Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ghoulies and ghosties and tac teams that go bump in the night.

People who've never worked in Public Service (EMS, Rescue, FD, law enforcement, Coast Guard and such-like) get really confused when they ask me what being a Peace Officer is really like, and I tell them stories like the one that follows.

I blame it on Hollywood.

When the SVU officers spend three hours past oh-dark-thirty in 10 degrees below bloody zero weather walking every alley in town because the Alzheimer's has told Grandpa Frickert to slip out the side door of the nursing home and go walkabout, then it'll be true-to-life.

People always think of the dramatic stuff. Nobody on TeeVee ever issues a BOLO for a "Mixed breed dog, mostly white with a black face, answers to 'Fluffy'" and have every officer in ear-shot looking because some 8-year-old kid is crying his eyes out.

Find me a TeeVee officer who's ever answered a 911 call and wound up standing ankle-deep in water with a hand clamped around a ruptured water pipe while the owner goes to turn off the water. Or snaked into the spider-infested crawlspace under a house in order to pull out Suzy's new kitten.

I got a 911 call once because a rattlesnake was slithering up a tree towards a nest full of baby birds. When I am going to get to see that one on 'Law and Order'?

Speaking of, the TeeVee cops take themselves wwwaaaayyyy too seriously.

But that's a rant for another time.

Which brings us to the story ...

One of the nice things about working in small towns is the...unique...problems that you learn to solve. One such problem belonged to a sweet little old lady who lived in big, old mansion over in the old section of town. She had a ...

*ahem*

... ghost infestation.

Now, most of the time this was all right (I think she liked the company), but once in a while the ghosts would get a wee bit rowdy. Thereupon, she'd call the S.O. and one of us would be dispatched to take care of the situation. We'd show up, she'd let us into the huge old house, the officer would go upstairs and read a stern warning to the ghosts.

I found that if you took George C. Scotts' speech from Patton, complete with pacing back-and-forth and gestures, and cleaned up the language a bit, the ghosts would normally be impressed enough to keep quiet for a week or two.

Once you were done, you'd go back downstairs, where the lady would stuff you full of homemade cinnamon rolls and iced tea, and you'd swap gossip for a while.

One day the Sheriff gets A Bright Idea: we'd take care of this situation once-and-for-all. Plans are made. People are notified. We wait for the call.

And one Friday evening, she calls. Not only are the ghosts rowdy, it sounds like they're having a party. And (delivered in whispered tones) she thinks she heard some girl ghosts giggling up there, and this Wasn't Right.

The call goes out. We load up our full-time officers (all four of them), we get our Reserves (mostly Security from a local Federal facility), we don our Ninja gear, we mount our Trusty Steed (re-worked, Korea-era Ambulance) and we sway and sputter and backfire and shudder and creak our way over hill and through dale.

Once on location, a hasty whispered conference takes place. Who looks the least threatening?

That would be Yours Truly having hysterics in the back.


Up I go, I knock on the door, tell the little old lady that we're here to solve her problem and seat her on the porch swing with a blanket.

*CRASH*

Twenty SWAT rhinos in full gear hit the door, clear the bottom floor tactically, flow the stairs, and then the shouting starts.

"Hey, you! YES, YOU! OUT, OUT, OUT!!"

"One here! Out, out, out! CLEAR!"

"You! Yes, you! Where do you think you're going? OUT, OUT, OUT!"

Thus were our thoroughly scared and cowed (albeit invisible) subjects herded to the front lawn, where the Sheriff is standing on the roof of the ambulance -- excuse me, SWAT vehicle -- delivering his patented fire-and-brimstone, straight-path/crooked-path speech. Complete with finger-pointing, arm waving and emotional entreaties to what only a absolute cynic would consider an empty lawn.

Watched with great interest by all the neighbors -- heck, most of the town -- who promptly got out the lawn-chairs, the sodas and the snacks and basically started a block party.

*sigh*

Small towns.

Once we were done, and had allowed the thoroughly chastised and completely humbled spirits back upstairs, we sat in her kitchen (in black BDU's, rifles, shotguns, etc.,) eating cinnamon rolls and drinking iced tea.

During this last part, the lady whispered to me that we had "Missed one."

Never said I wasn't fast on my mental feet -- I promptly whispered back that he was too young to be subjected to such a scary action. She examined him closely and declared that I was probably right.

It took the ghosts almost three months to go back to their rowdy ways.

Heh.

LawDog

19 comments:

The Grouchy Old Yorkie Lady said...

One of the things I love about small towns is the willingness of public servants to actually serve, even if it's outside their actual job description. I'm sure this happens in big cities too -- there are good people everywhere -- but it's more common in smaller places where people know one another.

I absolutely love this story. Thanks for sharing.

Carl H. said...

Let's face it. Once you've rid a house of a slime - emitting rock python 'Beef', then a passle of rambunctious ghosts is small potatoes. Still, good on ya for being kind to an old lady. And to an underage ghost.

Calico Jack said...

Good job, Dog.

shooter said...

You guys really should have called the producers from COPS to tape the whole thing for posterity. That is absolutely fantastic and original police work. I wish there were more like you working in Houston.

joated said...

Lovely story, just lovely.

Wish I could have heard the straight and narrow, right way, wrong way speech.

catfish said...

thanks for your service.

great story.

Anonymous said...

About 30 years ago, some Detroit cops (I use "cops" in a familiar way, not in a derogatory way) told me the story of "The Ray Lady." This woman (who was obviously mentally ill, would go into various police stations, exclaiming loudly "They're killing me!" The polic would respond, "Who's killing you, lady?" To which she would reply, "The rays! The sun's rays are killing me!"

The cops convinced her to cover herself in aluminum foil to reflect the sun's rays away from her. They said she even lined all of the walls of her house with foil to reflect the rays away.

About five years after that, I was talking with another Detroit cop, and asked him if he knew about "The Ray Lady." He asked me, "You mean Mrs. Thompson?" It seems a lot of officers on the force knew her.

Anonymous said...

LawDog, you need to have these stories published! They are a riot.

Sometimes cops in the big city go out of their way to help people, too. We used to live outside of Houston. In 1990, my parents were taking a trip up north. About 20 minutes outside of St. Louis, my dad suffered a heart attack behind the wheel, and died instantly. The police officer at the scene called his wife to see if it was okay for my mother to come and stay with them until we could get someone to come get her. He then gave that offer to my mom. She didn't take him up on it, though, as we had friends close by who came and took her to their house until my older brother was able to drive up and pick her up. However, if I ever knew who that officer was, I would certainly want to give him a hug and thank him for his kindness and thoughtfulness during a tough time.

Kiki B.

Anonymous said...

I troll on some of the more liberal boards and see a lot of cop hatred. It's hard to wrap my mind around, but they seem to think all cops are jackbooted racist thugs and SWAT teams are trigger-happy death squads used to terrorize people. Too damn bad they'll never get here to read this story.

On second thought, they'd probably call the ACLU to protest that you've violated the rights of dead Americans.

AFSister said...

OMG... that is absolutely hilarious!
Too bad you didn't get it on video!

Anonymous said...

Then there's the young small Vermont town cop who got the job of telling my wife that her mother had died, relaying the message from another town's cops, in another state, who took the time and trouble to track us down as the immediate next of kin. The officer who gave us the message was as caring and concerned as he could be and sincerely offered any help he and the department could give. No surprise to me, that's the kind of Police Department we have in our town.
"gunner"

Lauren said...

A friend of mine got taken in a drug bust at seven years old, when the police raided her mom's apartment. It was around 2am, but the cop called home and had his wife wake up *their* seven year old daughter, so that my friend would have someone she could talk to. And he stayed with her until CPS came, rather than passing her from hand to hand.

She always remained grateful to that one cop, and even wanted to become one herself, for awhile.

jhisaac1 said...

>the rights of dead Americans
I believe you meant to say "inhumed Americans." :-)

Anonymous said...

When my son was 3, for a few days he was afraid of a "creature" that was in the corner of his room at night when it was time to go to bed. I asked him to point to where 'it' was, then went to the corner, pretended to grab said "creature" and commanded it in a deep, strong voice, "Come with me. You're going outside!". Then I dragged the protesting "creature" out of the room and out the front door and yelled at 'it', "Now go away and don't come back!" Came back in, slammed the front door closed. Son went peacefully to sleep.

The Anonymous Therapist said...

This is truly above and beyond the call of duty. Your department deserves some sort of award for this.

Anonymous said...

After I was at my desk an officer called me to inform me that my wife had died. They were notified by our very young grandkids who told the neighbors that Granma fell down and they couldn't wake her up.
When I arrived, and the 'official' part was over. I went outside to collect the little ones from the nieghbors and the officers were still there.
They,[El Cajon, CA PD] had giving them Teddy bears from thier trunk, [Which I found out later they keep a supply of] And the rest of the story played out.
I never got thier names, just a little stress, but they helped a very great deal.
P.S. Those girls are now in thier thirties and still sleep with the Teddy Bears.

Scott said...

Ha ha ha! I can't wait to read the super post you do with Babs and AD.

Daisy said...

that was an absolute riot...thank you for sharing...i had never known such small town stuff existed till i met my husband who is from a very small town in illinois...OMG the stories! and yes we are posted in the weekly newspaper every time we eat dinner at the in-laws home...

Anonymous said...

My daughter used to have "monsters."

Every night at bedtime was an hour of "monster hunt." I got her a spray bottle of perfumed water "monster repellent" so she could keep them away.

I tried to keep it light, but it got old.

At the end of one extra-stressful day, I played "monster hunt" and proved the room was clean, and she went to sleep.

Short time later, a PIERCING scream sent me scurrying into her room.

" 'Dere's MON-stahs in heah, Daddy! MON-stahs!!"

I lost it.

I flipped on the brightest lights and screamed at the top of my lungs:

"ALLRIGHT.

THAT is **IT!!**

LISTEN UP All you flink-blaning MONSTERS!!

THIS IS ***MY*** HOUSE, and I simply WILL NOT HAVE ANY MONSTERS IN IT ANY MORE.

GEEETT

OOOUUUUT!!!

I held the door for them, then screamed "and STAY out!!" before slamming the door.

Never heard about monsters again.

She's 16 now, and remembers this. Neither one of us is sure if I scared the monsters away, or scared HER so bad she never mentioned them again.

In either case, they were gone...

=o )

DD