The first part of this story happened when I was cleaning wells as a teen...
Since his blog appears in several other Missouri papers, I interject some context for those not familiar with our county's infamous serial killers. Ray and Faye Copeland were tried and convicted of killing five drifters (and likely killed at least seven more) at their farm in Livingston County, Missouri. They were the oldest couple ever sentenced to death in the United States. If you Google "Ray and Faye Copeland" you will find more than enough information. Trust me.
The first part of this story happened when I was cleaning wells as a teen. Over the years, I've cleaned shallow wells from the Iowa line to the Missouri River and from Macon to St. Joe. I must have cleaned a thousand by the time I retired the old four-inch water cooled diaphragm pump. The deepest well I was ever into was over 300 feet deep in Kansas and that was just to say I had been in it. They won't let anyone go down in that one these days. It was scary even to me, at age ten.
The well I want to tell you about is north of Mooresville on a farm owned by a man named Ray Copeland. My Dad was friends with Ray and Faye, so we would stop in now and then to talk about hogs. I knew them in the 60's and 70's. Dad bought lots of hogs back then to raise little pigs. It seemed Dad was always causing more work for me. That's why we never seemed to see things eye to eye; then I would quit helping him for awhile.
Ray asked us to clean a well west of his house in an open pasture. You couldn't see this well until you were right next to it as the top was almost level to the ground. It was about twenty feet deep. Dad lowered me down on a rope after we had pumped most of the water out.
This was the part of a well cleaning I hated. After I filled the bucket and as Dad pulled it up; it dripped on my head every time! Well mud is black and stinks!
After a few buckets of mud were removed, I felt around with my hands and found sticks and other stuff in the mud. The light is not good down in the bottom of a well, but after you are down there awhile your eyes adjust. As I wiped the mud from the junk I was picking up, I realized there were many bones!
Now I knew why it stunk so bad! I yelled up to Dad and told him that there were too many bones and junk down here to clean it any more. Dad then asked me, what kind of bones are they? I said I'm not sure, but that they look like human bones. I've handled lots of bones, but I didn't know the origin of these for certain.
I sent one up in the bucket and that's when Ray appeared suddenly and told Dad he had lost two calves and that's probably what had happned to them. I never heard anymore about the bones from Dad. As I probed through the mud some more I figured that there must have been four or five more feet of mud and tangled bones.
I gave it up and told Dad to pull the rope tight as I'm climbing up the walls. We only made $100 on a well back then and I wasn't about to dig all that stuff for that kind of money. Besides that, I only got half of it.
Ray seemed pleased that we had simply removed the smelly water. He hadn't really expected us to go down deeper into the mud as we usually did. He said he was going to build this well up with bricks around the top.
The Copeland's were always nice to me. Faye and I would have long talks there in the house while Dad and Ray talked outside. Ray was always trying to get me to stay with them for a week in the summer, but I refused. Later in life, I would fix her sewing machine at their house.
One day we got a phone call from Faye and she told Mom that Dad had been cut with a knife and was in bad shape. She needed someone to come out and take him to the hospital. Mom then called me and I rushed to her house and my cousin Mary Ann (a nursing student) had come to go with me.
So Mary Ann and I took my Mom's car and started for Mooresville. I'm doing 100 miles an hour on Highway 36 and at the Grand River bridge the Missouri Highway Patrol had radar and a checkpoint. Needless to say, I had to stop. The officer was extremely mad when he got to my window. He asked me why I was going so fast and I told him. He took my license and said you had better come back this way with your Dsd or you won't get it back!
By the time we reached the Copeland house, Dad had left. We did not pass him on the way, so he must have gone through the bottoms at Locks Springs. I had talked my way through the patrol's road block the first time with the truth, but this time it's going to sound like a lie.
As I pulled near at the bridge checkpoint, the same officer waves me over. He looks in and said: Where is he? All I could do was tell the truth, again. He has to be at the hospital I told him. So he let me go once again. But he kept my license and said, I'll meet you at the hospital when I get done here.
After arriving at the hospital, we still could not find Dad. I phone Mom; still no Dad. Where is he? We cannot go anywhere because the Highway Patrol said to wait there. So we did. It's the end of my driving, I thought. When the officer comes he tells me to get in his car and as he begins to bawl me out, about then here comes Dad. He has a towel wrapped around his forearm that is caked with blood!
Mom had told him that we were at the hospital waiting on him. After Dad talks to the officer for a long time the officer comes back to the car and scolds me for another thirty minutes about speeding. No ticket was issued. Praise the Lord!
Dad never would say how he had gotten cut other than saying that he was simply sharpening his knife. Dad kept his knife so sharp he could shave with it and I had never seen him cut himself. Besides, there is a difference between a stab and a cut.
Dad never dealt with the Copeland's after that day. I would only see them when I fixed her sewing machine.
Only a few years ago, I took my friend, Deputy Jimmy Lightner, over there to see if we could find the well. I could not tell anything from the road because the landscape and my memory had changed so much through the years. They have since built a large pond where I think the well might have been.