"Days of DAN'S Life"

"Days of DAN'S Life" II



Please keep in mind that, during the 1950s, various law enforcement jurisdictions could not immediately communicate via radio with one another as they can today. They had to catch you in the act of speeding and/or driving recklessly in order to give you a ticket and/or arrest you. They had no computers or helicopters. And pursuit in Louisiana and Texas had to end at the state line, in the middle of the Sabine River.

In the mid and late '50's, life in DeRidder and Beauregard Parish could get boring very quickly. My friends and I were always trying to liven things up a bit.

When all else failed, I would pick a race with someone, anyone who thought they might outrun that "hopped up" '54 Chevy wagon and me and who had the courage to try.

Eventually, I'd beaten everyone who dared to race with me. The Rosepine Marshall's car wasn't fast enough to be good sport, DeRidder police kept wrecking their cars, Sheriff Paul Starks had forbidden his deputies to chase me, and Leo Chance and his State Troopers pretty well ignored me, too. So I thought, "What am I to do? There's gotta be someone somewhere that wants to run." But pickins' grew slim in Western Louisiana.

So I would cross the Sabine River into Texas, squall around the Courthouse Square in Newton, and head back toward Louisiana with the Newton police in hot pursuit. Usually, Newton County Sheriff's Department cars would join the chase, and occasionally Texas Highway Patrol officers would come roaring onto the highway from a cafe where they took breaks, located just a couple of miles from the Sabine River Bridge. The pursuit always ended at the border. And they never caught me.

More about NEWTON, TEXAS
Sabine Memorial Bridge in Orange, Texas, bigger, but similiar to the one near Merryville, Louisiana. (TOP PHOTO) The old Newton County, Texas, Courthouse, festively lighted.
Newton County Courthouse burned August 4, 2000. I had nothing to do with it. The restoration was completed in 2003.

In the mid-1990s, I was in a record store on the Courthouse Square in Newton, Texas, discussing business with the owner. An elderly Newton policeman was looking through recordings, and apparently listening to our conversation. He heard me say, "Newton was one of my favorite places to visit back in the '50s, especially weekend nights. I'd circle that Courthouse, squealing the tires as I rounded that last corner over there, and the locals would give chase."

The old cop sidled over, asking, "Did you drive a green Chevrolet station wagon?" I mumbled, "Yeah...?" He said, "I thought you looked familiar. I was one of those local Newton policeman," looking at the record store owner, saying, "and none of us could catch him."

I said, "Well, one night in the '60s...y'all came close." He said, "Oh, we could cross the border then."

"As I found out!" I said, "It took me half the night throughout most of Western Louisiana to lose all of your guys that night. I thought I'd never get back to my parents' home in DeRidder without getting caught, and I prayed that I wouldn't run out of gas."

I told the old policeman the whole story, concluding with what happened when I went into my parents' kitchen for coffee the next morning.

Dad said, "You were sure out late, didn't get home 'til early this morning. What did y'all do?" I gave my historical, non-chalant reply, "We just rode around."

Dad looked at me, and said, "Rode around, huh? Where?" I said, very matter of factly, "Newton, East Texas, and a lot of Western Louisiana." My father laughed, saying, "You didn't know about the new treaty, that those Texas cops could pursue across the border now, did you?" I said, "No...I sure didn't."

He asked, "Did they catch you?" I smiled, chuckling and shaking my head, and said, "Of course not." He said, "Well, you're lucky." I told him, "Luck had nothing to do with it."

The old Newton cop, looking out the record store window at my new Ford Thunderbird that was parked out front, said, "I sure hope you don't still drive like that." I assured him, "No, sir. I sure don't."

Then, I apologized to the nice, old gentleman for all of those nights so long ago, and I cut short my business trip, leaving the record store and Newton, Texas, slowly and very carefully.

I haven't been back to Newton, but I sure wish I had been there when they dedicated the new Courthouse. Seriously.