This article was written for my weekly column in 2006 just two weeks before Chub’s and my first visit while he was in Lansing Prison. The true story of his life was still unknown to me at the time this piece went to press.
Welcome back to Part Three of “Buffalo Dale Behind The Walls…”.
Before I get to the scoop I want to lay out the time frame I will be referring to for those of you who haven’t read In Cold Blood or seen the movie. On November 15, 1959 Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Clutter, along with their son Kenyon and their daughter Nancy were found bound, gagged and shot in the head in Gardner City, KS. Robbery appeared to be the motive although only a little over $40 was missing. A massive manhunt began but with few clues it quickly proved fruitless. Then on Friday, December 30,1959 31 year old Perry Smith and 28-year-old Richard Hickock were arrested in Las Vegas for passing bad checks. After their arrest they were implicated in the robbery and murder of the Clutter family by a cellmate of Hickock’s. The gun and knife used in the murders was found at Hickock’s parents’ home and the pair was sent back to Kansas. Truman Capote was already a well-known author when he learned about this story and it captured his imagination. It had all the elements of a great whodunit: innocent victims, hard working lawmen, colorful townspeople and two bad guys. Capote turned this story into the most famous non-fiction book of the 1960s and some would say permanently changed the style of non-fiction reporting . A stick to the facts movie starring Robert Blake quickly followed and in 2005 the Oscar winning Capote was released which focuses on Truman Capote’s experiences while writing the book . I could go on and on but space is limited so here are a few things that aren’t in any movie that Warden McKune passed along to me from the Kansas City Star. According to The Star quote “Capote and Perry Smith became lovers in the penitentiary. I can’t prove it but they spent a lot of time up there in the cell and Capote spent a considerable amount of money bribing the guard to go around the corner. They were both homosexual and that is what happened.” KBI Agent Harold Nye as told to George Plimpston in his 1997 book Truman Capote.
Capote himself said that as the rope was slipped over his head Smith’s last words were directed to him: “Good-bye, I love you and I always have”. You won’t see this in the movies but that’s the scoop.
I may have more reports from Lansing,KS. As I pursue my visits with Chub Anderson I find it is a fascinating little corner of the world. But let’s get back to some closer soil north of Dewey where I had the chance to visit the site of Chub’s 1980s garden.
On Friday I toured the area where the largest cultivated marijuana field in Oklahoma (at the time) was discovered. The crop was estimated at 2 tons and it was growing in a field as big as a football field that is watered by a tributary of Coon Creek. In the mid 1970s I worked on this ranch myself along with a good friend, horse trainer Steve Milligan. As young boys we fed cattle and horses, fixed fence and did all the other things that need done very day on a large ranch. Chub was living there at the time and I was always told to keep my distance from his house , which I did.
Chub was a good welder and the pipe corrals and out buildings he built are still standing along with the electric pole that powered the mobile room where he lived with his family: his second wife and his son from his first marriage. Chub and his second wife were married from 1972 to 1981. I’ve visited with her on two occasions and found her quite charming. She was a local girl who fell in love with the handsome and charismatic cowboy and wanted to make a family. When I mentioned that my adventures were taking me out to her old home her first thought was her old fruit trees and the garden she had kept. She was wondering if any of it still survived. As the granddaughter of US Marshall Charles Johnson from Indian Territory days I could tell she is embarrassed by her involvement with this notorious case. She had never been in any trouble before this and has led a model life afterwards.
I’ve heard the field was discovered by a young man fishing along the creek who filled his pockets with his “catch” only to get busted a few days later. He told law enforcement officials the location of the field. This boy may have been a friend of Chub’s son but whatever the case on August 6, 1980 Chub was arrested and his troubles with the law continued with another bust in Sedan in the 1980s at which time he decided to run.
Today the land has been returned to Bermuda grass and there is not a pot plant in sight. It is hard to imagine that day in 1980 with news crews and photographers buzzing around- I wonder how many went home with full pockets themselves.
Next week: a few little known facts about Chub including my friend Mike Proctor’s connection to the investigation. Till then I’ll see ya down the road…