Warning -- This is a true story! The events depicted in this story took place in Arkansas in 1961. At the request of the lone survivor, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred. It is believed that the statute of limitations has expired and, therefore, no prosecutions are possible.
On the night in question, three young men from the Gentry area drove down to Siloam Springs for the express purpose of attending a New Year's Eve party. Tom, Dick and Harry (as we'll call them) were all in their early 20s and, to a man, they were anxious for a little fun.
After arriving at the party, the trio found that liquor had been amply provided and each one freely partook of said libations. Since the young men were riding in Tom's car, the other two teased him about not being able to drink as much as them, but Tom disdained such talk by matching them drink for drink.
The party rocked on into late in the evening with the three young men from Gentry leading the way into a glorious new year. Or, at least they were leading the way into a glorious drunk! Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Shortly after midnight, the New Year's Eve party began to wind down as young folks departed the scene for home or paired off and headed to the local Lover's Lane for some heavy making out. Being unattached and thinking it was too early to turn in, the boys in question decided to drive over to the local bar in West Siloam Springs, Okla.
In those days, the Blackhawk Tavern stayed open until the wee hours of the morning. Tom, Dick and Harry each got themselves a beer, shot some pool for a while and bellied up to the bar amidst a decidedly rougher crowd than the one at the New Year's Eve party. There was a fair amount of jostling going on along the bar and a lot of insulting talk about different guys' mothers and such like. The Gentry boys were aware of the fact that it didn't take much to provoke a fight at that bar. The three had often gone out to the Blackhawk for drinks and knew many of its patrons. They also knew of unsavory characters who must be avoided in order to skirt trouble.
Luckily for them, Tom, Dick and Harry escaped without incident and, along about 2 a.m., the boys left the bar, this time headed for home. All three were quite drunk, but none of the boys thought anything about driving home in that condition. Tom was generally a good driver and the idea of having a designated, non-drinking driver never occurred to them.
In those days there was no bypass in Siloam Springs and, as the boys drove along Tulsa Avenue, they met a police car which immediately made a U-turn after passing them. Then the flashing red lights came on and Tom was forced to pull over. The boys watched nervously as two officers approached on foot. When the patrolmen reached the driver's side, they told the boys to step out of the car.
Tom got out and one of the officers led him to the back of the car while the other officer stood, talking to Dick and Harry.
"You boys are out pretty late, ain't you?" the officer asked Tom.
"Yessir, I reckon we are at that."
"Where y'all been, out so late and all?"
"Well, sir, we was to a New Year's Eve party here in town," Tom said.
"Y'all been anywhere's else beside that there party," said the officer.
"Well, um," Tom swallowed hard, "we was out to the Blackhawk for a little while."
"Son, have y'all been drinking?"
"Yessir, we've had a few."
"Now son, I'm going to ask you a question and I want an honest answer: are you drunk?"
"Well, sir, I have to say I got a pretty good buzz on."
"But that's not what I asked you," the officer said, "I asked you if you were drunk."
"Sir, if you want to argue with me you're going to have to change the subject."
For some reason, this struck everyone funny and the boys and officers all laughed out loud. This broke the tension and the policemen asked the boys where they lived.
"We live in Gentry and that's where we were headed when you pulled us over," said Tom.
"Ok, boys, we're going to let you off with a warning this time, but this is what we are going to do. We're going to call up to Gentry and tell the city marshal there, Mr. Jack Still, that you boys are going to drive real slow down the main street of Gentry. And if Mr. Jack doesn't confirm with us within the next 20 minutes that you did just that, then we're coming after you boys. Do y'all understand?"
"All right then, get on home now and next time don't y'all be staying out so late."
As they drove off for home Tom, Dick and Harry could barely believe their good fortune. The boys had been convinced they were going to be arrested and jailed for drunk driving. As they came into Gentry, Tom turned onto Main Street and carefully and slowly drove to the west end of town. About midway down the street, they spotted the city marshal sitting in his own car (back then the Gentry city marshal provided his own vehicle and wore street clothes with a badge on his shirt).
Officer Jack Still smiled real big and gave the boys a friendly wave. He obviously knew they were coming and so, from there, with thankful hearts and buzzing heads, the boys made their way to their individual homes. And to, by now, their very welcome beds.
I promise I am not making this up.
Sam Byrnes is a Gentry-area resident and a contributor to the Eagle Observer. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 03/06/2019
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