the man wasn't bad. It was a sad case of circumstances that brought
things to such an ugly end. The newspaper account was cut and dry.
The City Marshall was dead and the deputy dying. The year was 1934,which
was before everything needed to be prefaced with the word "alleged."
The no-need-to-be-alleged killer was apprehended easily enough for
he was lighting his pipe not 100 feet from the crime. He was letting
what he had done sink in, when he was knocked unconscious by a window-weight
wielded by a schoolboy.
That would've been all we would have gotten from the story (just the
facts), but since we had a witness to the "apprehension" to fill in
the details, what emerges is a look at what life was like in Williamson
County, Texas in 1934.
The event took
place a little after 5:30 and only two blocks from Dan
Martinets' house. Dan looked up when he heard the sound of gunfire
and seconds later saw a man running down the street shouting, "They're
shooting everybody!" (Which later turned out to be a slight exaggeration).
Being a boy, Dan ran in the direction of the fracas, forgetting
his grip on his bicycle. He dragged it the entire two blocks on
it's side and it never rode quite the same after that.
Alongside a car parked at the rear of the JP's office was the first
corpse young Dan had ever seen. Another body was on the other side
of the car. The assailant had walked to the sidewalk in front of
the building and was leaning up against a telephone pole. He had
already reloaded his Luger pistol, a souvenir from his WWI
service, and was trying to light a smoke with his trembling hands.
While he was keeping the crowd at bay, he was engaged in conversation
with the mob. One of a group of boys who had been watching from
the relative safety of a lumberyard, picked up a window counter-balance
(a common item for sale at that time in lumberyards) and struck
him on the head from behind.
filled in these details and also the name of the boy-of-the-hour.
His name was "Maxey" Golf and he had the personality to go with
such an act. To use an expression of the day, the kid had "Moxie."
The Luger was taken from Ludwig's hand by the local dentist. Dan
watched as the body of Marshall Henry Lindsey was loaded into the
wicker basket from the funeral home's hearse.
Dan explained that Ludwig Cernoch, the man with the Luger, was a
working man from the nearby Hoxie Community. He had done some work
for a man who had not paid him and when he went to collect, he learned
that the man had died.
To give an idea of the deceased, he had had a cement floor put in
his barn for his cows, while his family still had dirt floors. He
was a miser of the old school and had postponed paying Ludwig for
months. Anyway, the man's family had words with Ludwig, refused
to pay him and they may have called him a liar. The words got raw
and the Marshall was called. Ludwig had come expecting trouble with
the (now dead) miser, so he had brought his pistol. The Marshall,
however, wasn't expecting any trouble, so he didn't pat down Ludwig,
which proved to be a fatal error.
They went to the Justice of the Peace to talk things over and it
was decided to take Mr. Cernoch to the Williamson
County Jail. That was about the time Ludwig introduced his "little
friend." Like we mentioned, Ludwig was rather high-strung, which
may have been related to his being "shell-shocked" in WWI.
Now we call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Ludwig might've
gotten a reduced sentence with a sympathetic jury, but in 1934 it
was Murder period, and Ludwig was electrocuted within 90 days. The
crowd had asked Ludwig if he knew he had killed two men, and his
reply was "so, what? I killed hundreds in the war." It was a sad
day for everyone. And Dan had to go to school alone the next day
thinking about mortality. Grief Counseling hadn't been invented
An interesting note: During the initial frenzy immediately after
the shots, people asked who had been shooting. The answer was "Cernoch,"
which is a Czech surname, but literally translates as "blackman."
The simple one-word reply to Czech ears, might've led them to look
for a Black Man, but Cernoch's failure to leave the scene, quickly
ended the misunderstanding.