Corbin H. Crable
And that description of the Clutters’ property, many longtime Holcomb residents likely will tell you, is how everyone should remember the Clutter family: as people proud of the house and the life they had built, and of the reputations they had carved out for themselves in the small community.
There was Herb, the honest, hard-working, frugal patriarch, who was strict but protective with his children; Bonnie, the pious but frail wife and mother who, after years of happiness and joy with a loving family, battled her own inner demons but clung to her faith; Kenyon, the creative but introverted young man who was a spitting image of his father; and Nancy, the outgoing, vivacious daughter who was smart, pretty, popular and always the talk of the town.
The very people who took their lives could not have been more different. And as Holcomb residents will always remember the Clutter family as upstanding, moral citizens, so too will Edgerton residents be quick to note that simply because Hickock lived in Edgerton throughout his youth, his presence and actions do not define the town itself.
“Hickock wasn’t a product of Edgerton,” Ray Braun noted. “He moved out here because he ran in with the wrong crowd.”
Instead of quelling Hickock’s taste for trouble, the small town became a victim of it. And even after the Hickock family’s home was demolished, long after the last member of the family had moved away and the name ‘Hickock’ was scarcely mentioned anymore, the town still struggles to come to grips with the evil actions of one of its most infamous residents.
Oglesby said that may be the very reason why Truman Capote produced literature out of tragedy.
“He could not understand in any manner how one human being could kill another human being,” she said.
Those who remember the Clutter murders still grapple with that same question — and it’s one Edgerton residents have tried to forget for years. But another question continues to linger now, long after the film crews left town, long after Eunice Hickock moved out of Edgerton and the Hickock family house sat eerily vacant for the next 30 years, until it was finally razed in the late 1990s.
How could the residents of Edgerton, such a small town full of good, friendly people, rid themselves of the stigma of once being home to Dick Hickock? And why couldn’t people simply leave that issue alone and forget about it?
It’s a sentiment that was best expressed by Dick Hickock’s younger brother, Walter, in a 2005 article in The Lawrence Journal World.
“To me, that’s a thing of the past, at least I hope it is,” Walter Hickock said of his brother’s involvement in the Clutter family murders. “That’s about what it amounts to. It’s in the past, and that’s where I’d like to leave it.”
The Origins of Evil, Part III: How history will remember it all
Corbin H. Crable