Pot problem permeated county

Published 10:40 pm Monday, March 1, 2010

My buddy and sheriff, T.J. Lockhart, and I shared lots of laughs—while working or not. I loved to hear him laugh. I would laugh at some of his cases, and he would laugh at all my cases.

He was a diplomat for sure. One beautiful summer day was about to be spoiled as he showed up on my off day while I was “laid back” in my ragged shorts. There he was, as always, looking sharp—the best-dressed country sheriff I had ever seen.

“I want you to go with me,” was translated as, “take me for a ride in the boat.” You won’t need any pants; we’ll be back in a few minutes. Then he began to tell me his story. “Some folks on Walnut Creek are driving us nuts about some marijuana down here. Won’t let James Earl rest until we come down and get it.”

“Yes, I know. I checked it out once—a couple or three dried up plants in buckets, nobody around it, didn’t know whether it was being watched or what.”

“Well, I’m tired of hearing about it.”

“But sheriff, there are briars up there, and these shorts are no match for them—not to mention the snakes.”

He didn’t laugh but said, “Aw, come on.” Was Mr. Cool a little hot under the collar?

Standing there in that sharp sport coat, nice pants and shoes, we must have looked like some pair. I showed him what I had seen. It looked like they might have been watered.

We were walking back to the boat as we walked by an old fallen over shack. We stopped for a break and were talking about how much trouble a stupid weed has caused this country. We were laughing by then—something about the police academy.

“Have you ever smoked any?” “Are you kidding?! I can’t stand cigarette smoke!”

As I heard something moving inside, the sheriff said, “You stand here by this old window opening; I’m going in the front.”

I listened, I heard talking, and I laughed. If we get into a talking fight, T.J. would come out the winner.

I walked around the corner and could see some poor, very challenged soul lying on an old metal cot. I couldn’t understand anything he said—of course, I didn’t know why I was there.

In a couple weeks—I think it was July 4, a very busy weekend with boats everywhere—here comes a big boat with two or three families with children, and one man stands up and at arms length he was holding what looked like one of the plants.

“Here it is. Now what are you going to do about it?” Everybody could hear and see him getting louder and more provoking. I made my way over to his boat and said very carefully but load enough for all to hear, “Now, if you force me to make an arrest, you are the one with what looks like a marijuana plant!”

He dropped it like a hot potato!

That was the last I heard from the “committee.” By the way, I never heard the last of that smoking at the police academy story.