Friday, May 04, 2007

Down on the Farm 4

I mentioned in yesterday's blog that a few years ago Deb discovered several scrapbooks that my Grandma Goldie had kept. 

Looking weird among the funeral notices and photos of couples celebrating their golden wedding anniversaries, were clippings from the Lamar, Missouri, newspaper describing the crime sprees of her nine-year-old half brother. This child was the offspring of Grandma's senile father (see yesterday's blog) and a "lazy, dirty" half-wit half his age (also see yesterday's blog). Although the boy was about my age, I only saw him a time or two during Grandma's infrequent stops at their home. Apparently, Grandpa Bob didn't want this bunch hanging around for not once did they visit the farm while I was there. Articles like the following from the Lamar newspaper, dated April 9, 1956, probably had something to do with it:

A BLISTER OF A NINE YEAR OLD BOYCrimes Of Liberal Boy—Almost Unbelievable—As detailed In Court Monday—Arson, Thievery, Assault—And General Cussedness—A Poser For The Court

The facts in the case against Bobby Dean Miller, nine year old Liberal boy, seemed almost unbelievable, as they unfolded in the juvenile section of the circuit court, Monday forenoon. It seemed impossible that this nine year old boy, small for his age, could have so terrorized a community. But the facts were there to prove it. This boy is the son of Ernest Albert Miller, sixty nine year old age pensioner and his wife, Daisy, forty six. They came to Liberal two and a half years ago from Ava. Both parents were in court but exhibited a remarkable unconcern in regard to the crimes of their young son and to his possible fate.

It developed that both the boy and his mother were addicted to petty thefts in the stores at Liberal. The boy had thrown two switches on the Frisco railroad which might have caused a wreck. He had also thrown rocks through the windows of a passenger train.

He had hit Charles Bogart, eighty, with rocks, hit Mrs. Powers Richardson and Mrs. Ed Coles, both over seventy with rocks and had hit Mrs. Dora Bainter with a rock and knocked her unconscious. He had hit Merl Weaver, four years old, with a rock, and pulled him off the slide board at the school grounds, causing him to fall six feet. He had stoned Romaine Weaver a few days before she was sent to the state hospital.

He had broken eight dollars worth of windows at the Lipscomb grain and had poured three gallons of grasshopper poison over 30 bags of feed, ruining a large share of them. He had taken all the valves out of tires of the implements at the Curless machinery company.

He had built a fire at the Farmers Exchange and attempted to burn some chickens alive by thrusting flaming sticks into a chicken pen. When Mrs. Lon Thomas tried to stop him he threatened her with a knife.

These represent perhaps about two thirds of the specific charges made against him. His mother purchases from 200 to 250 cans of malt per year with which she makes home brew, drinking it largely herself, according to the boy.

As the court heard these charges he became more and more indignant, announcing that no community should be bullied and required to put up with such atrocities. There was, the court explained, but one place for such a boy, viz., the reform school but he hated to commit a nine year old child.

He told the parents that he was turning the boy over to the sheriff to be held in jail for ten days. If by that time the family had not made arrangements for getting out of the 26th judicial district, the child would be sent to the reform school. Observers in court were inclined to think that the parents would make no such effort and that the boy would be sentenced, which was probably just as well. . . .


"Observers" were both right, and wrong. The parents did eventually get out of town but it was not fast enough to suit authorities. Bobby Dean, the one-child crime wave, was packed off to Joplin for safe keeping. On September 22 of that same year, Grandma clipped and pasted another article in her scrapbook:


Broke Out All Windows--In Home Of Parents--Broke Legs Of Chickens--Poured Paint In Well--Refused To Go To School--Back In Custody Of Barton County Officers

Remember nine year old Bobby Miller? He was the boy who terrorized the folks out at Liberal and was finally sent to the Big Brother school at Joplin for a time. He was back in the news, Saturday. At the insistence of his elderly father, Deputy Sheriff Wid Dresslaer drove out to the Miller farm in the timber in Milford township, took the boy into custody and brought him to the county jail.

The county authorities released Bobby to his parents, at their earnest request, from the Big Brother home, in August. The parents argued that they had sold their home in Liberal and had purchased the remote place in the timber where they were sure there'd be no one for him to molest. They were also desirous that he go to the Golden City school, believing the change of schools would be of benefit.

But, with no one else to victimize, he proceeded to make the life of his parents miserable and well nigh impossible, according to the father.

After the second day of the school term, he refused to board the bus to go to school. He broke out all of the windows in the house with rocks. He caught the chickens and broke their legs. He emptied a can of green paint into the well from which the family drank. He often threw rocks at his father. The latter said that he could no longer endure the situation and enlisted the aid of officers. . . .

Somehow, and for reasons never explained, the family soon slipped back into poor little Liberal. And when they did, Bobby Dean was close behind. After his release from custody the deeply disturbed child picked up where he had left off. According to the clippings which spanned several years, he was sent away again for trashing the newly remodeled American Legion hall, sent away again for beating up his mother when she refused to buy him wine at 16, sent away for parole violation (driving and drinking); he was sent away so many times that it is hard to keep them all straight. Grandma herself told me that he had thrown cats down wells as a child and robbed a gas station outside of Arcadia as a teen. With Billy the Kid in mind, I began referring to this now legendary and sadistic outlaw as Bobby the Dean. Although I badgered her to tell me all she knew about this warped half-brother of hers, Grandma was mostly mum.

Apparently, after the following article, Bobby the Dean took his act to Pittsburg, Nevada City, Fort Scott, and other larger towns on the hem of the Ozarks for he is no longer found in the scrapbook.


Bobby Dean Miller, 25, of Frontenac, Kan., formerly of Liberal, was arrested in Liberal late Friday night by Sheriff Calvin Dockery after a chase through town. He was sentenced in Lamar Tuesday to six months in the Barton County jail. Miller was charged with driving while intoxicated and failure to stop for an official vehicle.

Sheriff Dockery wrecked his car during the chase when the Miller car stopped suddenly on coming to an embankment where sewer work is being done. Dockery was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the Miller vehicle.


An earlier article mentioned a psychiatric examination performed when Bobby Dean was still a child. This report stated the obvious: The boy suffered from chronic neglect and indifference at home. Unless he was removed to another environment, the report concluded, there undoubtedly would be one more "confirmed criminal" in the world.

Bobby Dean did remain with the parents and society paid the price. How does one calculate the pain and agony that this single, solitary individual inflicted on the planet? For his entire life, his every waking moment seemed devoted to causing as much harm and misery as possible. Other than the little bit I coaxed from Grandma, and these articles in her scrapbook, I heard nothing of Bobby Dean's career after that.

(continued tomorrow)