SUSAN STAFFORD produced this selection.

"Bootleggers in Jewell County"

by Mike Jacobs

My maternal grandfather, Roy Keeler, was twice sheriff of Jewell Co., serving two terms--1944-46 and 1946-48. As Jewell Co. is in the northern tier of counties along the Nebraska state line, a regular duty was attempting to stem the flow of bootleg liquor from Nebraska down KS-14 toward Beloit and points south. This was somewhat of a trial to Grandfather, since he enjoyed an occasional drink and didn't think much of the Kansas blue laws then in force.

One of his adventures with a bootlegger about 1944-45 involved my mother, who was his deputy at the time. Mother and Dad had married in 1942, before he spent 3 1/2 years wearing a uniform for Uncle Sam in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. She and a cousin went to California to work in an aircraft factory after Dad went overseas, but she returned to Jewell Co. in 1944 after one of her younger brothers was killed in the China-Burma-India Theater. Grandfather got permission from the county comissioners to deputize Mother because there were so few able-bodied men left in the county who could drive (if you understand that Mother is about 4'11" and weighs about 105 pounds, you'll appreciate how serious the situation was). Also, she could live at the jail and help Grandmother cook for the occasional inmate.

Anyway, they got a tip that a well-known bootlegger would be making a run down KS-14 on a certain evening and went out to intercept him. When the bootlegger made his appearance, Mother and Grandfather started their pursuit, Mother driving and Grandfather firing a few shots (in the air, of course, since he didn't want to really harm anyone over bootleg whiskey). The bootlegger and his accomplice began pitching bottles out of their vehicle into the ditches along side the road and eventually succeeded in eluding Mother and Grandfather. And that was the end of the story, as far as Mother knew, for almost 50 years.

Then, a few years ago, Dad was in a cardiac rehab class in Fort Collins, CO, following a mild heart attack (he and Mother had left Jewell Co. in 1955). One day he noticed that one of his fellow patients was someone he recognized from Jewell Co. When he introduced the fellow to Mother, the gentleman recalled that his father and Grandfather Keeler had occasionally had a drink together (I believe he referred to them as "drinking buddies"). Then he told Mother the rest of the story about the bootlegger.

The day after the chase, Grandfather had collected his friend and one or two other men and taken them out to KS-14 where the chase had occurred. He instructed his friends to start walking down the road and to pick up "anything you find" in the ditches. When they asked him what they were looking for he told them, "Never mind, just pick up whatever your find." Of course, what they found was a case or so of bootleg whiskey. It seems that one or two bottles were saved for evidence and the remainder "destroyed."

I think Mother is still a little embarrassed about this, but Dad took great delight in telling this story whenever he had the opportunity.

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