Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Close Encounter with An Outlaw

"Public Enemies" is a recently released movie, starring Johnny Depp, about the notorious bank robber from the Depression Era, John Dillinger. The name triggered a memory, so I went to the bookshelves and dusted off an old collection of family biographies I'd helped assemble years ago.

Scanning through my Uncle Bernard's autobiography, I found this entry:

"One night I was hitch-hiking back to Toledo [from Chicago], and a guy picked me up. We were in Indiana and drove over the Ohio line. He drove up to what looked like an old farm house where a single bright light hung in front of the garage. I had thought perhaps it was a little gas station, it was so close to the road, yet it didn't look like one. We talked about things and where I went to school, but he didn't say much about what he did. Then we got out of the car, and as we did so another man, who could be taken as the driver's father, appeared. He said, 'Well, how did it go?' The driver said, 'Fine.' The he said to me, 'Would you like to see my tools?' I told him I would, so he opened the trunk of his car and there was a beautiful wooden tool box that contained tools. Now I've seen watchmakers' tools and machinists' tools and construction tools. But this man's tools were a mixture of all of them--not a typical collection. He said he could surely do a lot of things with those tools. He opened the garage and we went in. I still remember this guy's face with a small, puckery mouth. Finally I thanked him for the ride and walked back to the highway, where I caught a bus on to Toledo. It was not long after this trip that John Dillinger was shot and killed. Dillinger was a notorious bank robber who hit banks in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. He had a couple cronies and they would all disappear after blowing a safe. I started thinking about this whole episode. I have no doubt, after seeing pictures of Dillinger, that he is who I had ridden with, and that those tools were used for drilling into safes!"

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