I knew he was going to be a problem when he got out of his brand spanking new cruiser. All shiny and blue…just like him. He was spit and polished, all sharp creases, all five foot four of him. Is there not a height requirement? Aviator sunglasses wrapped around his round head. They weren’t mirrored but Immediately I thought of “Cool Hand Luke…” until he opened his mouth. Then I thought of “red neck” Sherriff J. W. Pepper. I am sure when he looked in the mirror he saw “John Wayne” …only with slicked back hair. Before the day was out I’m sure he had at least one John Wayne thought, “Pilgrim, you caused a lot of trouble this morning.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for good cops and the few I have run afoul of have been great. My favorite was a six foot “forever” patrolman who stopped me from “flying” over the Church Street bridge. Preceded by a deep and hearty laugh, “This should be interesting. Can you explain why you were doing sixty in a thirty-five…with Driver’s Education stickers all over your car?” It did not seem prudent to say I had forgotten to take them off. Thank God, a warning.

Linda and I go on “walkabouts” and on a beautiful spring Sunday decided we would walk about what we call “Hemlock Hills.” We have ninety acres of what was described as “gently rolling.” It’s a lie. Some of it is pretty steep rising four hundred feet above where our house sits and is cut by deep ravines that feed seven streams once used to feed stills producing the moonshine that made the “Dark Corner” famous. Most of the land is covered by hardwood, mountain laurel, rhododendron and hemlock, the tree not the poison. There are terraces from previous attempts at hilltop farming but nature reclaimed them long before we settled there. From the top of our property we have great views of both Glassy Mountain and Caesar’s Head. Truly a beautiful view, especially with the new green growth of spring and the blooming laurel.

We didn’t get far on our trek. A half mile up, and I do mean up, our logging road I saw a flash of sunlight where there shouldn’t be sunlight along with fresh vehicle tracks…and a ripped off muffler and tail pipe to go with broken fender parts and side view mirrors. Further down we found logging chains, wedges, logging tools and a battery that might have brought an Abram’s tank to life. We also found two cars and a truck showing a lot of wear from their mile or so “overland” journey on the old, rutted and grownup logging road that connected us to Chinquapin Road. After a quick investigation and with the hackles standing up on the back of my neck, we quickly reversed our course and summoned the police. Enter “John Wayne” Cop.

I met him at the top of Chinquapin and my unnamed logging road…well it’s not mine, it actually crosses two other properties before it gets to mine. It is also rutted six or eight-inches-deep in places. I have used it with my tractor and with my old FJ 40 land cruiser but never with a police cruiser. I still haven’t. He strutted like a bantam rooster when he got out of his cruiser and seemed to fidget impatiently as I told him my story. He also ignored the part about walking in to view the crime scene. When I told him it was about a mile walk it was settled, we were driving in with the air conditioning blasting. Because I had been taught to respect the law I crawled in beside him making sure my seat belt was tight. Good thing. We didn’t get far. He also ignored my instructions to stay on the “high side” of the ruts. We came to a sudden and violent stop as his oil pan, drive shaft and rear end hit the center dirt hump. Because he was accelerating at the time we continued forward as his rear end ground into the compacted soil. We finally bounced to an unceremonious halt with both rear wheels off of the ground.

He didn’t seem to be as “cocky” when he got out of the cruiser. Surveying the damage, he weakly asked if I could stand on the bumper and bounce it. I said sure but added, “You do know your tires are not touching the ground, right?” I still get a chuckle from Linda when I tell that part of the story. I bounced it up and down but we were stuck fast.
After walking in to survey the stolen cars, he stopped me by putting his hand on my chest while pulling his weapon. In a hushed voice he said, “We can’t be too sure they are not still here.” I silently wondered if the powers actually allowed him to load his weapon and decided to stay well behind him…even when he turned to talk to me. “What are you doing?” when I tried to stay behind his left shoulder. “Just trying to stay out of the line of fire sir.” I doubt he was amused.

Walking back out we found he could get no reception from his radio or cell phone at the bottom of my rutted road. Yeah, they have to pipe us sunlight to. I also noticed his car was bleeding fluid. I would say oil from a fractured pan. Walking up to Chinquapin to get reception he was a bit more reserved as in “silent like the inside of a coffin.” When he finally got reception there was first a phone call to the lab to come process the crime scene and then to his sergeant. Once he told his story there was a five-minute tirade coming from the other end. Turns out it WAS a brand new cruiser now a little worse from wear. Four tow trucks later the cars were gone as was “John Wayne” Cop. They left all of the logging materials, something I am “really” likely to use.

Since “John Wayne” Cop left his cruiser stuck in my logging road’s ruts I have had a tractor and an FJ 40 stolen and replaced with a stolen power company boom truck hidden on my property after it had driven through the gate I had put up to block the road. Thievery is not just an urban issue and I really wish the locals would go back making shine or growing “Glassy Mountain Gold” to supplement their incomes. News flash to self, “The Honest Ones Still Do!” Both the tractor and FJ 40 have proven to be irreplaceable. I got a replacement tractor which has proven to be inferior. Linda Gail is tired of hearing me gripe about it and spend money on it. The FJ 40 was returned to me…but not in the same shape it was in before it was stolen. Its red paint had been painted over in flat black from aerosol cans, its original radio broken out with a crowbar and various parts removed including its master cylinder, a fact I didn’t know about until I tried to stop it. I can’t even prosecute the jerk who stole it. He is doing hard time in Georgia. Later my cruiser became so embarrassed with itself it caught fire and burned. No, I didn’t get to keep the boom truck and it would not have been an equal trade anyway. I guess there are serpents in any Garden of Eden but it seems as if we have had more than our share.

Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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