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I was down at the store the other day having coffee at the counter with a group of local scholars, observers, commentators and unemployed consultants, when Charlie Farron, our local sheriff's deputy, walked in and joined us. Since being "down at the store" isn't usually a violation of anyone's parole conditions, none of the usual suspects present in the store at the time made any awkward movements for the door as Charlie sauntered in.
Now, I don't know what kind of work you do, but I know there are few jobs tougher these days than the job of enforcing the law throughout this land.
When Charlie took on his policing job twenty-six years ago, he thought he was just getting into "law enforcement" - meaning he thought he'd just be doing police work - driving around his part of the county making sure everyone was more-or-less behaving, mostly. He was also waiting for the promised pension that would kick in after so many years. But these days, Charlie says, people in law enforcement have to act as marriage counselors, anger-management specialists, babysitters, substance abuse experts, chemical annalists, and public relations officials.
One reason most everyone likes it when Charlie walks in the store is because he always has a few good stories to tell. He likes to tell about the bank robber who was nabbed when the get-away car he'd left running at the curb was stolen while he was busy robbing the bank. When Charlie later asked the robber - just out of curiosity - why he didn't have a get-away driver like most bank robbers do, the would-be robber said he was just trying to cut costs and thought he could get along without one. Live and learn.
Then there was the story about the local farmer - Wallace Watts - who was hauling a ton of caged chickens to market in his half-ton pickup. Charlie said the Wallace had his oldest son Layton riding on top of the cages while pounding the cages with a two-by-four as they went along. When Charlie pulled them over and asked Wallace what he thought he was doing, Wallace said in order to haul a ton of birds in a half ton pickup they had to keep at least half the chickens in the air at all times.
On this particular morning Charlie told us about the fella he stopped recently for having a headlight out. As Charlie approached the car he noticed that the fella wasn't wearing his seat belt. When Charlie reminded the fella that Maine law required that all passengers wear seat belts the man got all in a huff and said: “Officer, I know all about the rules of the road, including the seat belt business, thank-you-very-much, and I had my seat belt on, officer, but just now unbuckled it so I could get my driver's license ready for you.”
Well, Charlie didn't know what to do at this point. Finally, he decided to ask the fella's wife who, according to Charlie, looked like an honest Maine woman.
"Ma'am," said Charlie, "I'd like you to settle this for us, here. As far as you can recall, was your husband wearing his seat belt, or wasn't he?"
The honest wife said: “Officer, I've been married to Barney here for a long time. And if there's one thing I've learned in all those years, it's never argue with him when he's been drinking."
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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