The rough draft of the upcoming book, Thanks for the Hospitality But We Gotta Go, is complete and is now cooling its heels in its own little electronic cell for a while. Don't worry, it doesn't have a long sentence to serve. In the meantime, I have some design, layout, and cover issues to resolve. A bit of downtime and mental distance between a first draft and final draft of a manuscript is a tactic employed by many writers to allow them to come back in the editing phase and see areas that need improvement, to make the necessary corrections, tie up loose ends, resolve gaps in the narrative, and ask themselves the all-important question, "Are there any resources I have missed?” That’s where I am in the process of completing this new book. While the manuscript enjoys some "alone time," I want to share a couple of things with readers about how the book is structured and a few of the decisions I have made that affect its final appearance.
As many of you know, Nodaway County's Crowbar Motel had many guests over the years, famous, infamous, and famously infamous. I have written about several of them in past books: The Human Squirrel Cage: Nodaway County’s Rotary Jail, Hezekiah Rasco: Man of Sorrow – Child of Woe, and in the book, Justice In Nodaway County: 1872-1931, which I coauthored with Don Nothstine, the author of Died Innocent. I will be exploring a few of the more famous and infamous in future essays. There are enough to keep me busy for a long while.
A few of the rotary jail’s prisoners were content to stay in their jailhouse home through the disposition of their cases. Other county guests checked out early, or at least tried to do so. It is because of these last two groups, the escapees and the escapee-wannabes, that this project was born. First, just to let readers know, I have tried to gather as much information as possible on the technical aspects of each of the fifty escapes and the nineteen attempted escapes and, where possible, the crimes with which the instigators were charged. Backstory is important. To help give as complete a picture as possible, I have also tried to find out the final dispositions of their cases, as well. For the oldest cases, the information was, to say the least, elusive, and in some instances impossible to locate. Suffice to say, at the time of their incarceration, some of the individuals were awaiting trial and others had completed the trial process and were either serving county time or awaiting transport to a state facility.
Newspapers articles were vital in this process, as they provided details on the main facts, as well as leads on where to find additional resource material. Newspapers are the front-line historians of the nation’s citizenry and have a massive responsibility for recording the details of major, minor, and sometimes minuscule events, although much still evades them or simply never makes the final editing. There is only so much print space. There are details that reveal themselves through individual conversations, letters written to family or friends in far-away locations, and, after its invention, in telephone conversations between citizens near and far. Unfortunately, those communications, even when written, are lost to time. Interviews with individuals related to the cases are another way to recapture details, but with very few exceptions, the individuals identified in this book have long since deceased.
It was a difficult decision to make, whether or not to include the names of the prisoners, even if their names appeared in the original news stories. That actually became the deciding factor for use. If the names were already known in the public record, they have been used in the book. In those instances where they were not part of the public record, they have been omitted. In some cases, they were not included in the original record because the reporter simply did not have that specific detail at the time the paper went to press. It may have become known later, but if it did not materialize in my research process and could not be confirmed, it didn’t make it into this publication either. Every attempt has been made to verify dates and times associated with each of the events.
During the writing of this book there were stories of the escapes and the attempts that made me chuckle, even though I know they were not humorous for the sheriff, his deputies, the Maryville constabulary, the township constables, state police, or federal officers at the time. What is evidenced in these stories, however, is the immutable fact that as determined as law enforcement was then to keep their prisoners in custody, those same men and women were equally determined to avoid detention in the county pokey. The ingenuity the individuals, blessed with opposable thumbs, exhibited in effecting their escapes, or even in making the attempt, is a reminder to us all that the human brain should never be underestimated. It is a natural and highly-effective problem-solving tool.
I hope readers will enjoy the upcoming book, due to break out soon. In the meantime, if you wish to learn more about my other nonfiction and fiction books, you will find them on my author page on Amazon, or by clicking on one of the tabs at the top of this webpage.