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Experiences of Some Old-Time Dallas Police
Officers: The Woman Who Found the
Chickens That Had Been Stolen


    Policemen have many experiences of which the public never hears, and old members of the force tell of scores of queer happenings and odd occurrences, which, at the time, tired their patience or stirred their risables, or which were so full of human interest as to provide them with stories worth relating more than once.
     What could be finer than the conduct of a woman living on Cabell street, who, rising one morning to discover that her seven hens and rooster were missing, took the first car to go to the police station and report the loss?  At the second street crossing from her home, a negro with a big gunny sack on his back, boarded the car, and, after paying his fare, deposited his sack on the floor of the car.  As he did so, the head of a hen emerged through a hole in the sack.
    "There are my chickens, now!" exclaimed the woman, at the same time calling upon the conductor and motorman to prevent the negro from escaping until the car reached the police station, which was then on the site of the Adolphus Hotel.  At the police station, she identified the chickens, and had the satisfaction of recovering every one of them.

Felt the Rabbit Rising.
    One of the old officers tells of starting from the city prison to the county jail with a young negro who had been transferred to the county on some misdemeanor charge.  He did not shackle the prisoner.  The county jail was then on South Houston street.  When they turned into Houston street from Commerce street, the prisoner said:
    "Boss, please take hold of me."
    "What do you want me to take hold of you for?"
    "Cause I feels the rabbit risin' in me," was the reply.  He felt that he could not resist the impulse to run, and that if he attempted to escape, the officer would shoot him.  Some happenings in the days of saloons, vagrants and street beggars and gambling are still rehearsed by older members of the force.  Ambrose Hughes, now on night duty at the Interurban Station, tells of a raid on a saloon, which was a rendezvous for all kind of "bums."  There were, in the round-up, twenty-one men, and only one whole man in the lot.  The rest were "shy," wholly, or in part, arms, legs, ears or eyes, and with their crutches, rolling chairs and other aids to locomotion, they made a full hoodlum-wagon load.  At the station, a search of their pockets brought to light the total sum of just 16¢.  Next morning, the police Judge let them all go on condition that they get out of town before night, a condition with which they, of course, did not comply.
    Hughes also tells of a raid for similar folk on another saloon.  The two officers on the beat had watched the gathering of men from early in the evening.  Vagrants had steadily trickled in, until toward midnight, it had grown to a congress of large proportions.  When one of the officers suggested that the place was ripe for a raid, the other, who had had previous dealing with some of the members of the crowd, expressed a doubt as to whether two men could handle the situation.  About that time, a young blacksmith of Herculean build, and famed for his delight in a scrap, happened along.  He was highly pleased with the proffer of a special police commission for the raid, as affording an opportunity for a fight without an afterpiece in police court next morning.  There were three open doors to the saloon, one for each of the raiders.  As they entered, the fight began.  The first pass, a big fellow with his legs off at the hips, seized the blacksmith's good right hand, of which the officers were expecting so much, and bit his little finger off at the second joint, which caused the blacksmith to make a hasty exit, yelling with pain.  The officers got out with many bruises and cuts and with only about half their clothes, and called for help.  The second battle resulted in victory for the police department.

Barricade of Beer Kegs.
    The old-time gambling houses resorted to all sorts of ways of guarding against surprises.  E. C. Cornwell, for many years Deputy Chief of Police, tells that one of these houses, which was reached by a steep, narrow stairway, collected a number of empty beer kegs at the top of the staircase, and instructed the negro porters, at a signal from the watch below, to set the kegs to rolling down the steps when the officers started to ascend, thus giving the players time to escape through the windows and over the back porch roof.  This, Cornwell said, was successfully worked on several occasions.
    W. M. Roberts, now warrant officer of the city court, was one of several officers to raid a poker games, long after midnight, in a down-town office.  Upon breaking into the room, the officers were surprised to find that the men in sight were too few to constitute a quorum for a game, according to their understanding of Hoyle, although there were three tables, with cards and chips on them.  As the officers were about to retire, having caught nobody in the act of gambling, and having failed to get sufficient evidence to warrant the arrest of the men in sight, the mystery was all at once solved by a plaintive appeal from behind the door of one of the lockers in the room, for someone to open the door.  It was a hot night, and when the door of the locker was opened, three men fell out, gasping for breath.
    "Let us out, too," came a voice from another locker.
    "And us, too," from a third, and so on from the other lockers, until twelve men -- enough to make up quite a respectable game -- confronted the officers.
     "I'd rather pay the fine than smother to death," said one, mopping the perspiration from his face.  "Me, too," said another.  The lockers fastened by catches, which could not be turned from the inside.

Crap Games Stampeded.
    There is no end of amusing incidents connected with the putting down of crap-shooting among the negroes.  Charles M. Foraker tells of a raid in which he assisted when he was on patrol duty.  The officers gained admittance to a room by using a negro who had the password.  Suspecting nothing, the negroes without looking up at the newcomers, kept on rolling the dice on a quilt on the floor.  Soon, one of the players, becoming aware of the presence of the officers, stealthily crept into the oven of a big range stove, closing the door behind him.  The stove, which had recently had fire in it, had not yet cooled, and it was not long until the occupant needed air.  He could not open the door from the inside, and in his lunges to get out, he upset the huge cooking apparatus.  The racket caused the players to look up.  For a moment, they stared in surprise at the officers.  As soon as they could believe their eyes, a stampede began.  Out the windows they went, taking glass and sash with them.  One got hung on a barbwire fence under the window he went through, and there hung, until the officers released him.  Two others, who were the first to go through another window, failed to "light running," and were so badly trampled by those who came after and who did "light running," that they could not escape.  So, the raid yielded only three prisoners, out of a possible fifteen.

Close Call.
    Among the numerous freak incidents, was that of a negro who thought he had been killed.  Years ago, there came a telephone call for police.  The woman putting in the call said that a negro was burglarizing the house of her neighbor, who was away from home. Wood Ramsey and E. F. Gates responded to the call.  As they approached the house, a negro came out the front door and took to his heels.  Gates shot at him, not to kill him, he said, but in the hope of making him stop.  At the report of the pistol, the negro fell, as if shot through the heart.  When the officers rolled him over, he showed no signs of life, and Ramsey remarked, "You have killed him."  A moment later, the negro opened his eyes, stared, and was some minutes in making out what had happened.  It turned out that the bullet had not touched him.  But, it must have passed so close to his head that the concussion knocked him senseless.

Bribe Officers.
    At 2 o'clock one bitter cold morning, Ollie Rawlins and Ambrose Hughes, then on mounted duty, responded to a burglar call in East Dallas.  When they reached the house, the owner of the place, a well-known man, in his slippers and night shirt, was pacing the lawn in great excitement.  He said a burglar was trying to saw into his barn from the rear.  "Listen! you can hear him," said the almost hysterical man.  There was no mistaking the resemblance of the sound to that of a saw in operation.
     The explanation was that the man's horse was what is known among horsemen as a "stumpsucker."  By taking a cob in his mouth, rubbing it against the side of the trough, and breathing in a certain way, the horse made a sound like that of a saw ripping a board.  The man told the officers to come to his place of business next morning and get a new hat each.

- February 4, 1923, The Dallas Morning News,
Magazine Section, p. 6.
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