Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Who's doing what?

Mom tells about her father, the small-town New Mexican banker who happened to be a water witch.

Tamara explains her plans to make a book that is more than a coffee table book, but just as visually lush.

Don Gwinn describes the summer project of a motivated school teacher expecting a baby in a century-old domicile.

LawDog makes the apparently controversial (?) statement that he likes that Remington 7615.

AmboDriver is talking about his FAVVVVVORITE topic, again (one guess!).

And Babs seems to need some heavy lifting done, because she's stroking the collective ego of men everywhere.

There's more, but those are just a few of my friends worth checking out.

(By the way, this weekend has convinced me that I have a LOT of new people to blogroll. I'll get to it... keep your shirts on...)

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Apparently, the Blogger 'bot fears me,

and thinks that I may be a Spam Blog.

What the heck?!?

Is it because of the uncharacteristically large spike in hits from the Collaboration? (Thanks for coming, folks! More good stuff to hit the site soon-- stay tuned!)

Anyway, they say that it may be two days before I can post...


If you're reading this, then I can post anyway, despite the red and yellow strip along the top of the screen...

Edit: The embargo seems to have been lifted. Took about 4 hours.

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I came in from work, changed out of my uniform, and checked on my girls and wife. All sleeping soundly.

I found myself pacing a little, up and down the house. Something was agitating me.

I grabbed the work cell as I pulled a long neck from the 'fridge. Cracked open the Blue Moon Belgian White Wheat Ale as the phone rang to the work cell of the guy who had just relieved me a little bit earlier at work.

"You busy?" I inquired when he answered.

"No, what's up?" he sounded a little surprised, and maybe a little glad to hear my voice. Huh. I would have thought otherwise.

"Just checking on something. Dude, when we were doing pass-on a little while ago, things seemed, uh, tense. Wanted to see if I was pissing you off somehow."

"Oh. That. Sorry, man. My wife had just chewed my hide before I came in. That's all," he said. He sounded a little embarassed.

"That's it? You sure? Anything you need me to do? I don't want stuff to fester," I pestered.

"Nope. It's not you-- I'm just an ass, is all," he responded with a chuckle. "But thanks for your concern."

"Heh. It was completely selfish, you may be certain of that, brother," I said with a smirk. "I have to sleep, sometime, and I sleep fitfully if I think that I've screwed up."


"Well then, be safe. G'night," I said as I hung up.

I took a swig of the Blue Moon. Yum, yum. I don't care if it is mass-produced; it's a tasty beer.

Then I thought: John Wayne never would have made that call. Ahab would be quite ashamed of me. Maybe I am getting too much soy (and its attending synthetic estrogen) in my diet...

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Interesting idea... but not for me.

Remington has come up with their new Model 7615 "tactical rifle."

It's got some very strong points: Pump action to salve the fears of a city council that might be afraid of giving "machine guns" to their officers. Ammunition and magazine compatibility with officers carrying AR15/M4/M16 rifles. Handy light weight, reliable action. It comes with sling swivels, which is good.

Some would say that the adjustable stock is a big plus.

I'm going to say.... not so much.

If I were to get one of these rifles, the very FIRST things I would do to it would be to put a standard old oil-finish wood buttstock and fore end on it, and change out those horrible short-radius sights for a receiver peep sight that probably would cowitness with a quality glass sight.
The beauty of a good pump-action repeater with a wood stock on it is that it looks to the citizenry like Andy Griffith just pulled it off the wall behind his desk. It doesn't look "tactical," which is a plus. A man with a well-sighted in 7600 or 7400 is not giving up much of anything to a man with an "assault rifle," but he has the advantage of stealth. That's worth a lot, when you're trying to get along with your community, rather than cow them into living under your boot.

And what's the point of a pistol grip on it anyway? It can't be fired one-handed with a pistol-grip. It's not necessary to help attenuate the recoil of the "mighty" .223 cartridge.
I'd like them to make one of these in the 7400 platform (semi-auto), again with wood stock.

So, if you're listening, Remington: Good idea with the magazine compatibility, but it needs better sights and a less "tactical" stock. Oh, and let's make sure it has decent accuracy, okay?

That is all.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Well, if they're free, I might as well take two. . .

Scalpel writes a superb analogy as to how government subsidies ruin it for everybody... even (eventually) those on the dole. His arena? Medical care.

(Hap tip to MonkeyGirl.)

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Friday, July 27, 2007


The following events are not fictional, but they may have happened at different times, with different people, at different places. Each one of the authors has had patients just like these, in situations just like those described. If you want to know what it's like to live a day in the life of an ambulance driver, or a small town cop, or a small town ER nurse, join us for the story.

It's the same story. On the same night. With the same people.

This is part of what we do, and working with EMT/Paramedics and nurses like these is part of the reason we do it.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

God, but I'm tired. Even though I've gotten what I thought of as "enough sleep" during the day, it has neither been enough nor of the quality that can keep a man's eyes from wanting to droop at... well, the dash clock of the Crown Vic cruiser says "03:02 am." Still four hours left on shift in this old country town. Surprisingly, I haven't found anything of interest all night, though it's a warm weekend night. What the hell kinda kids they rearing these days? To quote my old FTO: "Sheeeit. If I couldn't make it go no faster'n' that, I'd park it."

But you know-- it is about lunch time, and I think I've earned myself an omelette at one of the all-night places in town. The Golden Hour for drunks has just about passed, and nothing much is gonna stir until about 05:00. I'll just wander on into town, drop by Dispatch, pick up any returns and signed PC affidavits, and run by Denny's... no, IHOP... no, Denny's... (or maybe Taco Cabana?) for a little sumpin' sumpin'. Supper with the family was a long, lonnnnng time ago. Let's see: I really could dig some good coffee, and IHOP grinds their beans fresh and puts the whole coffee pot on the table, so that's probably the way I'll go. . .

The radio burbles on about stuff in other towns throughout the county that doesn't matter to me. I wish they'd get another channel or two and dispatch by region. I don't care what's going on 20 miles out of my town. But this is the system they've used for decades, and will probably continue to use for another one. I mutter to myself. (I've been doing that a lot, lately. Hmmm.) Then:
"Attention all units: Attempt to locate reckless driver, westbound FM 123 west of Sleepytown. Caller reports a red Toyota SUV, license plate unavailable, almost ran complainant off the road. Caller reports that the vehicle is alternating high and low speeds, currently traveling 45 mph, running from ditch to ditch. Caller is still behind the actor vehicle in a white Ford SUV. County clear, 0304 hours."

Well, crap. That's just a little west of here. If he's as bad as all that, there's a chance he'll pull over to pee or throw up or run into something, and I can catch 'em. I start rolling west. It's not my call. That SUV is out of my city and getting further away. But it bothers me. With the exception of one of the few houses down that way, he almost certainly came through my town, and I missed him. I think back to the few vehicles that I've seen over the last few minutes. Then again, I was thinking damned hard about what I was going to put in my omelet for the last twenty, wasn't I? I put my foot down.

We've got our own deputy assigned to our side of the county, but he's on another call, according to my MDT. At this hour, there are no constables out, and the troopers who haven't gotten a DWI for the night on the interstate are beginning to head on home. I am without a doubt the closest unit to that reckless driver. And If he doesn't hit something first, I can catch him. If it's a cut-and-dried DWI, I'll be walking out of the jail in two hours. If he's just sleepy, I'll wake his happy butt up, and go get lunch. I grab the radio mic:


"588, go ahead."

"I'll be en route from just west of my city to try to locate that reckless driver in the red SUV that you just made the broadcast over. Any updates?" My MDT makes a tone, and I know that I've just been assigned to the call.

"588 stand by. 111, go ahead with your traffic."

So unit 111 gets his traffic stop logged. See what I mean? Even when it's dead, a man can't get done what he needs doing.

"588, your caller reports that the actor vehicle is now traveling 60 mph, keeping it on the road, just passing Neal Rd." Well, maybe he was just sleepy. Good...

Then: "588, update: caller reports that the red SUV just went into the ditch briefly. Can you continue en route?"

Sigh. "10-4. I'm about a mile back of 'em. I'm entering the S-curves now." The S-curves slow me down, and I lose a little time. As I'm halfway through them, Dispatch gives me some bad news:

"588, information: Caller reports that the actor vehicle has turned off southbound onto 234, and the caller is continuing on to Bugscuffle. Your location?"

"Still in the S-curves about a mile behind them. I probably won't be able to catch them. Go ahead and notify Bugscuffle County."

"10-4, should I take you off the call?"

"Negative, not just yet, County." Hell, haven't they heard of throwing good money after bad? I'm so dadgummed far out already, I might as well check the area before heading back. I seem to recall that CR 234 has some pretty scary curves in it as it drops down into the creek bottoms, too. I might well overtake that SUV. Ah. Here's the junction now. I crank it to port, turn and burn.

"588, 10-60." In the area. We'll just see what we've got. I accelerate out of the first tight switchback, and brake going into the next one.

I see the steam and the dust cloud first.

- - - -

The SUV is initially not even in view, but through the dust, steam, and darkness I see a glow out in the pasture. The ditch was pretty pitched here, and the old barbed-wire fence on cedar posts was pretty tired, but together they and some trash trees along the fenceline have convinced a Toyota 4-Runner that it really probably shouldn't be attempting what it had done, which was to straighten out a sharp turn, crash through the ditch, knock down a tree, break through the heavily-repaired, rusty old wire fence, and roll. It looked like, given the width of the skidmarks through the gravel at the road's edge, the SUV had been sliding sideways when it hit the ditch. Dropping the outside tires into that ditch was all it would take to make the body roll. The undercarriage had caught some of the fence, and rolled the fence up in it as well, so that when the 4-Runner came to rest on its tires, it looked like it was just parked over a fence. Out in a field.

I get every light in my car turned on. Overheads to keep from getting hit from behind. Arrow stick to get confused traffic to divert around me to my car's left. I turn on the takedown lights to get more light on the situation. I get the spotlight onto the SUV. I even turn on my hazard lights. I get on the radio as I park, and hold the button down for a two-count before speaking. When it's important, I don't want to have to mess with "short-keying," where the first part of the radio transmission is cut off by the repeater not catching up. Also, that pause gets some people's attention, which I need right now.

"588, County: Major accident." We're now supposed to call them "crashes." The idea is that an accident doesn't adequately describe that these things happen for a reason, and that we can prevent them by enforcing the laws, and can determine the cause by correctly interpreting the site. While I agree with the philosophy, my old habits die hard when I'm busy.

I give my location, tell them to get EMS rolling, and ask for a trooper to assist. Hell, it's his accident --excuse me-- "crash" to work, anyway. I grab my big rechargeable flashlight and head over to the SUV, and take a look.

Aw, crap. I am not going to be eating omelets tonight.

I call for a helicopter to be launched.

+ + +

Cops can do that. They'd probably better not do it very often, but if the first-responder sees the immediate need, he can call for a chopper. It's quite a powerful tool that they're giving to a guy who doesn't even have EMT training, and doesn't have any idea about triage. I went to a show-and-tell talk by our friendly neighborhood CareFlight 'copter crew one night, and they said that a round trip transport gets the patient charged $26,000. Heck, that was some years ago; it may be more, now. I'm damned careful about launching birds on my own. I'll put 'em on standby at the drop of a hat, but calling to have them in the air on my own is a very rare occurrence on my part. We've got this crazy-assed ambulance driver who hauls butt to the scenes, and seems to have a pretty good feel for when to hold 'em, and when to launch 'em.

I've got a little bit of first aid training, but I can't claim that I'm trained, in any sense of the word. I was a Boy Scout, and my dad was a cop who had worked his way through high school and college first as an ambulance tech (they didn't have EMTs back then) and then as a hospital tech. Mom had been a medical writer for a major paper, and had volunteered to work in a hospital E.R., many years ago. On more than one vacation trip, we pulled over for my parents to attend to people in major accidents. I've grown up knowing basics like splinting, airways, CPR, and direct pressure. The "ABC" of first responder care priority made sense the first time I was officially exposed to it-- but then, who wouldn't know that? Or so I had thought. Over the years I've learned that a surprisingly high percentage of people don't have enough of a grasp of the basics to save a person's life when they're dying in front of them. I've been told "yeah, but you've got that cop first-aid training." Yeah. Right. People have no idea how basic that stuff was, and it was almost all lecture, except for the CPR. No practical demonstrations beyond breaking Simulator Sarah's ribs over and over again, while blowing coffee breath into her plastic lungs. I know enough to know that I don't know much, and that can sometimes help when I'm trying to decide how loudly to sound the call-out.

I know that a dead-- truly dead-- person can't be brought back. There are times when it frankly makes sense just to call an ME, and keep the medical staff from messing up a scene. In such times, I try to get the best, most level-headed and pragmatic paramedic available to make the initial evaluation. When you're trying to piece together what caused an accident, or even determine whether a death was an intentional act of suicide, homicide, or mishap, you really don't want the single most important piece of evidence (the body) moved before the scene has been properly documented. At any rate, I can accept a fatality. I've seen 'em, and except for the kids, I have never shed a tear. (And I kept right on working through the tears, redirecting traffic while troopers drove pavement nails and measured distances, took pictures, and finally called for wreckers.)

But I've met some decent people whose lives were saved by extraordinary measures taken quickly and decisively. I've also met some decent people whose lives were saved by extraordinary measures taken to preserve the body of an organ donor. I've met two organ recipients from my best friend's little sister. Her heart beats strong 10 years after her body was CareFlighted to a trauma center. Her liver is flourishing in the abdomen of a man she'd never met before a train struck her little car. Good work by small town firefighters and a flight nurse and paramedic gave her family a chance to say goodbye, and to make the decision to honor her wish to give parts of herself to 10 people. So even if you can't save this patient, you can perhaps save another patient by working hard, and working fast.

+ + +

There's a boy in the back, and he's screaming. I holler out to him as I approach, and he goes nuts. I lean in through the broken-out window and see that he's pinned in the back seat behind the passenger side front seat. He's a fat boy of about 20 years, with red hair and a sparse beard. His broad face is pinched with pain, and tears are streaming down his face, but he stops yelling when he sees me. First things first: "How many of you were in the car?" I ask.

He moans. I think at first that he didn't understand me and I begin to ask him again, when he says, "James. Bobby. Arnie.... Arnold. My legs. I think both my legs are broken. I can't get them out and it hurts to move them." They must hurt a lot-- he's not mentioned the obvious compound fracture in his right forearm, or the cuts to his face and head.

"Stop moving. Four? There were four of you?" I demand. I can smell alcohol in the air, and I see someone sitting on the ground on the other side of the 4-runner. At least he's sitting up. That's two. Where are the other two? He groans and nods with his eyes squeezing out tears from the pain that he's in.

The kid is trying, but I've got to push him-- I suspect that he's going to pass out soon, and for all I know, he has two femoral fractures. Sharp bits of shattered bone floating around next to a pressurized artery the size of your thumb can make a dumb drunk kid into a death notification very quickly. He begins to moan and reach toward the door again. "Listen to me: Don't. Move. I need you to sit very still," I order him. His moaning rises into a quiet closed-mouth squeal, as if my very words have made it worse for him. "Do you hear me? Do you understand me?" I demand in my best cop voice. He opens his eyes and nods.

"Where are the rest of them?" I ask, thinking quickly that I've already wasted too much time. I've been on scene for almost a minute, now.

"588, can you give me a size-up?" the dispatcher reasonably wants to know over the radio.

"Rollover accident, One white male trapped, conscious and breathing, with probable femoral fractures and other unknown injuries. Stand by for further."

"Jimmy was driving," he says. "Arnie was sitting in front with him. Bob was in back with me..." He says, and stops to gasp.

I jot down in my pocket notebook "Jimmy-- (FL); Arnie-- (FR), Bob (RR)."

"What's your name, kid?" I ask.

"Tony... Anthony Willis." I want more, but I've got to find the other boys.

"How old are you, Tony?" ("Tony-- (RL)," I scrawl in my notebook)

"19," he manages to say.

Jeez. I've been calling him 'Kid,' just out of hand-- with that beard and his size, I figured that he was well into his 20s. But 19-- he's a teenager! I look at his face again. There are glistening tracks running from his eyes through the dust on his cheeks. I'm only 35, but I guess that I'm feeling a little old, all of a sudden, which perhaps explains the unexpected paternal feelings that spring up.

"I'll be back, son," I promise.

"I think Arnie went out the window-- help Arnie!" he says. I'm already walking away.

I'm looking. Searching. I'd seen that the windshield was gone, and now pray that it doesn't mean an ejection. Tony's most recent statement is kind of cryptic-- did Arnie "go out the window" by crawling? Or flying? I check in front of the FourRunner, and find the busted windshield, still attached to the frame by a long strip of black rubbery crap, lying in the tall grass immediately in front of the SUV. Great. That tells me nothing. It could have been kicked out by the front seat passenger, or thrown out by the impact. I trot over to the bare-chested kid on the ground.
He's sitting on the ground, legs splayed open, staring at the big puddle of vomit in his lap. A long stream of what I'll charitably call "drool" connects his chewed-up lip to the puddle in his lap. The enormous amount of alcohol that he's consumed, stirred up, warmed up, and re-introduced to the outside air makes his vomit surprisingly strong-smelling. And... it looks like he's had something with peas and carrots recently. He's still looking vacantly at the ground in front of him. "Hey kid!" I say to him abruptly. I really don't have time to move at Drunk Speed. I crouch in front of him quickly and put my light in his face.

He doesn't move. He doesn't say a word. He barely blinks. But I can tell he hears me. I can tell that he's thinking as fast as his addled brain will allow him to. He's heard how he has the right to remain silent. Sitting drunk on the ground just outside the driver's side door of a vehicle that's just wrecked, and he's thinking, if he opens his mouth, he might get in trouble. To say that I have a doubt in my mind that he's the driver would be like saying that I have a doubt in my mind that the sun will rise this morning. I glance at my notebook. "Jimmy. JIMMY!" I yell at his face. He stirs a little, then looks back at his lap. Most of the puke has slid into the dirt, now. I put a hand on his shoulder, and shake him a little.

"Jimmy, I need you to tell me where your friends are. Where are Arnie and Bob?" I ask him.
He doesn't say anything. Maybe he does have a little light-running shock going on. But he's not even trying to help his buddies, and I hate him for that. I get up.

Time to do the search right. I start my sweep with a quick zig-zag in front of the SUV, extending out in a widening cone, the point of which is at the point of departure from the road. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, so regardless of the orientation of the vehicle now, bodies thrown will be basically in line with the direction that the vehicle was traveling when it lost control. The SUV rolled at least once. If my victims were thrown clear at the shortest and fastest part of the lever arm of a rolling vehicle, they can be a long, long way out. The tall grass, which is uniformly knee-high coastal hay grass and buffalo grass that's flourished in the spring rains, is both a blessing and a curse. It probably helps reduce injury, but it hides the victims. I pull the Stinger flashlight off of my belt, and hold it and my big SL20XP duty light high above my head in each hand, light twin headlights, pointing down from their 8 foot vantage point to the grass about 20 yards ahead of me, swiveling back and forth. The headlights and spotlight from my car about 50 yards back help some, too. I look at my notebook again. Why can't I remember simple first names?

"Bob? Arnie? Robert! Arnold!" I call. I get no response. "Yell out to me, so that I can come help you!" I mean to sound firm, but I'm afraid that I detect a note of pleading in my voice. The Man In Charge does not plead. He gives clear commands. To some this sounds cocky, but experience has shown me without a doubt that it has nothing to do with ego, and everything to do with getting done what needs doing. (Which may well be saving a life or two.)

I must have passed him by about 15 feet. You'd think a man-sized boy would stick up a little better than that. I find him on my way back from my first quick sweep. I look back to the SUV. Not too far-- about 50 feet. Where's the other one? This guy's on his side, with his arms pulled up in front of him, wrists crossed in front of his chest. His legs are (I hate this word, but damned if it isn't descriptive) akimbo. I'm on my knees, checking for breathing -- ragged-- and reaction to stimulus. His eyes are open, and he's not doing well. He doesn't answer me. His eyes don't move in response to my light. The breathing sounds wet, and reflexive. Crap. Agonal breathing? I don't know. I'm out of my depth.

I pull my mic off my shoulder, key the mic for a second, and call in: "588, E.T.A. on medics?"

An unexpected voice with sirens comes over the air: "Medic One to 588, ninety second ETA." It's Ambulance Driver. I reckoned that he would be out tonight, and I'm glad to have him responding first. "What have we got?"

Well that's a damned good question. What DO we have, in twenty words or less? Something I learned a while back is that it's better to take your time and say it once correctly, than to broadcast it quickly and incorrectly. Huh. For all I know, the fourth guy's fine and has gotten help. Or he's dead. Or he's dying here in the grass, somewhere. Or he's under the FourRunner. (Oh yeah-- I already thought of the death possibility.) Well, let's give him the bare basics. "Rollover with an ejection. Two critical, one moderate, one unaccounted for. County, please advise our Fire Department that we will need extrication for one of the critical patients." Normally I would go into the age, sex, race, and whether they're conscious and breathing, but I hear a distant siren. Just get here.

"County is clear direct, 588, and be advised that 1176 and 451 are en route to you location, as well," responds County Dispatch. That would be a trooper and a Sheriff's deputy sergeant. Since we're well out in the county, this accident will be theirs to work. Aw, who am I kidding? It's the trooper's accident to work. A good deputy is a joy to behold and a wonderful man to have on your side, but he ain't gonna work a major accident when a dedicated state accident investigator is on the scene. Oh, he might help measure, and photograph, and document, and move wreckers and block traffic, and all the other stuff that may well actually require more physical work than the actual accident investigation. But the signature at the bottom of the CR-3 form is the signature of the man who's going to get called into criminal and civil court when this is all through. That's what the state boys in dove grey and the spray-painted hats are paid to do.
My kid (Arnie or Bob?) is having serious trouble breathing, now. He's aspirated a lot of fluid, and while I hope it’s vomitus, it's probably blood. When you're unconscious, either one will kill you. At least he's on his side, and his airway is clear, from what I see. I reach behind me to the little leather pouch on my duty belt, in which I keep a pair of rubber gloves. It's supposed to carry two pair, but I wear extra large (XXL when I can find 'em), and I can only get two gloves in and get it to reliably stay closed. The other guys at my P.D. think I'm a little silly for carrying the pouch, but I've never found that I can plan on when I'll need them. I glove up, thinking that I might do a quick mouth sweep of the kid, and then think back to my old training. Nope. Why give the medics yet another patient? (Teeth!) I use my light and confirm that his mouth is relatively clear. And I see the blood. Dammit. Maybe his just bit his tongue. But even with my minimal training, I know that this kid's probably not going to make it.

We'll do what we can.
_ _ _ _

By the time Ambulance Driver's done a once-over at the scene, it's clear that he's decided that this boy --Robert or Arnold-- is not worth working on for the time being. That's actually being unfair to A.D.. I understand triage. It's the process of deciding how best to allocate your resources. Triage saves many, many lives every hour of every day. It's not about emotion, it's about fact. It requires a person with medical training to use protocols to determine where next to apply his efforts, which sometimes means cutting your losses. I get that. But I also think back to my best friend's little sister, and the lives that were saved because they got her to the hospital in time. I think back to how incredibly important it was to my best friend's family to get to say goodbye before they harvested her organs. Before you accuse me of being too emotional over what was essentially keeping a corpse alive, consider that. Consider his parents. Consider the lives that deserve to be prolonged, and can, by this young man's family's gift. And yes, dammit, consider the chance that he might pull through.

I volunteer to give a hand 'til more medical help arrives. Ambulance Driver suctions the boy's mouth and hands me some device that I've seen at scenes and on television, but never used-- this one looks like a mask with a latex football attached to it. He has me breath for the kid by compressing the bulb and letting it self-inflate, and runs to help the other boys. I see the drunk, bare-chested kid --Jimmy?-- is still sitting near the wrecked FourRunner. Good. Other cop cars are arriving.

Trooper 1175 and deputy 451 arrive and begin working the scene. Even better. They each put their cars at the distal ends of the curve, the apex of which we're beyond. Frankly, I'd rather they put them even further out, to have their gumball machines warning other drivers of the crash site. Secondary crashes are not uncommon, and often are far worse than the initial crash. And with our closest first responders already tied up, a secondary wreck could be catastrophic. I'm kinda liberal with flares at an accident scene, and if I'm on the road (which I'm not, tonight), I put on my orange reflective traffic vest. If I had a magic feather, I'd stick it in my hat, too. If I wore a hat.

The trooper looks in the vehicle, and then begins to talk to the bare-chested boy. I look down to the kid I'm helping-- has that mask slipped? Pay attention to what you're doing, Matt. The trooper knows his job. I peek up again. The trooper has the boy standing, and the boy is talking, now. Oh, good. I hope the trooper is running video and audio.

I try to check the kid's pulse at the neck. None! No, wait. I reposition, remembering not to use my thumb lest I feel my own pulse. There. It's weak, but rapid. I can't operate the breathing bulb and feel his pulse and look at my watch all at once, but I know it's fast. Vague memories of descriptions of the symptoms of shock fill my mind. I touch the kid's hands. Like ice. It's 68, 70 degrees out. I should have a blanket on this kid.

"Shock kills," said my old Boy Scout scoutmaster almost a quarter century ago. "Keep 'em breathing, keep 'em warm, don't let 'em bleed out, and don't screw anything else up, and you'll be doing your part," he'd said, around a wad of Red Man. "But don't let me catch y'all usin' none of those warmup techniques in the Manual involving stripping the victim down nekkid and using your body heat to warm 'em up. This is NOT that kind of troop!" by this time he had been grinning, and us boys had been howling. Even now, I start to break into a grin, and realize that I'm again not paying enough attention to the victim I'm attending, in the here-and-now. Focus now, A.D.D. Boy, and we'll get you a nice Ritalin lolly, later.

I consider my mood. I'm not upset. I'm not particularly excited, actually. I'm now in a rhythm, of a task I only started for the first time a few minutes ago, and I'm actually a little distracted. I know that I'm probably only helping with organ preservation, and that's fine. But then again, I've seen some pretty miraculous changes in human beings when the right "switch" is thrown. I've seen an ER doc give a shot of sumpin'or'other to an incoherent dopehead, who instantly lost his buzz. I've seen a medic shove some sugar paste into the mouth of a near-comatose diabetic patient, who 30 seconds later became as aware as Sleeping Beauty having newly been kissed. I watched my first daughter enter this world after a 23 hour labor, with the cord wrapped so tightly around her neck that it disappeared in the folds of her skin, and her body was uniformly ashen-blue with periwinkle highlights, so dead-looking that the APGAR score of "2" that they gave her was a gift-- only to pink up like a Valentine's Day heart after they gave her some O2 and suctioned out her airway (and then go on to be in the Gifted & Talented program at school). I've seen multiple-fatality accident scenes have the number of fatalities revised downward (twice, on one occasion). So turn-arounds do occur, whether you want to classify them as "saves" or routine. So we'll plod along on this one, and see if we can't give someone who knows what he's about a chance to push a turn-around.

But this ain't my job, I think. I'm an over-educated jack-of-all trades. I know how to do a lot of things in law enforcement, and some of 'em I do pretty well. One of them is scene size-up, and calling for the necessary help. (Harder than it looks, at first.) Another is on-scene interrogations and interviews, in a manner that gets me some information to do the job right away, but which also can later be used in court. With some cops, it's either-or. I like to make it both. In short, I'd like to be over there, talking to that pukey boy that wouldn't talk to me when I first rolled up. Jimmy. I want to get it nailed down who was the driver, because I know that the driver's going to be charged with Intoxication Assault, and I strongly suspect that it's going to end up being Intoxication Manslaughter. As such, this is a crime scene, and I want to make sure that we have good evidence and statements that we can use in court.

Finally, a couple of volunteer fire-fighters come on over. I'll never understand why they have to wear all that bunker gear when there's no fire, but I feel a certain kinship with them for that-- after all, nobody's shooting at me, but I've got this damned Level II vest on. There's not really much to pass on to them, other than that I found him unconscious and breathing with some difficulty, and that his pulse was hard to find. I also ask them if they can get some of the other responding firefighters to sweep the area in a grid search to check for my last crash victim. "His name is either Robert or Arnold," I tell them. The one not now squeezing the bulb gets on his radio, and calls some of the other fireman over. Looking at them, I don't think that they've got much more experience with that bulb-thingy than I did. But that's part of their job. I've got mine to get to. I head back to the Four-Runner.

Firefighters have dragged over a portable air compressor and Jaws Of Life and a gasoline-powered grinder wheel, and are about to open the SUV up like a can of sardines. I hear a distant whump-whump-whump of a chopper, and look around. I spot the fire captain and ask if he's the incident commander. He says that he is. I tell him that the chopper's inbound and ask him if he needs any help with the landing zone. I've got some other stuff to do, but it's kind of important to make sure that the chopper has a good, safe, clearly-marked L.Z. to land in. "Naw. I've got 3 guys in that field," he points out into the field I just walked out of, and a hundred yards away are the flashlights of three firefighters radiating away from the strobe that they've just placed on the ground as a marker. I tell him that we're looking for a fourth accident victim, who may have also been ejected into the field, and he nods, thinks for half a second, and says that he'll get his guys looking after the extrication and the chopper lifts. It makes sense, really-- treat what you have. The fourth guy may be dead, or have run off. Either situation is not an emergency. Or, he may be in dire need, but the time and manpower used to find him will cost care to other victims. I nod and let him to his duties, which at that point involve multi-tasking the set-up for extrication and talking to the CareFlight pilot by radio.

I go to the door opposite the side the firefighters are setting up the equipment on, and talk quickly to the fat kid trapped inside. I get my notebook out, and make sure (again) that my body mic is on. I look at my barely-legible scrawl.. find R.L (rear left), and decipher the name next to it. "Uh, Tony? Who was wearing the red-and white striped shirt? Arnie or Bobby?"
"Agh. Bobby, I think. With an alligator on it. Didja find him? Is he okay? What about Arnie? Ooh!"

"Yes, I found Bobby. The medics are with him now," I respond. "We're still looking for Arnie." I quickly get Arnie's and Bobby's last names from him, and their ages: 18 and 19 years old.
"We were camping on Arnie's folks' pasture..." he says.

I take a second to get some more information. "What's your date of birth?" He answers with a date that I calculate makes him 19 this year... okay, 18 years old.

"What's your address?" I ask him. I know that somebody's going to need to contact his folks tonight. He gives it, stopping to pant and moan in the middle of its short recitation. The air compressor fires up, and the chopper is getting closer, and people are yelling to be heard, and my radio is going off in my left ear, and and another VFD firefighter is arriving with his siren going, and someone's calling my name I think, and all these things are trying to distract me, and... Everything focuses on this kid for a second. He's crying. He can barely get the words out, and halts to gasp:

"Officer. We were camping... we all were drinking some, but Jimmy and Arnie-- they were drinking a lot more. We were going to go out mudding in the four-wheeler and then fish, but I didn't want Jimmy to drive. He wouldn't let me drive. I know I shouldn't have been drinking, but I was more sober than them. He drove so fast, and he wouldn't stop, and wouldn't let me out!" It all comes out in a flood. When he stops, he begins moaning. "My legs hurt so bad. . ." his voice is lost to the sound of the gasoline-powered grinder firing up and biting into the SUV frame.

This flood of comment sounds like... what? A confession? No. It sounds more like a dying declaration. I've never heard one before, but so help me, that's what this kid is giving me. He thinks he may die. And, to be honest, he could, if his femoral artery is cut and they can't replace the pressure stopping the flow that the seat crushing him now may be providing.

But he's said it: Jimmy's my driver. Jimmy's my bare-chested mute puker. Jimmy's my suspect. I go to find Jimmy.

Jimmy, it seems, has decided to start talking. "What happened to my car?!?" he demands to the world in general.. "Who did this to my new car?!?" He tries to put some real outrage into his voice, but it's not very convincing to the trooper, the deputy, or the EMT he's talking to.

I walk up to the deputy, and tell him, "Arnold DeLima is missing, and the kid in the wreck tells me that they were camping on the DeLima pasture near here. Doing some fishing and beer-drinking."

The deputy smiles and says, "I'll just bet that we'll find young Mr. DeLima down the road, then." He radios dispatch to have another deputy run by the DeLima house to check on the welfare of Arnold. I hope they find him. I hear dispatch call out the address of the DeLima house to the other deputy, and I write that address in my notebook next to "Arnold, (FR), DeLima, 18 y.o.a."
I turn back to Jimmy. He's protesting alternately that he was a passenger, that he was in the back seat, that he wasn't even in the vehicle, that he was in another vehicle following that left, that he walked up on the accident scene.... all with blood dripping down his forehead from where it hit the door frame and perhaps the window or windshield.

I'm really kind of thinking about how nice it would feel to slap the kid.

Mr. Clean, one of our volunteer firefighters who stands an inch taller and 30 lbs heavier than I do and has a shaved head, grabs him by the shoulders and begins telling him angrily while shaking him a bit that he needs to know precisely where Jimmy was sitting, so that he can treat him properly. Mr. Clean is doing this for us, and the questions are worthwhile, but the hands-on approach is a bit heavy, and won't help us in court. The trooper turns away. I put my hand on Clean's shoulder, and he stops.

"Jimmy?" I ask.

"Yeah?" he looks askance at me.

"What's your full name and date of birth?"

"I already gave..." he begins.

"And you'll be giving it again," I smile encouragingly and tell him.

"James Ashley Heaton." He gives me his date of birth. 19 years old.

I pull a card from my ID case, and quickly read him his Miranda warning, asking him after each right if he understands them. He says that he does, with wide eyes.

"Am I under arrest?" he asks.

"No." I tell him. I consider saying "not yet." Sometimes that helps-- they'll talk and talk to forestall arrest. But I decide not to put it that way, just yet.

"So where did you drive from?" I ask Jimmy.

"I wudn't drivin'!" he protests. Then, "Who stole my car?!?"

"Okay. Now, that act isn't going to work," I admonish him. "First, I've got a witness that put you in the car. Second, you're bleeding from fresh scrapes to your head, like, you know, from a car crash, or something. Finally, a minute after the accident had occurred, I found you sitting on the ground in the open door of the car. So, you want to revise your statement about who was driving?"

"Okay, it was Tony! Tony was driving! That fat drunk sumbitch!" he declares.

"Tony was driving. Tony Willis." I mean it as a question, but it comes out flat.

"Yeah. He drives crazy! Wouldn't let us out...."

"So that's your new, revised statement. Why didn't you tell us that in the first place?" I ask reasonably.

"Cuz I was scared! And, uh, 'cuz I'd been in a wreck and was shook up!" he's kind of shrill now.

"What happened to my car?!?" he suddenly demands, for no reason I can see.

"Uh, Jimmy-- you've already admitted now to being in the car. You KNOW what happened to it. Now, where were you sitting? In the car? During the wreck. Which you were in?" I'm speaking with patience. I'm speaking with calm reason. I will not slap this kid. I will be as nice and professional and courteous as I can... while I work up a case to put his ass in prison.

"I was in the, uh, back left seat," he says.

"Back left? With Tony driving?" I clarify.

"Yep." he actually crosses his arms now, with a set jaw and a nod, to let me know that This Is His Final Answer.

"So, let me get this straight. First you lied about not having been in the car during the accident, and now you're telling me that you were sitting in the back seat, and the driver of the vehicle was the kid that those firefighters over there are currently extricating from the seat position which you're telling me that you were sitting in, where he's currently trapped and crushed under the front seats?" I ask him.

I let it sink in for a few seconds. His watery, bloodshot eyes tell me that he doesn't fully get what I'm telling him.

"You're lying again, Jimmy. You couldn't have been sitting there, and he couldn't have been driving." I tell him. "You've got one more chance to redeem your credibility."

"I wudn't driving!" he blurts out.

The trooper has come back, and asks one of the EMTs from the second ambulance if he can take Jimmy inside the box for some privacy. I know why, but our intense fireman Mr. Clean doesn't immediately get it. His eyes light up and he grins as he murmurs "tune up time?" I snort, as I climb up on the back bumper to block the window with my body. Mr. Clean has seen too many movies. We cops don't "tune up" suspects to get confessions. The whole trade-off of getting a worthless confession versus losing our job, getting sued, and going to prison just really isn't that appealing. And those that might consider it worth doing wouldn't ask to take the suspect into a borrowed ambulance box with a dozen witnesses around. Plus, "tune up" is more of a prison term, anyway.

The reason that I'm using my body to block the back windows of the ambulance is because I'm trying to assist the trooper in his investigation into Jimmy's suspected level of intoxication. Or, I should properly say: his intoxication. The test that the trooper is administering to Jimmy in the ambulance is not designed to detect the level of intoxication, but whether the subject is or is not under the influence. The test, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, is probably the single best field tool in establishing intoxication. It's a simple test that looks for involuntary twitching of the eye while following a stimulus (usually a pen). But it requires that no flashing lights be visible to the subject, as strobes (which can cause eye twitching) can invalidate the test. With two ambulances on scene, a helicopter, 3 police cars, a brush truck, an engine, and a couple of POVs outfitted with strobes so that volunteer fireman could respond directly to the scene, there's no shortage of flashing lights in the vicinity of the crash site.

I use the time to get the driver license info on the four boys from the dispatcher. After six minutes of standing on the back bumper of the ambulance, I look in through the window and see that the trooper has moved on to interviewing Jimmy, and I step down. I see the deputy's face has a bit of a grin on it as he cocks his head to listen to his radio, tuned to a different channel than my portable. "Well. They found Arnold DeLima," he says.

I know he wouldn't be grinning if it were bad. "Where'd he run off to," I ask.

"Home. Hell, he just lives over the hill, yonder," he beams. "I sent another deputy over there to check on his welfare. Turns out, he's pretty beat up. Cuts and bruises. Probably needs stitches and a bone set. They're having an ambulance respond mutual aid to take care of him. Our deputy, ah, is accompanying him."

Well that's good to know.

They've finally got Tony out of the SUV, and have splinted the hell out of him, with immobilized neck and back board. I can barely see the kid for all the parameds, EMT's, and firemen crowded around him as they take him to the helo. Gawd, he must be bad, if they're needing all those people... I think, and then realize. No, you moron-- he's about 300 pounds by himself, and that ground's rough over there-- they need the extra people to move that kid to the helicopter.
The other kid --Bobby-- has been put on a backboard and taken into an ambulance by AD and his sidekick. I feel a little better about the kid-- they don't seem to be too frantic. But then, they wouldn't be if they knew that it was all for nought, too. They get fired up and head to the hospital. I consider that they hadn't CareFlighted Bobby, and I hope that his mother gets a chance to say goodbye.

"You got it?" I ask the deputy. The scene's in the County, after all, and the trooper will shortly be taking Jimmy to the hospital for his blood draw. All the deputy has to do is wait for the wrecker and see that the road is clear.

"Oh, sure," he says, as he begins to fill out an impound slip.

"The kid who was CareFlighted-- he lives in our city. I'll make the notification to his family," I tell him.

"You gonna contact the other kid's parents-- the one who went by ambulance?" he asks me.
"They live at the other end of the county. Maybe we can get Piddling Point P.D. to drop by?" I said. "He's probably not going to make it, and will need a personal notification. Who's on over there, tonight?"

"297. Here." He pulls out his cell, and pulls up a phone number that he recites to me. "Call him direct." I look at him questioningly-- most of us don't have each phone number for each of the 100-odd other cops in the county. "Eric and I went to academy together. He can give a good notification."

I get in my car, and mark my times on my patrol sheet, using MDT for reference. I sign myself out "On Follow-Up," and call unit 297, cell phone. I give him the run-down of what's gone on, and ask if he could run by the boy Bobby's address and try to notify his family. I tell him the hospital that they've taken him to, and explain that the boy might not make it.

"Time sensitive, or stable?" is all he asks. I admit that I don't know, but repeat that AD didn't seem to feel he was viable.

"I'll probably end up giving them an escort, then," he says, and hangs up to do what he can.

With that taken care of, I head on back to my own town, and go to the address of Tony, the CareFlighted boy who cried to me. I negotiate with three dogs before gaining the porch of the tired old house. Junk is piled around on all sides. I bang on the door with my knuckles, then the side of my fist, and finally with my flashlight, before I hear someone stirring toward the door. I illuminate myself with my flashlight, and announce myself. Getting myself shot on their front porch would not be helping these citizens. For that matter, it wouldn't do me any good, either. The door flies open, and a very heavyset older woman asks what's wrong. I ask her relation to Tony, and she says that she's his grandmother, who Tony lives with, because he and his mama don't...

I interupt. "Tony's been in a bad car crash. He's hurt, but he's being taken to a very fine trauma center by helicopter." I have to say it kind of quickly, because she's starting to get wild-eyed, and I know that the crying is about to start. When her husband appears in the door buttoning his overalls, I could hug the man.

"What's this about Tony being hurt?" he asks me with hard eyes. He doesn't want any window dressing; just get down to brass tacks.

"He was in a bad car wreck with three other boys. He was conscious and able to talk to me when I arrived. He may have broken his legs, and he's broken an arm. Right now they're concerned about the legs, which is serious. But they got CareFlight to take him to Big City Trauma Center, which is the best emergency care around," I reassure him. "Can y'all drive? Do you know how to get to Big City?"

He assures me that they do, and that he'll be taking his wife. He's concerned, but not hysterical. She is just about 2 clicks shy of hysterical. I have her sit on a bench on the porch, and repeat for her (she had been heaving and crying before) the bit about the good care he was receiving. Then I worry: What if he doesn't make it? Are you setting them up for the worst surprise? But Big City Trauma is 48 miles away, and I can't give them an escort all the way there. I need them to drive calmly. And besides-- I haven't lied or embellished-- I'm telling them what I believe.

While she goes back inside to dress, I check with GramPaw a little more-- the boy is his wife's grandson, he tells me, and he's been in trouble before, but he's a good boy. Light of their life.

I see no reason to mention the loaded marijuana pipe I found in the SUV.

"Tony made an effort to tell us what happened at the scene," I tell him. "He was honest about the fact that they'd been drinking some, and that helps us know what happened." I think about that pain-wrenched confession that he made, and wince.

I get out a card, and think for two beats before putting my work cell phone number on the back of it. You keep giving out that damned cell phone number, and you'll have no one to blame but yourself when they're calling you at all hours. "Please call if you need anything." I tell him, and he shakes my hand.

As I walk back to the car, I key up my portable radio. "588, County: Ten-8." Clear for calls.

It's in somebody else's hands, now, I think.

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Later today...

I'll post the Collaborative Project.

I Promise.

No, seriously.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I KNEW I forgot to do something!




Groan. Thump. Stagger. Stagger. Stagger.

Collide with furniture.

I pick up the phone.

"This is Matt," I say with gravel in my throat.

"Mr. X?"

My wife's maiden name. That's how we list our phone in the new directory, because we don't want to be hassled by folks wanting to argue a ticket I wrote them (or worse), and we're too cheap to pay the $2.00 a month to be unlisted.


"This is Tasha Johnson. May I speak to Mr. X?"

"Who are you with?" I know it's a marketing scam.

"I told you sir, Tasha Johnson. May I speak with Mr. X, please?" She's sounding impatient. And East Coast. I have to listen to this, first thing in the... well, okay-- late --morning? Damn, is it almost 11:00? Well, it was almost 5:00 when I went to bed...

"Once again, Tasha: Who. Are. You. With?" I'm not yelling. I'm not cussing. I'm not sounding like I'm going to find her house, burn it down, shoot her dog on on the embers of her own front porch, and poop on her newly-delivered edition of Telephone Annoyance Monthly.

I am a hell of a guy. I may make coffee to celebrate.

But first, this bitch.

"We're with the Fraternal Order of Police, and..."

"Don't call me. Place this number on your do-not-call list. Don't ever call me again." At this point, I'm afraid that my voice might have been a teensy bit direct. Oh, darn. She might not have me over for catfish and beer this weekend.

"Are you Mr. X?" Oh, I can fairly hear her thought processes now: I'll show him! Only the registered telephone customer can tell me not to annoy him! That's the Law, and you have to obey the Law!

No, it's not. But anyway.

It's time to draw our telephone meeting to a close. I didn't want to have it in the first place.

"Mr. X does not exist. Mr. X is a pseudonymn. You may regard me as him. Remove our name from your call list. Do not ever call us again." And I hung up.

+ + +
I refuse to give money to ANYone who calls me and asks for it. If I want to donate to a charity, I will. I've sought them out before. But I don't give money to people who make money by calling me to ask for money. "But it goes to a good cause!" some of you may be saying. Some of it might, if it's not a scam. (Trust me: people do that.) But as this news story out of Houston shows, even the Texas State Troopers Association's fundraising sees only forty cents of every dollar going to the actual association that they're claiming to benefit, and most of that money goes to... LOBBYING. Nice.

Next time a local group puts on a barbecue fundraiser for a cop or firefighter who's sick or hurt, do 'em a favor and make a donation. But please don't ever donate to the associations that call you on the phone.

Oh, and those little stickers that you put in the back window to show that you're an upstanding member of the TSTA, or whatever? We don't give a tinker's damn about 'em. (And if we did, you'd find that the attention you got would probably be more negative.) Stickers in back windows do not get you out of traffic tickets-- they just imply that you think that they do, and that you spent $20 to try to get one like Thai folk buying Jatukams from temple holy men in an attempt to become prosperous.

+ + +

I flipped up the laptop, Googled and found the National Do Not Call Registry, and put my phone number on the list. Can't believe I'd forgotten to do that.

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Coming Soon: To A Blog Near You!

Friday, July 27th, 2007, I will post my part of the Collaborative Project.

Ambulance Driver will post his part of the Project.

And BabsRN will post her part of the Project.

I've had it essentially done for a couple of weeks, but I'm horrible about self-editing, and am embarrassed to see typos.

I've sent my part to Babs and AD, and they're tearing it apart with a wrecking ball, I'm sure.

Come read a story about how a cop, a paramedic, and a nurse all may focus on the the different facets of the repercussions of the same event. Start here, then go to "A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driver," and then go to "Just Peachy!" (Or whatever BabsRN's calling her site, these days.).

We call it "Perspectives."

Friday. Watch this space.

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That doesn't make me *less* of a man, does it?

To watch a chick flick (written by a well-known writer) about relationships, of all things, and to think, simultaneously:

"How depressing!"


"How beautiful!"

I've not been eating too much soy (with its vegetable estrogen) lately, have I?

I swear to Gawd I spent better than a quarter hour today talking about variations in 1911's with my father. (Have y'all met my father? Interesting guy. 4 decade L.E.O., history major, old Coooper Gunsite graduate, redneck liberal, intellectual, firearms afficianado, reloader, moderator, etc.)

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Casey Jones, The Old 97, The Crash At Crush....

None of 'em had a thing on the spectacular,ongoing trainwreck that is the barely 21-year-old actress Lindsay Lohan.

And to think that it was only last year that my daughters and I watched Freaky Friday on DVD, and really enjoyed it.

Now, like those 40,000 who in 1896 formed up the temporary town of Crush, TX, there's a certain amount of entertainment to be had from the schadenfreude of watching this spectacle.


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Monday, July 23, 2007

Suggestion to you "players:"

If you pick up a drunken hottie at the bar, and she suggests you take her to the after-party at a friend's house after closing time...

Where you find yourself drinking with a bunch of folks you never met...

And you get separated for a few minutes from this girl...

And when you go looking you find her in bed with another guy...

Don't get all mad and tear out of there like an idiot, running into things as you drive off...

And expect the small-town cop who stops you to empathize with your tale of woe.

Dude-- easy come, easy go, you know?

Maybe the bondsman will have more sympathy.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Different kind of stage

It was a pretty good pistol match, all things considered. Dad had picked me up, and we chatted in a good mood before shooting the IDPA match-- he with his old 1911 .45 and I with my issue Glock 31 .357 Sig out of my duty rig.

Stangely, I wasn't covering myself completely with shame, but was actually running about dead center of the pack. That's a pretty good showing in that group. Were it not for some silly procedural stuff (all speed reloads must be made with an empty gun, not just an empty magazine. They're literally training you to run dry. Dropping an empty magazine with a round in the chamber is too "gamey." Huh.), I would have scored even better. I especially did well on a "Texas Star," a 5-pointed star on which heavy steel tombstones were loosely affixed by way of springwire tension and cut-out notches, with the center of the star welded to an axle, so that it would spin when off-balance. Shoot a tombstone plate off, and the thing would suddenly be majorly off-balance, and would spin. From 15 yards, with 8" plates spinning around a 7' star, that's an interesting challenge. I only dropped one shot on that one, and made it up quickly.

We got to a round with three targets set several yards from the shooter. The shooter was to start in "surrender position," (hands up), then draw at the beep, and fire a double tap into each target, reload, and fire 2 more in each target.

"Oh," I said. "It's a modified 'El Presidente'." The "El Presidente" is a shooting drill designed by Jeff Cooper, in which the shooter is supposed to start facing away from the three targets at the starting buzzer, usually with hands up.

Another guy quipped, "If it's modified, then maybe we oughta call it the 'Vice Presidente'."

Steve, who was administering this match, only looked up briefly, and said, "No, we don't any 'Vice Presidente' stages. Most folk wouldn't want to shoot 'em."

"Why not? What does it entail?" the quipper querried.

"Well," Steve said, a thin smile breaking loose and widening rapidly a big grin, "For a 'Vice Presidente,' the shooter starts with a single round of 7.5 shot field load of 12 gauge in an over and under shotgun, and then he swings on his buddy..."

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Livin' close to work.

"This is so weird," my wife said, as I scooped my second bowl of red beans from the pot and crumbled some cornbread over it. "Are you sure you won't get in trouble for this? It just feels strange having you come home during work."

I had picked up an evening shift to let one of my single bretheren have a Friday night off for a hot date, and decided to take advantage of having moved into the town I patrol by stopping in for lunch. "Sweetie, it's fine. I'm allowed an hour for lunch, so long as I monitor calls. And, frankly, this is better than me leaving town for lunch," I said as I slurped some beans off the bread, getting some on my chin, but not, thankfully, on my uniform shirt.

At this point, my wife said something that I missed, because one of my colleagues in the town up the Farm To Market road was calling pursuit, with his siren running in the background. They were headed in the general direction of my town. By this point I had my left ear pressed to the remote mic on my shoulder, and my right hand blocking sound to my other ear. (Hint: this looks kind of rude to the person talking to you.) "Gotta go," I said.

She sighed. "Whatever."

I headed out to the car, got in, and as I fired it up realized that I still had a bowl of beans in my hand. I set it on the seat. The radio reported that my colleague was getting closer, at speeds in excess of 105 mph. Two motorcycles. I fired up the flashy-flash and the woo-woo box, and headed out toward the pursuit. Realize that we must be very close, I stopped (beyond the creek bridge, dummy!), and slew my car across both lanes of traffic as I saw a single headlight coming on fast. I swept my spotlight across the road (it was sundown, but still fairly light), pointed it right at the fleeing cyclist before stepping in front of my car at the gap of the road and pointing my Glock at him and telling him to get off the bike as he rolled up.

He did have the presence of mind to use his kickstand before getting to the ground. Good for him.

After cuffing him and handing him off to the pursing officer, I received a disturbance in progress call, and took off to respond to a large woman reported to be trying to beat in a residence door. I negotiated her leaving for the occupant giving her her property, and she left. I marked the times on my daily call sheet, and went back home. I'd been gone for 49 minutes, and had over half my break left.

The bowl had spilled a little. Niiiice. Something to clean up.

My wife was surprised as I walked in, and said,"Turned out to be nothing, huh?"

"No, I made a felony arrest by gunpoint and stopped a reported 'home invasion' before coming back," I said, digging into my second second bowl of beans.

"Good lord. I'd have to change my pants if I'd just done that," she said.

"It's just the job," I said with the cool nonchalance of a Real Hero [t.m.]... while remembering how I had been standing my ground in the middle of the Farm-To-Market highway, blocking high-speed traffic, drawing down on that cyclist, and dropped my support hand for a second, because I had to wipe bean juice off my chin.

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Friday, July 20, 2007


The very first post that I posted here was tangentally related to beer. I kind of thought that I would continue the trend, but other things seem to pop up. If you were to click on the "beer" tag at the bottom of this post, you'd find that I've written about beer a little bit in this blog.

I like beer.

The first beer I ever drank was liquid nastiness. It was an old, old can of Old Milwaukee in the bottom back of an old, neglected refrigerator in an old A-frame cabin. The cabin had no running water, but it had electricity, and an old semi-retired refrigerator. The cabin was mainly a hunting cabin, but was, that summer between my junior and senior years in high school, my residence while I worked as a ranch hand. Untold amounts of food had dripped onto the can over the years, and it had undefined chunks on it. I don't know how long it had been there. Because of the heat of July, I would try to sleep half the day, work in the evening, and then stay up late. (Ah, self-directed labor.) Because of the lack of running water, I had to drive 20 miles, half of it over almost impassable roads, to fill my jugs with potable water.

One day, I woke up, dry of mouth. The sun was full in my face, and it was past noon. I'd been suffering a stuffy nose, due to the dust, and slept with my mouth open; my tongue was like cotton. The thermometer said that it was just about 100 degrees, and rising. I checked the jug. Empty. I went out to the truck, to check my canteen. Empty. So. Very. Dry. I checked the fridge, and found the beer. I was a good 17 year-old. I really hadn't been drinking. I drank the beer, and it was the nastiest wake-up drink I'd ever put in my mouth. I didn't touch beer until...
Freshman year at U.T.

Let's just say that some abuse occurred, none of which endeared me to beer.

Then I went to UNT, and met some guys who liked good beer. I was impressed that they actually LIKED beer, for more than just getting drunk or cooling off on a hot day. We put together a party that October that mostly surrounded a keg of Guinness Extra Stout, called, predictably enough, "Guinnesscide."

I met my future wife there.

On about our third or fourth date, my Future Wife and I decided to see Good Foot (a funk band) play. Because it is best to dance when seeing funk bands, and because my wife was a little inhibited, she suggested that we purchase a six-pack of beer and consume same before going to the show. That was about where my appreciation for beer really was back then. I could drink it, but didn't have much love for it. It was cheap, and cold.

Four months later, however, I'd started to find that, strangely, some beers were beginning to interest me, while others still seemed skunky. I walked into a local brew shop, and the purveyor educated me on why, while managing to sell me a kit to brew my first five gallons of beer-- a pilsner.

True beer, she informed me, had four components, each of which changes the flavor. The necessity of purity had driven the Germans 500 years before to pass a law called Reinheitsgebot, which dictated that only three ingredients could be placed in beer: 1. Barley malt. 2. Water. 3. Hops. In the 19th century, the yeast was discovered, and now that too may be added. The sediment layer of yeast from one beer is moved to the next batch of wurt. She added that the fifth ingredient was sanitation, explaining that lack of cleanliness created Bad Things.

This and many other chats opened my eyes. You could use boughten spring water to make beer. You could use fresh or frozen fresh hop flowers to bitter and preserve your beer. You could add more or less barley malt, and buy different grades of it, roasted to different colors. You could add special hops that added almost no bitterness, but added aroma. You could get different strains of yeasts, to provide different yeasty flavors or lack of them. You could add more or less sugar at the end of the fermentation at bottling, to make the beer more carbonated or less carbonated. (Sparkling or still.) You could add a LOT of malt and yeast, and make it really alcoholic, or back it way down, and just make it a light summer drinking beer. You could even add a lot of malt, but stop the yeast halfway through their fermentation, so that the flavor was sweeter, and then change the off-setting bitterness by the amount of hops put in, and the duration that they were left in the boil.

It was like finding out that the train that you've been riding down the tracks is actually capable of doing aerial acrobatics, if you wanted it to. I did.

So I made up some batches. Some were okay, a couple were notably bad. I never got a mash infusion system (that's how the big boys did it), in which one actually takes grain and removes the malt right there in the pot. I always used extracts-- usually malt powder. I would put a little extra grain in some cloth and put that into the pot during the boil, to add a flavor or texture that I wanted. (For example, 4 oz of cara-pils grain in a boil adds nice lacing to the glass and a stiffer head to the beer.) I would make up little 5 and 2.5gallon batches, and drink them with friends. I even sent a few off to competitions, but never took better than third in my category. (Beer connoisseur Michael Jackson gave me a third place ribbon for a peach cream ale that I made.)
I was in the brew shop so much, the lady who owned it would sometimes pay me to mind the shop when she had to be out. I was expected to bring in my own home brews and drink them at the shop while on duty. God, that was a great job.

I finally pretty much gave up home-brewing. I still have the stuff, but haven't done much of it in years. Oh, there have been a few. When I got married, we brewed 10 gallons of good easy-drinking beer, and even non-beer drinkers enjoyed it. I managed to snag one half-cup of it, in between shaking hands and meeting people; it was good, and went great with the barbecue.

Now, I treat myself to boughten beers of different styles, from different cultures around the world, the country, and the state. I used to be something of a snob-- Only imports. Only microbreweries. But there are some great large-batch beers made very, very well. In fact, as my friend and professional brewer John Morrison had learned at the Seibel Institute, common Budweiser, "The King Of Beers," is technically a perfect beer... it just doesn't have enough flavor. (That's where corn and rice and stuff other than barely will get you!)

What surprises me is the popularity of beer, given its inherent complexity. Very few people like their first beer, yet most enjoy it later in life. I wonder if that has to do with the development of the palette? As I alluded to earlier, even foods which are made exactly the same way as I loved them made as a child now taste too sweet, typically. Could it be that most people grow to embrace the bitterness of the hops, and subtle sweetness of the malt? Interesting. It reminds me of how, as a child, I had hated raw tomatoes, but, around age 10 or 11, I discovered that there is no better thing than a vine-ripened raw tomato. (My elder daughter, as I suppose I should by now expect, is ahead of me; she turned the corner from hatred to love of raw 'maters at age 8.75, this summer.)

For whatever reason, socially beer has been thought of as the drink of the common man, and thus receives a lower status than wine or spirits. Some of this may stem from the quickness with which the beverage is made: one may go from grain to a top-end beer in well under a month using the slow traditional methods, and in about two weeks using the modern methods. Wine, on the other hand, may take a year or more to finish, with the faster versions finishing in a few months. Probably the ingredients are cheaper for beer than wine. While good hops are costly, they comprise only a small part of the overall volume of what goes into a mashing ton or a fermenting vat. Barley malt is just the byproduct of grain, and is easily produced, and dissolved into... water! By far the greatest part of beer is water, which is quite a bit less expensive than grape juice to come by. Because beer requires no distillation, it's easily understandable that it's less expensive, ounce per ounce, than the cheapest rotgut whiskey.

Because of its popularity and cheapness, companies have moved from the traditional methods of shipping it (kegs, bottles) to the modern cans. Some major innovations had to take place to make the humble beer can a viable option. Because of the high proportion of can surface area to the product, it is very easy to detect the metallic flavor that the cans impart to beer, if something isn't done to prevent it. What's been done, virtually throughout the industry, is to line the metal with a thin layer of plastic to prevent the beer from touching the aluminum. Surprisingly, this works pretty well, with only the purists claiming that they can taste the difference.

Brewing is a fairly popular home art. Under U.S. law, without any licenses, a single brewer may make 100 gallons a year, or 200 gallons per household, so long as he or she does not sell it. Why the cap at 200 gallons? Because beyond that they figure that you're selling it, and if you're selling it, they want to tax the unholy Hell out of it. The U.S. government has a particularly high tax set for that sinful old beer. Interestingly, though, traditional lore is that brewmeisters are exempt from the draft. (I've never been able to establish if this is actually true, or mere myth.) I made my first batches before I was 21. I was legal to buy the materials, and legal to put them together, but at some point along the line, I became a minor in possession of five gallons of an alcoholic beverage.

In my recent move, I transported many 7.5 gallon vessels, 5, 6, and 2.75 gallon carboys, cases of bottles, bottle racks, siphons, hoses, brewpots, bottle brushes, etc. My wife rolled her eyes-- it's been a couple of years since my last beer, and longer since my last successful one. But it's an old hobby of mine, and I still think of myself as a brewer, I suppose, so I keep the stuff.

Maybe I'll craft another one, soon. . .

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Somebody call Ripley's!

I was at the Massive Home Hardware Center today, and happened to pass the key-cutting station. Thinking that I'd not yet gotten spare keys for my new residence, I stopped there and grabbed for my keys, looking wistfully around and wondering how long I was going to have to wait.

A young man 30 yards away instantly looked up, raised his hand in recognition of a customer, and hollered as he hustled over, "Can I help you, sir?"


But wait.

This guy actually knew how to man the key-cutter, and asked how many I wanted, and didn't sigh when I asked for three.

I thought about it, and said, "Not to impune your skills, but let's make it four, to give me an extra, just in case."

He smiled and said "I've got a pretty good record on this thing. It's how you set the key in the machine."

No doubt, I thought, thinking back to my time as a locksmith's assistant.

He banged out four keys in about 2 minutes flat, and put them in a bag and wished me a good day.

I got home an hour later, and tried the keys.

All four keys worked in the door flawlessly.

Believe It, Or Not!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Everything is sweet, these days. And that's not a good thing.

Breads. Sauces. Beans. Pizzas. Any pre-packaged food you look at, these days, it seems to have corn sweetener in it. Sometimes it's just stupid-- who the hell wants corn syrup in their picante salsa?!?

Part of the issue is that sugar is a preservative. It's a joke how many foods have "No Preservatives" on the packaging, but the top ten ingredients will note corn syrups, salt, and modified fats, the likes of which Mother Nature never heard of.

The other part seems to be that, in small doses, sweeter foods seem to taste better. "Well what's wrong with that?" you might ask. Hear me out.

As a poor kid in college, I used to occasionally run down to the food labs at the local university, where they would give you three slightly different versions of chips, crackers, juice, or whatnot, and I would taste them and rate different qualities about them ("Crispiness?" "Tangyness?") from 1 to 10. The samples were usually about the size of a souffle cup, such as what you would get some ketchup in to dunk your french fries when dining in at a fast food joint. They were mighty small. And here's the thing-- food tastes different in smaller servings. Think about the old "Pepsi Challenge." Ever take it? I did, several times. I consistently picked the PepsiCola, even though I personally preferred Coca Cola as a drink. The secret was in the serving size-- it was about 1 oz. The Pepsi was sweeter. In a tiny dose, it was better.

But who eats that way? A quarter ounce of Cheetos. A jigger of cola. I don't, and I don't care if you're Kate frickin' Moss-- you don't either.

As I get older, food just plain tastes too sweet, anyway. I don't need more sweetening in it. Not to mention, why are we packing my food full of simple sugars that don't do my waistline or my friends and family with diabetes any damned good?

So when I read Tamara's jeer on how government subsidies on corn may be messing up the market, my first thought was "at least if they're putting it in my gas tank, they're not putting it in my food." (Or my beer. Do you have any idea how few American beers actually use barley malt, these days?)

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Because I want sooooo badly to bow to peer pressure...

And want to make my own avatar, like all the kewl kids.

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If you don't want your spouse or significant other to really resent your pastime or hobby, then you better get it packed up and organized tight before attempting to move from one residence to another.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Collaboration excuses and whining.

It's been done for a coupla days. Just need to clean it up and have AD and Babs peruse it.


Today I pick up the biggest truck Budget will rent me. ("Are you sure you don't have anything that requires a commercial license to drive?" I asked.) At about $100/day, my bill will be about $220. Add-ons. Feh.

I'm putting everything remaining in my house into that thing, and dumping half of it into a storage unit, and the other half into a little rent house I'm getting. While it's a nice little house, it's a rent house. Rent houses are the worst of both worlds-- you're paying someone else to live there, you own nothing, and you still have to mow the damned lawn.

The upside is, the landlady's apparently a peach, she's willing to go month-to-month while we look for a house to buy, and the commute to work is about a block and a half.

Closing Friday. Moving all this weekend.

Haven't even begun to think about getting an ISP set up at the new address. Or water. Or electricity. (Note: Do those things.)

Are you seeing where I'm going with this? The whole Blog thing? It's gonna get set aside, a tad.

Sorry 'bout that.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Speedy culture fusion

Backyard tomatoes, slightly salted.

Wisconsin Extra Sharp Cheddar.

Fort Worth flour tortillas.

Vietnamese Sirachi rooster sauce (with extra seeds).

Korean microwave.

Zap for 22 seconds on a Chinese plate.

Multicultural veggie quesa dia goodness, but fast.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"All these moments are lost, like teardrops in rain."

Well, I was hoping my post from last night would pop back up.

I'm a huge proponent of composing in a separate word processor program before putting my post into the narrative field, but didn't do it this time, and besides, Blogger's been touting this AutoSave feature, right? I hit SAVE POST periodically, and Blogger claimed that it had.

Lying bastiches.

I'll probably put it back up later.

The other day, I posted my comment on Tamara's post, and it didn't pop up for about 24 hours, even though I could see it in my Edit menu.

The problem seems to first be notable when I can't get the cursor to pop up in the Title field, but that may just be a coincidence.

I guess I'll go back to belt and suspenders, again.

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Blogger's acting strange.

I'm losing posts.

Most recent was an 80% finished draft on modern duty pistols' follies.

Dang it.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007


Tamara discusses Apple computer products, explaining her respect for the products while maintaining a healthy disdain for some of the sillier aspects of them. She refuses to drink the KoolAid, though:

"The worst thing, though, is the fans. The iBorgs. I mean, does the bunker
mentality come free in the box, or do they ship it to you after you've sent in
the registration card? It's the same reason I have a cordial dislike for Glocks;
the product may be adequate, but if you use it, people might think you're one of
them, and I'm just not ready to join The Collective, thankyouverymuch.

Get. Out. Of my head.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

You want family-oriented?

I gotcha family-oriented, right here.

This morning, my wife and my girls and I got up kind of early for a Saturday.
We drove up I-35 to Gainesville, TX, and headed east on Hwy 82 for 26 miles, before heading north on Hwy 91 for six miles to Crawford Rd, and took a left. A coupla hundred yards later, we were at the Bailey Berry Patch.

These people are frickin' brilliant. They found a nice sandy piece of acreage that has decent drainage, and put in wide-spread rows of blueberries and three acres of blackberries. In Texas, while blackberries thrive, blueberries are kind of rare. These people use drip irrigation, and pump from the large stocktank that they have at the bottom of the hill. They plant six acres with several different varieties of blueberries, and they come in at slightly different rates. Because the season is June through mid-July, the day gets kind of hot by mid-afternoon, so they deal with that, too-- they shut down at 2:00PM. They're closed on Monday and Friday.

Here's the brilliant part-- they don't pick 'em. You do. You have to get up early, and drive out to the countryside, and then you do the picking, bring up your bucket... and pay them for the privilege.

Do people really do this?

Only several hundred a day.

$11.00 a gallon gets you a bucket that's wayyyy more then a gallon. They give the kids little painted pails to help out, too. With low-mown grass and wide-spread rows of chest-high berry bushes, you just let the kids run wild. When they get bored, let 'em ride down with one of the nice ladies in a golf cart to the stock tank, where they can feed the enormous catfish down there.

When you bring the pails of berries up, they take 'em from you and clean the berries, running them over a small conveyor belt with a blower and the owners' grandchildren posted to pick put the unripe or bad berries or detritis that got into your bucket. Then they bag and label your harvest for your drive home. They'll also sell you a glass of blueberry lemonade for a buck, though they've got big coolers of water spread around, and even have (clean!) restrooms.

They've got a little vegeteble stand, and have homemade preserves for sale, too.

This place is kind of idyllic.

The people are nice.

The place is nice.

The produce is nice.

The experience of letting your kids run around picking berries and coming back with purple faces and full buckets is nice.

Having blueberries all year long (we just freeze them whole in ziplock bags) that we picked is nice.

We spent $22.00, plus another $5 for a couple of hamburgers and some lemonade to support the Sadler VFD today.

We had a great time.

Just thought I'd let y'all know, next time you're in the area.

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