“Old Fred Pair was a ring-tail tooter,
“A cane raiser, and an out-house shooter.
“He stood outside his kitchen door
“And plugged that privy with a forty-four.”
The time was 12:30 on the afternoon of Sept. 5, 1945, and the place was the little town of Morton, Texas, about 50 miles southeast of Clovis.
Three men rode into town in a stolen maroon Pontiac convertible coupe, which had the right headlight out. The car’s right-front fender had no paint and the right-rear fender was missing.
They robbed the First State Bank of $17,692.46 with the bank full of customers.
Two of the robbers went in the bank, one wearing a mask. A third man stayed in the getaway car. One robber remained near the entrance. The masked robber had a double-action .38 revolver and the robber at the entrance had a .32 caliber automatic.
The robber with the mask went to the cashier’s cage and shouted: “This is a holdup! Get over there and turn your faces to the wall or we’ll kill every one of you!” reported W. W. Williamson, vice president of the bank.
Williamson described the masked robber as heavy set and paunchy. Another one was about 175 pounds and well built.
“They swore frequently,” Williamson said.
Five bank employees and 10 or 15 customers were locked in the vault while the robbery was in progress. The robbers told them to remain in the vault for 30 minutes. Then the robbers roared off headed east. They soon turned south toward Bledsoe.
Those in the vault remained five minutes and called Sheriff Mac W. Hancock who launched an extensive search. Witnesses outside the bank noticed the car had a Louisiana license plate number (336-386), but a Texas motorcycle license (AM-4475) was also on the car.
C. E. Buchanan, who was working at the Bledsoe cotton gin, saw the robbers traveling to Morton and returning. The robbers waved at him both times, and Buchanan waved back.
A search down the Texas-New Mexico boundary had officers from both sides of the state line looking for the getaway car.
Clovis police Chief Roy Ansley was informed the next day that the bandits’ car had been found abandoned near Bledsoe and the area was surrounded by county and state authorities. They traced the robbers to Fred Pair’s place in what some called the sand hills.
A man in the bank recognized one of the robbers as having worked for Pair.
Officials believed Pair provided a temporary hiding place and another car for the robbers. Some of the loot may have also been hidden on Pair’s property.
The bandits quickly moved into New Mexico and finally to Carlsbad, where they were apprehended driving a green Ford with California license plates.
Fred Pair received a 10-year sentence in the Texas state pen at Huntsville for his role in the robbery. When the judge handed out the sentence, Pair grinned and said, “Oh hell, I can make that!” He was released after five years because of good behavior.
Larry Buchanan, a musician and songwriter, wrote a ballad about old Fred Pair, some of which began this column. Here are the last stanzas:
“So, if you look for treasure out on the line;
“Out with the rabbits and the porcupines.
“You might get lucky and maybe not.
“You go around Fred’s, you might get shot.
“Don’t go around Fred’s place at night,
“Don’t hide in the privy to stay out of sight.
“Old Fred don’t really give a hoot,
“It might just be his time to shoot.”
This is a small tribute to my balladeer friend Larry Buchanan who died at age 53 on Feb. 11, 2001.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian.