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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Thanks, Sheriff, for the hospitality, but I have to be going

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on October 22, 2020

To Elmer W. Sexton’s way of thinking, just because he was breaking out of jail, there was no reason to be impolite or uncivil about the whole thing.

In August 1956, Sexton, 45, found himself in the Maries County Jail in Vienna, Missouri. The Harrison native and his wife, 41, had been arrested for forging a check for $28.50. The couple was being held for trial.

According to an account given by Maries County Sheriff, W.C. “Bill” Parker, on the night of Aug. 7, the Sextons pried a bar out of the cell they were occupying as man and wife. They then used bedsheets to lower themselves to the courthouse yard.

Sexton, though, proved to be a thoughtful escapee. He left a letter for Parker explaining the couple’s actions.

The folks at the Maries County Jail had treated them “real well,” Sexton wrote, but “incarceration began to pall after three weeks.”

Sexton went on to tell Parker that the couple could have escaped anytime, but “I hate to leave you like this.” He thanked the sheriff for treating his wife and him like human beings, and he wished Parker luck in the upcoming election.

Parker was an easygoing man who had an Andy-of-Mayberry attitude toward his job. He owned an old pistol, but rarely carried it. He was well liked, and people listened when he spoke. Parker said he enjoyed Sexton’s two-page “good-bye forever” letter, but he still wanted the prisoners back to face the forgery charges.

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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Scout’s summer marked by life and death

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on October 15, 2020

What a great week it had been!

Floating on the river, sleeping under the stars, landing a big one for your supper.

Making wonderful memories with your friends.

In late May of 1956, Boy Scout Troop 60 of Harrison embarked on a five-day float trip on the Buffalo River. The boys hoped to qualify for the national 50-mile award given by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Requirements were that scouts had to cover 50 miles on land or water without mechanized transportation. They had to lay out overnight camp sites, carry all food and equipment with them, and they had to map their journey.

In those pre-national river days, the 12 scouts, along with six adult leaders, put in the Buffalo at the Highway 65 bridge near St. Joe. Traveling down the river, they ended up at Norfork on the White River.

Participating in the adventure were Jimmy Russell, Bill Robertson, David Hammons, Butch Cotton, David Holder, Billy Dillon, Sonny Von Seeburg, Richard Robinson, Ronald Pierce, Donald Ray Nichols, Bill Russell, Keith Robertson, Wayne Smith, Hugh Cotton and Lawrence Sanders.

The fishing equipment for the expedition was contributed by Miller Hardware, Arkansas Tire and Supply and Montgomery Ward. Prizes for the largest fish caught and the largest number caught were provided by Smith Hardware.

For the first two days of the journey, the scouts were accompanied by Gene Rush and a movie photographer from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. A movie about the trip was later presented to the troop.

In addition, an article with illustrations was done for Boys Life, the official magazine of the Boy Scouts.

A few weeks later, the scouts were on another outing, this one in the Cobb Cave area of Lost Valley in Newton County.

On the morning of July 16, 12-year-old Butch Cotton and some other scouts decided to explore the cave and maybe even find some Indian relics.

Trying to navigate a steep ledge, Butch fell 50 feet, suffering serious head injuries.

Hugh Cotton, along with Wayne Smith, attempted to reach his son, but the rugged terrain made it a difficult task. Finally, the boy was reached and immediately taken to Boone County Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery. It was to no avail, though, and Butch died.

Butch would have been an eighth-grader at Harrison Junior High. He was a Star Scout and played baseball in the Harrison Little League. He was a member of Harrison Christian Church.