Another lesson learned

Published 9:41 pm Thursday, April 22, 2010

Everybody wants to ask me about my experiences with the “bad guys.”

To get the picture, you must remember that when the “Water Safety Division” was founded, even the name didn’t sound like much authority, and we were told to address everyone as if they were a “gentleman of the waterways.” In a perfect world, this would be great, but we had no handcuffs or a baton—not anything to defend ourselves.

So, after the police academy and being taught the use of handcuffs with someone out of control, I picked up $40,000 of equipment and was told, “Go get ‘em!”

The policy at the time was not to assign someone to his home county, but the chief said he was going to make an exception in my case. He really didn’t do me a favor as he sent me to Lay Lake and Shelby County.

I was much younger and in pretty good physical shape at the time, but most all these folks had never heard of anyone “being the law” on their “government waters.” Writing tickets or issuing citations was no problem, but what happens when you have someone having more fun than the law allows? Someone that doesn’t want a ticket, ain’t gonna have a ticket and is not going to do anything that I ask?

I can still remember how that fellow looked me in the eye after I had explained the alternatives. “Do you think you can take me to jail?” I was very quick to answer, “I don’t think I can—I know I can”—not thinking a second about the advantage he had in his entourage cheering him on.

Just that simple, there I was being as stupid as he was, actually going to war. But at this point, I had to take him or I could never come back. After what seemed like an hour scuffling around in the mud, I was finally able to put him in the boat and got him to stay in the boat.

I went down the lake not knowing whether my passenger was going to become hostile again, but it was amazing how much different he became the farther we were from his friends. I looked down and saw I was covered with mud and had ruined my pretty white shirt. But I won the prize: a muddy drunk. There’s got to be a better way!

Over a period of years, I learned a lot about the “bad guys,” but more important, I learned a lot about myself. It was only a few weeks later when almost the same situation arose. Have I learned anything?

This guy got in my face and asked, “Do you think you can take me to jail?” A smile was not what he expected, and he was a little off-balanced with my reply.

“Well, I don’t know, but there is one thing that I am sure of: I’m going to start to jail with you—what happens then depends a lot on you!”

I read a quote somewhere once: “Don’t let ‘em see you sweat!”