THE HANGING JUDGE – JULY 23, 2015 by Eddie Trapp


Eddie Trapp

From my ledger. Thursday, July 30, 1987. Our youngest, Greg, is in the Boy Scouts and the troop is camping at Camp Pioneer near Mena, Arkansas. I got on my 750 Honda and drove that way to help Scoutmaster Marion Miller. On the way I stopped at a store north of Clarksville near Red River and asked some of the older men if they knew any Trapp’s in the area. They directed me back toward Clarksville a few miles to a fire tower and Sidney Trapp’s place. Sidney is my third cousin and we had a good talk. Just before Christmas in 1926 Sidney’s young sister, Pollie Oma Trapp, went to a gas station with her dad, Land Lott Trapp. The place was near Red River. Pollie sat in the car while Land Lott filled it up with gasoline. During the filling, Land Lott decided to light a cigarette, striking the match on his pants on the back part of his leg. Within seconds the entire car was on fire. Pollie died on Christmas Eve, 1926 and Sidney told me of the tiny Albion Cemetery just off of Highway 37 near Red River. Pollie and several more of my relatives are buried there. I stopped by the cemetery on my to the scout camp.
On north to Idabel, Broken Bow, and Smithville where I tuned east to Cove, Arkansas. North of Cove toward Hatfield with not a care in the world. As I topped a hill there sat State Trooper Simmons in his patrol car. I waved as I went by, happy I wasn’t speeding but then I saw his red lights in my mirror. What have I done wrong? He walked up to me and I got off the Honda. I couldn’t help but grin as I asked him what was wrong. You got to wear a helmet in Arkansas. Since Texas doesn’t have a helmet law I had not even thought about it in Arkansas. The ticket was $32 and he told me to go to the Mena Courthouse and pay it the next morning. On to camp about dark.
July 31, 1987. Friday. Sausage, biscuit, gravy, and grape juice for breakfast. To mountain man class with Greg. They shot black powder muzzle loaders, made lye soap, made fire with flint and steel, and made bullets for muzzle loaders. At 11:00, I drove to Mena and was careful to wear my helmet. Had trouble finding the courthouse and finally ran across a deputy that gave me directions. Court was in session and I sat out in the audience. Six men, two women, and me, counting the judge. Each person had a stack of papers and was discussing the cases one at a time. Only me and two more out in the audience. A man at the railing was a bondsman I think. They would flip to page so and so and discuss a case. The judge would look at the others and say, “What do you think we should do with him?” They would shrug their shoulders and the judge would say, “Let’s just suspend his license.” I got the idea he was a “hanging judge.” A little after twelve he asked me if I was one of the ones he had “paper” on. I told him I didn’t know but Trooper Simmons told me to come up here and act real nice and maybe get my fine reduced. He asked me to approach the bench. I explained about Texas not having a helmet law and I never thought Arkansas might. Besides, I was just a few miles inside the state line.
In my defense I mentioned about teaching school, driving a bus, and no tickets at home. He never cracked a smile when he said, “I’ve got three friends that got seat belt tickets in Texas lately. We don’t have a seat belt law. I think turnabout is fair play.” I dropped my head and knew I was another victim of this hanging judge. After fifteen seconds he showed a slight grin and said, “Besides, I don’t like the way Texas whups up on us in football each year.” I saw a glimmer of hope.
Next he asked me if I knew why Jesus wasn’t born in Texas. I saw then that I had a good chance of getting my ticket reduced. I told him I didn’t know the answer to the Jesus born in Texas question. Well, he explained that first off, they couldn’t find three wise men, and second, they couldn’t find a virgin. There were still several people hanging around listening and they couldn’t hold it any longer. We all went to laughing, even the judge, and I knew things were getting better. I asked the court recorder if she got that and she said she did. When everyone quit laughing the judge said he would throw out the ticket to keep my record clean but I would have to pay $22 court cost. He made me promise I would holler for Arkansas this year then told me to go to the sheriff’s office to pay the fine. I got lost in Mena again and by the time I got there the judge and all his group were already there. The judge grinned at his secretary when I walked in and he told her, “Tell you what, let’s throw out the whole thing.” We were all grins as we shot the breeze a while before I headed back to Camp Pioneer.
Two crooks charged twenty blind guys a thousand dollars each to take them to the beach for a few days. The crooks dumped the men on the beach then retired to a nearby bar. They feared the men would get bored and decided to take them a soccer ball to pass the time. The blind guys complained that they couldn’t see the ball to play soccer. About that time a donkey with bells around its neck walked by. The crooks looked at each other and got an idea. They rushed to a store and bought a lot of little bells and fastened it to the ball. Back to the bar for the crooks. Shift changed and a new bartender came in. Said she didn’t know what the world was coming to. She just saw twenty blind guys kicking a poor old donkey.
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