More than a pretty face

Published 9:55 pm Saturday, February 13, 2010

The word was out. There was a new officer coming to town.

This officer’s outstanding qualifications from the Police Academy preceded him. Was he really that good?That new officer was that good—and more. In fact, he was a conservation officer, and his name was Wanda Barnes!

Wanda really did something for that otherwise drab uniform, but she was more than just a pretty face. She was really a great officer—always a beautiful smile and bringing pride to the department.

We couldn’t help but wonder how she would handle some of the people who were not going to be respectable and were not going to respect her. It didn’t take long to build her reputation, not only as our most beautiful officer ever had but as someone who could and would stand her ground.

One day in court, she brought in one of those. Fishing below the dam, not wearing a life preserver, the offender took advantage of his right to “express himself,” using some pretty tough language. After the case, she brought another on the same subject—it seemed that while expressing himself for several minutes, he gave a parting word as he lit his last cigarette, crushed the package and threw it over into her boat. She began to write another ticket. “What are you doing now?” “That will be littering.” No more expression!

One very busy day on the lake, I think I remember it being July 4th, I met a boat coming out of Higgins Ferry at a high rate of speed and driving very erratic. I stopped to observe, and I could see a small baby bouncing around—not wearing a life preserver! I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t stop and instead made a large circle back into the dock, putting the baby out and taking off again. Don Giles had been observing him and got in the boat with me. We finally got him stopped over in Hatchett Creek, and he definitely was in no condition to operate a boat.

Where does Wanda fit in? Wanda and Prentis were down there but not in a boat. They placed the subject in my car, and Wanda looked at me with that little girl voice, “That’s my pizza man.”

Someone handed Wanda the poor baby, and the motherly instinct took over. She cuddled the baby with a wet diaper. I will never forget the look on her face as she walked toward me when we got back from jail, holding the poor baby who by now had a very, very dirty diaper. She was holding the baby at arm’s length this time!

We laughed about it the other day. She smiled and said, “I learned to always have a clean diaper with me.”

To this day, I can’t remember how I stuck her with the baby. What other officer would do that for their friend? I shall never forget the sunshine she brought with that beautiful smile. An outstanding officer—both Mr. and Mrs. Martin.