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The Press: Headline of the Week

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In the New York Times:


Columnist Buckshot Putting aside his bone-handled .45 one day last week, Sheriff Tom Will (“Buckshot”) Lane of Wharton County, Tex. reached for a typewriter and a Mimeograph stencil. Then he began to compose his weekly letter to the editor, reporting on law & order in the Lone Star state. In his last installment, Buckshot had told how he was on the track of sewing machines stolen from Wharton County high schools. “Dear Ed,” wrote Buckshot. “Thursday afternoon [we] made a drag [of Fort Worth stores] . . . The manager was on the phone when we walked in and he turned pale … It took us some time to hunt them all up for the place was literally bulging with machines, fact is I didnt know there was that many machines in the world, but [I] recovered all of the Wharton machines . . .”

The presses were waiting; this week thousands of Texans in & out of Wharton County were eating up Sheriff Lane’s rambling, ungrammatical but engrossing tale. A low ceiling, reported Pilot Buckshot, had forced him to turn back after his take-off in the “People’s Airplane,” the $5,800 Stinson Station Wagon that his admiring readers and constituents bought him last year. Undaunted, Sheriff Lane switched to a car, followed a 300-mile trail to the store where he seized the stolen machines. Like an accomplished serial writer, Buckshot hoped that by the next installment he might also seize the elusive Sewing Maching Gang.

Five in a Row. Buckshot’s detailed, homely communications to “Ed,” which he started nine years ago, now appear regularly in seven Texas newspapers (including one in Czech) and occasionally in the Houston Post and the Houston Press. Sometimes as hard-boiled as Hammett, sometimes as folksy as Uncle Remus, the columns not only have earned him a journalistic reputation but have helped get him elected sheriff for five straight terms.

Honest Buck Lane freely admits to his readers when a careless deputy gets played for a sucker: “When he returned to his car, his pistol a 44-40 single action, his tear gas billy and 4 boxes of shells . . . was flat gone, it’s getting rough when thieves rob the law.” But usually, in Lane’s letters, the forces of decency triumph. The other day, a fly-by-night peddler who was “after the cotton money” invaded Wharton County: “He said, well I’ll buy a license and I said we don’t sell licenses for that sort of stuff, he said then if I go ahead and I said OK I won’t cry, and if some of your peddlers get shot by local citizens . . . don’t you cry, he said oh well I’ll put a big black circle around Wharton county and work the rest of the state and nation. I told him good by, and he left mad, and I was glad.”

233 in One. At 46, wiry, greying Buckshot Lane (who got his nickname from his beady eyes) has a reputation among local crooks for being “fast as greased lightning” on the draw. In law-abiding quarters, it is his prose style that often strikes terror. Last week, Lane, whose schooling stopped at the ninth grade, quoted an anonymous letter (he suspects a schoolteacher) pointing out 233 grammatical errors in a previous column. Added his critic: “Your carlessness . . . is a hard blow against our education system. Our children look on [you with] hero worship . . . ” Nevertheless, Lane declined the reader’s advice to get himself a good stenographer to correct his copy. Wrote the sheriff: “Quite often I get hold of a kid that don’t want to go to school, he thinks he knows enough already, it is then I tell him why he should go to school, I just show him one of my columns, the errors made, the misspelled words. [But] I could not change them and be natural. If they were changed it would not be me.”

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