Summers are the culminations of children’s winter dreams. The school days have passed and a long anticipated time for fun and adventure has arrived. That’s the way it was for me during the summer of 1961 at the age of eleven. That was the summer I spent with my grandparents and great aunt in Noel.
Noel was a quiet town most of the week in the summer of 1961 with locals and tourists walking the streets and shopping in the Main Street stores. However, Friday and Saturday nights were different. The Main street was bustling as people waited to see “The Absent-Minded Professor” at the theatre, listened to music and danced at Shadow Lake and shot pool for ten cents a game in the basement pool hall.
My grandfather was the city marshal in Noel. He knew everyone in town and they knew him. Back then the law seemed to be less complicated and was more about fairness and common sense. The law breakers had rights but those rights didn’t exceed the rights of the law abiding residents of Noel. My grandfather was known to tell people in plain words what was, and was not, acceptable. People seemed to like it that way.
One morning while at the baseball field across the street from my grandparent’s house I saw a Missouri Highway Patrol car park next to the house. A state trooper got out of the car, knocked on the front door and was greeted by my grandfather. I had to know what was going on so I went inside and found my grandfather and the state trooper sitting in the living room. The two were talking and it was apparent they knew each other well. My grandfather called the state trooper Ron and he called my grandfather Floyd. As the trooper talked he leaned over and played with my grandparents Siamese cat, Mamie. My grandmother was a staunch republican and named the cat after President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie.
My grandfather handed the trooper a white glove and explained that it had been found by some children while playing in a cave located in the bluffs on the southern edge of Noel. He said the glove contained a curious substance and asked that the trooper send the glove to the state crime lab to determine if the substance was human. The trooper said he would send the glove off that afternoon and asked if my grandfather would take him to the cave. As the trooper and my grandfather got up from their chairs I noticed that the trooper had blood on his hand and arm. It was the hand used to play with the cat. Mamie was known to have a little wicked streak in her.
As the two were leaving my grandfather turned, looked at me and asked “do you want to go”? I remember pushing past him and the state trooper as we left the house and got into my grandfather’s old Chevy. We drove a short distance on S. Kings Highway then parked alongside the road. The three of us walked through some overgrown brush to the cave opening. The opening was not very large and I had to bend over at the waist to enter but once inside the cave the ceiling was high enough, allowing me to stand upright.
The cave smelled damp and the only light was that coming from my grandfather’s flashlight. I wondered if we would find a body, or maybe just an arm or a leg. Maybe this was one of the many caves in the Ozarks used by the Jesse James gang. The three of us searched the small cave for five to ten minutes but no bodies, or body parts or anything else was found.
We left the cave and drove back to the house. My grandfather asked the trooper to call with the lab test results. The trooper said it would take a week or so to get the test results, but he would call when he knew something.
I had the patience of an eleven year old and asked my grandfather daily if he got the results of the test. He always said he hadn’t received a call yet. One day, before I could ask, my grandfather told me the test results showed the substance in the glove was not human tissue. I remember being disappointed as that ended what might have been a great mystery to be solved.
I never spoke to my grandfather about the glove again, but I will always remember the glove, the cave and the Noel City Marshall, my grandfather.