Tuesday, April 16, 2013


4/6/1934 - Deciding to take a weekend off from robbing banks and getting in shootouts with the police, the most wanted criminal in the United States escapes to what should be the most dangerous spot in the country for him, his father's farm just outside of Mooresville, Indiana ... Public Enemy #1, John Dillinger, has come home to visit his family one last time.


Sneaking on to the property shortly after midnight, Billie Frechette softly knocks on the back door of the family home and when John Sr. answers, asks if the coast is clear for a visit from Junior.  Affirmation given, Billie fetches the outlaw from his hiding place in the barn, and with a laugh and hand shake, a three day reunion of the Dillinger Clan begins.  Parking his Thompson sub-machine gun, Junior introduces Billie as his wife and talks with his father into the wee hours of the morning, pausing only to move the Hudson Terraplane he'd parked on a dirt road behind the farm into the barn.


In the morning other members of the family get a chance to enjoy their brother's presence when they get up to see what is for breakfast ... eleven-year-old Frances and fifteen-year-old Doris receive heart felt kisses and hugs, while twenty-year-old Hubert is greeted from behind with fingers stuck into his back and a demand to "Stick 'em up!"  The prodigal son is indeed home!  Most of Saturday then consists of Junior and Hubert working in the barn on the Hudson, fixing the fenders Billie had damaged escaping their St. Paul apartment, and applying a coat of Duco lacquer to the car's four tires, changing them from an attention grabbing cream color to solid black.  In the evening, the two brothers decide they will go on an adventure together, traveling to Leipsic, Ohio, for Junior to give money to Harry Pierpont's parents to help pay for his bank robbing partner's murder trial and conviction appeal.  A wasted trip, after a three hour journey in which Dillinger gives his brother a blow-by-blow update on his activities, the pair discover the Pierponts have moved ... and it is a wasted trip that almost has disastrous consequences when Hubert takes over the driving duties so that Junior can get some much needed sleep.

                                                       Dillinger Senior

Unfortunately, Junior isn't the only one that takes a nap, and at around 4 am, east of Indianapolis, Hubert nods off just over the Hamilton County line and slams into the slow moving rear of a pickup truck full of the horseradishes belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Manning.  The truck loses a rear wheel and goes into a ditch, while the only weeks old Hudson (it has less than 1,400 miles on it) spits off the front passenger side tire, blasts across the northbound lane of U.S. 31, explodes through a wire farm fence, and plows 300 feet through a field full of tree stumps, missing them all.  Amazingly, all the parties involved escape serious injury and when the Mannings go into nearby Noblesville for help, the two Dillingers take off cross country.  Three miles into their hike, Junior finds a haystack to hide in (accompanied by the machine gun he's liberated from his destroyed vehicle) and Hubert hitches a ride into Indianapolis, grabs his Chevy, and hurries back to his brother's hiding place (marked with a handkerchief tied to a wooden fence-post off the nearby road so Hubert can find the right spot to stop for his brother on his return).  By 9 am the men are safely back at their father's farm, but it is a safety that disappears rapidly when a machine gun magazine is discovered in the wrecked car, a wrecked car missing the license plates Junior has removed, and state police and FBI agents begin swarming through the area.   

                                        The Dillinger homestead

Cool as always despite the accident and the growing police presence in rural Indiana, Junior lays on the living room couch, cradling his machine gun under a blanket, resting the leg he injured shooting his way out of his St. Paul apartment, and spends the morning laughingly reading about his exploits from a pile of newspapers his father has collected.  He also sends his girlfriend and brother on a mission to procure another car, which the pair does, purchasing a new black Ford V8 in Indianapolis with $722 in cash (out of fast Hudsons, salesman C. J. Hart convinces Billie to go with the Ford as the next best thing).  Word out that the wayward son is in for a visit, after church, more family members arrive for a day of socializing and eating ... Junior's older sister, Audrey Hancock, the woman that raised him when the outlaw's mother died when he was a child, Audrey's husband Emmett, their sons Fred and Norman, their daughters Alberta and Mary, and Fred's wife Bernita.  A beautiful spring day of sun, blue skies, and cotton candy white clouds, the most famous member of the Dillinger family receives a manicure from beauty shop grad Mary, goes for walks in the woods with Mary and his father (sensing he is nearing the end of his run against the authorities, Junior goes over funeral arrangements with Senior, requesting that he be buried next to his mother), chats about his recent escape from Crown Point using a wooden pistol, denies killing Officer O'Malley in East Chicago, flies kites with the younger members of the family, and sits down to a feast featuring salad, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas, hot biscuits with honey and preserves, and for those with room, which he has since it is a favorite dessert, freshly made coconut cream pie.   


And the most wanted man in America poses out back for pictures ... with his girlfriend Billie, with members of the family, and with his two best friends ... the lucky wooden pistol from his Crown Point jail break, and his always at the ready, Thompson sub-machine gun.

                                        Dillinger and friends

              The Dillingers - Audrey, Frances, Junior, Doris, Hubert, and Senior
                                           Billie & John

The fantasy of normalcy finally is brought to an end shortly after 3:00 in the afternoon by three warning signs that it is time to run once more ... filled with gawkers, too many cars are driving by on the road, US 267, that borders the Dillinger property (and among them is indeed a vehicle containing two armed government agents), an airplane circles and buzzes the farm (it is an innocent National Guard training flight out of nearby Stout Field), and a road commissioner unexpectedly shows up at the front door wanting to discuss a local highway improvement project.  No night to cover the withdrawal as it did Junior's entrance, deception is used instead to achieve a clean exit; a three car caravan leaves the farm at the same time and heads in three different directions ... Audrey and her husband leave first and turn left towards Mooresville, Senior leaves second and turns right, and in the third car, Billie drives with Audrey's daughter Mary beside her and Alberta in the back seat, while Junior, armed with his trusted Thompson, hides beneath a blanket on the floor in back ... and the plan works perfectly, no one follows the car containing Billie and Junior.  

                                                    Most Wanted

New to the area and operating on only a few hours of sleep since driving up from the Cincinnati field office at 2:00 am, young agents J. L. Geraghty and T. J. Donegan are completely frazzled by a long day of driving repeatedly by the Dillinger proper (there is nowhere to park and observe the farm without giving away that they are FBI agents) and chasing after Hubert as he runs errands in Mooresville for Junior ... so much so that when they pass a car parked on the side of the road to the town of Plainfield, they fail to recognize the grey suited man in his thirties standing next to the vehicle stretching his legs is Public Enemy #1, John Herbert Dillinger, Jr.

                                           After the tumult

A Harry Houdini of narrow escapes and getaways, the next day at the Tumble Inn in Chicago, Junior will again display his potent magical powers, becoming invisible in the presence of over a dozen government agents under the command of Melvin Purvis.  Sadly though, Billie has no such powers, and the couple, fresh from their happy experiences at the Dillinger family reunion, will never be together again after she is placed in custody inside the bar while trying to arrange a new hideout for her boyfriend ... the boyfriend waiting on the street just outside. 

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