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History, Who has it Right

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

My brother and I were on the square one afternoon when we were approached by youths we occasionally got drunk with. It was sometime in the early/mid 70s. A young man living in a second floor apartment somewhere on the West End was about to become an event!

"Hey!" They called. "So and so- lives up the street- is in trouble. He's seeing a girl in Thurmont and a bunch of Thurmont boys are coming to beat him for it! Her brother or boy friend or someone called him and said they're coming- two car loads- with ball bats. They said they'll drag him out of the house and beat him in the street!"

My brother and I were outraged. How dare Thurmont trash come into our town and threaten our friends! (Not that we lived in town or I'd ever shared a beer with the man.) We started calling out other young idiots to move as a gang and place ourselves between the threatened and the invaders.

About that time the intended victim comes stepping down the opposite sidewalk with a double-barreled shotgun broken open and slung over his shoulder. He gave us a determined look as he approached the police car parked in front of today's Stavros'. The cop sat mouth agape as the young man stopped and began telling (I heard later) about the threats he'd received and what he planned to do if any of the Thurmont fools breached his apartment door.

I couldn't hear what he said but I saw him straighten, reach into his pocket, pull out two 12-gauge shotgun shells, slip them into his gun and snap the breech shut. He said something else to the cop who nodded grimly. Gun at his side, the fellow walked back up the street passed us. "Let 'em come." He growled as he went by. "I told the cop I'd kill as many as I can if he didn't stop them first. I've got a box of double aught! Let 'em come!"

Whoa! The game had changed. We'd expected a couple of car loads of half drunk Thurmont boys would meet an equal number of Eburgers and there'd be shouts and curses and threats and maybe, MAYBE, a few fists would fly and some teeth and noses would be broken before the Thurmont crowd fled. But a LOADED SHOTGUN! On the square! In daylight! And LOADED IN FRONT OF A COP! WHO DID NOT ARREST THE MAN AT ONCE!? Whoa indeed.

We were about to witness some killings. Our group scattered to pound on doors. Our friends had to be in on this, all of them!

It was during this rousting of the youths that my dad pulled up in his car and demanded to know what was going on. We told him and he turned black with anger. "Get in the car!" He snarled. Our protests died in the glare of his rage. His two oldest boys weren't about to ruin their lives just to be part of a gang of idiots about to rampage!

I learned the next day the cop spotted and stopped two cars crowded with drunken boys from Thurmont. It is said he merely told them where the man they were looking for lived. That he had seen this man load a shotgun with double aught buck shot. He told them he was going to follow them up the street and sit in his car until he'd counted 25 gun blasts. Then he was going to arrest any fools still alive. He didn't think he'd be cuffing anyone from Thurmont.

No gun blasts announced death that day.

So that's the "almost" event as I recall it. Did I get the story right? There were at least 8 youths on the street to witness the shotgun being loaded. They'd tell 8 different versions. Did the cop actually tell the Thurmont boys he was going to let them die before he stepped in as the LAW? Knowing that cop, I don't doubt it. He wasn't stupid and he wouldn't have lost sleep over drunken out of towners being eliminated from his job. Especially if some of the local rowdies got hurt bad enough to keep them caged for awhile. But did he really say the things I report?

The story is a fine one to tell over beers on fishing trips or around barroom tables. Who cares if it's true or not? None came to harm and the names have all been forgotten. Why ruin it with the "truth"?

Now Mike Hillman's discovery that the little book, stating Emmitsburg's founding history, is wrong is a different matter. People make plans around this history for some odd reason. If momentous events are being planned in connection with the history of Emmitsburg then it ought to be the real history of Emmitsburg shouldn't it?

I must admit when Mike called me and asked if I'd read the Dispatch articles about the founding date of Eburg I groaned. (I'd been eager to see what Editor Steo had done with a piece we'd worked back and forth, and neither seemed happy with. It was dropped from the Dispatch.) "I don't really care when Emmitsburg was founded Mike." I said. (I'm having enough trouble witnessing its death.)

"But would you at least look at what I've found?" He asked. So I did. And the little book, so many grew up believing holds the real history of Emmitsburg, is wrong. I still don't care. If anything I hope the town keeps the wrong date. This gives me one more point about Emmitsburg to laugh at! I'm even working with one of my sisters to get a T-shirt made up. Something like:

CAUTION! You are confronting an EMMITSBURGER!
Pointing out the OBVIOUS may cause IRRATIONAL crankiness!

With all the people I post on various boards on the Net I should get people laughing all around the globe! This is great. I'm going to start posting the Dispatch and Mike's links in all my emails and see if I can get everyone laughing at the same time. Maybe if Emmitsburg is quiet that day we'll hear the world laughing at a town that doesn't want its fantasy history replaced with the truth!

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.