“On the cusp of my departure, my words are hollow and weak, as I struggle to describe the man I wished I’d been, a speck of the decent man I failed to be. I tried but I failed. I could not overcome whatever it was that took hold of my decency and held it deep under a thick slurry of ugliness until it drowned. On this day of my demise, I attempt to express regret too deep and too profound for words, far too late to be believed by people who I wished could hear and believe my contrition. The depth of the anguish I feel towers above me alongside the guides of the guillotine’s blade, the blade I so richly deserve.”
Thus were the last words written by Theodore Crawford, who was put to death by guillotine in Struggles, Arkansas. His words of penitence truly were hollow. He wrote them in an effort to change the future into a time when, if he was remembered at all, he would be remembered as a man with a heart. He was not. Crawford was as bad a man as ever lived. He did, indeed, deserve to die, but not necessarily in such a quick and humane manner as afforded by the guillotine. But that’s for another time.
Crawford’s ‘trial’ was by kangaroo court. Six self-appointed members of a jury allowed Crawford no defense. Truth be told, though, even a legitimate jury trial would certainly have found the man guilty of capital murder. He had walked into a bank in the town in broad daylight and, without provocation, shot and killed two tellers. He left the bank without even asking for money. His motive was revenge. The bank president had rejected his request for a loan a week earlier.
By the time Theodore Crawford committed his last hideous act, Struggles, Arkansas no longer had a police force, a prosecutor, or a justice system. Even the bank in which he murdered two tellers no longer dealt in real U.S. dollars. Instead, traded in Strugglers, a pseudo currency created by the bank when its customers had no more legitimate U.S. currency in their accounts.
The guillotine used for Crawford’s beheading was built by Jason Boxwelter, a welder, blacksmith, and occasional executioner. Boxwelter, though, did not drop the blade that killed Crawford. The man who did that was Moses Perkins, the foreman of the jury that convicted Crawford.
As you might have guessed by now, this story is going nowhere. I’m simply typing for finger exercise. I think my fingers are strong enough for this morning, so I’ll stop here for now.