Good Morning, Class of '64
Sundays with Larry
We Don’t Catch the Smart Ones
Law enforcement is just like fishing. We catch a lot of small fry but very rarely catch a big one.
One of my favorite not-very-smart inmates was a hippie. He and his commune were traveling the country in the ultimate Hippimobile, a Volkswagen bus decked out in bright sunshine colors and huge flowers. When their engine blew, they drifted into a parking lot for white water rafters. The hippies thought their karma was good—a Volkswagen in the parking lot whose owner was floating down the river.
They dropped the blown engine from their Hippimobile and replaced it with the engine from the car in the parking lot. Only took a couple of hours for the whole job. Then they drove off into the sunset searching for perfect harmony, love, peace, and of course, a better high. Leaving their blown engine in the parking lot, with its identification numbers! Catching them was like fishing with a bare hook!
Another broke into a career Army man’s quarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He stole some checks, made one out to himself, forged the payer’s name and tried to cash it at the band on post. The teller was suspicious of the signature so went to the back to call the payer to verify the signature. The thief panicked and ran, leaving his driver’s license at the bank. That’s fishing with bare hooks suspended above the water.
My personal favorite was an inmate I’ll call Dumble Dum Dum—the name fits. Dumble grew up in a small town with one traffic light (whether they needed it or not) and one bank. He and his pal had been stealing hub caps, auto radios, breaking into empty houses, etc.—small time crime to fund their booze and pot habits. They decided to go big time, to hit a bank. The choice of which bank was not difficult—there was only one.
They armed themselves, Dumble with a 12 gauge single barrel shotgun (single barrel means single shot) and his pal with a beat up revolver. All good bank robbers have to have a mask, so they each pulled a stocking down over their heads. Ladies, remember when you donned your stockings one at a time. Dumble was a very tall, very large barrel chested man with a large prominent off center nose. Believing he could conceal his identity with a stocking was a little like a dog putting its head only behind a tree and believing it is hidden.
The Willie Sutton wantabees burst into the bank flourishing their weapons shouting, “This is a stick up!” Everybody down on the floor!”
A feisty teller firmly stated, “Dumble Dumdum, I’ve got a new dress on and won’t get down on the floor for any man!” They panicked and ran.
When the police came, it took a while to get the story because everyone was laughing so hard. When the robbers were named, the police remembered seeing them standing on the corner just down from the bank. When the police went back, Dumble and his pal were still there, stockings and weapons concealed in their clothing. Didn’t even need a hook for that fish—he jumped into the boat.
On these three stories, I read the file and repeated the facts with no embellishment. This last story I got from a correctional officer. He got it at another prison. Fred never lied to me about anything else so I believe this one.
The inmate went into a bank. He showed the teller a pistol and demanded money. The teller was a young lady probably chosen because the robber thought she would be more afraid than the older ones. Bad choice—she was uncommonly smart, very cool headed, and very brave. She pointed at the pistol and asked what it was.
The robber became quite confused but managed to blurt out, “It’s a gun! It’ll shoot you is what it is!”
The teller said that she was a gun collector but had never seen a gun like that one. She sweet talked the robber into letting her examine the gun. She then threw down on him, “Down on the floor MF! Freeze!”
When it comes to the stupid things that criminals do, truth is always stranger than fiction. An associate warden used to chuckle, shake his head, and say, “They pay us to work here!”