On a Red Eye, Because I Can’t Fix Cancer

It’s just after 1 a.m. and I’m sitting on a plane heading to North Carolina where I, as a father, will be forced to hand over the safety and well-being of my daughter, Ellen, to a surgeon I’ve never met. I understand a robot will also have a “hand” in this operation.

All her life, I’ve tried my best to handle the woes, small and large, that came her way. From bee stings, scrapes and scratches, to sports injuries and dumb luck and more. I’ve tried to be there. Fix things. That’s my job.

This time, I’ve failed her when she needs me the most. I can’t fix cancer. I would if I could. I would also, without reservation or hesitation, change places with her. Can’t do that, either.

Again, I’m stuck and at the mercy of a surgeon and her robot, neither of whom I have yet to meet.


Ellen and I touch base at least once each day, by phone, Skype, and sometimes via social media. Our chats last anywhere from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours. There’s typically no rhyme or reason or purpose for our conversations other than to share a bit of dad/daughter time.


As I mentioned, I’m on a red eye flight to the East Coast and the plane is graveyard quiet, and dark. Not a single light other than the glow emitting from my laptop. The constant buzz of the engines has worked its magic on most of the passengers, Denene included, who are snoozing away while my mind is darting in a zillion directions.

One of those side avenues leads me down a path where a ton of thank-yous are in order. Many of you sent gifts and cards and messages to Ellen and she was surprised and thrilled to see so many wonderful things show up on her doorstep and in her mailbox. I can’t begin to express how much this has meant to her, and me.

At a time in your life when you sort of feel as if you’re facing “it” alone, well, it’s heartwarming to have so many good friends show so much kindness and generosity.


Okay, the captain has just turned on the fasten seat belt sign, and rightfully so because I feel as if I’m attempting to type while inside a child’s bounce house at a birthday party for 100 youngsters.


The bumpy ride, though, reminds me of a time long ago when Ellen was still a teen. She I decided to go for a bit of off-road 4-wheel-drive adventure where we hit a super deep muddy hole and nearly overturned my vehicle. Of course, we giggled like two little kids and even thought about making a repeat trip through the bottomless pit but decided to leave well enough alone.


Monday’s coming fast, the time when I’ll have to turn Ellen over to the surgeon. They’ll wheel her down a hallway and back again several hours later. It will not be me who fixes her. Instead, I’ll remain behind with Denene, Tyler (our grandson), and our son-in-law John.

I know, I’ve already handed off my little girl to her husband. Did so many years ago, and he’s a good husband. A good man. And a good father. He, too, would trade places, and he, too, must trust my little girl/his wife, to a stranger.


We, as a family, are fortunate. We have each other, and we have Ellen who, by the way, is one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. She’s a wonderful daughter, mother to Tyler, and wife to John.

She’s the glue of their family.

And she’s still my little girl. Always will be.


Not so long ago, Denene’s mother was diagnosed with a serious cancer and had major surgery as a result. She started chemo a few days ago.

For days you guys prayed and sent kind words, gifts, books, and messages. Since her surgery and while going through chemo, my mother-in-law has been back to church and even out to dinner with a ladies group. She’s not well, but she’s living life. Thank you all for sticking with us.


And now, we have Ellen who underwent emergency surgery a few days ago and will be back in the surgical unit again on Monday.

If you have any left at all, a couple more prayers would be very much appreciated. And, thank you for understanding that for the next several days, at least, my online activity (blogging, etc.) will be limited. I’ll keep you posted about the surgery, though (on Facebook).

And, I’ll keep you posted on the progress of my little girl. She is, you know … my little girl.


By the way, Ellen and I recreated our off-road adventure the last time I was there for a visit. Denene was at her mother’s tending to her health issues and I was at Ellen’s to take her to begin the first of her cancer tests. Obviously, with Denene two-hours away, there was not an adult present in our vehicle when Ellen and I made the decision to stomp the pedal to the floor and hope we came out on the other side of the mud and deep ruts. An adult would never, not in a million years, approve of what we’d done.

Yes, we still giggled like little kids, even decades later. Of course, driving off-road in a pit of mud while driving a rental vehicle seemed a bit less insane.

Ah, nothing like a bit of quality dad/daughter time … But it was a memory we shared and doggone it, we did it again simply because we could and because, for some reason, it felt like the right thing to do … at the time.

And she’s still my little girl.

 

Priorities: Fire, Red Rubber Balls, and Family

Priority: a thing regarded as having more importance than that of another.

As the Atlas fire, the inferno here in Northern California that destroyed over 50,000 acres, crept closer and closer to our neighborhood, Denene and I were forced to decide what to take with us should we need to evacuate. Clearly, a few of our priorities differed … greatly.

Denene remained fixated on family photos, antique silverware, important papers, clothing, and the like. Me, I went straight for the meat … books. Realizing, of course, I couldn’t take all the reading material lining our shelves, I selected three. Two are antiques that mean quite a bit to me. The third was a signed book with a personal inscription. I have several signed books and they’re each extremely valuable, but this one has special significance.

Next, I carefully wrapped and packed three rocks. Two of the stones came from Mt. St. Helens. The third is a rock featuring a hand-painted image of Barney Fife. My daughter painted it for me.

I selected a small airplane made from tongue depressors and a narrow piece of wood. Tyler, my grandson, made it for me when he was super young. An antique carpenter’s level, Jew’s harp, and an old and quite rusty Ballantine beer opener also found their way into my “go bag.” They belonged to my grandfather. A paperweight my father gave me when I first became a detective, drawing supplies, a hat gifted to me by a friend, an item signed by the Oak Ridge Boys, and my name/desk plates (police) from my old office. Each of those things went straight into my case.

Of course, when the time came to leave our home I also grabbed photos, computers, chargers, cash, and checkbooks. And yes, our entire family of Alexas and Echo tagged along, as did Dead Red Fred who, by the way, was in a huge hurry to leave. All his life he’s had a fear of being melted down and made into a little red rubber ball.

But, we’re back home now, all safe and sound. I greatly appreciate all the well-wishes and prayers. I also deeply appreciate the outstanding efforts of the firefighters, police, sheriff’s deputies, air support, CHP, National Guard, and others who worked around the clock to save as much property and as many lives as possible.

Priorities

I also thank you for the thoughts and prayers for our daughter who underwent emergency surgery last week. She’s recovering from that procedure but the situation is ongoing, and serious. We appreciate your continued prayers. The same for Denene’s mother. Her situation is ongoing and serious. My brother is scheduled for surgery in a few weeks.

My priorities remain with my family.

“Things,” signed books and rocks and airplanes and yes, even Dead Red Fred, can all be replaced.

#Priorities #SorryDeadRedFred


Priority: a “thing” regarded as having more importance than that of another.

I suppose the level of importance depends upon where and with whom in your mind the “thing” lives.

 

Blood, and it’s MINE!

Busy night.

Long night.

Tired.

Robbery.

Domestic.

Juveniles.

Drunk driver.

Break time.

Coffee,

Sounds good.

Window,

Down.

Night air.

Cool, damp.

Traffic light.

Winking red.

Right turn.

Skinny dog,

In alley, limping.

Wino, in doorway.

Smile, no teeth.

A car.

Two teens,

Nervous glance.

Speed limit.

Exactly.

Glance, in mirror.

Tail lights.

Brake lights.

Signal light.

Left turn.

Gone.

Storm drain.

Steam.

Wispy tendrils,

Melting into black sky.

Radio,

Crackle.

Then …

“Fight-in-progress.”

“Tip-Top Bar.”

“Weapons involved.”

“Knives.”

“10-4,

Enroute.”

Blue lights.

Siren.

Parking lot.

Gravel, crunches.

Siren, stops.

“Hurry, Officer!”

Crowd, circled.

Two men.

Metal, flashes.

Step.

Grab.

Wrist turn-out.

Take-down.

Knife in hand.

Suspect on floor.

Handcuffed.

Blood.

Everywhere.

Mine.

Hospital.

Stitches.

Gun hand …

Again.

Should’ve been a writer.

Much safer.

Life Is Fair

“How could you say that life is fair, knowing this was coming?” she whispered while using a stubby finger to trace the letters of her brother’s name on the marble headstone. He’d just turned fifty-three when the brain tumor took him five days ago. “It’s just not fair, not at all.”

Her dying mother’s final breath and her sister’s pain-filled last days weighed heavily on her mind. Lung cancer. At the end, both were barely more than skin-draped skeletons.

She had never known her father. He’d died when she was still an infant. Doctors said they’d found a mass in his stomach. Inoperable.

A gust of cold December wind caused her to draw her thin sweater tightly to her plump body. A few red and gold maple leaves spun and twirled along the winding asphalt drive, making faint ticking and flicking sounds as they passed.

Another brother, the one closest to her own age, was currently in the care of hospice workers. No chance of survival. If he lived until Friday he’d be lucky. If, that is, being fed through a tube and having a constant flow of morphine running into your veins could be considered lucky.

Speaking of luck, five days ago her own doctor had given her only a few short weeks to live. The one remaining lung had finally let her down, as had the toxic one they’d cut from her body two years before. Never smoked a single cigarette in her life. Not even a puff. How’s that for good fortune?

The night she received the devastating news from the physician, she’d sat, alone, looking through tears at yellowed and tattered photograph albums, wondering how she would make use of her remaining time.

And that’s the moment she’d understood the meaning of her brother’s words.

Life is more than fair.

It’s death that is so unjust.

She stood and brushed the freshly-turned grave dirt from her knees and walked toward her family, vowing to spend her remaining time living and fighting, not dying.


#cancer

For support, click American Cancer Society Support Groups

PTSD and Me: The Monster Who Lives Inside My Head

He’s here,

Again.

The monster inside my head.

Scratching.

Clawing.

Digging,

At my skull.

Eyes wide open.

Leave me alone,

Please!

Dark.

Moonlight.

Clock,

Tick, tick, ticking.

Night sounds.

Refrigerator whirs.

Air conditioner hums.

Tick, tick, tick.

Owl hoots.

Cricket chirps.

Tick, tick, tick.

Then quiet.

So quiet.

A scream!

From inside?

Him, or me?

He’s there.

In front of me.

Behind me.

Over there.

No, over there.

Laughing.

Maniacal and hysterical.

Bullets.

Blood.

Bullets.

Twitching.

Quivering.

Like an animal,

Dying.

Flowers.

Roses.

Prayers.

Damp soil.

Tears.

Sadness.

But,

You did your job.

Sure,

Easy for them to say.

He shot first.

So …

Anxiety.

Fear.

Depression.

Insomnia.

Can’t sleep.

He’s here.

Again.

The monster in my mind.

Scratching.

Clawing.

Digging,

At my skull.

Eyes wide open.

Why every night?

I only killed him once.

After the shooting


* If you are in a crisis please seek help. You cannot do this alone. Call 911, go to your nearest emergency room, talk to your doctor, or call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK).

Huck-a-Bucking for Beginners: Square-Dancing Gone Wrong

Every department has at least one officer who doesn’t quite beat the same drum as the others. His, or her, rhythm is slightly off. They can’t quite fit in no matter how hard they try. Sure, everyone likes this person, and they don’t really do anything that’s too weird, yet they always seem to do, well dumb stuff.

Enter my friend Franklin and his first experience with, well, this …

The honky-tonk nightclub was situated just outside the city limits. They were open for business on Saturday nights only and the place was so popular it didn’t take long for the gravel parking lot to fill to capacity with souped-up cars and dented and dusty pickup trucks with gun racks mounted in the rear windows.

Male patrons slicked their hair with Brylcreem or Butch Wax and they wore their best jeans, Stetson hats, dinner-plate-size belt buckles, and spit-shined cowboy boots. Many strapped hunting knives to their belts—their handles carved from deer antlers or hunks of wood cut from trees that once stood on family land.

Women curled and teased their hair until it reached heights only before seen by birds, power company linemen, and airline pilots, and then they loaded it with enough Aqua Net to keep it tightly in place for an entire evening of two-stepping and do-si-doing. They slipped into their finest square-dancing dresses and they waited on the front porch for one of those gussied-up farm trucks to pull into the driveway, and when it did … well, “Yipee ki-yay” the night had begun.

This club, the 95 Dance Hall, allowed brown-bagging (bring your own liquor), otherwise known as BYOB—bring your own bottle—because they didn’t have a license to sell alcohol. but they did supply ice and various mixers/chasers. The ice was freshly cracked from 50 lb blocks purchased that afternoon from the local ice and coal business.

Club workers filled galvanized washtubs with the ice and it was free for the taking, with the price of admission. In addition to counter-wiping and keeping a layer of fresh sawdust on the floor (the ground wood made for a better dance surface, so I was told), they refilled the metal containers throughout the evening as the frozen chunks of water melted.

By 10 pm, the 95 Dance Hall was flat-out jumpin’. The band, the Virginia Barn Dance Boys, was in high gear—fiddling, steel-guitaring, banjo-picking, and yodeling to all get out. Dresses twirled. Boot heels clicked and tapped against the wood flooring. Drinks disappeared. Bottles emptied. Then the inevitable happened … somebody winked at somebody’s best girl. The place quickly erupted into a free-for-all. Fists. Chairs. More fists. More chairs. Then, a knife. And then some blood. And then a call to the sheriff’s office. “HELP!”

Now’s when I’ll introduce you to our department’s “one guy.” Remember the description above … doesn’t quite beat the same drum, etc. etc.? Okay, this is Franklin (not his real name). Franklin is a thin black man. He’s quiet. Shy. Rarely speaks. Wears glasses. His uniform, the brown over tan, was always, without fail, neatly pressed with creases sharp enough to cut paper, and shoes so shiny they reflected moonlight on a cloudy night.

Franklin did not like to get his clothes dirty. He freaked out if a speck of mud marred the surface of his shoes. He wore a tie even when it wasn’t required. And he did not, absolutely did not, would not, nor ever would, exceed the speed limit.

Franklin was my friend, a good friend too. But he was a bit quirky.

I’d seen Franklin heading to murders-in-progress with red lights flashing and spinning and siren wailing and screaming, but driving at 45 mph with both hands on the wheel while leaning so close to the steering wheel that it nearly rubbed his chin at every curve and turn (he couldn’t see very well at night was his explanation for leaning close to the windshield).

This particular night there were four of us working the late shift—Franklin, two others, and me—and we were all dispatched to the “fight with weapons call.” Having been to a few of those calls at the nightclub over the years I knew we’d be outnumbered. Therefore, since I’ve never been all that fond of pain, I requested backup from the state police and from a nearby city.

By the time we arrived, the fight had spilled out into the parking lot. So we, three deputies and several backup officers from surrounding jurisdictions, began the task of breaking up the massive brawl, which quickly turned into a “them against us” battle.

Well, we were well into the thick of it when we heard a squalling and yelping siren coming our way. A few seconds later a brown sheriff’s office patrol car rolled slowly into the parking lot with siren and lights still in full “I mean business” mode. It was, of course, Franklin, the fourth member of the night shift.

Seriously, you’ve got to picture this to appreciate it. Fifteen cops and forty or so cowboys going to it in the parking lot. Fists flying, books kicking, handcuffs clicking, batons swinging, clothing torn and dirty, heads bruised from contact with our lead-filled leather saps and wooden nightsticks, faces bruised and jaws stinging from fists covered with brass knuckles. And Franklin, calmly exiting his police car, then smoothing the wrinkles from his pants before slowly walking toward the massive battle.

Suddenly, it was like he, shiny-shoed Franklin, was sucked into a vacuum. In the blink of an eye, he was pulled into the fracas and was doing his best to restrain, arrest, and, well, he was basically doing his best to stop people from hitting him.

We eventually gained control and arrested every fool we could lay our hands on, and those troublemakers were hauled away to jail. Those of us who remained on the scene went inside the dance hall to speak with potential witnesses to a couple of pretty nasty stabbings. Franklin was one of the deputies who accompanied me inside.

We were a motley crew to say the least—clothing dirty, shoes scuffed, blood stains here and there, and cut and bruised and sufficiently battered.

Franklin looked as if he’d been dragged through a hog pen, beaten by club-wielding cave people, and then run through the hand-cranked wringer of his grandmother’s antique washing machine. His glasses sat slightly askew on the bridge of his nose. His upper lip was cut and the lower bruised and swollen.

When we stepped from the darkness into the festive interior of the 95 Dance Hall, the lead guitar player of the Virginia Barn Dance Boys was in the process of calling a square dance. Dancers on the floor dipped and swirled and twirled and ducked and hopped like their lives depended on their actions.

The music was horrible. The fiddle sounded screechy. The drummer’s timing was off. First he was a half beat too fast, then his sticks tapped slightly slower than the rest of group’s caterwauling. The guy on the acoustic guitar apparently had never learned to properly tune his instrument. But the crowd did not care. They were dancing like it was their nine-to-five job. Like the world would end if they didn’t go at it like grizzly bears defending their turf.

Franklin did not move into the club any further than five feet from the front double wooden doors. He simply stood there blinking his eyes as he looked at the spinning and blinking colored lights. At the dancers. The condensation-covered ice tubs that were now half full of water. Franklin looked like a kid at the circus for the first time.

When we finally wrapped up our investigation and were standing outside in the parking lot beside our respective patrol cars, I asked Franklin if he was okay. His battered lips split into a slightly crooked smile before he said, “I’m fine. It’s just that I’ve never seen so many white people at one time in their own environment. And they were Huck-a-Bucking their asses off. Is that how all of you dance when no one else is around? This (he pointed to the club) is just bizarre.”

Franklin shook his head from side to side and turned to walk away, but stopped to look back over his shoulder. He said, “You know I’m going to have nightmares over this, right?” Then he playfully two-stepped back to his car and just before climbing in he raised an arm over his head to give a thumbs-up. He let out a loud, “Yee-Haw!” as he slid into the driver’s seat.

We all stood there in silence, and disbelief that Franklin had displayed some sort of emotion and a bit of humor. It was way out of character for him. We watched Franklin pull out onto the highway where he sped away, at no more than 45 mph, of course. He tooted his horn twice before rounding the curve that took him out of view.

To this day, whenever I see someone square-dancing on TV I immediately think of Franklin’s descriptive term for those specific gyrations and swirls and twirls.

Huck-A-Bucking: a traditional dance where participants spin, twirl, stomp, duck, and bow to their partners while semi-following the instructions yelled out to them by a band leader who’s sometimes referred to as a caller. When mixed with alcoholic beverages, huck-a-bucking can quickly switch from fun to fighting. Although, fighting is sometimes considered fun by avid huck-a-buckers. but not to Franklin, a one of a kind sheriff’s deputy.

Yee-Haw, y’all!

20160224_114510

 

From A Cop’s Perspective: What You Didn’t See

Officer Idu Thebestican feels as if he faces a no-win situation each day he puts on his uniform, and he stopped by today to tell why he feels that way. Here’s what the officer had to say …

Today I found a lost grandmother. She has Alzheimer’s and wandered off into a wooded area near a rocky and steep ravine. I sat with her and held her hand until her family arrived to take her home. You didn’t see that.

I got pretty banged up while breaking up a nasty fight between two large men. They were angry over a ref’s call at a kid’s soccer game. You didn’t see that.

A convenience store was robbed by two masked men carrying handguns. I caught one of the robbers after a five-block foot pursuit. He fired a shot at me but missed. Luckily I was able to wrestle the gun from his hand. You didn’t see that.

You didn’t see that!

Two cars crashed head-on, killing everyone inside. I helped remove the bodies, including one of a tiny baby. You didn’t see that.

A bloody face and a broken arm on an eight-year-old girl. Her intoxicated father did that to her and I was there in time to stop him from killing his daughter. I took the punches that were intended for her. You didn’t see that.

I was stabbed and cut in the side by a woman trying to stop me from arresting the husband who’d just beaten her until she was black and blue. It took 30 stitches to close the wound. You didn’t see that.

A drunk man was trapped in a burning house. I ran in and pulled him out. Burned my hands and face a bit, but the man survived. You didn’t see that.

I changed a flat tire for two elderly woman who were on their way to Florida. You didn’t see that.

I worked three straight shifts without sleep or meals while trying to catch a guy who’d raped and murdered a teenager. You didn’t see that.

I bought a meal for a homeless man, and then joined him for lunch. He’d served in the military and suffers from severe PTSD. You didn’t see that.

I stopped to throw a few footballs with some young boys. You didn’t see that.

#HeStoleMyPopTart

(click the link above to see Officer Norman at work play)

I adopted a needy family at Christmas time and bought them gifts, and my wife and I delivered a holiday meal to them. You didn’t see that.

But you chose to see me when I responded to 911 call in your neighborhood, with all of your friends standing around, and you closed in on my personal space with your face just inches from mine to shout, “Murderer!” even though I’ve never killed anyone.

You threw rocks at me while I patrolled your street, trying to keep you safe from robbers, burglars, and killers.

You spit on me while I was arresting a guy in your neighborhood. It didn’t matter to you that he’d just committed an armed robbery of an old lady and that he’d roughed her up a bit in the process. To you, though, I was the bad guy. “F*** You! All cops are murderers!” you screamed at me while impressionable little children looked on. Those kids had no way of knowing that I’d never pulled my gun from its holster other than to clean it or qualify at the range.

A police officer a thousand miles away did something to dishonor HIS badge, yet you blame me. Why? I didn’t come to arrest you when I caught your friend climbing in that lady’s bedroom window. I don’t run out to punch a random doctor in the face simply because a physician somewhere in Maine botches a surgery on a cop I don’t know personally. It’s not supposed to work that way in a civilized society. Besides you’ll never catch me defending a cop who knowingly breaks the law.

From A Cop’s Perspective: What You Didn’t See

Here’s what it’s like from my point of view.

When I’m off duty and our kids are on the field playing sports, or we’re both sitting side-by-side at a community picnic and it’s as if we’re best buddies. But the moment I put on the uniform I’m suddenly the enemy. Your enemy. And it’s for no reason—your transformation—other than my clothing and something I didn’t do, that your hatred for me begins to fester and boil over.

Believe me, I don’t change. But you do.

And I see it.

 

ZZ Top Was My Backup. Yes, “That” ZZ Top

Saturday 2345 hours – It was not at all unusual for the sheriff to schedule his patrol deputies to work the graveyard shift alone, covering the entire county with our nearest backup—a state trooper or a police officer from a nearby city, or a deputy or two from the next county over—sometimes 30-45 minutes away, or more.

At first, the thought of covering such a vast amount of real estate was a bit daunting. But we did it without complaint. After all, to question the high sheriff, a man as rough and gruff as any typically stereotyped southern TV sheriff, was practically a death sentence. Or, at the very least, a guaranteed trip to the unemployment line.

The boss seemed to enjoy applying pressure, holding his employees held tightly beneath his thumb. Needless to say, at times conditions, were a bit stressful, to say the least.

So this particular Saturday night, after enjoying a nice, hot TV dinner (single dad with daughter away for the weekend), I did the usual routine of walking to my driveway where I took a seat behind the wheel of my milk-chocolate-brown patrol car. I checked the light bar and wig-wag headlights to be sure they were working properly, moved a pair of cheap sunglasses from the dashboard to the center console, and then used the radio to let dispatch know I was on duty.

10-41, the 10-code in our neck of the woods for “On-Duty”

A few minutes later I was deep in the county, making the rounds to the various businesses—hotels, restaurants, bars, convenience stores, nightclubs, etc.—to let the night shift employees and partiers see a police car cruising through the parking lots. Not that it was any real crime deterrent, but it made the lonely clerks feel better. Seeing another human let them know they weren’t alone in the world. Those of you who work the late-night shifts know the feeling.

I also drove through the lots of businesses that had closed hours earlier, shining my spotlight through storefront windows and into alleyways, checking doors, and calling in the license plates and VIN numbers of cars that shouldn’t be parked where they were (sometimes a quick check revealed a stolen car or one that was used while committing a crime).

0115 hours – A little over an hour into the shift and I’d already covered a lot of ground. Nothing major had occurred. I’d checked a vehicle I spotted a hundred yards down a dirt path—a couple of half-dressed teens who’d steamed up the windows in dear old dad’s station wagon—, stopped a car that  suddenly veered from one side of the road to the other (the guy, a sort of rough boy with a large scorpion tattoo on his neck, said he’d dropped a Twinkee onto the floorboard and was trying to retrieve it, causing him to jerk the steering wheel).

I was heading to the north side of the county to make my rounds there when dispatch called to report a disturbance at a south-side hotel next to the interstate. She said she’d heard yelling in the background and then what could’ve been gun shots. I was at least 20 minutes away.I made the trip in fifteen, driving like a bat out of hell with my foot jamming the accelerator to the floor.

On the way, my alternating headlights, the rotating overhead lights, and the strobes in the back window, all winked and blinked and flashed at once, but were totally out of sync with one another. To add to the confusing light show, Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog spewed from the car speakers. John Bonham’s syncopated drumming, already sort but not quite of out of time with Page’s lightning-fast guitar licks, added a Twilight-Zonish back-beat to a constantly revolving kaleidoscope that should have been quite distracting. I, however, paid it no mind. Tunnel vision is normally a cop’s nemesis. This time, however, it kept my focus on the roadway and not the ten ring circus that was going on in and outside of my patrol car.

As I approached the chain hotel’s parking lot I turned off my lights and the radio (Zeppelin had long since finished their time on the turntable and the Beatles were then in high gear). I keyed the mic and signed 10-23 (arrived at scene).

The lot was packed with cars of all types, but I saw no signs of a fight. I decided to drive around the hotel to hopefully get a feel for what was going on before speaking with the night manager (often, callers exaggerate situations).

When I rounded the first corner I quickly realized that this was no exaggeration. I needed backup, and plenty of it. There must have 200 people outside, with at least 75 engaged in a massive fight. There were another 15 or 20 going at it on the upper walkways.

I told the dispatcher to send everyone and everyone she could find. A second later I heard the dispatcher calling for troopers and any other available help from the nearest city. Shoot, they could’ve sent every cop on the payroll and that still wouldn’t have been enough to suit me. At that point, I’d have welcome a boy scout troop and a church choir as long as they didn’t mind possibly loosing a couple of teeth.

I even saw one woman in the midst of delivering a flurry of punches to the head of another woman. The recipient of the vicious pounding was overdressed for parking lot brawling, to say the least. I say this because each time she was struck, the pearl necklace she wore whirled around her neck like a cowboy’s lasso.

10-33, our 10-code for “Officer Down” or “Officer Needs Assistance”

Delivering the “Hot Sauce.”

I checked my arsenal of weapons. I had my Beretta 9mm, a PR-24 (side handle baton), a riot-size can of pepperspray, and a shotgun. I looked back to the crowd. Then back to my little 9mm and tiny PR-24. Both seemed to be shrinking in size as the seconds passed. The odds were not in my favor.

I sounded a blast from my siren, hoping the masses would realize that the police were on the scene and ready to start kicking butt and taking prisoners. Nothing. No reaction whatsoever. Time for plan B, to sit in my car and wait for the cavalry, meanwhile, hoping the crowd wouldn’t turn my car over on its roof with me inside.

But doing nothing was just not in my nature. Instead, and sort of foolishly, I got out of my car with my trusty side-handle baton in my left hand and the other on my still-holstered gun. Somebody, and I didn’t care who, was going to jail.

Luckily, the troops began to arrive just as I hitched up my pants and waded into the pile, spraying a mist of pepperspray as I went. The other officers entered the fracas at different points, and we began to separate the instigators from those who really didn’t want to fight, but were because everyone else was doing it. Still, this was an all out brawl, the kind where police defensive tactics are often abandoned in favor of the ever popular “do-watcha-gotta-do” tactics. In fact, I remember seeing one officer using a baseball bat to prevent a group of men from attacking him. Where he got the bat, I haven’t a clue.

Eventually, the group’s size diminished and we were able to gain control with very few bruises, scrapes, and torn uniforms. Each of us arrested as many people as we had handcuffs and other restraints, and we had them packed in police cars like sardines. I’d arrived there alone, but left leading a long caravan of assorted police cars from several jurisdictions.

Once each of the little darlin’s had been booked and tucked in for the night, I thanked everyone for their help and watched as they all drove away. It was nearly 0500 when I headed back to the county for a final pass of the night.

0520 hours – Dispatch called to report a fight at yet another south-side hotel. Yes, she’d said, there were weapons involved and shots had been fired. Ironically, ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man was playing on the radio at the time I received the call. I looked down at the spot where my badge used to be attached to my shirt. My shoes were scuffed and my pants had streaks of ground-in asphalt across the knees and along the side of one leg. The knuckles on my gun hand hurt and my lower lip was swollen. Sharply dressed, I was not.

ZZ Top Was My Backup. Yes, “That” ZZ Top

I switched on my emergency lights and siren and mashed the gas pedal to the floor. Then I turned up the volume on the radio and I and ZZ Top headed south like a bat out of hell.

“Clean shirt, new shoes, and I don’t know where I am goin’ to…”

Man, I loved that job.

But these days, well, I’m 10-42 … Off Duty

Have mercy
A haw, haw, haw, haw

 

Save a Cop, Ride a Bearcat

Before you read the first word word of the article below, I want you to know that it’s far from what I normally present to you. If the following text offends you, well, let me say right now that I apologize. I do not, however, apologize for the message. So here goes…

There’s been lot’s of name-calling and outright hatred spewing from the mouths of many people who are totally against law enforcement agencies utilizing what some are calling military-like equipment—armored vehicles, camouflage and/or night-black uniforms, Kevlar helmets and other protective gear, and automatic weapons. Those are only a few of the despised items, by the way. The list is long.

Police Equipment is Scary!

I recently read an article where the author, a “news” reporter, wrote that police officers absolutely do not need any of the aforementioned gear and equipment, nor should any of it be made available to them. The writer went on to say that officers should return to the days of six-shooters, avoid physical confrontations, and never, ever use deadly force. Instead, the writer suggested that officers should simply talk bad guys into giving up their weapons and ask them to surrender. No surrender? In that case, he stated that officers should be taught to passively disarm and handcuff the naughty folks and cart them off to jail.

Bearcats are nothing more than metal boxes on wheels

Obviously, this person lives on a planet other than earth. And, there’s no doubt the author of that ridiculous piece has never, not once, come face-to-face with the business end of a gun or knife. Well, Mr. Don’t-Know-S**t, I’ve ducked a few rounds in my day. I’ve been cut and stabbed more than once. And I’m only one of thousands of officers who’ve “been there, done that”, and in my day things were nowhere near as bad as they are now.

It’s not a good feeling to think you’re about to die because some two-bit thug would rather shoot you or stab you than be arrested. By the way, a thug is a criminal. The term has nothing to do with race. Skin color makes no difference to me. A thug is a thug is a thug—green, blue, purple, or pink.

Metal boxes on wheels are soooo …. spooky, right? No weapons whatsoever! (Writers’ Police Academy photo)

Okay, where was I? Stabbings, I believe, and I’ll be the first to say that those particular wounds hurt. Knife wounds are extremely painful, actually. I occasionally feel/imagine the pain from my old wounds. It seems very real, at times. And to make stabbings and cuttings even worse, I’m not fond of bleeding so profusely that my hands are slimy and slick to the point where I can’t hold onto my pistol or handcuffs, not to mention struggling to arrest and handcuff the bad guy who’s trying to puncture my liver with his mom’s best carving knife.

Today’s bad guys are armed to the teeth. They train to fight and they practice shooting. They study police officers, trying to find their weaknesses. They develop ways to beat the system. And they kill cops. Let me say that again to be sure you heard me, Mr. Anti-Cop-Writer.

BAD. GUYS. KILL. COPS.

It’s almost like a game, or a badge of honor. Many of these killers are cowards, so they use high-powered rifles to ambush officers from safe distances. Some even ambush cops while they’re enjoying a meal, like the two cop-killers in Las Vegas a while back. Of course, there are the baby and child murderers who go to schools and shoot little kids to death. They, too, have used high-powered rifles. Whatever it takes to kill.

Do you think it’s fun entering a building not knowing what, or who, is waiting on the inside? How about entering a school full of kids and teachers, knowing a killer is there salivating at the idea of killing you. Sounds like a great time, doesn’t it?

Do you, Mr. Article-Writer, truly believe that cops enjoy the fear that causes them to sweat when the temperature outside is below freezing? Is it the perfect day when you tremble and feel your heart pounding against the inside of your chest because deep inside you know you could be shot and killed at any moment?

Save a Cop, Ride a Bearcat

Even more horrifying is knowing that children are being slaughtered while you step across the lifeless bodies of those already dead. Sure, you’re hoping to save those still alive, but will you get to them in time? If only you had some of that protective gear, like the Kevlar helmet that would stop a bullet from ripping through your skull like a hot knife through butter. A real hoot, isn’t it? Yeah, a real knee-slapper. Fun, fun, fun.

The mere sight of the rear compartment of a police Bearcat is terrifying to all who enter. OMG, It’s a freakin’ metal box that stops bullets. That’s it!

Image this, just for a second, Mr. I-Hate-Cops. You’re at work, clacking away at the keys on your laptop, when the guy in the next cubicle stands up and yells, “I hate you!” Then he pulls out a pistol and shoots you and your coworker, Bobby Jenkins. No warning. Just four or five rounds to your head. The same to Mr. Jenkins, the former father of three little girls.

Or, your boss sends you to a client’s house to pick up some paperwork. You knock on the man’s door and the last thing you hear in your short 37 years of life, is a shotgun blast. Just like that, Mr. Do-Not-Know-What-I’m-Talking-About, your wife is left to raise your kids and care for your elderly mother while maggots feed on your flesh and beetles slurp up what’s left of your internal organs.

MRAPs Need Love, Too!

Would you not want all the protection you could possibly have to prevent being killed? Is it really so horrifying to see a cop wearing a pair of camouflage pants and vest, knowing that those simple things would help him make it home safe and sound, where his kids could feel his arms around them one more time?

In 2016, Dallas police were ordered to leave their protective gear behind during a protest. Five officers were killed and nine others wounded – because politicians thought the protective equipment might offend someone.

Are you, Mr. Cold-Hearted-and-Clueless, so offended by a bulletproof steel box on wheels that you don’t value the lives of the men and women inside?

MRAPs save officer lives. They are not TANKS!! No weapons. none!

Those tools—that’s all they are, you know, not some evil contraptions built by a zombie king—keep officers safe. They keep the officers inside safe, and they keep them alive.

I know, you’d rather that police officers run into a hail of automatic gunfire carrying only a whistle and some really stern words. Well, Mr. S**t-For-Brains, I invite you to search for an armed cop killer in a dark warehouse, carrying only your mighty keyboard for protection. And when a robber kicks in your door and grabs your wife or daughter, don’t call 911. Instead, I want you to aim your computer mouse right between the rapist’s eyes and tell him to drop his weapon and leave your home immediately. Better yet, grab a whistle and blow it. I’m sure he’d tuck his tail and flee. Be sure to tell him he’s a naughty boy as he runs away.

Your argument, Mr. Chicken-S**t, about law enforcement wasting your tax money on those “so-called” toys is totally invalid. The equipment you see making its way into police departments is mostly surplus military equipment, and it’s free to law enforcement through various grants. I was in charge of the program at my department, and I made regular trips to a DOD warehouse to pick up various much-needed items.

Sure, I could’ve grabbed a hovercraft or a couple of armored vehicles because they were there for the asking and taking. Otherwise, the stuff just sits and collects dust and rust. Actually, there are acres and acres of unused rusty and dusty military equipment, so why not put it to good use protecting the lives of the men and women who keep even your sorry hind parts safe.

It’s Free and It Saves Lives

So there, I’ve had my say and I probably won’t address this topic again. As for the author of the article I read, well, it was obvious he’d used only the information needed to push his one-sided agenda (and possibly to sell a book or increase ratings). Unfortunately, people will read the piece and form a conclusion based on nothing more than one man’s hatred of something he knows nothing about. Absolutely nothing.

Finally, and this is to Mr. I-Hope-We-Never-Meet, I want you to understand something—many good men and women have died this year in the line of duty. They were out there protecting us.They did not  deserve to die.

Some of those murdered officers were shot to death by ambush or other means. But it doesn’t matter how they were killed. What does matter is that they died while running toward the gunfire, when necessary, not by running away from danger. Had they been inside one of those free armored vehicles at the time, Mr. Article-Writer, well, chances are they’d still be here with us and their families, including small children.

Important facts

German book translator Jeannette Bauroth behind the wheel of a police MRAP – No on-board weapons. None!

– One police officer dies every 58 hours.

– Nearly 60,000 officers are violently assaulted each year.

– There are are occasional stories about “bad cops.” Perhaps two or three in some weeks and none in others. Out of 900,000 police officers in the U.S., those numbers, even though bad, seem a bit smaller when looking at the whole picture. But the public rarely ever sees the big picture.

How many of these lives could have been saved had the officers been issued better protective gear/vehicles? Does the appearance of the equipment really matter more than the lives of good men and women who work long hours for low pay while protecting our families from harm? Wouldn’t you want your husband, wife, brother, sister, daughter, son, father, or mother to have everything possible to help keep them alive? Or, is a personal agenda/opinion more important than the healthy heartbeat of someone’s loved one?

I’ve heard this advice many times, Mr. Is-Probably-Afraid-of-Puppies-and-Rainbows, a real super-duper keyboard warrior, and it’s something you should try at least once … and that’s to write what you know. Hint … this topic wasn’t it.

Now I’m done…

*Please, no debate or arguments about gun control issues, or to bash cops. Take those things to your own sites, if you don’t mind. This stuff wears me out. Oh, no politics, race, or religion. They, too, wear me down.

*Photos of the police vehicles – Writers’ Police Academy. The reporter – typical keyboard warrior. No clue what life is like outside mom’s basement.

Grandfathers and Grandkids: Broken Tools

A weed eater that refuses to start no matter how many times I pull its cardiac-event-inducing rope. A leaf blower cut from the same cloth. An asthmatic air compressor. Pliers that no longer … ply (is that even a word?). And, well, you get the idea. My tools are broken.

It seems like just yesterday when I could sound the alarm, calling all my tools to be ready at a moment’s notice. And there they’d stand, handle to handle with looks of determination on their gleaming metal surfaces. Together, we could build or fix anything.

Recently, however, when I called my tools to action their response was lackluster at best. Why, it nearly took an act of congress (well, a congress that will actually do something) to get them out of their drawers and off the garage shelves.

When I finally managed to assemble my once faithful tools … well, I could hardly believe my eyes. What had happened to my rugged and sturdy friends? The screwdrivers, for example, were nervous and barely able to stop trembling long enough to connect with the slots on the screws needed to secure pictures and other do-dads to our freshly painted walls. Other hand tools were equally as shaky. It was a true puzzle. After all, they were all perfectly fine when I put them away after our last team venture.

#brokentools

Nuts, bolts, nails, and other fasteners were also in on the mysterious rebellion. The boxes of screws that line my workshop shelves quickly stepped forward to mess with me as well. That’s right, sometime between the last project and the new one, my assortment of sneaky drywall screws had reduced the size of the text on their containers. I couldn’t read the labels! I think it’s an attempt to prevent me from using any, keeping their twisted family members together.

There’s more—worn out wrenches, dead drill batteries, and to top it all off, my hammers are heavier than they used to be. What, I wondered, could they have possibly consumed that caused them to add all that extra weight? Was it due to a lack of exercise? Adding insult to injury, some prick glued my sledgehammer to the floor. Can’t budge it.

So, standing in the center of my workshop I slowly examined each item on each of the shelves. I was a visitor to an old-tools retirement home. Then it hit me, and my mind took me back to when I was a kid staying with my grandparents, something I did every summer.

Grandfathers Can Do Anything!

My grandfather was extremely handy. He could build, fix, paint, hammer with the best of them. In fact, he may very well have been the best fixer-upper man on the planet. In my eyes, he was the king of all things hammer and nails. I watched him work and, in turn, I learned his secrets. AND, I recalled that he performed his DIY miracles using…broken tools. Yes, his tools, too, were in a shoddy state—hints of decay, worn pull-ropes, dents, nicks, scratches, and so on.

Broken tools – life is short.
#brokentools

My fingers in those days, small and stubby, were not of sufficient length to fully close around the handle of my grandfather’s rusty-red pipe wrench. Nor were my young muscles strong enough to heft the blasted thing from its spot in my grandfather’s homemade wooden toolbox, a box filled with damaged goods. While digging through the vast assortment of antiquities, I remember thinking that when I grew up I’d never let my tools get in such a state.

My Grandfather’s Toolbox

Well, it’s been fifty years since I first dug my paws around in my grandfather’s toolbox. It took me that entire half-century to realize that broken tools are THE sign that someone has reached the threshold that divides the uphill climb of youth to the point where it all goes downhill. And there, my friends, is the place where I am today, in the midst of broken tools. I have become my grandfather.

Now, I could sit around the house and pout and whine about my advancing years and the dismembered and rusty work implements in my garage. But that’s not me. I’m not yet ready to totally succumb to the dreaded “broken tool syndrome.”

In fact, I did what all adult men should do at the first sign of the dreaded disease. I drove straight to a local home improvement store where I purchased a new, battery-powered weed eater and a battery-powered leaf blower. Why battery power? Because I’m too freakin’ old to pull those ropes! That’s why. Besides, the city doesn’t allow large livestock (grazing animals) in our yards. They do, however, allow residents to own a few chickens, but they only eat bugs, not grass and weeds.

Yes, my tools are broken, but I’m not stupid. I know I’ve grown older and arthritis doesn’t permit me to do many of things I used to enjoy. Yard work falls directly into this category. Sadly, I’ve had to hire a professional to assist me with my outdoor chores. Fortunately, we get along just fine. He’s a bit stubborn at times, but gets the job done.

By the way, the hammer pictured above (with the broken mirror) belonged to my grandfather. Prior to his ownership, it belonged to his father. I still use it.

Grandfathers and Grandkids: Broken Tools

I plan to pass on all of my grandfather’s tools to our grandson, Tyler. Actually, he first used a couple of them when he helped me with a project several years ago. His hands were small, too small to hold them properly, but he tried. We even used some of those tools to cobble together a few wooden toys—police tools. And then we played cops and robbers, for hours.

Several years have passed since those days. Tyler is now in high school. He’s a champion wrestler and martial artist with a room filled with trophies and numerous other awards.

It was an important moment for me, the day I first placed one of my grandfather’s tools into the hands of my grandson. Silly, I know. I also know the sentiment surrounding these tools will most likely fade with time, possibly as soon as the day I’m no longer here.

Still, I will rest easy knowing they’re in Tyler’s hands.

#ThankGodforkids #Grandkidstoo

#WilliamLeeGolden #OakRidgeBoys