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Little Farm Town Produced One Bank Robber

Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at 3:53 PM

One of my youth baseball coaches of the 1950s moved from Canalou to Morehouse.

Another ended up working in and near D.C.'s White House.

The third, perhaps the most colorful, was sent to the "Big House," as in the state penitentiary in Jefferson City.

Legend has it that Canalou, with its former "rough and wooly" reputation dating back to the swamp and timbering era of last century, produced only one bank robber.

Fast forward to the mid-1960s when I escaped the painful doldrums of Bootheel cotton patches, to become a police reporter for the former Daily Standard newspaper in Sikeston.

My first "bank heist" to cover professionally occurred when my former Little League coach, now deceased, decided to rob Fisk State Bank.

Upon hearing of the bank robbery over our new police/Highway Patrol radio monitor on the newspaper's city desk, I jumped in my sluggish Plymouth car and drove as fast as possible through Stoddard County en route to Fisk, and ultimately to the Poplar Bluff Courthouse.

It was there I learned Highway Patrolmen from Troop E were transporting the suspected bank robber to Poplar Bluff for booking.

I had been taught to use the huge Speed Graphic box camera by focusing on a door facing or some object where suspects would be passing through, in order to get good clear and in-focus news pictures.

Upon learning which courthouse door the suspect was to be brought in, I was highly excited about covering my first actual bank robbery, but then totally stunned when Bill Lasters, my former Little League coach from Canalou, appeared in my camera's view finder.

I'll never forget his words as he passed his former baseball shortstop: "Danny, I'm in a heap of trouble."

I said something equally under-stated: "No kidding, Bill!!"

After staging the mid-afternoon robbery, Bill had driven to a tavern in Dudley where police found him cooly consuming a bottle of beer on a bar stool. A sack of money was found in his car parked outside the tavern in plain view of law enforcement.

Bill was later convicted of felonious bank robbery in a trial held at Doniphan, and ended up serving his time in Jefferson City.

Bill came from a very good family, and he treated his little ball players great as our former coach.

He was obviously better at coaching than as a bank robber.

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Retired recently as world-traveled newspaperman, career made possible by late Superintendent of Schools Robert L. Rasche, about to have Bootheel life book published by SEMO State University. Loved farm life, but knew at five years old, didn't want to be a "cotton picker" when I grew up.
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