The PO-lice

In the South it is pronounced PO-lice with the accent on the first syllable.  My encounters with the PO-lice have been pleasant...for the most part.

I guess my first encounter with the thin blue line was when I applied for a drivers license.  I think I was fifteen.  The son-of-a-gun failed me twice before passing me.  It seems that he had objections to my running a stop sign once and not observing diligently enough to my left at an intersection the second time.  Heck, I learned to drive in the woods.  Details, damn it, details, but I was finally awarded the second greatest prize of all youths, a drivers license.

My first really negative encounter with a police officer occurred when I was backing out of a head-in parking space and grazed the bumper of the car to my right.  I asked my friend in the passenger seat to see if any damage had been done.  He looked and was satisfied that no damage to either vehicle had occurred.  In the old days, bumpers were made of steel, thick steel with a chrome finish.  If you ran into a tree, you and the tree both shook from the impact, but the bumper, although bent, would still be in place.  Bumpers brushing were not likely to cause damage.  Unfortunately, the bumper incident occurred across the street from the local police station.  Deputy-do-right came charging across the street chewing my butt out for causing the horrible accident.  At sixteen, I figured I had an equal right to chew his butt out for bothering me.  He retreated undoubtedly unhappy.

It was probably the same PO-liceman that I had a close encounter with a few months later.  At an intersection, the one right next to the police station, of course, I found myself halfway into a right turn simultaneously with a police car turning left.  We both stopped, looked at each other, and then I continued my right turn.  I guess what he expected me to do was to bow and allow him the right of way: he followed me for fifteen minutes.  When I made my first turn, I realized that he was waiting for me to make an error and followed me turn after turn.  Finally, undoubtedly bored, he gave it up.  Doggone it, get a life.

Fortunately, I was allowed to grow up and developed a whole different attitude about PO-licemen.  I guess what I realized was that the PO-lice are regular people trying to do a job which means they must deal with all sorts of folks, some nice, some jackasses.  Additionally, they have guns, badges, and attitudes.

After the early encounters with the PO-lice, I don’t think I even spoke to one until after I was married.  When we first married, drive-in movie houses were still in vogue, and Linda and I would often grab a six-pack and head to the drive-in.  I recall one evening after Linda and I had viewed The Godfather at a drive-in about fifteen miles from home, we were headed into Somerville.  The powers that be had decided the county needed a tri-colored traffic light in downtown Somerville.  At the time, it was the only tri-colored light in the county.  It was late, very late.  I could clearly see there was no traffic within several miles; therefore, I did the sensible thing and ran the red light.  It was just too late to wait.  As soon as I did, Linda said, “He’s coming after you.”  No problem.  I was only a quarter mile from home.  I drove into the driveway, turned off the lights, and headed in the house.  The good constable, an elderly gentleman, drove past the house.  Unfortunately, he had a couple of youthful ridealongs who pointed out his error.  He backed up.  I told Linda to go into the house, and I waited for him standing on my porch.  The old timer approached asking if I knew that I had run the red light.  I responded, “Yep, meant to run it.”  I didn’t want him to think I was a reckless driver.  This seemed to make him nervous and was having difficulty filling out the ticket.  I took it away from him and filled it out myself.  Crap, it was late.  That’s the doggone reason I ran the light in the first place.  The JP was not particularly kind when I told him the same thing I had told the constable.

Living in a small town, one tends to view the local PO-lice as friends even if you don’t personally know them.  One evening at about dusk, I started off on a quick trip to the school, only a few blocks away.  One-half block from the house, a local PO-liceman pulled me over.  I jumped out of my truck and inquired what he needed.  He, a fellow I’d never seen before, responded that I had a taillight out.  I thanked him, got back in my truck, and drove away.  About a half block later, it dawned on me that that was probably not the response he was looking for.  Oh, well.  I had the errant light mended the next day.

The first time I was stopped for speeding was in Vernon Parish in Louisiana.  We were on our way home after visiting Mom.  Beaudreax, the name I call all Louisiana PO-licemen, pulled me over for going 65 in a 55 mile per hour zone.  Linda has a perverse sense of humor when I’m stopped by a policeman.  She doesn’t even try to restrain her laughter.  When I was released by Boudreaux, Linda asked me if I could possibly have worked in one more “sir” while I was talking to the officer.  Funny woman.  Well, smart butt, maybe the “sirs” helped me get off with only a warning ticket.

I had one more incident in the same Parish a few years later traveling the other direction at about one in the morning.  My grandmother had passed away, and we were on our way to attend the funeral.  I guess I hadn’t noticed the officer’s lights quickly enough to satisfy him that I was just a speeder, not an outlaw.  He ordered me out of the car and back toward his.  I, of course, complied--gun, badge, attitude, you recall.  He first asked me where I was headed.  I had to laugh out loud because my explanation seemed like anything but the truth: “I’m going to my grandmother’s funeral.”  He then asked for my proof of insurance.  I provided it, but he expressed skepticism as to its authenticity.  He then asked for proof of ownership of the vehicle.  He accompanied me back to the car where I asked Linda if we had proof of ownership of the vehicle.  She responded, “Yes, it’s in the glove compartment, but we haven’t been able to open that for five years.”  I think it was at this point that he realized that he was not dealing with master criminals.  He asked if I thought that I could hold it down under the speed limit for the rest of our trip.  I responded, “Yes, sir, officer, sir.”  Of course, this caused Linda convulsions. 

I provided Linda with high entertainment a few years later when I was stopped twice in the same day.  We were headed back from Austin on a sunny day in a new car.  Perfect driving weather.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take note of the fact that the Federal government had recently mandated a maximum speed of 55 instead of the traditional Texas speed of 70.  That’s when the American people should have marched on Washington with pitchforks and tar and feathers.  Anyway, I passed a state policeman going in the opposite direction.  Linda was good enough to inform me he was turning around.  I immediately pulled over, parked, and waited.  I knew I had been driving over the speed limit.  The state officer came to my car window, asked for my license which I provided, and asked if there was any particular reason I was driving 76 miles per hour in a 55 zone.  I responded, “New car, nice day.  I surrender.”  At least he and Linda got a good laugh out of it.

With the ticket on the seat next to me, we headed home.  Within sight of Somerville, I was pulled over again, this time by a local PO-liceman.  While we waited on the local to arrive at my window, Linda informed me that the city limits had been moved about a half mile farther out on the highway.  Now you tell me?  I immediately made up my mind that I would have to go to jail because I was going to whip his butt if he gave me a ticket.  He informed me that I had been going sixty-seven in a fifty-five mile per hour zone.  Wonderful.  As he inspected my drivers license, he asked me what kind of car it was.  I responded, “Apparently, fast.”  I’m afraid that comment went over his head.  At any rate, once he saw that I was a local, he let me slide with a warning.  Linda was still chuckling days later.

I don’t recall Linda ever getting a ticket.  The one time she was stopped, I’m sure because she appeared too young to be driving a pickup truck, she fiercely made the police officer surrender in his contention that she had been speeding.  I’m sure she was correct, and I know how the policeman must have felt as he retreated.

I was once stopped in Brenham, a little town south of us, without an inspection sticker, proof of insurance, or my license.  The officer seemed to be sympathetic to my situation, and although he ticketed me, he let me continue on my way.  When I went to pay my tickets, it was the afternoon before the Thanksgiving holiday.  When I told the clerk what I was there for, she said, “Forget it.”  The books were closed and the holiday awaited.  Linda often complains that I’m unnaturally lucky.  Well, excuse me!

My brother, bless his departed heart, never seemed to understand that the PO-lice have badges, guns, and attitude.  Once when asked if he had been drinking as part of the officer’s investigation of a major accident in a parking lot, he replied, “Hell, yes.  What do you think?  I was going sixty in a parking lot.”

We had a burglary at our home.  Feeling obligated to at least inform the local police as to what had happened, I called them.  Two officers showed up, probably big city rejects, strangers to me.  I told them a small diamond necklace, a pistol, and a Dr.  Pepper had been taken.  Now you may ask, how the heck did we notice that a Dr. Pepper had been taken?  Well, it’s Linda’s house, and she apparently takes inventory each day.  The older officer kept saying, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it.”  Slowly I turned and patiently explained that I didn’t expect any more of him.  I was just informing him that it had occurred.  Again he responded, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it.”  Holy crap! 

We’ve had a few other burglaries.  Once, a kid stole our piggy bank.  I reported it and the broken piggy bank was recovered.  Another time, the same kid stole Linda’s bicycle.  We reported it and the police recovered it.  The last time something was stolen I didn’t report it; someone stole five pounds of shrimp.  No, the same kid didn’t do it: by that time he was in prison.

Of course, there were a few other encounters with the police through the years. Not many.  I can’t be expected to provide Linda with constant entertainment.



I checked on Somerville’s crime statistics.  The bad news is that compared to the rest of the country, you’re much more likely to be murdered, more likely to be raped, and more likely to have the crap beat out of you.  On the other hand, you’re far less likely to be robbed, burglarized, be a victim of larceny, and almost no chance someone will steal your car.  There appears that there is an upside to real poverty.  

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