It’s a big news story here in Missouri right now. Some are even calling it our own version of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, but without the racism. Here’s what happened: In July of 2013, a man who owns property near Steelville Missouri, about an hour and a half outside of St. Louis, shot a man who was urinating on a sandbar on the Meramec River which the owner claims belongs to him. According to the property owner, the man was drunk and urinating on the sandbar and then picked up a rock and threw it at him. The man died on the spot.
Steelville is known as the “floating capital of Missouri.” It’s a small rural town on the Meramec River and the people like the revenue the town gets from all the river floaters, but they don’t like the drunkenness, public nudity, littering, and lewd behavior that a lot of the floaters engage in. In the summer, it just gets to be too much of a good thing. Sometimes the crowds clog the river so much that you can barely see the water.
So, the owner says that he was just defending his life and property because the man was threatening him while the other people who were with the victim claim that they were just taking a pee and that the owner shot their friend in cold blood, who wasn’t throwing anything, just relieving himself in the sand. Then there’s that other thing:
In Missouri, if you live on the river, the law says that your property line extends to the middle of the river, but another law says that the property line is based on the high water mark which can change according to the depth of the river. I guess all of this will be sorted out in the trial. The owner faces second degree murder charges and several assault charges.
The property owner’s name is James Robert Crocker or “Jim” as his friends call him. You may notice that my last name and his are the same. I may be related to this man, he may even be my brother for all I know. Let me explain:
My father, George Crocker, left when I was about three. I have an old faded photograph of him when he was younger and I saw him once when I was about that age at a wedding. I remember my mother pointing him out and saying: “That’s your father.” I said: “Really?” Then promptly went back to playing with the toy that I had. I’ve never had any desire to “find” him like you see in the movies. The only other contact I had with that side of the family was that my uncle Jerry Crocker used to pick my mom up every morning and give her a ride to the factory where they both worked. My mother also met my father there. A lot of the Crockers, of which there are many, worked there. I also met a couple of my cousins once when they bought a used car from me. They were big and rural looking, kind of scary really. I remember one of them saying that he saw a man in a bar once and “just knew that they would be going at it before the evening was through.” Then he smiled and remarked in a thick country drawl: “And you know what? We did!”
I know from my mom that a lot of my relatives live in that area, and darned if I don’t look a lot like him! He could easily pass for the brother I never had, or at least a cousin. None of them are around anymore, so it would be hard to ask about it.
Jim goes to trial today. I don’t really have an opinion about the case one way or the other, but I do know that, according to the news at STL.com most of the jurors have stated that they are proud gun owners and should have the right to protect their property. But was it even Jim’s property after all? Needless to say, I, and the entire country will be following the case closely. I guess I could try a little harder to find out if James and I are really related, but some things are better left unknown.