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Tales from Kentucky Sheriffs

William Lynwood Montell

Publication Year: 2011

Following the success of his collections of stories from funeral directors, schoolteachers, doctors, and lawyers, folklorist William Lynwood Montell presents a new volume of tales from Kentucky sheriffs. Montell collected stories from all areas of the state to represent the diversity of social and economic backgrounds in the various communities the officers serve. Tales from Kentucky Sheriffs covers elections, criminal behavior, and sheriff’s mistakes in a lighthearted and often humorous manner. The book includes accounts of a drunk driver who thought he was in a different state, a sheriff running a sting operation with the U.S. Marshals, and a woman reporting a tomato thief in her garden. Other accounts involve procedural errors with serious consequences, such as the tale of a sheriff who mistakenly informs a man that his son has committed suicide. Together, these firsthand narratives preserve important aspects of Kentucky’s history not likely to be recorded elsewhere.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front Cover

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Title Page

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Copyright page

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pp. v

This book is dedicated to all sheriffs and former sheriffs across Kentucky whose fascinating, insightful stories made this book possible; and to my wife, Linda; her daughter and son-in-law, Lisa and Nick Atkins; my daughter and her husband, Monisa and Jack Wright; my son, Brad Montell, and his wife, Marla; and all of our grandchildren; also to Michael ...


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pp. vii

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pp. 1-6

Folklore is not the “falsehood of history,” as it has been defined by a few academic professors and others in earlier times. In fact, it comprises the history of 99.99 percent of the world’s population because it focuses on local culture, on people’s lives and times, both past and present, as they are actually lived. As I indicated in my Tales of Tennessee Lawyers, ...

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1. Becoming Sheriff

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pp. 7-33

In this chapter sheriffs explain how and why they made the decision to seek election to office. Some came from law enforcement backgrounds—having previously been deputies, state troopers, and the like—but others did not. Some had never considered such a career but were talked into it by friends and colleagues who believed they would do an excellent ...

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2. Arrested People’s Behavior

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pp. 34-73

Perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects of a sheriff’s job involves apprehending suspects and taking them into custody. As the stories in this chapter show, the behavior of people being arrested is unpredictable. Escape attempts are common; herein we read of officers’ attempts to overtake fleeing offenders, both in vehicles and on foot. Descriptions ...

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3. Mentally Deprived People

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pp. 74-85

The stories herein describe sheriffs’ encounters with mentally incompetent people who found themselves on the wrong side of the law. We read of a man who entered someone else’s home, thinking it was his own; a fellow who shot and killed a deputy sheriff; a woman who threatened to cut off a deputy sheriff’s head. In one tragic story in a different vein, ...

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4. Law Enforcement Humor

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pp. 86-112

Humor features in virtually every aspect of life, and the arena of law enforcement is no exception. And that is all to the good—humor often helps sheriffs, deputies, and even guilty persons deal with difficult, frightening, and sometimes dangerous situations. Further, the humor of a story can provide valuable insight into the life and times the...

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5. Moonshine, Marijuana, and Meth

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pp. 113-174

Although the days of moonshine are for the most part gone, stories of its heyday persist. These sometimes feature hardened criminals who would stop at nothing to protect their illegal interests; alternatively, however, making moonshine was often a family effort necessary for survival in hard economic times. One amusing story reveals two sheriffs whose own fathers were bootleggers....

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6. Major Problems and Significant Accomplishments

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pp. 175-188

With the job of sheriff comes a host of problems. The issue of inadequate finances is a recurrent theme in the stories below. Sheriffs often struggle to fulfill their duties properly when personnel and equipment are not what they ought to be. In addition, the sheriff’s position has become increasingly administrative over the years, as paperwork and “politics” ...

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7. Mistakes

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pp. 189-196

Stories in this brief chapter describe instances of human error: one sheriff mistakenly informed his bailiff that his beloved son was dead; others failed to arrest drunken drivers, wore inappropriate attire on the job, lost convictions through avoidable mistakes on search warrants, or drove recklessly in pursuit of suspects. In one particularly thoughtful ...

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8. Other Sheriffs

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pp. 197-214

Folklorists truly appreciate stories people tell about individuals of older generations, as such accounts contain much information about people and places that is typically not available in full detail in formal sources. The stories herein, told by present-day sheriffs and former sheriffs, reveal what circumstances were like for their elderly or deceased...

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9. Dangerous or Fatal Events

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pp. 215-268

This gripping and penetrating chapter highlights the grave dangers often faced by law enforcement officers in the line of duty. Included are accounts of sheriffs and others killed or wounded as they attempted to apprehend criminals or save the lives of the innocent. In other stories fatalities were narrowly avoided, as the potential danger was averted ...

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10. Colleagues

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pp. 269-281

Stories in this chapter relate to sheriffs’ colleagues, both employees (such as deputies and secretaries) and associates (such as magistrates and attorneys). Along with tributes to fallen officers are a number of lighthearted tales, including those describing a constable who always sneaked up on teenagers parked at the local lovers’ lane, a one-hundred-...

Biographies of Storytellers

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pp. 283-290

E-ISBN-13: 9780813134055
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813134048

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011