Corpus Christi Times, Monday Evening, October 5, 1931: Murder Trial of Yarberry in Slaying of Girl Opens in Sinton Court. Attorneys For State To Ask Death Penalty. Special Venire of 150 Men Reports as Court Opens Monday morning; Several Are Excused. Many Witnesses. Aransas Pass Youth Faces Murder Charge in Death of Aransas Pass girl. Newton Yarberry began his fight to prove his innocence of the murder of Dorothy Dorcas Symons, 18 year old choir singer at Aransas Pass July 30, when his case was called to trial at Sinton in district court of San Patricio county Monday morning. A special venire of 250 men reported, but many were excused by judge T. M. Cox as various excuses were offered. Then court was recessed until 1:30 o'clock and the list was to be revised and recalled. W. C. Gayle, district attorney and Rockey Harkey, county attorney, called a list of their witnesses and 59 names were read. M. C. Nelson of Aransas Pass, heading the defense attorneys, said the defense had 88 witnesses to be used but did not give the names of any. The state, it is understood, will ask for the death penalty to be assessed against Yarberry, if he is found guilty. The defense will attempt to prove that Miss Symons was killed in Corpus Christi and that Yarberry was not present at the time. Miss Symon's body was found clad in a bathing suit in a shallow watery grave in the bay east of Aransas Pass August 2. She had disappeared from choir practice on the night of July 30. Yarberry was arrested fifteen minutes after the body was found by Sheriff Frank S. Hunt of San Patricio county.
Corpus Christi Times, Tuesday Evening, October 6, 1931: Jury Completed For Trial of Yarberry. Ten Farmers Among Number Now Selected. Testimony Is Expected to Get under Way in Trial of Newton Yarberry Tuesday Afternoon. Murder Charge. Six of Jurors Chosen During Court Session Held Monday. The last juror, Drew Hale, farmer, was sworn in shortly after noon, and the court adjourned until 2:30 o'clock. Eleven jurors had been selected at noon Tuesday in the trial of Newton Yarberry at Sinton. The jurors selected include N. L. Porter, J. B. Gosset, W. A. Dryer, L. L. Fenner, J. L. Britten, Hal Sanders, Lloyd Kinghorn, E. G. East, R. L. Dycus, Sam Stanley and M. Beyers. All except Sanders are farmers. Sanders is a filling station operator.. The 11 jurors were selected from 60 veniremen examined. The special venire summoned included 150 men. Testimony was expected to be presented Tuesday afternoon. Yarberry, a snappily dressed youth, who nervously smoked, watched with interest the tedious selection of a farmer jury to try him. He smoked most of the time in court and nervously flicked ashes from his cigar. Six of the jurors had been chosen when court was recessed at 6:30 o'clock Monday evening.
Corpus Christi Times, Wednesday Evening, October 7, 1931: Attack On Conner Testimony Is Made By Defense Counsel. Credibility of Witness Is Attacked. Attorney Tries to Show Conner Arrested In Oklahoma in 1922 on Bad Check Charge. Others Testify. Defense Lawyer and Witness for State Clash Several Times. Defense attorneys at the trial of Newton Yarberry on a charge of murder in connection with the death of Miss Dorothy Dorcus Symons, pretty choir singer, Wednesday attacked the credibility of Tom Conner, principal witness for the prosecution. M. C. Nelson, chief defense counsel, attacked point after point in Conner's testimony and introduced testimony to show the witness' past record was questionable. Nelson and Conner clashed several times and at one time Nelson told him "don't get smart with me." Nelson twice asked him to face the jury and finally he was told to do so by the state's attorney. Nelson attempted to prove Conner had been arrested in Newkirk, Okla., in 1922 on a bad check charge. "Weren't you in jail in Oklahoma City on a charge of burglary June 11, 1929?" Nelson asked. Conner replied, "not that I know of." "Why is it you could remember everything so well Tuesday and can't remember when I ask you anything," Nelson continued. The defense made a point of the fact that Conner had at one time been charged with responsibility for Miss Symon's death. The grand jury refused to indict him on the charge. The state indicated it would attempt to show jealousy motivated Yarberry, a thin youth of 23, to take Miss Symon's life. However, it has not yet proved the 18 year old girl's death legally. Four state witnesses have been introduced to trace her movements the night of July 30, when she was last seen alive. Conner testified Tuesday he walked from her home to town with her. He said she told him she was going to meet Yarberry and go swimming. Her body, clad only in a bathing suit, was found Aug. 2 near the Arasnas Pass breakwater. The courtroom was packed. At times during the vigorous argument between Conner and Attorney Nelson, ripples of laughter broke out. The trial has created so much local interest that a group of church women established a booth in the courthouse basement to sell cake and coffee. The man Dorothy Dorcas Symons met in front of the Aransas Pass post office on the night of July 30, when she disappeared two days before the body was found in the bay, was Newton Yarberry, J. B. Perkins, 21, laborer in Aransas Pass testified. Perkins said he had been to town to see about working that night and upon starting home saw Miss Symons enter the post office. He said he knew it was she because he had lived within a block of the Symon's home a year. he said he spoke to her as she came out of the post office. Defense attorneys objected to admission of this evidence and at 11:30 o'clock were presenting legal authorities to District Judge T., M. Cox on this subject. The fifth witness to be called in the case was Waileta Stanza who testified only to the fact that she had seen Mrs. A. L. Dolan and Miss Symons in Mrs. Dolan's car Thursday night, July 30, and had spoken to Dorothy. The sixth witness, Perkins, then was placed on the stand and described seeing Miss Symons walk across the street, presumably to meet the man standing there, whom he took to be Yarberry
Corpus Christi Times, Thursday Evening, October 8, 1931: Defense Cross-Examines Mrs. Symons. Engineer Says Body Found in Nueces County. Mother of Dorothy Symons Weeps Under Strain of Three Hour Cross-Examination. State May Rest. Mrs. Symons Asked About Daughter's Habits and Last Trip From Home. The mother of Dorothy Dorcas Symons, pretty choir singer, wept Thursday under the strain of a three-hour cross-examination by defense attorneys at the trial of Newton Yarberry on a charge of murder for the girl's death. Yarberry is accused of taking the life of Dorothy, his 18 year old sweetheart, whose body was recovered Aug. 1 from a seaweed-strewn grave near the Aransas Pass seawall two days after she disappeared. George W. King, former civil engineer and farmer at Aransas Pass, testified as a state witness in the trial that the body of the girl was found in Nueces county. Mr. King was preceded by Frank Hunt, sheriff of San Patricio county, who was placed on the stand merely to establish the location of the body when found and to lay a predicate for Mr. King's testimony that the body was 330 feet inside of the Nueces county line. District Attorney W. G. Gayle will attempt to prove that San Patricio has jurisdiction over the case because the body was within the 400 yard limit allowed by the law. Mr. King was still testifying at noon recess. At the noon recess, M. C. Nelson, defense attorney, said that the defense will contend that inasmuch as the indictment alleges the offense was committed in San Patricio county there is at variance between the indictment and proof. He said the defense will contend that in order for San Patricio county to hold jurisdiction the indictment should have alleged that the offense was committed in Nueces county within 400 yards of the county line. Dorothy, her mother said, smoked cigarettes, drank beer, took a drink of wine occasionally. Under the prompting of the defense attorney, Mrs. Symons said she had seen Dorothy take a sip of whiskey now and then. When the counsel tried to go into Mrs. Symons' habit of smoking cigarettes, there was a brisk flurry between attorneys and the court, states attorneys objecting strenuously. The court overruled the objection. Nelson had asked Mrs. Symons if she wasn't in a rest room smoking with Eva Kelly after having been sworn as a witness. The state objected. When Judge T. M. Cox told the witness to answer the question, she said she did not remember. District Attorney Gus Gayle arose to say "very well, I want to put your honor on notice we will introduce immaterial matter, too, and we'll try cigarette cases instead of murder cases. Judge Cox replied that it was a case of considerable latitude. Mrs. Symons was asked by inference as to why she had not joined a church in Aransas Pass, having testified previously she had belonged in Indiana. Gayle contended defense lawyers were being permitted to attempt to impeach her testimony by "innuendo when they know they have no right to do so by such questions." Mrs. Symons, on direct; examination, completed her somewhat involved story, begun Wednesday, as to how Yarberry and Dorothy were sweethearts. She offered testimony designed to show Yarberry was jealous. Through her testimony state attorneys also attempted to show that Yarberry was at times a callous lover. Mrs. Symons testified on one occasion her daughter became ill by drinking wine at the Yarberry home. She said that after the girl returned to her own home, Yarberry, when asked to assist her, threw her roughly across a bed. The state may rest its case Thursday afternoon, and if it does, there will be a night session.
Corpus Christi Times, Monday Evening, October 12, 1931: Testimony in Trial Closed Before Noon. Judge's Charge to Jury To Be Given at Afternoon Session, Defense May Make Exceptions. Four Witnesses. Each Side To Be Allowed Three Hours For Arguments in Case. The trial of Newton Yarberry, charged with the murder of Dorothy Dorcas Symons in Aransas Pass July 30 is expected to be presented to the jury Monday night. Judge T..M. Cox was to read his charge to the jury immediately after noon Monday. It is expected that defense attorneys will make several exceptions to the charge. Testimony was completed shortly after 11 o'clock. The first witness as the state continued its rebuttal was J. H. Kell, who remained under cross examination. The defense continued efforts to impeach the testimony of Kell. Kell, aged night watchman in Aransas Pass, testified Monday for the third time he was not mistaken in the identity of the couple he saw the night of July 30 as Yarberry and Dorothy. The girl who had been "going with" Yarberry two years, disappeared that night and her body was recovered two days later from a seaweed strewn hole on the beach. Kell denied he could have been mistaken about the main point at issue, although the defense sought to show that he was mistaken about some matters to which he had testified in the state's rebuttal. Sheriff Hunt followed and described Miss Symons' long nails which he said were perfectly manicured. On the cross examination he denied he had gone to a fortune teller to aid in solving this crime, and that none of his deputies had gone at his suggestion. John Youngblood was the first witness used by the defense in its rebuttal. He told of being accosted by Kell last January when Kell mistook him for Gene Fondalig. The final witness was Clarence Goldsmith, who told of being present when the body of Miss Symons was taken from the water. Arguments are to be started at 3 o'clock, and each side is to be allowed three hours, or an hour for each attorney. The jury will probably get the case about 10 o'clock.
Corpus Christi Times, Friday Evening, October 9, 1931: State May Rest in Sinton Trial Today. Girl's Friend is Witness at Trial Friday. Miss Rolls Says Newton Yarberry Once Described Himself to Her as Drug Addict. Mother Recalled. Testimony of Grand juror Admitted After Objections by Defense. It is expected that the state will rest its case in the trial of Newton Yarberry, charged with the murder of Dorothy Dorcas Symons, 18 year old Aransas Pass choir singer, Friday afternoon. Defense attorneys were still intending to ask for an instructed verdict of not guilty as soon as the state rested its case. Sally Kay Rolls, a state witness, testified Friday that Yarberry once had described himself to her as a narcotic drug addict. "He said," Miss Rolls testified, "if Dorothy didn't return in a few days he was going to hunt for her. he said in a day or two he'd have something to make him forget it all-make him feel like he was drunk." "I said Newton, you don't mean to tell me you are a dope fiend," and he replied, "didn't you know it, I have been taking dope ever since I hurt my finger." The body of the 18 year old girl described by the state as Yarberry's sweetheart, was recovered from a muddy tangle of seaweed near the Aransas Pass seawall Aug. 1, two days after her disappearance. It was alleged by the prosecution she was last seen alive with Yarberry, after attending choir practice on the night of July 30. Mrs. F. Howard Symons, mother of the dead girl, preceded miss Rolls on the witness stand, having been recalled by the defense. Defense attorneys asked her whether she knew Don Carlis, or Alfred Steinbach. Carlis is now being held in jail at Corpus Christi without bond, charged in the murder of Steinbach. She answered that she did not. The state asked her, in turn, if she didn't also know "Christopher Columbus." Through the testimony of E. N. Tutt, a member of the grand jury which indicted Yarberry, it was shown the grand jury had been unable to find out the nature of the "instrument" it alleged defendant had used in killing Dorothy., Tutt testified only after violent objections from defense counsel. Dr. Walter Noble of Aransas Pass was up on the stand at noon. He was the twenty-sixth witness used by state's attorneys, in a attempt to weave a net of circumstantial evidence around Yarberry, It is likely that the state has two more witnesses, who are Capt. Albert Mace of the Texas rangers and Frank Hunt, sheriff of San Patricio county. (Dr. Noble's) testimony failed to prove that Miss Symons was murdered. At the cross examination he admitted he was not positive how she met her death. He said it was not possible to determine by examination of the lungs to tell whether she had drowned or not, as the body was in such an advanced state of decomposition. Footprints in the sand of Aransas Pass beach leading toward the spot where the body was recovered Aug. 1, were described Thursday by two of the state's main witnessed, Deputy Sheriff Jess Barber and Joe White, former city Marshall at Aransas Pass. White aid he saw drops of blood along the beach. he swore the shoe of the dead girl fitted into marks in the sand and the length of the male footprints corresponded with the length of Yarberry's shoe. As the trial entered its fifth day, the prosecution still had not submitted direct definite testimony from any expert to show the girl died of violence, although witnesses testified to seeing bruises or in some instances what appeared to be bruises, on her body. Likewise no physician had been presented. Late Thursday two youthful friends of Yarberry took the stand to tell of talking with him the day Miss Symons' body was found. J. E. Jeffries said Yarberry had expressed fear he would get in trouble over the death of the girl, and the matter worrying him would "be in headlines in a few days." Patt Huff, second of Yarberry's friends to be presented, a former bank clerk, testified Yarberry told him he had nothing to "worry about." He said Yarberry told him he could "prove easy enough he was at home that night."
Corpus Christi Times, Tuesday Evening, October 13, 1931: Yarberry's Case Is Given To Jury. Gayle Closes Arguments For State In Case. J. C. Russel, Defense Attorney, Also Speaks Before Jury On Tuesday Morning. Objections Made. Nelson Asks Bill of Exception During Argument By Gayle. The case of Newton Yarberry, which has been on trial at Sinton for the past nine days, was given to the jury there at 12:50 o'clock Tuesday afternoon, according to an Associated Press dispatch received here. Yarberry is named in an indictment charging murder of Dorothy Dorcas Symons, pretty 18 year old choir singer, in Aransas Pass July 30. Mr. Gayle was preceded Tuesday morning by J. C. Russell, formerly judge of San Patricio county who is a defense attorney. The first speaker Monday afternoon was W. B. Moss, special prosecutor, who told the jury he was employed by the girl's mother and stepfather. He was followed by W. S. Vawter of the defense. Rockey Harkey, county attorney, was the first lawyer to argue the case Monday night and M. C. Nelson, head of the defense counsel, was the speaker at the night session. The prosecution attempted to weave a net of circumstantial evidence about Yarberry and the defense attempted to establish an alibi. It is not expected that the jury will deliberate long before a verdict is returned. Miss Symons' body, clad in a yellow and black bathing suit, was found buried in a shallow grave in the bay near Aransas Pass Aug. 1. In his closing arguments to the jury, District Attorney Gayle shouted "I say if he (Yarberry) is guilty, he should have the most extreme penalty." Defense Attorney M. C. Nelson objected and asked a bill of exception. Gayle went on to say "if the state has not proved its case, turn him loose."
Corpus Christi Times. Wednesday Evening, October 14, 1931: Jury In Yarberry Case Deadlocked. Judge orders Study of Case Be Continued. Foreman Reports Vote is 11 to 1. After Deliberation of Twenty Hours by Jury. Youth in Jail. Judge Cox is Informed by Jury It Is "Hopelessly Deadlocked." The jury deliberating the case of Newton Yarberry, on trial for the alleged murder of Dorothy Dorcas Symons, 18 year old choir singer, informed Judge T. M. Cox Wednesday it was hopelessly deadlocked. The foreman said the jury, after 20 hours of consideration of evidence was deadlocked in a vote of eleven to one. Judge Cox ordered the jury to return and continue its study of the case. The state constructed a case against Yarberry based purely on circumstantial evidence. Witnesses claimed Yarberry was the person seen with the girl the night of July 30 when she was last seen alive. Other prosecution evidence tended to show footprints on the Aransas Pass beach, near where her body was recovered Aug. 1, compared in size with the defendant's shoes. Defense testimony denied every material allegation made by the state. Yarberry claimed he was at home the night of Dorothy's disappearance. Yarberry remained in a cell atop the county court house Tuesday night, one floor above the room where the jurymen slept.
Corpus Christi Times. Thursday Evening. October 15, 1931: Jury Is Discharged In Yarberry's Case. The jury which tried Newton Yarberry, accused slayer of 18 year old Dorothy Dorcas Symons, was discharged Wednesday night after failure to agree. Court officials said the case probably would come up again at the February term. For nearly 32 hours, the jurors had struggled over Yarberry's fate. Twice Wednesday they reported themselves "hopelessly deadlocked" but the court ordered them back. When they came in Wednesday night they looked spent and melancholy. "Could you," asked judge T. M. Cox, "get together if I kept you until Monday?" :No,, judge, and probably not by a week from Monday, either." said Foreman R. L. Dycus, who later revealed they stood 11-1 for conviction. Judge Cox then asked Yarberry if he was willing that the jury be released. The defendant rose and answered "yes sir." Miss Symons disappeared the night of July 30, after attending choir practice and the prosecution sought to show she was with Yarberry when last seen alive. Her body was found in a hole on Aransas pass bay front Aug. 1.
And so it came about that Newton Yarberry escaped a possible death sentence by one vote. His "yes sir" to Judge Cox was a wise answer. The community saw the trial end and felt unfulfilled. There were so many opinions. Some sentences began with, "Well, if Newton didn't kill her.......?" and ended with further speculation. The diversity of speculation was mammoth. And that diversity continues to this day. I sent copies of the first three parts of this narrative to Janet Davies, a retired British attorney who now lives on the Isle of Wite.
This was her immediate "knee-jerk" response: "Hi bill, Reading and noting aloud as I go along. Thanks for your efforts in letting me have these in 3 mails. I wonder if you are interested in my observations, not wishing for you to think I am being "picky" but maybe something I say, or anyone else that you share this with for that matter might give further thought.
Part 1 Why no autopsy? In the Corpus Christi Caller you have her named as Doris and then Dorothy Doris. I've seen since it was "Dorcas." Question: Was the JP related to The Custer? As Dorothy died from strangulation while in swimming there must be some hard evidence of drowning in her lungs? Could it have been by accident, she was drowning and someone tried to save her and strangled her instead? Why move the body from the other side of the sea wall when it could have looked like an accident? Think "Threlkeld" is a name from the Hull region of Yorkshire in England of course.
Part 2: Can't see one man carrying a body all that way without further injury. Were there graze marks on the body because he could not have carried her all that way without stumbling; if she was put into a sack or something while he swum would water have entered her lungs then or can it be confirmed he strangled her when in the water? Could it have been the natural father because he couldn't have her in his life? In part 1 I confess I thought your Dad could have been a prime suspect because you commented your Mom didn't want Dad going alone with Dorothy, perhaps she suspected. I'm feeling she drowned before she was strangled, whoever she was swimming with wanted her body to be found rather than left in the ocean. The reward ought to have brought someone forward. I see a W. A. Dunn, that's my family name, will check out my family tree. William Alexander (?) Indeed one born 1800. I am thinking both Conner and Yarberry did it. I have thought before that it was none of them, a mystery killer who will never be known. Are you saying that your churches don't serve up real wine now? Ours still do. See that Dunn; is now "Dunne" Were the stomach contents removed to prove pregnancy of otherwise? Janet
All of the diversity found in this attorney's thoughts was reflected in the community of Aransas Pass after the first trial of Newton Yarberry.So ended the first trial of Newton Yarberry for the murder of Dorothy Symons. I'm sure that my father, Roy Strain, testified at the second trial but there was no documentation in the newspaper articles to indicate it. My dad had gone floundering with two friends about the time that Dorothy disappeared. Floundering is done in the dark with a lantern and after floundering all night the three of them went into a cafe and had coffee. Someone remembered their being there and being wet and sandy and reported it to the sheriff's office. And so it came to pass that my father was questioned about the murder of Dorothy. He was not considered a suspect for long because the three men were able to alibi each other out of harm's way. He was picked up as a witness by the defense and at one time I think they thought he might be used as was Tom Conner to draw attention away from Newton Yarberry. For what happened next, you need a little background information. My mother, Jewell Strain, was a staunch church of Christ lady, in fact, she was second and possibly third generation church of Christ. Her father, "Papa" Williams used to go to Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian meetings and roar with laughter whenever the preacher said anything that was contrary to church of Christ beliefs. I'm sure the whole family was very proud of him. When Alexander Campbell, A Scottish Presbyterian Calvinist, broke away from the Presbyterian church he had no intention to form another Protestant denomination; he wanted to restore the original early church that is mentioned in the New Testament and so penned the motto: "Where the Bible speaks, we speak and where the Bible is silent, we too are silent." And despite the fact that this phrase is not even in the Bible, this was my mother's code. The Bible was not totally to my mother's liking and so she added several, in fact many, new concepts. She believed if you were sick it was because you had sinned and were being punished. She would not listen to arguments about older people being more sinful and the concept of what kind of sin did you have to commit to die, her mind was made up. My mother knew that the Bible said that all sins were alike in the sight of God, but she had them classified into a neat package of misdemeanors and felonies based on her own set of priorities. Sins of a sexual nature were more serious than any others. A young girl who became pregnant without benefit of clergy, even though her significant other marry her, should forever sit on the back row and not make a show of herself. Alcohol, wasting time, missing church were second level felonies and all other sins filtered down from these. Of course, the slightest misdemeanor could forever rob you of your chance for a mansion in Heaven. My mother and I attended church four times each week, unless there was a "Gospel Meeting" going on, in which case we attended ten times that week. When you are a boy and between the years of five and seven it is very easy for things to become funny and if you have been exposed to two hours of unadulterated religion it is even easier. I remember we sat behind a lady who wore a fox stole thrown over both shoulders. Over the right shoulder was the head of the fox and over the left shoulder was the fox's ample tail. I had a visitor with me that day and it occurred to me the fox's eyes were too close together making it look as if the fox were cross-eyed. I turned to my friend and crossed my eyes whereupon we both went into 2800 psi compression trying to hold back giggles. The relief valve for this much pressure is a series of little opening in the lips that permit a sound to escape that sounds like, "PfffffffffffffffffttttttttTTT! Now this is a sound that my mother associates with another part of the anatomy which places it into the sexual end of the sin list and she has two antidotes for dealing with this much pressure. They are the "pinch" and the "thump." My mother always pinched through cloth. There was no point in leaving public notices that her son was in a state of sin. Visitors were never pinched or thumped. My mother's pinches would be held just long enough for the pain to reach the critical nerve center of the brain and two degrees before a scream she would release it. After one of my mother's pinches, nothing on the face of the earth was funny anymore. I truly believe there are still places on my body where you could lift her fingerprints from my skin. The thump was done by pressing the index fingernail against the inside of the thumb and then quickly releasing it. My mother could thump hail dents into the hood of a Rolls Royce. These were either applied to the head or the back of the ears if you happened to be sitting on the pew ahead of her. The thumps were an equally effective antidote for humor. When I was in Brother Crenshaw's Sunday School Class we always had to have a memory verse and of course the shortest verse in the Bible is "Jesus wept." Sometimes I would work very hard and learn a long verse like "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish but have eternal life" If Brother Crenshaw was effective, that would be John 3:16. But even with that verse firmly in place when it came my turn I would see the look of expectation on the faces of my peers and rigidly stand up and say very quickly, "Jesus wept" and then sit down to the admiring giggles of my audience. Brother Crenshaw neither pinched nor thumped. The story that got me the most pinches and thumps of all was the story about Jesus riding an ass into the city. Whenever the word "ass" was spoken, children, mostly the boys, all over the church would go into instant compression followed by rapid antidotal decompression. I asked my mother why they didn't just say "donkey" or "burro" and she said it was God's plan. For seven year olds this brought up scenarios of Paternal Confrontation. "Faa-thuur, why do I have to ride an ass into the city?" "Because it's part of the plan, and it fits in with the palms. Don't you want to ride an ass into the city?" Faa-thuur, all the children, mostly the boys, are going to giggle and giggle every time the story is read." "I've thought of that, Jesus, and I've supplied the mothers with pinches and thumps to control that." 'But...Faa-thuuur, I'm JESUS, for Christ's sake, why can't I ride an Arabian Black Stallion into the city?" "Because it's not part of the plan and it doesn't go with the palms. If you ride an Arabian Black Stallion into the city, all the children, mostly the boys, are going to be interested in the horse and instead of bringing palm leaves, they'll bring food for the horse. Now we just can't have "Oat Sunday" or "Maize Sunday" can we? All the people, mostly the men will giggle and giggle at that." "Oh, all right, Faa-thuur. A few years later that most famous of all depression jokes would be going around: "Moses said, 'load your asses and get on your camels and I will lead you into the Promised Land." Roosevelt said, "Sit an your asses, light up your Camels, you ARE IN the Promised Land." When the boys were a few years older and the hymn "Love Lifted Me" was sung, they would whisper "Mary Anne Mobley's petticoat" and go into convulsions of compression. There was no fooling my mother, she knew exactly what that was all about and it was in the first degree felony class and brought on volleys of pinches and thumps. This gives you an idea of my mother's mind-set so that you'll be able to understand the next part of this story. Every year that I can remember when we lived in Aransas Pass, Texas there would come the time when the wild mustang grapes were ripe. When this happened, our family and usually at least one other family would pile into cars loaded with empty bushel baskets and head for Sinton and the banks of the Chilitipin Creek, pronounced "Chilla-peen" by us Anglos who came as close as we could to the correct Spanish pronunciation. If the rains had been good the vines which climbed all over the Oak and Mesquite trees in Welder Park would be heavy with rich bunches of purple grapes that looked as if a crafts teacher had sprayed them with a "pearlized" coating. We would spend the whole day picking grapes, eating grapes, getting sunburned and then trying to get the burning to go away from our mouths. I think if we had eaten poison ivy it would have been less damaging to our lips. Back at home the Grapes would be washed, picked and crushed and made into grape jelly, grape jam and grape preserves all made by adding a lot of sugar and I have not idea what the difference is anyway. But this year as fate would have it, the grapes were fat, the crop was good and there were so many left over that my father decided to make a batch of wine. Now remember, alcohol is a second degree felony anyway and the year is 1931 so we are in the middle of what was known as "Prohibition". It was unlawful to make, distribute, sell or buy alcoholic products without a prescription to a licensed pharmacists. While I'm sure my parents didn't understand the finer points of the Prohibition Act, my mother firmly believed that my father was breaking the law and doing it in such a way that it would bring shame to the family throughout the community and irrevocable shame to herself personally in the church of Christ. And then "folly of follies" totally disregarding the command to "shun the very APPEARANCE of evil" my father dumped the grape hulls in the alley where anyone and everyone could see them. For days my mother begged him, scolded him, nagged at him to "go out there and dig a hole and bury those grape hulls before the law sees them." My mother couldn't do this because if anyone saw her they might think she had made the wine and that would bring reproach upon the church which was even a greater sin than making wine. My father had the ability to be very stubborn, so the grape hulls remained unburied. And then, horror of horrors, it happened and my mother went into a catatonic trance standing upright rigid with here open-fingered hand over her taut mouth, eyes red-rimmed and glazed. Coming up the sidewalk to the house were two six foot four if they were an inch deputies with badges reflecting the sun's rays and guns hanging from their gun belts at quick draw angle of about forty-five degrees. And all my mother could think was , "Oh My God! They've found the grape hulls!" She did not move a muscle while my Dad went out on the front porch to talk to the deputies. When my Dad came back into the house, my mother's voice could barely be heard, "What did they want, Roy?" My Dad answered, "They wanted to talk to me about the Dorothy Symons' murder case. I'll be going to the Sheriff's Office tomorrow to make a statement." Relief swept over my mother like a warm breeze. Her hand came down from her mouth. Her lips softened and color came back to her cheeks. I could almost feel her thinking, "Thank God it wasn't the grape hulls." She sewed the rest of the day and all the while she was singing out loud, "This is my story, This is my song, Praising my Savior, all the day long..." And so it came to pass that my father was added to the witness list having been removed from the suspect list by the testimony of his fellow fishermen.
Return to Dorothy