by Tom Fegan
He towered, lean and over six feet. A limp acquired from shrapnel in the First World War made it necessary for support by a cane. A wide brim Stetson and boots reflected the years spent as the son of a West Texas rancher and a thin mustache added an air of wisdom. His name was Brent Powers and he was a retired banker who managed personal real estate holdings and investments from an office in a downtown skyscraper. Mr. Powers was in his seventies when I knew him as a customer at Burger & Shake.
His genuine humility and kindness reflected a quiet gentleman. He and wife Evelyn had owned a small bank on the edge of Fort Worth. The Depression was on and FDR had assured there was nothing to fear but fear itself. He forgot to mention Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly and Mad Dog Mason. Mason was wanted for bank robbery. His weapon was .45 caliber machine gun.
The bank was a tiny building off a highway with a big picture window Powers stood behind and waved at passersby from his office. His personal hobby was collecting antique guns. The walls of the bank were decorated with his collection all unloaded except for a Winchester he kept on the wall behind the tellers’ area. Another hobby gun, a loaded Peacemaker .45 double action revolver locked in his office desk, provided additional bank security. “Honey,” the banker replied over Evelyn’s protests, “You have to be prepared.”
A stranger walked in one afternoon after business hours. Powers was alone . It was his habit to leave the doors open for any late business. The man brandished a machine gun from underneath his overcoat. “Stick ‘em up,” sneered the stranger. Powers recognized Mason from a wanted poster displayed in the local post office
Mason handed him the sack and Powers quietly obeyed the robber emptying the tellers’ cages. As the bank robber turned to leave ; Powers grabbed the Winchester from the wall.
Only to hear the retort of an empty weapon.
Evelyn had unloaded the rifle.
The banker dropped the Winchester and fled into his office. The robber shouted “If I wasn’t feeling so rich you’d be dead Mister.” Dawson chuckled and skipped out the door.
Dawson laughed as he darted towards his car;halted and spun instinctively towards the sound of shattered glass. Three rounds slammed into Mason’s chest as the report of the banker’s pistol shattered the air. The outlaw hit the sidewalk a corpse.
Powers later addressed the police and reporters. He stated the reward for Mason’s death would be declined. “You’re right honey, “ Evelyn concurred as she reloaded the rifle and placed it on the wall, “You have to be prepared.”
published 23 October 2013