Eugene Just drives past Aulne State Bank on his way to show a visitor a Sunflower Wind Farm turbine on his lane.
“I own that bank,” he says with an ornery smile.
Then comes a joke he either tells a lot or has been waiting years to share: “He came from the south here. It was icy. He came around the corner and lost it. He was always in a hurry. He came around, lost it, and drove square into the front of the bank building.”
The punchline: “He made a direct deposit.”
The bank had two offices and a vault.
Just, who farms with his son and raises cattle, is 84. He owns 1,000 acres in Marion County. The bank, long closed, is situated on property he and his wife, Betty, own.
They use the bank to store the odds and ends of life, including old sheep-shearing equipment — dusty and rusty from age — that Just used for years to help support his family.
“We always figured when you got to shearing good, by the time you were done was about 100 strokes. We sheared 100 to 120 a day. Then you wonder why you’ve got trouble later,” he says, rubbing his shoulder.
People have broken into the bank, and Just has caught a few of them. One time, Just asked a group if the items they were taking belonged to them. The robbers said they didn’t think it belong to anyone.
“If it isn’t yours, leave it,” Just told the robbers.
The bank has a long history of theft, reported in the Record on May 20, 1920.
“The Aulne State Bank closed Friday on account of shortages in the bank’s account, occasioned, it is alleged, by defalcation of the cashier, V.O. Johnson. Shortage at the bank is said to be somewhere around eighty thousand dollars.”
Johnson had told everyone that he had seen a man running down the road.
“That was the story he put out,” Just says.
But Johnson was the thief.
He went to prison.
“This was about him,” Just says, pointing to a clipping. “OK, now I want you to look here.”
He then pulls a July 1, 1917, program for dedication of the First Methodist Episcopal Church, now Aulne church, out of a scrapbook. At the bottom, Johnson’s name is listed as a member of the building committee.
“See, I told you he was one of the founders of the church,” Just says. “I hadn’t noticed this for a long time.”
He saves a few more jokes before saying goodbye.
Some years ago, he put up a sign that said “two-hour parking” in front of the bank for fun.
“They even stole that!” Just says.
Talk turns to newspapers again.
“Aulne is still in the news!” he says.