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Dallas trial lawyer Coyt R. “Randy” Johnston spent his early years in Shamrock, Texas, where one set of grandparents owned a caf� and the other owned a radio/TV repair shop and a passel of jukeboxes cranking out music at honky-tonks up and down Route 66. Johnston says he had a pretty good time living near Route 66 in its heyday in the early 1950s, at a time when carloads of tourists would stop for a meal of chicken-fried steak or macaroni and cheese at the Golden Corral, his grandparents’ diner. The Golden Corral is long gone �- Buck and Ethel Hirons sold it around 1953 and bought another restaurant in the Panhandle �- but it was located across Route 66 from the famous U-Drop Inn. Johnston loves to tell the story about a wild to-do at that caf� one day in 1951. Tourists from California and Illinois were still writing to his grandfather 30 years later to marvel over the events. That was the day the diner was the scene of a gun battle between his grandfather and stepfather, and his grandmother ended up shooting up the ceiling of the sheriff’s office in Wheeler County. Johnston, 54, says he wasn’t a witness to the shootout and didn’t even learn about it until his other grandmother gave him some old news clippings when he was in college. He says his mother, now retired and living in Nevada, wasn’t too happy he found out about the sordid tale, but his grandfather Buck didn’t mind talking about it. “He was very matter-of-fact about it. It was almost like asking him, “Didn’t you used to own a ’56 Mercury?’ ” Johnston recalls. Johnston says the events stem from a rocky marriage between his mother and her second husband. Johnston didn’t like his stepfather much. They were living in Clarendon, Texas, which is southwest of Shamrock, but Johnston says his mother decided to leave her husband and fled on a bus to Shamrock with her children. One evening soon after that, Johnston says, his stepfather and a friend drove into Shamrock and parked outside the Golden Corral. The family was living in a house across the street. Johnston’s mother, Valrea Chase, says her estranged husband burst into the living room of their house, brandishing a rifle. She says he kidnapped her and pulled her across the street to his big, red Buick, which was idling with his friend at the wheel. He threw her in the car, but Chase says she slipped out the other side and ran into the Golden Corral, where her mother, Ethel Hirons, was working. Her angry husband trailed her into the diner, still gripping his rifle, followed by her father, who was waving his pearl-handled, .38-caliber revolver. The Golden Corral was a typical roadside caf�, with booths around the windows and tables in the middle, a counter and a kitchen in the back. With customers diving beneath tables, Chase says her father must have leaned out the window between the dining room and the kitchen, where he normally would have passed plates of food to the waitresses, and started shooting. “There are people sitting out there in the restaurant from Los Angeles and Chicago, and my grandfather blows out this big plate-glass window,” Johnston says. They all ran outside, Chase says, where it was chaos as her wiry, 5-foot-4 father confronted her 6-foot-3, 245-pound husband. She says her dad fired about three shots into the air, and she thinks her estranged husband may have used his rifle as well before making a getaway. “He dives into the car and drives away spewing gravel and Panhandle dirt all over,” Johnston says. Someone calls the police. Johnston says they arrest his grandfather, and soon afterward track down his stepfather and arrest him, too. During the arraignment in the Wheeler County Courthouse, Johnston says, his grandmother pulls the pearl-handled revolver out of her purse and shoots the ceiling. “Ultimately someone takes the gun away from my grandmother and arrests her as well,” Johnston says. Chase says her father had given her mother the revolver for safekeeping, and she brought it along when they all went to the sheriff’s office. Chase says her mother was simply protecting her after Chase’s husband threatened her and made a move to grab her in the sheriff’s office. “I still get a chill thinking about it,” Chase says. “I was very young.” Chase says grand jurors decided against indicting anyone. Johnston says his grandparents got a “stern warning,” and his stepfather was ordered to never set foot in Wheeler County again. Johnston says his stepfather must have paid heed to the law enforcement edict because the family never saw him again. “When the divorce was granted, there was never a visitation. He became a moment of history in all of our lives,” Johnston says. “The best part of it for me was for probably 30 years after that [when] my grandfather continued to receive mail from people who were in the restaurant talking about how it was a great experience for them to be in this Wild West shootout,” he says. Johnston, who lived for several years in Shamrock before moving to Pampa, Texas, after his mother, concedes the incident would be handled differently today by police officers. “In a way it’s kind of a shame because back then law enforcement officers tended to exercise a lot of discretion, and they tended to exercise it fairly wisely,” says Johnston, of Johnston and Tobey. No one was hurt in the shootout, he says, noting, “Plate-glass windows and scrambled eggs were all that was killed.”

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