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A gun is a cop’s silent best friend. It’s always there for them when they need it, without fail. And it’s extremely low-maintenance—feed it a diet of fresh bullets along with a little Hoppes gun oil to wash them down, a bath for the little fella a bath every Saturday night, and don’t let them play in the rain and the dirt. That’s about it. But a pistol can be a touch on the sensitive side, so you must to cradle it gently, never letting it fall. And please remember to gently place a hand on their little butts whenever you find yourselves in a dangerous situation. It’s comforting.

That’s all your sidearm will ever ask of you. Nothing more, nothing less. And they’ll remain at your side forever.

I liked the feeling of a pistol on my side. Its weight provided a slight feeling of serenity even though the constant downward-tugging at my belt and waistline could be a bit annoying at times. And there’s that thing about the hammer insisting that it tear a hole in the lining of every jacket I owned. It’s … well, it was pretty darn aggravating, but you get used to it and move on.

Actual jacket with patch.

After all, a little patch, needle and thread, and you’re back in business. It’s the least you could do for your little one. Besides, your department gives you a clothing allowance, right?

A take-home car is another BFF. You drive them for so long that the foam seat cushion conforms to the shape of your rear-end. Unlike your relationship with the gun, though, you can get away with talking to your ride without anyone thinking you’ve finally stepped over into cop la-la-land.

And, we mustn’t forget the graveyard shift sing-a-longs that help keep you awake once the magic “fall-asleep-it’s-four-o’clock” hour rolls around. Belting out Delilah’s middle of the night tear-jerkers while cruising the backroads is almost as good at keeping you awake as a giant mug of jailhouse coffee.

On a more serious note, the bullet hole in the front fender is a constant reminder that the car “took” the one that was meant for you.

Yep, the three of you make a great team—the brains, the brawn, and the … well, there’s no “B” for the car, but it’s definitely an integral part of the trio. You go everywhere together. You’re inseparable. Day-in and day-out you do everything together.

Your two BFF partners are there for you when you’re up and they’re there when you’re down. They’re around during the tough times, through fights, saving lives, and through weddings and divorces. Through good days and sickness. The day you held the kid whose mother had just died in a car crash. And when you comforted the parents whose son took the overdose. When you sat behind the wheel and wept because you couldn’t reach far enough inside the burning car to pull the crying infant from the flames.

For twenty-five years, the three of you sacrificed everything to work in the rain, snow, and unbearable heat. You put in grueling, long hours. You worked with injured body parts and during times when family members were sick and dying. And you did it all for low pay and little recognition for your hard work.

And then the day finally comes … the day when the three of you are no more. You drive to work and park, not in your old space, the one you’ve parked in for years, but alongside a row of fleet cars … strangers. You walk inside for the last time and hand in the keys. Then it’s time to slip off the holster. The instant weight-loss feels horrible. Sliding the badge across the desk is worse. But you know the three of you have too many miles behind you to keep going. It’s time to say goodbye.

After all, there’s always a burger to flip. A mall to guard and shoplifters to nab. Flowers to plant and birdhouses to build.

I think I’ll grab a rod and reel and see if anything’s biting. Wanna join me?

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

Old Cop

Over the hill, they said. The nerve of those youngsters, with their shiny round faces and buzz-cut hairdos. Why, it was just ten or fifteen years ago when I could deftly place sixty rounds dead-center of the target, leaving nothing but an irregularly-shaped and tattered fist-size hole.

I could read a rear license place from a distance of twenty car lengths or more. And I could chase a punk for miles and then bring him down and handcuff him, like a rancher ropes a steer.  Toe-to-toe and fist-to-fist, I could hold my own against any combative man, or woman.

Push-ups … could do them all night long.

Pursuit driving … piece of cake.

Now, mere days after receiving my thirty-year service pin, well …

Each time I lift my left foot to put on a sock, there’s a strange and quite sharp pain that shoots through the hip on the same side. So I’ve resorted to slipping the sock over my foot while it’s flat on the floor. This works okay, but leaning over far enough to reach my toes tends to cause a painful twinge in my lower back.

Tomorrow we’re scheduled to re-qualify at the range. I hope I score the required 70%. Otherwise, you get a second try at it before the department sends you packing. Can’t shoot, can’t be a cop. Simple as that. The last time I was there I sort of pointed my gun at where I thought the middle of the target should be and then hoped for the best. I scored 72%. I was just happy I passed and was able to keep my job.

tired eyesEither bad guys are getting faster these days, or my old legs have decided they no longer care if we catch them or not. And my breathing … wow, when did all that wheezing start? I used to be able to run ten miles without feeling as if my inside were about to explode into tiny bits of fire.

Speaking of getting faster. Today’s crooks must be driving super-fast, souped-up cars because I can’t seem to keep up during pursuits. They dodge and weave and glide through traffic like an olympic figure skater slips and slides across an ice rink. Me, my movements are herky-jerky, at best. I think the patrol cars they give us these days are designed to resist quick steering and acceleration. And they definitely prefer to move along at slower speeds than the cars we used to drive twenty years ago. Man, those cars could cut through traffic like a freshly-honed paring knife slices through butter.

Police supply companies have lost all my respect. Believe it or not, they’re cutting corners like all other businesses. The shoes they sell us are horrible. I say this with authority. Yes, I know what I’m talking bout. These two feet of mine are screaming at the end of the day. I know, without a doubt, it’s the shoes. My feet are not to blame. Sure, there’s a little arthritis in the toes. Still … It’s the shoes.

It seems like just yesterday when I put my hands on someone to cuff them and they did not could not pull free. Today, these youngster must spend every waking moment in a gym because they, every one of them, are as strong as a team of plow horses.  It’s tough to get restraints around the wrists of these super-strong people. Women are equally as strong. It has to be them, because I’m just as strong as I ever was. Really, I am.

I’ve still not quite mastered the computer thing. I’d still rather hand-write reports. Or, the old Royal in the corner is still just as fast and good as ever. Ribbon’s almost new, too.

68 percentThe boss tells me there’s an opening in the evidence room. The job consists of taking stuff officers bring in, assign it a number, and then stick it on a shelf until someone comes by to pick it up. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. That’s the job. Day after day after day. She wants me to take it. I don’t want to. Can’t really make out all the fine print on those evidence labels. I guess my eyes are just tired after all those years of reading and writing detailed reports.

Maybe, though, I should take the sergeant’s advice. After all, she says, next time I go to the range I may shoot a 68.

And, well, a 68 just isn’t good enough …

… and I love my job.

Really, I do.