Gary Elliott lives in McCamey, Texas. He is a graduate of Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas, and he recently shared a memory with me that might not have been his crowning moment, but he did learn a BIG lesson from it, which is what mistakes are all about, right?
Well, it was in 1969 that a college freshman (you guessed it!) headed out to do what most college boys seem to do. He stopped in at a little service station to buy some beer.
“I had bought beer there before, and the man had never asked me for an ID, but I had faked one that I was pretty proud of. Stupidly, I insisted that the sales clerk look at it.”
Anyway, the ID worked fine, and Gary bought the beer, carrying nine quarts from the store and putting them into his car. He was headed back to his apartment when the lights came on; the DPS having seen the entire thing from a station across the street.
“They stopped me and asked if I had bought beer, and I knew there was no way out of it since I knew they must have seen me. They also asked if I had been asked for my ID, and kicking myself, I had to say that I had. Of course, they (a rookie and an old one) asked to see the ID that I had shown.
“The older patrolman took the ID, shining his flashlight on it before telling me that I had done a really good job on it. I was one scared puppy, figuring that altering an ID was probably a prison offense!”
This all happened on a Saturday night and Gary spent what he describes as the longest weekend of his life waiting to see the JP on Monday morning.
Although he had never heard of her at the time, the Justice of the Peace in Alpine at that time was Miss Hallie Stillwell, and while Gary did not know her, I suppose he sensed a kind heart beat within her…that and his total fear of what his mom, Frances, would do to him if she heard about this!
So what did he do? What most boys that age would have done, I suppose…he lied like a dog!
“I told Miss Hallie that there was this girl that I had been dating and she had told me that it was over. Then I told her that my mom and dad were getting a divorce, and by the time I finished my sad story, she and I were both crying!
“She wasn’t sure just how much to fine me so she said, ‘Hon, would $40.00 be okay?’
“I started crying all over again, I was so relieved!
“Then she said that the others who were with me that night had to split the cost with me. I had to sell my saddle to raise the money, but Mama and Daddy never found out!”
Years later, Gary knew who Miss Hallie Stillwell was, and he wrote her a long letter, telling her how much a very, very scared young man appreciated her compassion; however, I’m pretty sure he didn’t make a complete confession and tell her about the whoppers he told her that day!