April 16th……..“SAY GRANDPA, DID ANY POLICE EVER COME OUT TO YOUR FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA”? “IF SO, WHO AND WHAT FOR”?
Even the crows, in the wooded windbreak of our farm, had some thing to “crow” about on June 5th of 1957. And, I do believe that our local population of bees were even jealous. Why, you ask? Because on that momentous day, there were six other “B’s” happening on or nearby our farm that had to do with B..ank, B..andit, B..uick, B..oy and B..arfing B..uckets!!!! Big brother, Lowell Noorlun, was a whole 14 years old upon that sunny summer day and had matured into the age of young manhood there on our farm.
Along with young manhood came the responsibility of obeying our father’s orders to take our little Farmall B tractor (with a cultivator attachment mounted onboard) and begin cultivating the weeds out of the field of corn to the southwest of our main farm place. With every intent of wanting to do a good job and pleasing our dad, Lowell drove that little tractor to the cornfield, dropped the “spearhead shovels” down into that black soil and let out the tractor’s clutch to begin beautifying our handsome corn rows. As big brother reached the far west end of our property, he lifted the cultivator out of the ground to make a sharp turn around for heading east on the next set of corn rows. As he dropped the “spearhead shovels” into the ground, and unbeknownst to Lowell, he had hit a large underground rock that bent out one of those shovels; taking it out of alignment for the job at hand and making it point directly at the young corn plants.. At that same moment, big brother saw something that distracted him from his duty.
Like the proverbial “bat outta hell”, a sparkling new 1957 black Buick Roadster Riviera came rocketing along the gravel road, from Chet Ozmun’s farm to the south of us, and boiling up clouds of dust as it hit “warp speed” past our farm and out north past Charlie Heitzeg’s farm. The maniacal driver then hooked a sharp left at the intersection and, like jet exhaust, disappeared to the west of us towards Bricelyn, Minnesota.
During that car spectacle, brother’s tractor is was still rolling forward. And, in the scope of less than a minute, Lowell’s attention was back to his cultivator work. With a glance, he looked back behind him in horror!!! That bent “spearhead shovel” had ripped out a long section of young corn plants from the ground. Lowell knew our farmer dad would be “fit to be tied” about that potential crop loss……..even though it was purely unintentional on our brother’s part.
Poor brother!! He aimed his Farmall B back to the farmyard and shop to make repairs to the cultivator and tell Dad about what he had just witnessed, regarding the racing car, and what had happened to the corn. Sure enough, to put it mildly, Dad was NOT happy!!! Since Dad was committed to other farm work that day, to the rescue, on that hot June day, came our beloved mother Clarice. She and Lowell headed back out to the cornfield to manually re-plant, by hand, that long row of uprooted corn plants. The stress of our father’s anger, plus working out in that hot Minnesota sun saw our brother succumb to a case of heat stroke. When dear Mom and Lowell were finished re-planting the corn, that sick elder sibling of ours made a mad dash to our toilet “Out-House”. Good thing it was a “two-seater” because brother was “busy” sitting down on the one seat and leaning over to barf into the hole of the other seat.
From what brother related to our father, regarding the speeding black car, Dad thought it wise to call our local Peace Officer in Kiester by the name of Harold Lamping. Mr. Lamping was grateful for Dad’s call and shared that just moments earlier, The First National Bank in town had been robbed and someone saw the crook make a get-away in that same kind of black car. Turns out, the new get-away car had been recently stolen off of a car dealership’s lot in Minneapolis. As the story unfolded, the armed gunman had done some pheasant hunting in the Kiester area in the past, so decided that this would be his “target” for the crime he was about to commit. The culprit came into the bank that day, found out who the administrator was and leveled his gun at Mr. Donald Elwell, the president of the bank. The thief, feeling remorse even during the bank robbery, kept telling Mr. Elwell and others that he “hated to do it”, but was desperate for money. The robber’s demands were met and he managed to get almost $5,000 (worth $46,500 in 2021) in cash and $12,900 (worth $120,000.00 in 2021) in Traveler’s Checks.
With his loot in hand, the gunman herded Mr. Elwell, ten employees and one lone customer into a back bookkeeping room, then made his escape. After driving west out of town, then north past our farm, the thief eventually headed south to the Kansas City, Missouri area and put that black Buick into storage there. After that, the bad guy headed for Las Vegas, Nevada and eventually California where he spent the lion’s share of his cash “living the high life”…….for a while, at least. “Mr. Crook” somehow made his way to Houston, Texas hoping to melt in with the locals there and be able to start fresh in a new life with his Traveler’s Checks.
It wasn’t too long, after the bandit hit the bank, that our parent’s got a call at the farm from the FBI (Federal Bureau Of Investigation). Two FBI agents wanted to come out to our farm to interview Lowell about what he had seen that fateful day. Since our brother was still a minor at the time, our parents were present for the interview by the agents. Lowell was definitely impressed by the men being impeccably dressed in their business suits along with their official identification badges to show the seriousness of their task at hand. Adding our brother’s testimony to their other evidence finding, they slipped into their car and were on their way. A break came in the case when a letter was found near our hometown that was addressed to a man named, Robert McDonald.
Mr. McDonald had led a life of similar crimes dating way back into the late 1930’s. With that letter, and other detective work, within a month agents made an arrest of Mr. McDonald in Houston, Texas and he was brought back to Minnesota to stand trial for his crime. During the trial, the defendant related how he was released from prison in 1946, after serving 8 years for earlier “hold ups” and stealing from various savings and loan businesses. His original address had been Altoona, Wisconsin and, even though he was trying to live within the law, he feared losing his current job with the railroad because tests were soon coming up that would reveal that he was actually colorblind. This potential job loss, accumulating bills and arguments with his wife (“who wanted to wear the pants in the family”), drove him back into a life of crime and sought money via robbing The First National Bank of Kiester.
Most of the Traveler’s Checks were recovered, at the time of Mr. McDonald’s arrest and a prison sentence of 15 years in the penitentiary was leveled against him. We can only hope that at the end of his sentence, in the year 1972, Mr. McDonald was able to live a more law-abiding life.
Being a little tike of only three years old, at the time, I really didn’t comprehend how all this adventure transpired. Yet, I was glad for my brother’s part in cementing his hero status in the eyes of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!