Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
My first column in the Marysville Journal-Tribune was titled “The Escape.” It dealt with the day that I and four other boys captured an inmate who had escaped from the Ohio Women’s Reformatory. I was 12 years old at the time, and things like that rarely happen to a 12-year-old boy … in fiction books maybe, but not in real life.
We were all members of Boy Scout Troop 101, and we were part of a larger group that was looking for the escapee. We found her hiding inside a hollow log at the edge of a woods, maybe three or four miles from the reformatory.
The next day, all five of us reveled in the news stories in both Marysville newspapers and all three Columbus papers. Kids, and even adults, stopped us on the street and asked questions about the capture.
That’s pretty much what my first column dealt with … the excitement of the hunt, and the thrill of finding her. But there is another part of the story that I said very little about – namely, the escapee herself.
I don’t know what her name was. In fact I don’t think I ever knew her name. To all of us boys, she was just the “escapee.” I don’t think she became a real person to us until we saw her climb out of that hollow log.
She was a young woman, probably in her 20s, and what a sorry sight she was. She had apparently stayed off the roads where she could be easily spotted. Instead, she had walked through the fields and woods. The dress she was wearing had been ripped in places by the barbed wire atop the fences she had climbed. Her legs were badly scratched and bleeding.
The first thing she said as she climbed out of that log was, “Please don’t hurt me, boys.” I think she must have been talking to the other boys who were much older than I was. As a skinny 12-year-old, I think she was probably bigger than me.
The five of us formed a circle around her. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone who was more frightened than she was. Her hands trembled and it was hard for her to talk. But it was her eyes that I remember most. They showed the fear she was feeling. I had never before seen that kind of fear in anyone’s eyes. I mean, that lady was terrified.
The older boys told me to get our scoutmaster, Bill Faulkner, who was in another woods, maybe half a mile down the road. I flagged down an old car and rode on its running board to that woods. Our scoutmaster owned a funeral home, and he was transporting us boys in his hearse. We drove it back and put the lady in the back of the hearse, and we sat around her as we rode back to the reformatory.
The older boys asked her questions about the escape. I didn’t say a word. I just sat there and listened. As she talked, her hands trembled less, but the fear never left her eyes.
At some point she started to cry, and the tears streamed down her cheeks. I think she was trying to explain why she ran away from the prison. The part of this whole thing that I remember most was when she said, “I just want to go home and see my family.”
Boy, that was heavy stuff for a 12 -year-old to handle. I knew I had done the right thing in helping to find her, but there was a part of me that really wanted to let her go.
I stayed up later than usual that night, and I sat with my parents around our kitchen table as I told them about my whole day and about my mixed feelings on the whole thing. I think that helped me unwind, because I slept like a log that night.
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