Do Tell: The Early Years by Don B. Dale

Chapter VII

Feeling Pain

The Tragedy

     You've already learned about my rod and reel being tossed in the lake. For ten minutes or so that was the biggest catastrophe that had ever happen to me. Dad saved that day.

     There was the time I was driving to Church on Sunday morning. Someone hit their brakes about five cars up and we had a chain reaction, but the car that left the scene behind me was held accountable, and I fixed up the 1952 DeSoto like new. Aunt Mary hit her head on the windshield and that could have been disastrous, but in hindsight it probably improved her disposition.

     There was the summer of my 14th birthday. We were working at the Kansas State experimental farm Northeast of Garden City, in short we hoed weeds between plantings and thinned plants to various distances so production and yield by hybrid type could be evaluated. Boring work, so Jed decided we should drag race during the lunch hour.

     I was driving Richard Heismeyer's car and Jed was driving ours. A near tragedy, and if I'd been killed Jed would have really caught it good. As it turned out, I left the car about 77 mph, and landed on my head. Richard was thrown between the seats and wasn't hurt, and I woke up in the hospital a few hours later with a bunch of stitches holding me together.

     The tragedy was I almost missed the fall football season. But by fall I was up and tough and made the team, one of only a couple of sophomores to letter that year. You can see why we get concerned when our daughters are out and about in our car or someone else's. It's not them, it's all those crazy guys out there.

     The little setbacks above weren't insurmountable or real tragedies, even the big events like breaking up with a steady are easily forgotten when each person goes to a different college. If it's meant to be it'll work out, if not it won't. No the real tragedy is when someone dies young. My senior year there were two deaths that were tragedies for me.

     One of those that perished was real close and the second a good friend. Unni Larssen, an exchange student and friend from Norway, came down with a virus, a rare "butterfly" disease from which she died within a month. We dedicated the yearbook to her memory that year.

     Nancy Mae Clutter was a junior, a member of MYF, a very close friend, and her death was one no one talks about. The youth group made home made ice cream at her folks' country home the summer of '59. It was a beautiful home, nestled on a little knoll at the end of quarter mile, tree lined lane along the Arkansas River outside of Holcome, Kansas.

     We went to church camp that summer in Colorado and got to know one another. I was suppose to be "a number", as kids today would put it, with a senior, but Nanc' and I kind of hit it off and we had started to see each other with a few dates by the fall of '59. Nanc' was going to take over as MYF president and I had pretty well made up my mind to spend more time with her, whatever the consequences with my "group" and steady. This was a concern, as we were all seniors, the same age and had never had any juniors around.

     That's my memory, no one knew but us, and I've closed out most of that part of my past, because one Sunday morning in Church someone came running in and got my Dad. We were told that the Clutters were dead, murdered "in cold blood"; and everyone including me went into shock. Dad never talked about it, as he was one of the men who went out to clean up the mess. It fact, no one ever talked about the murders, even to Truman Capote, who said he talked to everyone. You have to be circumspect with writers, sometimes they tell you what they want you to hear. I won't mention that writer's name again because he doesn't belong in the same memory as Nancy and her family.

     Besides my not caring for strange people with strange habits, his book "In Cold Blood" was about the killers who took the lives of loved ones in a terrible, terrible manner in their own home. I've never read a book of his since, nor will I, not that he glorified the killers or opposed the death penalty, but I just don't like to be reminded of the day I lost Nancy.

     Thank God Kansas has the death penalty, because I'm not sure what I, and probably some others, might have done or wanted to do had the killers not been put away. Those that prey on good people don't belong in our society, and if they murder innocent people they should be put away.

     The belief that prison will reform cold blooded murderers has been proven time and again to be the cry of liberal fanatics, who have allowed these murderers to be freed from prison only to have other innocent people die. Nancy Mae, oh how I missed her, but here's a personal tragedy; and may you never know one until you're older.

Eulogy on Friend Nancy Mae

        A daughter, sister, and loved one we lost,
          A lover's life was taken and tossed;
        Long her cruel, cold death we mourn;
          And upon her killers turn our scorn.

        Ner'er a kinder, purer, gentler girl,
          Free from life's treading swirl;
        Who's wit, beauty, and loving worth,
          Were set forth at her birth.

        She filled life with joy and love, my sweet,
          Melody abounding, made the heart beat;
        Saintly souls held her not in sway,
          For she surpassed them every day,

        Save that feared Saint - Him called fate,
          Who mercenarily set her date;
        Her loved ones she served and blessed,
          Giving all in every way she possessed.

        Cry we to far-off heaven to relent,
          We sinners glorious to repent;
        Life fades but memory lingers yet,
          In the spirit world her soul is kept.

        Perhaps a glimmer of hope is there,
          When from the earth we tear;
        A flower for a hungry mouth to kiss,
          We know she's returned in bliss.

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