Richard Bostwick Reminiscences
Cab Driving Stories
Four Bags Full
I was checking over my cab before pulling out of the garage at the start of my all-night shift when the dispatcher called to inform me that I had a personal call at the Broadway Hotel. The Broadway Hotel was an upstairs hotel run by Johnny O., who was a good friend of mine and always called for me personally whenever he or any of his guests needed the services of a taxicab. His guests usually consisted of migrant harvest hands or the like.
When I arrived at the Broadway, I went upstairs and met Johnny who was waiting for me at the front desk. He ushered me down the hall to one of the back rooms. Inside was a woman who appeared to be about 40 years old. He introduced her to me only as “Jane”. He then told her I was perfectly reliable and could be trusted.
I was curios, but I did not ask any questions because quite often the less you know the better off you were. She told me she wanted me to drive her to a north end address and she would give me further instructions from there. So we went down stairs, I loaded her into my cab and we took off.
As we approached the block where the address was located, she told me to go up in the alley and pull up as close as I could to the back porch. It was getting dark by then and she told me to come on in to the kitchen with her, but not to turn on any lights. I just stood inside the back door while she fumbled around on the floor and soon pulled up a trap door leading down into a small basement-like recess. She went down a steep flight of stairs and lit a light. It was then that I saw four tall gunnysacks. They were crammed full of something and sewn shut at the top. She then proceeded to boost them up to me one at a time and told me to lay them to one side. She then turned out the basement light and came puffing up the stairs into the kitchen.
I then asked her, “Now what”? She closed the trap door and told me to put the sacks in my cab. I was driving a Reo cab, which did not have a trunk compartment. So, with a lot of effort, I managed to get all four bags in the back seat. She then climbed in along side of me in the driver's compartment and sat on the small jump seat. She then instructed me to drive her out into the country. I asked, “Where in the country”? She answered, “Anywhere, just as long as it isn't too close to town.”
So I headed west out 3rd Avenue. After I had driven about 3 miles outside of town, she told me to turn off on the next section line road I came to. The next section line I came to was just like all the rest of them, just a pair of wagon tracks marking the boundary line between two sections of farmland. We proceeded down this road for about a ½ mile when she said, “This will do.” She then told me to unload the sacks and lay them down along side the road. As I pulled them out of the cab, she rolled them over in the field aways.
Does this sound crazy to you? Well, it did to me, too. But remember, she was paying the bill and I didn't want to know anymore about this caper than just what I saw. After you have been pushing hack for awhile, nothing surprises you that a passenger might do or say.
After we had disposed of the four sacks, she told me to drive her back to the Broadway, which I did. On the way back she offered me no explanation and I asked for none. I pulled up in front of the Broadway Hotel and opened the cab door for her. She got out, paid me my fare, and gave me a generous tip. I went on my way and soon forgot the crazy situation.
It wasn't long forgotten, however, for the next evening the dispatcher called me into the garage. When I got there, I was greeted by a deputy who informed me that the sheriff wanted to see me. It would not have done any good to ask him “what for?” because he would only say the sheriff would let me know. He said I wasn't under arrest but that the sheriff was sure anxious to talk with me.
So away I went in his car after putting my cab in the garage. We arrived at the courthouse and I proceeded the deputy into the waiting room of the sheriff's office. As soon as I entered, this former passenger I knew only as Jane came running over to me followed by a matron and said, “I've told the sheriff everything, so don't hold back anything he wants to know.” Now, this sounded real bad for me-hell, I didn't have anything to hold back. The deputy ushered me on in to the inner office where the sheriff, whom I had known for a long time, said, “Alright Dick, where the hell is that wool? Where have you got it stashed?”
I then remembered the smell and feel of those sacks and it was then that my suspicions were confirmed-those four sacks contained wool. The sheriff then told me that this Jane person had confessed to him what we had done with the four bags of wool. I told him that what she had told him was all that I knew about it. He said they had picked up Jane a short time after she had paid me off, and that she had told him the whole story. Then they had rushed out to where we had dumped the sacks, but they were gone. This led him to believe that after she had paid me off, I had returned to the country road and recovered the sacks.
It was lucky for me that minutes after Jane had paid me off I had been dispatched on a time drive with a fare that lasted for several hours. After hearing this, Pete the Sheriff, told me I was free to go. The deputy then drove me back to the cab garage and I finished out the rest of my shift without any further incidents.
Jane was later tried and convicted of possession of stolen property and sentenced to 90 days in jail. I later found out the rest of the story. It was Jane's husband who had stolen the wool in the first place. He had recently been released from prison, and had hired out to a farmer along with another man to shear the farmer's sheep. The job was completed, the men were paid, and the wool was stored in one of the outbuildings on the farm. The farmer had later discovered that his wool had been stolen. The farmer reported the crime, and in answer to his complaint, the sheriff checked the names of the shearers. He recognized the name of Jane's husband, and a search began for him.
The police soon picked him up and on the way to the police station, he attempted to escape by jumping out of the patrol car. In doing this he received a fractured skull. Upon being admitted to the hospital, an intern notified his wife Jane, who dashed uptown and enlisted the help of Johnny O. to recommend someone to help her dispose of the wool from where her husband had hidden it. That is how U happened to get involved. The end of the story is the ex-con recovered from his head injury and was tried and convicted of grand larceny. He was returned to prison.
The wool was never recovered.
Institute for Regional Studies Home Page
Published by the Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU