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The Simmons house... Photo by Don Goddard

        THE ATTACK

     It was a dark and stormy night!

 August 24, 1968. Ernie Simmons was awakened by a clap of thunder. He looked outside into the intermittent darkness and spotted what he had always known would happen......several thieves were loading his precious motorcycles onto the back of a truck. 

    His years of suspicions had been vindicated.

    "I grab Remington 3 1/2 pump, race in my sleeping underwear to lane, I yell halt and I shoot. I tell fellow on ground to get up and walk and he say he can't....."

    Five men and a woman were apprehended, and subsequently, charged. Ernie's two shotgun blasts had wounded three persons, one of them seriously. After a lengthy trial, charges against three of the culprits were dropped. The others were given a two year suspended sentence with probation. Charges pending against Ernie were dropped. In those days it was still  legal to defend one's property.


    At around 4:45 PM on the afternoon of December 15, 1969, Ernie was working on some machines in his yard when he was approached by a young man. Although he was a stranger,  he expressed an interest in buying a car so Ernie walked with him around to the south of the house where the old cars were kept. Ernie noticed some new tracks in the pristine fresh fall of snow on the ground. Immediately, his suspicions were aroused. He knew he was in danger so he reached for an oak stake frozen in place on a nearby flatbed truck. Before he could do this,  a masked man stepped out from where he had been hiding behind some old trucks. A third person, also masked,  appeared. Without saying a word, the first masked man opened fire with a revolver. Ernie, shot seven times, fell to the ground. The assailants kicked him and demanded his money. Ernie, who later said he felt little pain, "just numb",  was lucid enough to know that he would be left to die in the snow if he told them anything. He insisted they had to take him to the house or they'd get nothing. One man grabbed him by the arm, another by the hair, and they pulled him into the house. He remembered one of them commenting that "He sure is a heavy old devil" and the other agreeing as he was being dragged.

    Ernie's poor, senile mother was ignored, as they roughed him up further in the house. Finally, Ernie gave in and told them where to find some money. (less than $200.)  The assailants must have lost their nerve, as they took the cash, cut the phone lines and fled.

    Ernie crawled to the window and saw them leave in a '55 or '56 Chevrolet, possibly two tone. 

    He was a very strong man. Though getting weaker by the minute, he crawled to the phone and managed to splice the wires back together and call for help. We can only imagine his joy as Ernie Simmons, the hermit, saw two sets of headlights come down his lane half an hour later. The police and an ambulance had arrived.


    Ernie chafed at his enforced stay in the hospital. His mother had been taken to Norfolk General Hospital, in a state of shock. That left his cherished collection totally unguarded.   

     Fortunately, none of his wounds were very serious. He still had six bullets in him. His doctors planned to remove the rest after he had recovered more fully. They had removed one that was dangerously close to his spine, the others were not threatening where they were.

    All he could think was that, if only he had had a loaded automatic rifle, or a good pistol, he could have taken out some or all of his attackers. Determined to get them himself when he recovered, he didn't co-operate too much with the police.

     After a few weeks, he couldn't take it any more. He resolved to leave the hospital. He was going to go buy himself a good .30 caliber M1 carbine as soon as possible. THEN let any intruders beware! We can only imagine the consternation he caused when he stubbornly signed himself out, ignoring the pleas of friends and doctors. He returned home, nowhere near recovered, less than a month after his assault.


    Home again, still seriously injured, all alone in his cold, isolated farmhouse. Ernie told friends that he had never been able to warm up again after his attack. (One had brought him some extra Hudson's Bay blankets in the hospital) Always an enterprising sort, he strung ropes across his tiny bedroom and hung blankets and a plastic sheet around his bed, forming a makeshift tent. Inside he placed two space heaters to keep the bed area warm.


    In January, 1970, a friend became concerned when he tried to phone Ernie several times and didn't receive an answer. He and a neighbor went by snowmobile to the farm and found Ernie Simmons dead in bed, in the same room in which he'd been born. He was only 57 years old.

    It was reported that the temperature in Ernie's "tent" was 120 degrees!

    An autopsy showed the cause of death to be pneumonia.

    Ernie's mother, Grace, never really recovered from the shock. She died a few months later in the senior's home where she had been placed.

    Those responsible for the assault were never apprehended. Some people thought that the police didn't try too hard. After all, it was only "Crazy Ernie".

NEXT....The farm becomes a zoo!

Article 2002 by Lance Russwurm





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