Back Home Again: Tough on Crime

Criminals get a bad rap, but that never stopped me from wanting to be one.

When I was in high school, the guidance counselor, Mr. O’Brien, summoned me to his office to ask what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him I wanted to own a grocery store, which wasn’t true, but sounded more respectable than my real objective, which was to be a criminal. My heart first turned to crime when I was a boy watching Batman. I admired the sophistication of the Penguin, who wore a top hat and a monocle and smoked a cigarette in a holder. I’ve always been drawn to unconventional people and am a sucker for hats. I also like monocles, so my backup career plan was to command a POW camp like Colonel Klink on Hogan’s Heroes.

I feel sorry for criminals. Everyone is against them and feels perfectly free to lie in their presence. Crooks sneak up behind us, put us in a chokehold, and what do we say? “You can have my money, just don’t kill me. Please let me go. I won’t tell anyone, honest.” But as soon as they’re gone, we rat them out to the police. And people wonder why criminals don’t trust anyone.

Oh, sure, the Republicans applaud the job-creators, but no one ever thanks a criminal. Were it not for criminals, hundreds of thousands of police officers would be unemployed and unable to provide for their families. Is this appreciated? Not in the least.

As anyone who has been involved in crime knows, there is good crime and bad crime. Good crimes are the ones we commit. They include fudging on our taxes, swiping our grandma’s handicap sticker so we can get a better parking place, filching a few grapes at the grocery store, or going back to the salad bar for chocolate pudding even though we only paid for one trip. Bad crimes are the ones other people commit. When we talk about getting tough on crime, we mean the stuff that gets other people sent to jail.

Most crimes are never solved. It was a lot easier to solve them when restaurants gave out free matchbooks. The criminal would leave a matchbook behind at the scene, the police would go to the restaurant, and there would be the criminal, sitting in the back corner eating spaghetti and meatballs. I don’t mean to imply that Italians commit most of the crimes. In fact, a surprising majority of criminals are of Dutch descent.

My favorite restaurant doesn’t have matchbooks, so I could kill someone and it would be nearly impossible to catch me. Of course there’s still a good chance I could be caught by forensic evidence, a few strands of my hair found at the scene of the crime, which is why, whenever I’ve committed a crime, I shaved my body first. Whenever you see a man with a shaved head, you can safely assume he’s fresh from a murder.

If I were a full-time criminal (and in this economy, the likelihood is growing every day), I would rustle cattle. I’ve seen it done on The Lone Ranger countless times and it looks fairly simple. I’d drive the cattle into a canyon, alter the brand, all the while wearing a mask so the cattle couldn’t later identify me. I’d move the herd south to the Rio Grande and sell them to a shifty Mexican bandit who, at the last minute, would double-cross me, forcing me to shoot the gun out of his hand and make my escape.

Anyone serious about a career in crime should be sure not to have shifty eyes. I have spent years of practice not blinking. It’s also wise to avoid sweating, since that’s another thing police look for in determining guilt.

Later, I would see the bandit in a saloon. He would draw his gun and try to kill me, but I would be quicker and shoot him dead. When the sheriff arrived, he’d take my side because I was white. I wouldn’t even be questioned because another white man would step forward and say, “I saw the whole thing. The Mexican hombre drew first.” And that would be it. The undertaker would make a coffin and the bandit would be buried that day, proving once again that crime doesn’t pay, unless you’re white. And rich. If you’re white and rich you can commit all kinds of crimes and usually get away with it, provided you don’t have shifty eyes.

Anyone serious about a career in crime should be sure not to have shifty eyes. I have spent years of practice not blinking, so I can now go hours without twitching a lid. It’s also wise to avoid sweating, since that’s another thing police look for in determining guilt. The average man perspires 1.5 liters a day, but after years of practice, I have stopped sweating altogether.

After trying my hand at cattle rustling, I would probably take up train robbery. The hardest part of train robbery is jumping off your horse onto a moving train, making your way toward the front of the train on the tops of the cars, surprising the engineer, and making him stop the train so you can loot the passengers at your leisure. It’s an awful lot of work, so it might just be easier to get a job, except that certain women find train robbers irresistible, a definite plus. In fact, I met my wife that way. Her family didn’t care for me at first, but after several gifts of jewelry and gold bars, they came around.

I don’t drink, but if cattle-rustling and train robbery don’t pan out for me, I plan on making moonshine. My great-grandfather sold moonshine during Prohibition, so it wouldn’t even be like I was breaking the law. It’s more like I would be taking over the family business. The best part of being a moonshiner is the hat part. Every moonshiner I’ve ever known—and I’ve known two, my great-grandfather and Snuffy Smith—wore a hat.

If you decide to make your living as a criminal, you should keep it to yourself. When someone asks what you do, you shouldn’t come right out and say, “I rustle cattle and rob banks and practice law.” You need to remain anonymous. It might even be wise to have a cover identity, like Batman, who was actually Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy. That was a brilliant ploy. By day, I pastor a Quaker meeting, but at night I rob trains. I don’t want to tip my hand, so I’m not going to mention which Quaker meeting I pastor. Believe me, if those Quakers ever found out I was a criminal, I would be in such big trouble not even Batman could help me.


Illustration by Ryan Snook

This article appeared in the March 2013 issue.