Declan being the son of Cormac Connors, sheriff of our small town of Beatrice, was always the diplomat. Why take for instance the name of our town. Some kids at school got into a debate one day about how its pronounced. Most were of the popular opinion that it should come out Bee-at-trice, while some (me included) said it was named after a some county judge’s daughter, and therefore should be pronounced as Bee-a-trice.
Well, Dec put us all to shame at the end of that debate, saying names of towns could only be named for famous folks, such as Lincoln, capitol of our state, which was named after Abe Lincoln. He said look at all the surrounding towns, such as Fairbury, Wymore, Blue Springs, Filley, Pawnee City, Odell, and Red Cloud. Not one of them had been named for any judge’s daughter. Why? Because no judge’s daughter was famous enough to have a whole damned town named after her! Therefore, Bee-at-trice is how our town should be pronounced. End of discussion.
And it had been, because usually when Dec spoke, everyone listened. If they didn’t, rumor was his dad, Sheriff Mac, would come in the middle of the night and put you in jail, forcing you to share the same cell with Hiney Scrabble. Yeah, Dec’s words were usually the last on any subject. Because no one wanted to end up a locked in a cell with the town drunk Hiney Scrabble, who drove the town’s tow truck by day, but ended up three sheets to the wind by night.
At which point, Sheriff Mac and his two deputies usually had to extract the big giant of a man out of Harv’s Tavern, and walk him down to sleep off his drunk in jail. Or if it came to it, Mac and his two deputies took Hiney to the ground, wrestled him around some, and hog-tied him with a set of handcuffs. But no matter how Hiney Scrabble ended up in jail, no kid in our school ever wanted to test the theory that Sheriff Mac would do his only son’s bidding and arrest his fellow classmates so they could spend a night in county with big ol’ Hiney.
Funny how rumors like that get started. Dec and I for the life of us can’t figure how that one got its creations. Because if anyone in town knew Sheriff Mac, they’d know that the last thing he would ever do is terrorize some poor kid on a whim from his son. No, Mac, as most folks called him, was the most fair-minded upholder of the law that I had ever seen. And to think that he would even consider doing something that mean in support of Dec, would be absurd.
Why, in fact, Dec and I knew firsthand Sheriff Mac’s idea of justice. We found it out the hard way, too. The first time we ever got caught stealing candy from Lawrie’s Shop, old man Lawrie phoned Sheriff Mac and told him he had two hooligans in custody. Mac showed up all serious like, apologizing to old man Lawrie, and promising him it would never happen again. Sheriff Mac walked us out to his squad car in total silence. I mean, it was so silent in there on the ride down to the jail, you could have cut it with a knife.
Dec and I kept exchanging glances, both of us wondering when the lecture would begin.
When Sheriff Mac got us down to the jail, he opened the back door and escorted us inside the jail house. Silently then, he led us into the back room where the cells for prisoners were, and there he sat us down in two chairs facing one of those cells. Inside of it, locked up tight, lay the infamous Hiney Scrabble. The big ogre was sound asleep, snoring with his mouth a constant O within his bushy red beard. Sheriff Mac then turned and without saying a word to us, left us seated there while he went off to his front office.
Dec and I sat there, fidgeting and fretting for nearly three hours. Not once did Hiney wake up from his booze-induced coma. But not once did Dec and I give him any reason to. No, we both just sat there in total silence, not even whispering to each other for fear our hissing voices would arouse the sleeping giant. At the end of those three hours, Dec and I were relieved to see Sheriff Mac striding down the hall leading to the cells, looking every bit like Clint Walker the cowboy hero of the TV western, Cheyenne. Big, dark-haired, handsome, his sheriff’s outfit fitting him like a second skin, muscles rippling on his large frame, every black hair on his head neatly combed into place and slick with Brill Cream. Yes, Mac looked to me like a modern-day hero who had come at last to rescue us from a terribly frightening situation.
And then Sheriff Mac broke his silence, and quietly but sternly said, “You boys keep on taking what don’t belong to you, you’re both going to end up like Hiney when you grow up. Is that what either of you want to become?”
“No, sir,” Dec and I said at the same time. “No way, no how.”
And that was it. Sheriff Mac let us go, and just before shooing us out of his office, he reached out with both of his massive hands and ruffled our hair.