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.
"WHAT'S GOING ON?!
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
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.