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John Jungas: Deputy from the Minnesota Frontier

by John Jungas

It was in the early 30's. We had just recently purchased the store from Dad. A pavement (only two lanes) was being built through town. The construction company had a small office between Mt. Lake and Ginham Lake, and there were quite a few men working on this job.

It happened on a Saturday night--opening of the pheasant season. One man came in and spent some time visiting with my brother Al; he was telling us about how he got hurt in the last war and had a metal plate put in his leg. Finally he rented a new shot gun, cashed a check of over $200.00 and bought one box of shells. He claimed to be working for construction of the pavement.

Later that same evening, my Uncle Jake Pankratz was visiting in Pete Ratzloff's garage when this same man came in. He was telling them about his work with the road construction crew. Two other fellows were having repair done on their car and listened in. When the man went out, these two fellows said that he was a fake, and didn't work on the road job at all.

My Uncle came back to the store and told us about this. I talked to my brother and said that we would have to find this man this evening but Al wanted us to wait till Monday. I told him that this guy would be long gone by that time and so we got the police and started looking high and low for him. We checked the stockyards, depot, and all the places we could think of, but it was useless. We finally went to the Basinger Hotel and asked the night clerk if he had rented a room to a man with a long package (gun). He said "yes." The room was in the old annex building and he gave us the room number. It was on the second floor.

Five of us--Al, Jake Pankratz, Pete Ratzloff, I and the police--went up the stairway to the room he was in. All of us were sworn in and armed with revolvers. The police forced the door open and put the flashlight on the ones in bed (now there were two in bed instead of only one). The second man had to stand in the hallway in his heavy underwear and I had to guard him. We all had our places.

The police told the one we wanted to put his hands over his head and come out. With this he reached under the bed and the police fired a shot right above his head. His remarks were "Don't shoot," and then he came out with his hands up.

We called the County Sheriff and he came and took them and put them each in a separate cell in the Windom Jail. They found no money on these guys when they frisked them, but later when each was called in for questioning, they searched the room and found over five hundred dollars in one of the books. This guy had also forged a check with Hiebert and Franz for over $300.00. The other guy was released while our man was kept in the jail. A few days later someone cut the window bars and they escaped. This man was finally found in Montana and locked up.

All in all, we got back our shot gun, shells, and money, and the Franz store got back their money.

(In the July issue we'll add John's memories about some of his experiences in the Jungas Hardware Store.)