In 1922, a gang of robbers hijacked a Federal Reserve Bank truck outside the Denver Mint, making off with $200,000 in five-dollar bills.  One security guard was killed.  One of the robbers, Nicholas “Chaw Jimmie” Trainor, deflected a shotgun round with his jaw and later died.  But none of the other six robbers was fingered for the robbery, though it’s believed that they were all eventually imprisoned for other crimes (like James “Oklahoma Jack” Clark) or killed in other circumstances.

Catchy as those nicknames are, however, no criminals come close to “Repulsive Rogan” or “Filthy McNasty,” the robbers in The Bank Dick.

The Denver Mint was a near-yearly elementary school pilgrimage, all the students trundling downtown with a brown-bag lunch in hand to learn about how pennies are pressed.  Not me, though.  My mother worked downtown, and I had lunch with her.  When someone asked where she worked, all I knew was that it was at a bank.  Later, I learned it was the Federal Reserve Bank, which sounded more important.

But what she did specifically, I still don’t know.  She was a clerk, verifying checks, I think; her exact job description was unclear.  All I knew was that she supplied my brief philatelist phase with stamps from around the world:  a green Jamaica with a worker in a sugar cane field; red triangular Indonesias; all manner of foreign rulers, smiling grimly.

After the tour, I met my mother for lunch.  The inside of the Federal Reserve seemed lacquered in gold, with severe 70s architectural flourishes that reminded me of dentist-office mobiles.  The cafeteria was on the second-floor and overlooked 16th Street before it had become a pedestrian mall.  Over the years, I watched the construction of the Tabor Center, the free shuttles puttering down the road, the opening of endless souvenir shops and the Rock Bottom Brewery across the street.  My mother’s co-workers commented how much I had grown since my last visit:  Tita, a Filipina and my mother’s best friend there.  Peter, who self-published poetry.

Security was loose those days.  I signed in and clipped a visitor’s badge to my chest.  My father could pull into the parking lot by announcing that he had come to pick up his wife, and as we drove out, my mother waved to the unseen guard behind the blackened window on Arapahoe Street — Egbert Sousè himself, perhaps.  At one Christmas party, the managers handed out baggies of shredded currency.

Over time, the Federal Reserve’s defenses grew more elaborate, more necessary.  Concrete barriers.  High walls topped with sharpened bars.  This was long before the Oklahoma City bombing.

But, by then, I had also outgrown spending afternoons with my mother.

The world honors the daring, the thieves.  No one remembers the functionaries, the Og Oggiblys who keep the world in working order.  Tita retired a few years before my mother.  Peter gave my mother a copy of his book for a retirement gift.  The stamps that my mother had ripped off envelopes so that I could steam away their backings and press dry between paper towels — those have been collected, mounted, forgotten.

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