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Tales from Kentucky Sheriffs

Tales from Kentucky Sheriffs

William Lynwood Montell
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Tales from Kentucky Sheriffs
    Book Description:

    Following the success of his collections of stories from funeral directors, schoolteachers, doctors, and lawyers, folklorist William Lynwood Montell presents a new volume of tales from Kentucky sheriffs. Montell collected stories from all areas of the state to represent the diversity of social and economic backgrounds in the various communities the officers serve.

    Tales from Kentucky Sheriffscovers elections, criminal behavior, and sheriff's mistakes in a lighthearted and often humorous manner. The book includes accounts of a drunk driver who thought he was in a different state, a sheriff running a sting operation with the U.S. Marshals, and a woman reporting a tomato thief in her garden. Other accounts involve procedural errors with serious consequences, such as the tale of a sheriff who mistakenly informs a man that his son has committed suicide. Together, these firsthand narratives preserve important aspects of Kentucky's history not likely to be recorded elsewhere.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3405-5
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
    (pp. 1-6)

    Folklore is not the “falsehood of history,” as it has been defined by a few academic professors and others in earlier times. In fact, it comprises the history of 99.99 percent of the world’s population because it focuses on local culture, on people’s lives and times, both past and present, as they are actually lived. As I indicated in myTales of Tennessee Lawyers, “The same assertion is likewise true of oral history, which is both the method by which verbal information about the past and/or present is collected and recorded, and the body of knowledge that exists only in...

    (pp. 7-33)

    In this chapter sheriffs explain how and why they made the decision to seek election to office. Some came from law enforcement backgrounds—having previously been deputies, state troopers, and the like—but others did not. Some had never considered such a career but were talked into it by friends and colleagues who believed they would do an excellent job. In one amusing case detailed below, a would-be sheriff’s mom was asked her permission to allow her son to take on the dangerous position.

    Many of the accounts below describe how the sheriff’s job description has changed over the years,...

    (pp. 34-73)

    Perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects of a sheriff’s job involves apprehending suspects and taking them into custody. As the stories in this chapter show, the behavior of people being arrested is unpredictable. Escape attempts are common; herein we read of officers’ attempts to overtake fleeing offenders, both in vehicles and on foot. Descriptions of foot chases are often interestingly indicative of backcountry life and times, as in these stories sheriffs, deputies, and even FBI agents pursue runaways through the woods—with a sheriff in one case finding himself up a tree in the line of duty. Physical resistance...

    (pp. 74-85)

    The stories herein describe sheriffs’ encounters with mentally incompetent people who found themselves on the wrong side of the law. We read of a man who entered someone else’s home, thinking it was his own; a fellow who shot and killed a deputy sheriff; a woman who threatened to cut off a deputy sheriff’s head. In one tragic story in a different vein, a young autistic girl accidentally drowned.

    There’s a private hospital in Nashville that is kind of like Western State in Hopkinsville. One night a fellow in there got out. Well, a doctor had left his key in...

    (pp. 86-112)

    Humor features in virtually every aspect of life, and the arena of law enforcement is no exception. And that is all to the good—humor often helps sheriffs, deputies, and even guilty persons deal with difficult, frightening, and sometimes dangerous situations. Further, the humor of a story can provide valuable insight into the life and times the narrative depicts.

    The amusing vignettes in this chapter feature as subjects criminals (such as the notorious tomato bandit), victims (including the mother who asked the sheriff to arrest her six-year-old son), and law enforcement personnel (who sometimes relieve the tension of their challenging...

    (pp. 113-174)

    The stories in this chapter detail the changing scene of illegal substances, ranging from the old days of moonshine whiskey to marijuana to the more recent—and more alarming—rise in the production and use of methamphetamine.

    Although the days of moonshine are for the most part gone, stories of its heyday persist. These sometimes feature hardened criminals who would stop at nothing to protect their illegal interests; alternatively, however, making moonshine was often a family effort necessary for survival in hard economic times. One amusing story reveals two sheriffs whose own fathers were bootleggers.

    Marijuana succeeded moonshine as the...

    (pp. 175-188)

    With the job of sheriff comes a host of problems. The issue of inadequate finances is a recurrent theme in the stories below. Sheriffs often struggle to fulfill their duties properly when personnel and equipment are not what they ought to be. In addition, the sheriff’s position has become increasingly administrative over the years, as paperwork and “politics” occupy more and more time.

    Population growth in the sheriffs’ communities has also changed the dynamics of county law enforcement. From a time when sheriffs generally knew the perpetrators they dealt with personally (as so many stories throughout this collection attest), sheriffs...

  10. Chapter 7 MISTAKES
    (pp. 189-196)

    Stories in this brief chapter describe instances of human error: one sheriff mistakenly informed his bailiff that his beloved son was dead; others failed to arrest drunken drivers, wore inappropriate attire on the job, lost convictions through avoidable mistakes on search warrants, or drove recklessly in pursuit of suspects. In one particularly thoughtful story a sheriff muses on his disordered priorities as a younger officer.

    No doubt many more stories of mistakes could have been told by sheriffs, but it is completely understandable why they chose not to relate them for publication.

    Likely the biggest mistake I ever made as...

  11. Chapter 8 OTHER SHERIFFS
    (pp. 197-214)

    Folklorists truly appreciate stories people tell about individuals of older generations, as such accounts contain much information about people and places that is typically not available in full detail in formal sources. The stories herein, told by present-day sheriffs and former sheriffs, reveal what circumstances were like for their elderly or deceased predecessors, who served in a more informal era.

    In the stories below we meet old-time sheriffs: some were corrupt; some were remarkably brave; one had to carry out his duties on horseback when he lost his license for driving under the influence; one dressed as Santa Claus to...

    (pp. 215-268)

    This gripping and penetrating chapter highlights the grave dangers often faced by law enforcement officers in the line of duty. Included are accounts of sheriffs and others killed or wounded as they attempted to apprehend criminals or save the lives of the innocent. In other stories fatalities were narrowly avoided, as the potential danger was averted through the officers’ actions.

    Not all stories herein describe sheriffs in direct danger; many focus on crimes of murder, sometimes gruesome (such as the victim with his head cut off), sometimes heartbreaking (such as the two young boys killed by their own mother in...

  13. Chapter 10 COLLEAGUES
    (pp. 269-282)

    Stories in this chapter relate to sheriffs’ colleagues, both employees (such as deputies and secretaries) and associates (such as magistrates and attorneys). Along with tributes to fallen officers are a number of lighthearted tales, including those describing a constable who always sneaked up on teenagers parked at the local lovers’ lane, a one-hundred-year-old honorary deputy sheriff, and the mysterious case of a terrible odor in the office.

    As sheriff, I’ve been fortunate to knock on wood. Way back in time, I caught one of my girl workers who went to work here. We kind of didn’t check her out, and...

    (pp. 283-296)