March 31, 1999

(NOTE: I first met Roger Springer in March of 1995 while visiting the Nashville area. Our conversation turned to his native Caddo and the 1978 shootout. A few months ago I asked Roger to write this story of his experience that fateful day).


My name is Roger Springer. I am a songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee, but I was born and raised a mile from Caddo, Oklahoma. I was fifteen years old when I first heard the names Dennis and Lancaster, and they are two names I will never forget as long as I live.

Escaped prisoners were nothing new to our town, since we were only an hour and a half from the state prison (Big Mac) and only forty-five minutes from the StringTown Prison. 
But, we never worried too much knowing anyone on the run would want to get as far away as possible; that is until Dennis and Lancaster. Getting away was never their intent.

As fate would have it, Dennis's ex-wife lived on the outskirts of Caddo. So, no matter where their murdering spree took them they were always in and out of the area. This brought terror to our small town. Everybody who was old enough to pull a trigger was carrying a gun. Because everyone knew a run in with these two would mean certain death to the unarmed. Rumor had it that Dennis was such a crack-shot you probably wouldn't have a chance anyway, but never the less you just felt a little safer with some bullets and some powder. For weeks they seemed to be nowhere and everywhere.

My Granddad Springer had a station wagon pull up to his house about sundown one evening. He sold vegetables from his house, and figured it was a customer. He said his dog was going crazy, and about the time he got his shoes on to go outside they where driving off. He said he didn't think too much about it until he got the next days newspaper, and there was the station wagon on the front page. Dennis and Lancaster had abandoned the car not far from his house. They had killed a woman in Alabama for this same car. My granddad credited his extended life from then on to his dog Hoss.

There is something else I will never forget as long as I live, that is May 26, 1978. It started off like any summer day, but by dark would prove to change many lives forever. 
That morning I got up and drove just down the road to my Uncle Don's house. I was wanting to go squirrel hunting, but didn't have the nerve to go into the woods by myself. I figured I could talk Uncle Don into going with me.  And after a little bit of persuasion he was in for the hunt, but he insisted we carry more than just our squirrel rifles in case we met up with the two killers. He gave me a pistol to wear on my belt, and a shotgun loaded with double 00 buck and with my .22 rifle I was pretty loaded down. He armed himself the same, and we were off.

It just so happened the stretch of woods we were hunting ran right into Caddo. I can't remember how long we hunted or if we even killed any squirrels, because the explosion of gunfire that broke out less than a quarter of a mile from us erased all things that didn't matter. We didn't stand there wondering what was happening. The chill that ran through our bodies told the whole story. We knew Dennis and Lancaster were in town.

We didn't take the woods home, we took a shortcut across an open pasture. We were running as fast as a boy and a man could, loaded down with guns. About half way across the field we saw a plane coming straight at us flying low. It flew right over us and made a big circle, and started coming back. This time there were two planes coming our way. 
Uncle Don said they must think we're them, throw everything down. So we dropped everything, ballcaps and all, and started waving. The planes came so close they had to have seen the fear in our eyes. I guess they realized we weren't who they thought it might be, because the planes headed on to town. We picked up where we left off...running for the house.

As soon as we got there the preacher's wife pulled in to tell us what we already knew. There had just been a shootout between the Highway Patrol and the convicts. We tossed our guns behind the seat of Don's truck and headed to town. We knew the shootout was over and wanted to see what had happened. It wasn't hard to find the location in such a small town, especially with all the law officers at the scene. We couldn't get as close as we wanted, but we did get close enough to see what had happened. We stayed there until we heard all about the terrible tragedy, and I'm not referring to the death of Dennis and Lancaster. I'm talking about the death of three Highway Patrolmen; two just outside of town, one less than a hundred yards from where we stood and one
wounded officer.

At that moment in my fifteen years of living, I learned exactly the meaning of respect.
Knowing that three men had just given their lives to protect ours changed my life forever. To this very day and as long as I live I will have the utmost respect for those who serve and protect. Every time I'm pulled over for speeding I know the officer wonders why I don't lie and seem so happy about getting a ticket. But, if he knew what I saw as a boy on May 26, 1978 in Caddo, Oklahoma, he would understand perfectly.

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