fill
it with gasoline we are going to Tulsa to question Charles Young. After
we question him we will get a hold of that Everett McMillan and
questions him. Remember to check the oil and water, too. It’s a fair
piece to Tulsa town.”


       As his deputy was servicing the Ford, Herndon thought to himself
       “Someone is going to jail for these crimes, people have to learn they
can’t go around murdering people in Rogers County and get away with it,
not while I’m Sheriff!”




                                     27
      At the District Attorney’s Office the conversation between Sheriff
J. B. Herndon and Assistant District Attorney of Rogers County N. B.
Johnson ensued.


      “Let me get this straight. When Charles Young and his party
came back to the McMillan farm and killed Homer McMillan, the act
became premeditated murder?” asked Herndon.


      “Yes, that’s right, premeditated murder. Not manslaughter. The
act of leaving and returning makes it murder,” replied Johnson.


      “Do I have to tell Mr. Young he is being investigated for
murder?” Herndon inquired.


      “You don’t have to tell Young anything at first. Let him tell you
his version of what happened. Then get that McMillan farmer to tell his
side. Then you question everyone that was involved and any witnesses
you can find,” instructed the Assistant District Attorney.


      “What crime can I charge McMillan with?” Herndon asked
Johnson.


      “I don’t know if he’s guilty of any crime. From what I
understand, McMillan acted in self-defense. He shot from his own
porch. Hard to beat that for self-defense – shooting from your own
front porch at the group of Young assailants in the roadway. I can tell
this is your first murder case, right?” asked the D.A.

                                    28
      “Yes, it is. Have you ever tried a murder case yourself?”
Herndon responded.


      “No, not really, but I sat in on a murder case in Oklahoma City
when I was in law school.”


      “Big lot of help you’re going to be,” Heron said. “I’ve got to go
now, but I wanted to check with you on the legalities of this case before I
questioned Charles Young. I will let you know what happens when we
get back from Tulsa.”


      It was 10 am on the morning of August 25, 1924 when Bill Tatum
answered a knock at the Young’s front door. He met four men standing
on the front porch. He knew they were from the law the way the
dressed. Sheriff Herndon favored the stockman look, khaki trousers
and shirt. In spite of the August heat, his shirt was buttoned at the neck
and he wore a khaki colored necktie. A brown leather belt held up his
trousers, and a western-style leather holster held his service revolver.
He favored high-top brown shoes instead of cowboy style boots. He
found it hard to operate the pedals of his Model T Police car with
cowboy boots on. His star was pinned above his right shirt pocket. His
white hat was creased down the center. The brim was rolled on both
sides, both having the same amount of roll. Herndon had spent a lot of
time in front of a mirror getting that roll on his hat just the way he
thought a sheriff’s hat should look.




                                       29
      Herdon’s deputy wore a carbon copy of the Sheriff’s uniform
except he wore brown cowboy boots. The other two men were members
of the Tulsa Police Department. Lt. Muskie and his assistant, Sgt. Phil
Bowes wore summer weight suits. Muskie's was a light white and blue
seersucker and Bowes’ suite was brown and white striped, out of the
same material. The bulge on the left side of Bowes’ coat indicated the
side he wore his service weapon on. His light summer coat was stained
with seat under the armpits, his shirt collar was unbuttoned and his tie
was loose. He was a heavy man, weighing over 250 pounds. Bowes
constantly used a white handkerchief to wipe the perspiration from his
face. The August heat in Tulsa was hard on him. He seemed to be
melting and had an endless supply of white handkerchiefs.


      “Hello, I’m Sheriff J. B. Herndon from Rogers County. I’m here
to talk to Mr. Charles Young. These two gentlemen are with the Tulsa
Police Department, and Deputy Sheriff Pittney is my assistant.


      “Yes, Mr. Young has been expecting you. Come in, he is in the
front room. Come right this way,” Tatum told the lawmen.


      Charles Young was half-sitting, half-lying on a large sofa, his
wounded leg was propped up with a large brocade pillow. Tatum
repeated the introductions. No on shook hands. Shorty Connor came
into the room from the kitchen and took a chair to one side.


      Charles Young said, “Please be seated, gentlemen. I understand
the reason for your visit.”

                                    30
      When everyone was seated, Sheriff Herndon began.


      “Mr. Young, I realize this is a very bad time for you with the
tragedy of yesterday and your leg the way it is, but I will get right to the
point. I want you to tell me exactly what happened yesterday at the
McMillan place. Take your time. My deputy is slow at handwriting.
Don’t leave anything out. I intend to get to the bottom of this shooting.
The Tulsa Police are here to help me. You realize that since the killings
took place in Catoosa, which is in Rogers County where I am the duly-
elected Sheriff, this investigation will be conducted under my
supervision.”


      “Mr. Young, who is the man that just came into the room?”
Herndon inquired.


      “That’s my friend, Shorty Conner,” Young replied.


      “Was he with you yesterday when the shooting took place?”


      “Yes, he was.”


      “Mr. Connor, I must ask you to please lave the room now, but
don’t leave the house. I will want to get your story, also.”


      Shorty went to the kitchen, but didn’t close the door all the way.
Young asked that Bill Tatum be allowed to stay.



                                     31
      “Are you a witness, Mr. Tatum?” Herndon asked.


      “No, I wasn’t there, Sheriff,” Tatum replied.


      Charles Young related his version of what happed. How Everett
McMillan had threatened him with his shotgun for arguing in front of
his house, that he had gone back to Tulsa to get the law to arrest
McMillan for threatening him and his family’s lives, that he brought his
son Malcolm along to help straighten McMillan out because he was a
patrol officer in the Tulsa Highway Patrol. Young went on to tell
Herndon,


      “When we arrived at the farm there was a man standing in front
of the house armed with a shotgun, standing there waiting. My sons
and me had just got out of the car when gunfire erupted and I saw my
son Malcolm fall to the roadway. Then someone shot my son Clayton.
I fried my shotgun at the man who shot Malcolm Someone on the front
porch shot me in the leg. I believe it was McMillan who shot Malcolm
and me. I think it was a younger man I shot at, the one who shot
Malcolm. It all happened so fast I don’t rightly know the sequence of
events. It all happened so fast, Sheriff, it was all a blur.”


      The Sheriff asked to be excused. He went into the kitchen to
question Shorty Connor. His deputy followed, notebook in hand.
Connor told the same basic version of the story Charles Young related,
but he went to great pains to tell Sheriff Herdon that he never fired a
shot, that he didn’t have a gun of any kind, that he had only gone for a

                                      32
ride on a Sunday afternoon and was caught up in this horrible affair.
He was a victim of circumstance. Shorty was already trying to put as
much distance between himself and his friend Charles Young as he
could. Herndon would have a lot of version of the shooting before his
inquest was complete. Next Herndon asked Young if Opal Young was
available for questioning.


      “I don’t rightly know if she is awake yet. This all has been a
shock to all of us, especially my wife and daughter-in-law.”


      At this time Charles Young started crying, burying his face in his
hands and lying back on the couch.


      “I need to question your daughter-in-law and Mrs. Young as soon
as possible. It’s important to get the facts while they are fresh in
everyone’s mind,” Herndon told Young.


      Bill Tatum spoke up at this time saying the family doctor had the
women sedated. Their answers might be incorrect and couldn’t be
relied on while sedated.


      “That’s true,” the Sheriff replied. “But it’s a fair piece from
Claremore to Tulsa. It would save the taxpayers time and money if I
could get their statements while I’m here in Tulsa and not have to make
another trip.”




                                     33
      Tatum told Herndon, “You’ll be making a lot more trips to Tulsa
before this case is over. Best that you call back tomorrow, Sheriff. The
ladies aren’t going anywhere.”


      “That’s true, Tatum. Let the ladies rest. I can get their stories
tomorrow. In the meantime, Mr. Young you stay put and the same goes
for you, Shorty. Don’t be taking any trips out of town.”


      Young replied, “With this leg, I couldn’t get far.”


      All this time Lt. Muskie was taking his notes along with the
sheriff’s deputy. Bowes continued to sweat. Twice he went to the
kitchen and helped himself to several glasses of water to slake his thirst.
As the lawmen prepared to leave, Lt. Muskie told Charles Young,


      “Mister Young, if I was you I would get me the best damned
criminal lawyer in the State of Oklahoma! Looks like you are going to
need one. Mr. Connor you had better get one, also.”




                                     34

								
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