Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stupid Things I Have Done ... Part Six or Seven... is anyone really keeping track anymore?

I lost him in the woods behind that trailer ...

In the early 80's I completed the National Park Service Ranger law enforcement training course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. At the time, it was where all federal agents went for law enforcement training except for the FBI ... the suits had their own academy. Border Patrol, Park Rangers,US Marshals, Customs, DEA, Fish and Wildlife Agents, Federal Protective Service and any other "Guvmint Cop" you could think of went to FLETC.

The training and the food were very good and after two months of intensive training in LE skills like defensive tactics, high speed pursuit driving, marksmanship, forensics, civil rights, law, and terrorism, I returned home fully bulletproof and fully full of myself.

One evening, shortly after finishing FLETC, I was over at Mom and Dad's house. Ben the smuggled pup, now full grown, was barking his Labby head off outside. That was pretty unusual behavior for gentle Ben so Mom and I stepped out to see what was going on ... expecting to find an armadillo.

There was no armadillo, but the garage door was open so I took a step inside and flipped on the light. I guess because I'm a fisherman, I noticed immediately that Dad's castnets were missing from where they always hung on the opposite wall. Also the little black and white TV that sat next to his workbench was gone.

I backed out the door.

"Mom, we've been robbed, you need to call the police."

She headed back inside the house and I walked towards the back of the yard where Ben, stopped by a small picket fence, was focusing his barking towards my grandparent's lot next door.

I stepped out through the fence gate and shut it to keep barking Ben from coming. He was NOT happy about this, but it seemed like a good idea ... if anything happened to that dog, my Mom would be devastated. I walked through the pines looking carefully for what had his attention and I came across both castnets and the TV neatly hidden behind a big pine tree.

Almost immediately the guy who was hiding near the stolen items jumped up and started running.

Instinctively, so did I.

We ran through the dark yard and onto the asphalt street. He had a head start on me and the advantage of shoes. (I was barefoot since I had not planned to chase burglars that evening.) Still, I was gaining on him after a bit as we ran down the road like we were at a high school track meet.

I was furious at the violation of my parent's house and as I ran, I yelled something intelligent like,

" You're a dead man, you SOB!"

That comment seemed to shift the burglar into overdrive as he picked up his pace and we flew by my uncle's house and around the corner in the dark. My uncle's house was the last house before a dark woodsy corner back then, so once past their house, the perp and I continued our foot race in total darkness.

I had quit yelling threats at him by now, as this only seemed to make him run faster. We ran on in silence, the only sounds his shoes and my bare feet slapping the asphalt.

When we rounded the dark vacant horse pasture at the corner, the road straightened out and we headed into another area of homes on Varella Street.

The first building we came to was a small trailer and church ... the one in the picture.

( I took that picture this Thanksgiving, and it's amazing to me how the scene is essentially the same as the night of the chase 23 years ago)

As we approached the trailer, my quarry made a sharp left and disappeared around the corner of the trailer. I rounded the trailer just in time to see him slip into the dark woods behind behind it.

At that point, I stopped. Barefoot, I couldn't proceed through the dark tangle of blackberry and smilax along the forest edge.

He was gone.

I stood at the end of the trailer gasping, catching some air, when the door of the trailer flew open and a sleepy headed preacher who lived in there stepped out into the glare of his porch light waving a revolver.


He was not in a good mood.



I ducked back behind the corner and spoke to him from my position of cover.

"Mister, don't shoot, I just chased a burglar through your yard, please call the sheriff. I'm not the bad guy."

He hesitated, I did some more explaining from around the corner, and then, hands up so he could see them, I walked past him and back onto the asphalt road.

Walking back to Mom's, I could suddenly feel my barefeet complaining about a shoeless run down a tarmac road.

By the time I got home, the deputy was there filling out the report.

Thanks to Ben, nothing was lost ... except some of our sense of security.
Score: Good dog 1, Burglar 0.

Ben's barking allowed us to short circuit this burglar's plans. It was obvious that he was making multiple trips into the garage and caching the selected items closer to the dark road behind our house, where a pickup would have been made later.

It would have been a good haul of Craftsman tools, nets, tv, and fishing rods. If not for Ben, we would have woke up the next morning to find we had been burgled.

But, not this house.

Not this night.


pablo said...

I was expecting the preacher to say "You're a dead man, you SOB!"

Cathy S. said...

Are you still picking gravel out of your feet and tar from between your toes?

dani813 said...

Pablo, you crack me up!!!! Good job FC and Ben.

Mark said...

Good dog. Sore feet.

I'll leave the preacher alone so I won't get too blasphemous.

ArtfulSub said...

All's well that ends well. I can envision several REALLY bad outcomes had you done what you NOW perceive to have been the smart moves.

Shoes and a gun MIGHT have been smart. Or not. Letting Ben help might have been smart. Or not.

robin andrea said...

Good dog. Bad barefoot running and burglar chasing. I would imagine it's hard not to go after someone whose just stolen from you. Adrenalin and restraint are not always compatible.

kathy a. said...

ack! i wouldn't have guessed the biggest danger to be the minister with a gun!

swamp4me said...

This is why I am almost never just never know when you are gonna have to run :)

roger said...

so the stupid part was giving the perp added incentive to run faster by threatening him?

i think ya did the best ya could.

i strongly suspect that i once scared a burglar out the back door as i came in the front. ooooh. that was an eerie feeling. there was physical evidence of a breakin.

Sharon said...

Having run on a tarmac road barefoot more than once, my feet hurt just reading this! I'm glad it ended the way it did, could have been much worse. I'm very glad he didn't get away with any of the stuff. Ugh! That infuriates me.

My car was stolen one night, while I was in CHURCH!! They tore up the back seat trying to get into the trunk, tore up the ignition, stole my baby's car seat and the stereo. I had to get rid of the car when we got it back. It made me sick to drive it.

Mrs Mecomber said...


You have quite the flair for the dramatic, you know that? I love how you triple-space the paragraphs to keep the reader scrolling. I'm a speed-reader, but not much of a speed-scroller.

Leslie said...

"Ben, stopped by a small picket fence, was focusing his barking towards my grandparent's lot next door."

I got to that part and I thought the "burglar" would be one of your grandparents and the joke was going to be on you. But not so!

Heroics ensued. Good story.

kathy a. said...

roger, my sister scared a burgler out of her place once, too. we found blue scootch-marks from his jeans on the sill, under the back window he'd jimmied. also -- blood, glass, and pennies everywhere. the most valuable thing in this student home was the 5-gallon glass water jar 2/3 full of pennies. guess he didn't realize it was so heavy. jerk.

Thunder Dave said...

Sorry I've been in a symposium this week and putting in some late hours!

Stupid is as stupid does! I lost count many years ago! Ben was a good dog, as evidenced by his dislike of me which was then echoed in Ranger! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but if your list of "stupid things I have done" is only at seven you have a long way to go before you catch up to me.

rcwbiologist said...

Oh to be young. I did something foolish like this when I was young too. Chased after a kid that had broken into my girlfriends car which we found him in hiding. He went out the other side of the car and I proceeded to chase him down the street. I'm lucky I didn't get shot.

Floridacracker said...

Had it been a work of fiction, that would have be an excellent ending.
You slay me Pablo.

Cathy S,
I think I go the last piece out about a year ago :)

Pablo is one subtley funny guy.

That was kind of you.

It's really hard when you've been trained to do just that.I do give adrenalin and anger credit for the clever threats I came up with.

Kathy A,
Armed ministers ... the hidden threat ;)
Sounds like your penny thief was of the usual burglar IQ.

True and spoken by one who knows the weight of the badge.

yes, it definitely was :)
regarding your experience, it really is a creepy feeling.

Amazing. I would have gotten rid of it too ... tainted.

Mrs. McC,
I like to break up those blocks of text ... maybe too much huh?

That would be something my grandpa would have done as a joke, but this time he was innocent.
Too bad, I could have outrun him :)

I listened to some Folger's coffee slurpers on NPR this morning. They were in Cinnci, and I wondered if you knew them.
What a job.
My dogs have impeccable taste don'cha think?

Floridacracker said...

These are only the ones I'm willing to share :)

I can relate. Toss a girl into the mix and really stupid things can happen ... and I don't mean stupid things she did ,ladies ...

threecollie said...

I run to dangerous things happening instead of away from them too...even in hunting season. Stupid, but I can't help it...anyhow, yay for Ben and for you. Too bad the guy got away, but at least he didn't get your stuff.

Floridacracker said...

Me neither.
What's scary to think about is the fact that Mom's washer and dryer are out in the garage and she could have run into that guy on a laundry trip.

Two decades later that still makes me angry.

Thunder Dave said...

FC - I do know a few of their R&D folks, they work just up the hill from me

life on the road said...

I've been to FLETC to have dinner with a friend, that's a bizarre place if you're just passing through. My favorite part was seeing the mock campgrounds and neighborhoods.

Floridacracker said...

Just wondering.

It was a Navy base before becoming FLETC so they converted the soldiers' homes into practice neighborhoods for LE training. They hired locals as actors and then we trainees dealt with different situations practicing serving warrants and making arrests. The actors were trained to respond according to what WE did so it was very realistic.