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An Adirondack Outlaw’s Confession:

Where Truth & Fiction Join Forces to Outwit the Law

“Sometimes An Outlaw’s Best Hideout Is Right in Plain Sight”


Saranac Lake, New York – 1978:

      No one paid any attention to the slender blonde t-shirt clad teen walking casually down Woodruff Street, a small forest green backpack slung over one shoulder.  No one noticed as scuffed blue jeans and sneakers slid over the parking lot guard rail near the Church Street bridge.  No one in that quiet little high peaks hideaway gave a second thought to a young man innocently skipping rocks along the banks of the Saranac River on a hot July day.

  He was counting on that. He’d been planning awhile. The boy picked his way nonchalantly along the rocks. Church Street was quiet. The coast was clear.  Quickly and quietly, one dustily nondescript kid in a t-shirt and blue jeans disappeared under the bridge.

     His heartbeat pounded through his t-shirt. He was sweating. He took a deep breath, slipped the green backpack from his shoulder, set it with resolve on a large flat rock and opened it up. One at a time, he removed its carefully packed contents and laid them out on the rock.

     First came an old Batman mask that he’d found in the attic, then a nondescript sweatshirt, folded neatly, turned inside out.  He tucked the mask under the pack temporarily so it wouldn’t blow away. Next, he gently removed a small burlap bag. It was folded around something heavy. He checked his surroundings for curious bystanders one more time. Still no witnesses.  He gingerly lay the burlap bag and its contents on the rock.

    He closed the top of the pack and unzipped a small compartment in the front. From it he removed a small sheet of stationary, folded once. He secured that in his front left pants pocket and reached his hand into the burlap bag.

     He glanced around once more. A passing car rumbled overhead on the bridge. The bag’s occupant was heavy. It felt good in his hand. It fit just right. That black BB pistol he’d recently stolen from his friend’s house when no one was looking.

     His mind wandered briefly to that day. His friend’s parents were separated or divorced, or something. His friend’s dad had bought the gun for him. His friend said: 

     “Check this out. A guy could rob a bank with this thing, it’s so real.His dad had given it to him in secret. His Mom didn’t even know he had it.

     It sure looked real. Felt real too. Like a gun from a movie. They’d shot at tin cans and frogs over on the back side of Moody Pond. Until some old lady came out on her porch and started shouting.

     “You boys better stop that right now!  I’m calling the police.” Two armed teenagers beat a hasty escape on their bikes.

     They’d gone back to his friend’s house. He’d watched as his friend swore him to secrecy and hid the pistol so his mom would not find it. He’d snuck back into the house and taken it several days later. Nobody locked their doors in Saranac Lake. Even if they weren’t home.

     He snapped back to the present, donned the backpack, then pulled the inversed sweatshirt over his head.

   “Well,” The young teen thought as he donned his batman mask.

     “It’s now or never.”

    It was time to put his friend’s theory to the test.

     The BB pistol wasn’t even loaded. He’s stolen the gun, but no ammo.  He wasn’t gunnin’ for a shootout. It WAS just a BB gun, after all.

      He darted quickly across Church Street and burst into the Farmer’s National Bank. Pulling the gun from the burlap bag, he marched up to the teller’s window and slammed down the note.

     On the piece of paper, in Block letters, he had written:


     He’d watched enough “Columbo” on TV to be well schooled. He knew better than to use his own handwriting, and fourteen-year-olds without police records didn’t have their fingerprints on anyone’s file.

     The teller, who he recognized as the mom of one of the girls in his class, gasped once, read the note, saw the gun, nodded, and started shoving money from her drawer into the bag. The teen never uttered a word.

     Before he could even take stock of anyone else in that little bank branch, he grabbed the bag of money and ran.

    As soon as he hit the door, alarms sounded. He shot across Church Street, scooted down Woodruff, across the arcade parking lot, and, as he heard the first police sirens wail, disappeared into the brush along the river at the base of the tracks. He didn’t know if he’d been seen or not.  He wasn’t hanging around long enough to find out.

     He scurried up the bank to the tracks as he pulled off his mask. Once on the tracks, he darted right, to the trestle. He could hear quite a commotion below him now. The police sirens were louder. He didn’t have much time. At that moment, he felt the adrenaline rush of both hunter and prey.

   Once in the middle of the trestle overlooking the river, he turned, facing downstream towards the Pine Street Bridge. He gave that BB pistol a heave, watching as it splashed into an eddy pool in the rapids about fifty yards downstream.

     Wasting no time, he traversed the trestle, scooted down through Triangle Park, crossed Pine Street, scampered up the stone porch pillar, in through his open bedroom window, and shut it.  He was a kid on his home turf. He’d planned it all out. The whole route took just minutes.

     He sat on his bed for a moment, staring in silence at the bag and its contents. He resisted the urge to start counting his loot. Every young outlaw knew the rules by heart.  Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” was a big hit on the charts. What he really needed to do more than anything? Piss.

      He could hear the TV blaring in the living room downstairs. His younger brother watching sitcoms. Something not allowed on a hot summer’s day when their mom was at home.

     But she was still at the Saranac Lake Free Library, where she worked part time. Dad was at his office in Albany. The two boys had the house to themselves.

       Three cop cars, sirens wailing, lights flashing, appeared in his bedroom window. They stopped by the tracks. Several officers got out. That piss would have to wait.

     The young bank robber pulled off the sweatshirt and put it in the burlap bag with the money, along with the mask. He quickly changed into shorts and a clean polo shirt, burying his sweaty t-shirt and jeans in the hamper.

     He glanced back out the window. Some of the cops were still up on the trestle. A State Trooper car whizzed past the house, up towards Moody Pond on Pine Street. Then another whizzed back down the hill. The boy took the burlap bag filled with evidence and cash and quietly slipped into his closet.

     Their three-story stone house on the corner of Stevenson Lane was a combination of spooky, imposing, and old. Full of great hiding places for two young boys growing up. There was a “secret passageway” between the two boys’ bedrooms.  It was hidden in the wall between the two closets.

     The” secret passageway” itself was not really a secret. Both brothers knew about it. So did their parents. What was a secret though, kept all to himself, was the three-board trap door compartment cut into the passageway floor. Empty when he found it, discovered by accident, the compartment had come in handy over time for hiding all sorts of contraband. He folded the bag tight around its contents and hid it. Then he took a badly needed piss and headed down the front stairs to join his brother in front of the TV.

     Lights and sirens still wailed and flashed outside.

     His little brother said: “Man! There’s cop cars everywhere! I’m a little bit scared. Maybe we should call Mom.”  

     They went to the window and looked out. Just then the telephone rang.  It was their mother. The older boy answered.

     “Hi Mom. There’s cop cars everywhere! What’s going on?

     “Are you boys okay? Someone just robbed the bank! They haven’t found him yet. Stay inside. I’m on my way home.”

    “Okay Mom. We’re fine. We can see lots of police cars outside now. We’ll stay inside and lock the doors. We’ll just sit here and watch TV until you get home.”

     He reassured his brother.

     “Mom’s on the way home now. Wanna play Monopoly?”

     His brother agreed.

     “I call the shoe.”

     “Nice try. I’m ALWAYS the shoe. You can be either the hat or the dog.”

     “Oh, all right. I’ll set up the board.”


Saranac Lake New York, July 2020:

      A forest green GMC pickup truck eased off of Pine Street into the small parking space just above the Pine Street Bridge in Triangle Park.

     A nondescript figure emerged from the vehicle, unnoticed by anyone, and stood for a moment, staring across the street at the big stone house on the corner of Stevenson Lane. The house he had grown up in was occupied by an accounting firm now.  No one was around. He looked up at his old bedroom window and smiled. He then grabbed his day pack, quietly slipped down under the Pine Street bridge, changed out of his jeans into an old pair of shorts, donned a snorkel mask, and slid into the water.

     The midafternoon sun was warm, the current in the rapids quite strong, and the river’s skanky smelling water less warm than cold. He worked his way slowly upstream, catching glimmers of glass in the sun, taking a deep breath, dunking his head under water, freeing his objectives from sandy silt and rocks with a three clawed potato digger he held secured around his left wrist with a strap he had fashioned from a short length of parachute cord.

     The river bottom was littered with broken glass, rusty metal, rotting tree limbs and assorted debris. The water itself, aside from its muddy taste and smell, was full of little wormlike bugs that clung to his skin and bit. The footing was treacherous. Occasionally he found himself swept off his feet, bouncing down through the current until he was able grab a rock and coral himself in an eddy. Still, he managed to find quite a number of interesting, intact, antique bottles.

     He methodically worked his way upstream, collecting bottles in small groups along the shore as he went. Always keeping the trestle before him, gauging his distance.

   He finally reached a big series of eddies, about fifty yards downstream from the trestle. He took in air, submerged, dug around, found several more nice bottles. He’d been in the water for several hours.  Even in the warm summer air, his teeth chattered. The water sucked warmth from his body. Evening came on. He grew tired. He knew he would have to quit soon.

      Then, suddenly, something caught his eye. Something glimmered in the evening sun just right.  He dove one last time and dug.

     There! In the sand.  He reached down and grabbed it. Came up gasping for air.  He pulled off his mask.  He’d finally found it. What he came looking for. It was waterlogged, corroded, forty years crusted over.  But he recognized it immediately.   It felt good in his hand.   He’d found the gun.

        He emerged from the water, dried himself off, gathered his bottles, and returned to his truck. He changed into dry clothes and sat there in the park on a bench, took in some dinner, stared up at those windows, over at the trestle, and reminisced.

     Once done eating, he headed into town. He’d found a handgun in the river. What does any law-abiding citizen do?  Of course! He turns in the gun. Just in case it might be somehow linked to any unsolved crime. Which is just what he attempted to do.  Except someone moved the village police station from where he remembered it being when he was a kid.

     So, he parked on Main Street, consulted a big village map posted downtown. There it was! It had been moved down behind the hydro plant across the bridge. He left the gun locked in his truck and walked down to notify the police.

      At the village police station, the door was locked. There was an intercom.  He pressed the button.

     “May I help you.”

     “Yes. I found a handgun in the river.”

     “You what?”

      “I’d like to report a handgun I just found in the Saranac River.”

     “Where is the weapon now.”

     “It’s in my truck.”

     “Where’s your truck?”

     “It’s down on the Main Street by the town hall.  I had a hard time finding the police station and didn’t think it would be a good idea to walk through town carrying a handgun.”

     “Please bring your vehicle here.  I will meet you outside and secure the weapon.”

     “Ummm…Okay. It’s pretty roached out. Been in the water awhile.”

     He went and got his truck as instructed. When he reached the station parking lot, a uniformed officer was standing outside. He parked and exited the vehicle. The officer approached, turned to his right with his hand on his gun belt and said in an excited voice:

     “Where is the weapon?! I need to see the weapon?!”

     It was immediately apparent. He was dealing with Saranac Lake’s Finest.

   “Officer. Take it easy.  Like I told you on the intercom, “The weapon” is in the back seat of my truck. I found it bottle diving in the river. Down by the trestle. I think it’s a BB gun.  It’s pretty roached out.  Still, I thought it a good idea to turn it in. Someone threw that gun in the river for a reason.”

     Suddenly, a second officer appeared, a woman.

     “Produce the weapon. Show us the weapon! We need to see the weapon!”

     “Okay officers, it’s on the back seat of my truck.  I’m going to reach in slowly, pull it out, and hand it to you.”

The nondescript man held his breath as he did so, hoping not to get shot in the process.

     Finally, after successfully turning over the “weapon” to Saranac Lake’s Finest, the male officer looked it over and remarked:

     “I think this is a BB gun.”

     “That’s what I told you.”

    “Where did you find it again?”

     “Bottle diving in the Saranac River, between the train trestle and the Pine Street Bridge.”

      “Are you interested in it, Officer?”

    “No.  I think it’s just a BB gun.”

  “Oh, well, then, can I just have it back? It’s getting late and I’m headed home.”

“No. I’ve notified the State Police. I am confiscating the weapon to turn in to them. Write your name, address and telephone number down on this piece of paper.”

     “Do I get the gun back?”

     “No. You’ll have to talk to The State Police about that.”

     “When will they be here?”

     “I don’t know.”

   “Listen officer. You keep the gun. Have someone call me.  It’s  late.  I’m heading home.”

     With that, the nondescript man in the forest green GMC pickup climbed into his truck, started the engine, and departed, thinking to himself;

     “Wow! That certainly did not go according to plan.”

     Two hours later, he received a call on his cell phone from the NYSPD in Ray Brook.

     “If you come in and give us a statement, we’ll release the gun to you.   It’s a BB gun. We have no interest in it.”

     “Okay. I’ll be there tomorrow.”

     The next day arrived. The nondescript man in the forest green GMC pickup eased into the NYSPD office in Ray Brook NY.  He went inside, walked up to the desk and stated his business.

     “I turned in a BB pistol I found in the Saranac River last night. I was told that if I came in today and gave a brief statement, I could have it”.

     The Desk Sergeant looked up: “Have a seat in the waiting room please.”

      The nondescript man sat in the waiting room for over an hour. Finally, the Desk Sergeant reappeared.

      “Looks like I’m the one taking your statement.”

     “Ok. Then can I have the gun?’

     “Nope. We’re confiscating it, in case it might have been associated with any crime. If after 90 days it’s clean and no one else has claimed it, you may file a claim then.”

      The nondescript man gave a brief statement.  He told the Desk Sergeant;

     “You do realize: The only prints you will find on that gun at this point are mine. I bottle dive without gloves.”

     The Desk Sergeant dutifully added that fact to the statement.

      The nondescript man signed his statement and left.

     Ninety days passed. July turned to October. A nondescript man’s cell phone rang. It was the NYSPD.

     “You can pick up that BB gun now. We have no interest in it.  If you come here and sign for it, it’s now yours.”


Saranac Lake New York, October 2020

     A forest green GMC pickup truck eased off Pine Street into the small parking space just above the Pine Street Bridge in Triangle Park.

     A nondescript figure emerged from the vehicle, unnoticed by anyone, and stood for a moment, staring across the street at the big stone house on the corner of Stevenson Lane, reminiscing.

   “One more stop.”  He thought to himself.

    One thing about spooky old houses. They have many skeletons hidden in their closets, along with a long since forgotten abundance of keys.

Now if you’ll excuse me. I’ve got some countin’ to do.


When Our Trails Next Cross,

1st Round’s on Me.