A Red Ear Of Corn, A Kiss, And Mass Murder

1912. The good old days when life was slower. Families and neighbors were close, children were still innocent, and feuding was quite popular, especially so in Carroll County, Virginia…the tiny town Hillsville, to be precise. The place where a judge, the sheriff, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, jury members, and a witness were all gunned down. Murdered. Slaughtered. All because of a single kiss between two kids.

Like many killings that occur in our day, this whole ugly mess started when a guy kissed the girlfriend of another boy. The kiss was actually part of a longstanding tradition during the time of the annual corn-shucking. Tradition said that any boy who found a red ear of corn could kiss the girl of his choosing. Well, Wesley Edwards was the lucky boy that year. With the red ear in hand he planted a nice juicy kiss right on the lips of a girl who was currently being properly courted by another boy. And that just didn’t sit right with the betrayed boyfriend. Not at all. So he and a few friends caught up with Edwards and his brother as were leaving church the next day. And, as they say, it was on. Punches were exchanged, clothing was tattered and torn, but the Edwards boys came out on top and bested the boyfriend and his backup.

Here’s where things really begin to go downhill. The Edwards boys were arrested on charges stemming from the fight. But, as officers were hauling them to the Carroll County jail, their uncle, Floyd Allen, managed to set them free.

Of course, Allen was arrested for poking his nose in a place where it didn’t belong (cops tend to get a little irritated when you rough them up and turn their prisoners loose). Anyway, Allen eventually stood trial for his unlawful actions…obstructing justice, or something along those lines.

During the trial, emotions ran high. Judge Thorton Massie knew the possibility for trouble was imminent. The folks in his courtroom were like individual sticks of dynamite just waiting for their fuses to be lit. The Allens were a rowdy bunch, to say the least. They were moonshining feuding-democrats who blamed the republicans for all their troubles (sounds like folks from this day and age, huh?). Still, Sheriff Lewis Webb and his deputies took no extra precaution. Judge’s order.

Floyd Allen

When the verdict of guilty was finally announced to the court, defendant Floyd Allen stood and said, “Gentlemen, I just ain’t a goin’: That’s the moment when the gunplay started. And that’s when five people died and seven more were wounded. No one knows who fired the first shot, or the last.

Some accounts of the event say that the Commonwealth’s Attorney and court clerk, Dexter Goad, came to court armed on that day. Another writing states that Allen fired in self defense. But where’d he get the gun?

What is clear, however, is that Allen and his son, Claude, were both executed for the murders. Sidna Allen, Floyd’s brother, received 35 years in prison for the part he played in the murders.

The courtroom killings made all the newspapers and generated buzz all over the country. In fact, the story remained on the front page of the papers until a story of equal interest broke. Something about a big boat sinking with a lot of people on board. I think the name was The Titanic. Yes, it took a story that huge to get this one off the front page.

The Carroll County Courthouse murder is still the center of controversy in the Hillsville area. The anniversary of the event is March 15, and some of the locals plan an hour-long presentation that’ll begin with the events leading up to the shooting. Organizers say they’ll wind up the presentation with lots of detail about the actual shooting. Many residents are already beating the war drums, saying their relatives (the Allen’s) got a bum rap. Others say the event could finally help the community begin to heal from its century-old wounds.

Either way, I’d certainly suggest using a metal detector at the entrance to the courthouse on the night of the presentation. Or, perhaps an off-duty TSA officer could spare a few moments of his time…

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Weekend Road Trip: Oatland Island Cane Grinding and Harvest Fest…And Gators!

Recently, we had the pleasure of attending the fall cane harvest festival on Oatland Island in Savannah, Ga. After a nice trek through the woods we entered a clearing where the annual festivities were already underway. A log cabin was the focal point; however, the structure was not the center of attention.

The crowd was busy sampling the wares.

Sugar cane (bottom center in front of hay bales) was available for tasting.

A horse was the sole source of power used to operate the cane grinder. A long pole (a tree trunk) was attached to the grinder and to the horse’s back. The animal then walked in large circles, pulling the log as it went. The motion turned the grinder, which reduced the cane to sweet sugar.

A large vat was used to cook the ground cane sugar. I’ve since been topping my Sunday pancakes with fresh cane syrup.

Making homemade pumpkin soup.

Apple press for making homemade cider. Delicious!

Explaining her craft.

Even the little ones had a great time without a video game in sight. Click the link below for a very brief video.


We left the cabin area to explore. A stroll down this path revealed some pretty exciting sights and breathtaking scenery.

Standing at the edge of the marsh.

Three gray wolves.

A mud-covered alligator sunning itself on the bank of a creek.

Lazy gator floating.

This gator swam by our feet. I used the zoom for this shot. Believe me, I was NOT that close to this animal.

A cougar having a little snack of some sort of meat (another zoom shot).

A wild turkey contemplating the future. This photo was taken the first week in November.

*Due to the troubles with the site earlier this week we’ll be posting details on how to win The Closer 5th season DVD on Monday.

closer, Kyra Sedgwick, tnt

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

The Graveyard Shift extends our condolences to the families of each of these brave officers.

Senior Corrections Officer John H. “Packy” Paskewicz, 58

Maine Department of Corrections

November 16, 2010 – Officer John “Packy” Paskewicz suffered a fatal heart while undergoing training against edged weapon attacks. He was a veteran of the Vietnam Nam war, serving in both the Army and Navy, and he’d served as a corrections officer for 20 years.

Deputy Sheriff Sam Brownlee, 43

Weld County Colorado Sheriff’s Office

November 23, 2010 –  Deputy Sam Brownlee was involved in a high speed pursuit (107mph) of a wanted suspect (a known gang member) when other officers deployed stop sticks. The suspect’s car was then disabled and Deputy Brownlee, along with officers from other departments, attempted to arrest him, an effort the suspect violently resisted. Officers then used a Taser but the probes didn’t stick so the scuffle continued. The man was somehow able to gain control of Deputy Brownlee’s service weapon, which he used to shoot Brownlee in the face and twice in the chest. An Evans PD officer returned fire, shooting the suspect. Both Deputy Brownlee and the suspect were transported to the local hospital where they both died as a result of their gunshot wounds.

Deputy Brownlee is survived by his wife.

Officer Patrick Sirois, 50

United States Department of Defense – Fort Hood Police Department

November 23, 2010 – Officer Patrick Sirois died doing exactly what he known for…helping others. He’d stopped to assist a stranded motorist when a car driven by a teenager struck the disabled pickup truck, pinning Officer Sirois against the guardrail. Moments before the crash, Sirois realized the approaching danger and managed to push the motorist to safety. He was unharmed. Officer Sirois was transported to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. He is survived by his fiancee.

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A Cop’s Thanksgiving

A Cop’s Thanksgiving

Morning parade
Smiling faces
Squealing children
Marching bands
Families gather
Fire crackles
Turkey legs
Pumpkin pie
Football games
Pistol. Badge. Vest.
Kiss the kids, and please save a drumstick for me.
I’ll be home soon.

Family traveling
Smiling faces
Squealing children
Thoughts of
Grandmother’s cooking
Turkey legs
Pumpkin pie
Crackling fire
Football games.
Happy. Love. Joy.
Those poor kids.
They would’ve been home soon.

Drunk drivers
Speeding drivers
Texting drivers
Careless drivers
Aggressive drivers
Sleepy drivers
Depressed drivers
Distracted drivers
Reckless drivers
Road rage
A horrible collision.
An entire family, gone.

It’s awful.
Tangled metal.
Three little ones.
Mother and father, too.
I don’t know.
A couple hours, at least.
Yes, save a drumstick.
Hug our kids.
Tell them I love them.
I’ll be there soon.
Those poor children.
They’ll never go home again.

10-4. Send the coroner.

Yes, five victims.

Tell her there’s no rush.

I’ll be standing by.

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