Judge John Allen’s court had sent Leon away to prison in 1940. When Leon was pardoned in September of 1948, Judge Allen
welcomed him back to town. Later that autumn Judge contacted Leon and offered him a one-time job in an area the ex-con was
especially adept.

As was the case every year before cotton-picking season, Judge and his son-in-law, Pat Smithson, had been readying the plantation’
s cotton gin for its coming activity compressing cotton into bales. The men had discovered that one of the gin’s large leather drive
belts was severely worn-out and needed replacing. This was a problem since it was 1943, the height of World War II.  Leather was
reserved for the war effort and in extremely short supply.  Familiar with Leon’s reputation for petty thievery, Judge Allen met with him
and offered to pay $25 for any suitable leather belt that Leon could “acquire.”  Anxious to please the Judge and to get some easy
money, Leon agreed to this under-the-table deal.  

Leon searched far and wide for a suitable belt but was unable to locate anything that matched the needed size.  Desperate to grab
this extra money, Leon turned the search closer to home.

A week after offering Leon the task, Judge Allen answered a knock at his front door. There stood a grinning Leon Turner holding a
leather belt.  Pleased, Judge stepped outside and inspected Leon’s offering.  It seemed to be the right size, but it was old and
tattered. Still, it was better than nothing.  With the belt in such poor shape, Judge only offered $15, but Leon took the money and
left.  Judge Allen flippantly threw the belt into the back of a pickup parked nearby.  

The next opportunity to work on the gin came days later. Judge and Smithson took Leon’s leather belt to the gin and discovered that
the machine’s belt was missing. Leon had stolen the judge’s original belt and sold it back to him.
The Leather Belt
Stokes McMillan
Oak Harbor Publishing
P. O. Box 270458
Louisville, CO 80027