Gentle persuasion is the answer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 18, 2001

Old Jake always said &uot;the best law enforcement officer is the one who uses the least force in solving crimes and in handing out punishment.

Jake, who served as chief deputy to his hero, the redoubtable county high sheriff, the late Lummie Jenkins, was speaking of none other than his boss.

The stories about old Lummie are legion, and he is the hero of each account. During his lifetime, the sheriff was a legend and an ideal model to his peers.

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Foremost among his pasttimes, when not acting in the line of duty, were hunting, fishing and an occassional hand at the card table.

His popularity was such that his company was always in the highest demand, among those of the highest and lowest estates, those in the professions and those of unskilled labor.

But, getting back to &uot;enforcement without use of force,&uot; Jake recently recalled the following tale about Lummie.

It seems a report had reached the courthouse on a certain day about Willie James assaulting Charlie Jackson with a heavy pine tree limb, rendering Jackson unconscious. The report went on to say Jackson had been making advances to willie James' girlfriend, Bessie Mae, and therein did lay the cause of the altercation.

Lummie mulled all this over for the better part of an hour, reached a decision, called Jake and said, thusly: &uot;Get the word out I'd like to see Willie James and Charlie in my office before dark.&uot;

They had county cars, radios and other sophisticated equipment that could have been used with dispatch in carrying out the order, but Lummie shunned that idea, preferring gentle persuasion in bringing his &uot;children&uot; into conformity with the law.

Word of mouth eventually got the message to the two men involved in the fight.

Such was their respect and awe for the high sheriff that both acceded to his unwritten request, voluntarily.

When they appeared in his office, Lummie said, &uot;now, you boys know you have violated the laws of this county, and should be locked up?&uot;

Both agreed.

With that, the sheriff produced a small matchbox from his shirt pocket and on the table sprinkled from it a substance that looked very much like black pepper.

&uot;This is voodoo powder,&uot; Lummie intoned, &uot;and it could reduce you to ashes.&uot;

The culprits' eyes saucered.

With a flourish, the sheriff ignited a kitchen match and touched the flame to the powder.

&uot;Poof,&uot; it went up in a blast of fire that nearly reached the ceiling.

Both parties to the fight fell backward out of their chairs, and cowered under the table.

That's just a small sample of the power of this office,&uot; said Lummie. &uot;Now, you two skedaddle home and let's not hear of any more fighting

or else.&uot;

Thankfully, and with relief, the pair departed.

Advocate folks take a leaf from Lummie's book with regard to &uot;gentle persuasion,&uot; and like him, believe in enforcement without force.

Buster MacGuire is a copy editor at The Greenville Advocate.