The Farm Chronicles: The last great posse

Going through some old papers and photos, I came upon a very crisp certificate that looked brand new. It was from the Ohio Magistrates Association, Columbus, Ohio. It read: “This is to certify that Carl E Wilson has been duly accepted as a member of the Ohio Magistrates Association and is hereby extended all privileges of this association as a member thereof. In witness whereof the said association has caused this certificate to be signed by its duly authorized officers. Seal to be hereunto affixed this 11th day of October AD 1947.” Long before I was born, Dad was constable of Paris Township. Back then, that was the local law enforcement because the sheriff was at the county seat 16 miles away.

I remember Dad was always involved with law and order in the community. He was friends with Sheriff Ross Dustman, who served Portage County from 1957 to 1969. It was a pretty cool thing for a little boy who loved to watch Westerns on TV to see his Dad dress up in his Deputy Sheriff uniform, strap on his gun belt, fix his cowboy hat just right, and ride his palomino horse, Bill, in a parade or represent the Sheriff’s Department at a horse show or another event. They took all this pretty serious in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Dad wasn’t a full time Deputy Sheriff like they have today. He didn’t get paid. But if there was trouble, he was deputized and he would drop everything he was doing to assist Sheriff Dustman.

On one occasion, there was a real-life Western movie scenario developing in the southern part of Portage County. A murder had been committed in the Youngstown area and reports were that everyone was to be on guard. The suspect was “armed and dangerous” and was sighted in Paris Township. Dad got an urgent call from Sheriff Dustman telling him to mount up. A posse was being formed to hunt down this murderer and Dad was to lead it because it was closest to his area. Dad jumped into action. He grabbed his badge out of a box on his dresser and hurriedly pinned it on his old flannel shirt. He opened the door by the money box in his office and found his revolver and slammed it into his holster. He saddled up Bill and started out down the field behind the house. A while later other members of the posse joined him.

While this was exciting, it also drove home the point that it was real and my father could be in danger. Even Mom was very nervous. This was no drill. It was no horse show. It was no parade. We were all a bit on edge. The posse was gone for hours. Finally, Dad came riding up the driveway and we all breathed a sigh of relief. They didn’t catch the killer. He escaped the Paris Posse but was trapped in another county. As Psalm 141:10 says, “Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I will escape.” Turned out to be a great ride with the guys and they probably had more fun with the idea they were out hunting a killer than the actual reality of it, especially since they didn’t find him. It was just a reminder that 1960 rural Ohio had still not reached being fully civilized. And so goes the posse, the last I remember Dad riding with.

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Bill Wilson

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