By Beulah Dutrow Johnson
We saw their covered wagons crawling up our valley and stared in disbelief. Splashes of vivid color and dusky little faces peeking from beneath canvas flaps held we kids in spellbound fascination. "Gypsies!" yelped our mother, remembering horror stories of robbery and kidnapping in Illinois.
"It's too late to run," Dad, Eugene Dutrow told us, and walked forward to greet our strange guests. Mom, Bertha Dutrow, watched in horrified dismay as he pointed out a good camping spot beneath the lakelet and went to fetch grain for their bone-thin horses.
|Romani wagon in Germany, 1930s; image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst - Zentralbild (Bild 183)|
"It could have been a lot worse," Dad grinned. "If they had wanted to do us real damage, we couldn't have stopped them." It didn't make Mom feel much better, though. Those were her chickens. The next time we drove to Tryon we saw our gypsy friends again.
A rancher, with pockets filled with cash from selling his cattle in North Platte, had met the gypsies and let them hold his hand while they told his fortune. He galloped into Tryon for the sheriff, yelling that they had picked his pockets. The sheriff herded the whole shebang into his shiny new courthouse where the men filled the jail to overflowing, so he locked the women and children in the courtroom until they returned the rancher's money. The crowd of gypsies was the most colorful event in the town's history and people flocked to the courthouse to stare. Just to keep things lively, the gypsy women and children kept up a constant wailing that would have broken a heart of stone. Whenever a child started to run down its mother would pinch its behind and start the wailing again. Finally the disgusted sheriff shooed away the crowd and locked the doors, forgetting to consider creature comforts of all of his guests.
It was Eva David Haddy who the sheriff appointed as deputy to search the women and children. Problems of shaking down women in a dozen skirts ought to be a story too - at least Eva didn't find the money and to this day I don't know if the rancher got his money back.