For the past five years I have been on a journey that started quite simply.
On Wednesday July 5, 2006 I was at the Chautauqua County, Kansas courthouse hoping to get an interview with Damon Tucker “Chub” Anderson. Anderson had been on the run for 17 years after skipping bond for a drug bust and he had been on the Kansas Most Wanted List the entire time. He had finally been captured in Montana on June 2nd and was transferred back to Kansas to face the original charges.
Bill Kurtis from America’s Most Wanted was also in the courtroom with his film crew as were retired Osage County Sheriff George Wyman and Osage County Sheriff Department Investigator Dwight Barnard. There was also a handful of newspaper reporters and a crowd of roughly 75 onlookers some of whom were Chub’s friends and some who merely wanted to get a look at the famous fugitive. I was in the courtroom when he pled guilty to those charges and what followed was the meeting that began our friendship.
Anderson had been angered by remarks Kurtis had made to him in a closed door meeting and after I was introduced to him in a hallway outside the courtroom he asked if I would like to meet with him again. Of course I wanted to but where would be the question. Earlier in the day he had been sentenced to 1-5 years in prison and it would be a challenge to find out which prison he would sent to. In addition I would have to be approved by the warden of that prison in order to go inside the walls.
As it turned out Anderson’s new “home” was the historic Lansing State Penitentiary and before long he began sending me letters about his life there. Our correspondence lasted about a month until I cleared all the background checks required to visit him. For the rest of his stay at Lansing I saw Chub every weekend conducting the first in a long series of one on one interviews.
Truman Capote had done the same thing in his quest to get the true story from Richard Hickcock and Perry Smith which he recounted in In Cold Blood and I have followed somewhat in his footsteps.
This may sound unusual but after five years I am about to write the final chapter of Footprints in the Dew under the influence of another famous writer, Zane Gray. Gray, who died in 1939, was the author of more than 90 books. 110 films were made from his writings and Dick Powell’s weekly TV series Zane Gray Theater was also based on his books. Dead now for over 70 years, I am sure many of you may be asking the same question: How does Zane Gray help finish Footprints in the Dew?
Next week I’ll bring you the answer.