Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Was I Thinking...

Ok. Here she is. The reason I have not had any time to write a post. The reason I haven't gotten a full days work in for at least two weeks. The reason my house is a mess. The reason my patrol truck is no longer lonely. The reason I am smiling.
Maple on patrol
A German Shorthair Pointer- and her name is Maple. Ok, dog experts out there, I need advice. This great white hunter will not leave the house because it is cold outside. She goes out, tucks her tiny tail as far between her legs as she can get it, then sits down, whimpers and shivers. Tough girl. It is kind of hard to wear off all that GSP energy if she won't leave the house. I'm looking for suggestions...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


pay attention to your hackles
 I told him it was a bad idea but he didn't believe me.

My neighboring warden (I'll call him Tim), often calls me up and says, "Are you ready for this one?" I'm almost never ready, but rest assured he always tells me anyway. Sometimes his stories are outrageous- for some reason the people in his territory are twisted. But this time, after asking me if I was "ready", he filled me in on a pretty typical deer baiting case. Tim wanted to know if I'd be able to help him out.

It is kind of a complicated story, but the short version was that he had information that a father and son would be deer hunting that night over bait (a mineral block and scattered corn). Tim has photos of the baited stand and has good information coming straight from a neighbor of the bad guy.

I agreed to help him, and we met later that afternoon at a gas station along with the informant. Tim said, "I was thinking that I would walk in on the dad and you could walk in on the son." He went on to say that the dad is supposedly a mean drunk, and it was quite likely that he will have had a few drinks before climbing into his tree stand. But don't worry- Tim will be looking for him while I will be after the 20 year old son. I asked Tim and the informant (Matt), how far away his son will be hunting from him. Their answer? "We're not sure".

I didn't like that answer, but Tim was convinced that the son would be hunting about 1/4 mile from his dad in a tripod stand out in the middle of a pasture. He assured me that the boy would be easy to find.
"So, what do we do when we find them?" I asked Tim. Tim told me that he planned on just taking his ticketbook into the field with him to reduce the amount of time he would need to spend talking with the mean old bat. I hate taking my ticket book when I'm walking in on a hunter. It tends to make them nervous.

"This is just an idea...since we know that Dave is a mean bastard, and we know where he will be, why don't we walk in on him together. We will seize his cell phone temporarily so he can't call his son. Then we can have him lead us right to him, since we really have no idea where his son will be," I suggested.

Nah, Tim vetoed that plan on the grounds that nobody in their right mind would voluntarily hand over his cell phone. We would be going our separate ways. While Tim took off to go pinch Dave, I jumped into Matt's car and we set off in search of the son. Matt had a general idea where the boy would be located, but he was unsure how to get us there. Eventually we pulled into a driveway that looked like it had access by way of a back field. When we drove up to a barn, an older "gentleman" stepped out and asked us if he could help us. Matt told him that he needed to get to "Dave's" pasture and wondered if it was possible to access it by way of his back field. The old guy leaned over and squinted into the car, then asked, "What for?" We were both dressed in camo, and we preferred not to say who I was because Matt wanted to remain anonymous in this whole mess. But as we scrambled to try to explain why we needed to get to the pasture, another "gentleman" emerged from the barn holding a shotgun in both hands, and asked us who we were. I told him that I was a game warden and was working a case. I needed to go talk to someone who was hunting the pasture. We noticed him take a giant gulp, and his swagger with the shotgun was over. He told us how to get to the pasture.

We slowly pulled through the gate and shut it behind us. As we were creeping up the hill in Matt's car, he pointed out my window and told me that he believed the boy was hunting the pasture to my right. We got out of the car and walked up to the fence. I glassed the field and didn't see anything. "I don't see any tripod stand out there," I told Matt. We got back into the car and drove past the next set of trees and got out of the car again. Hesitantly, I agreed that we would just walk out into the pasture and walk across it to see if we could get a good look at the pasture on the other side of a draw. As Matt and I were on our way to this spot we discussed the possibility that these two idiots might very well be holding shotguns or rifles instead of bows. It made me a little (a lot) nervous to be walking across a field when I had no idea where my bad guy was, and what kind of state he would be in. But stupidly, I went anyway.

I grabbed my M-16 and fumbled my way over a barbed wire fence. Matt followed and soon we were crossing the pasture. You know that feeling that someone is watching you? I had it- big time. And just as my hackles were starting to raise, I heard a loud and distinct (and very angry) voice yell, "What the FUCK are you DOING? Who the fuck are you?"

Matt made a beeline for the trees and I slowly turned around. I had walked right past him. The son was approaching me from an area of the pasture I had just walked past. I quickly identified myself as a game warden and walked up to him. As I was walking up to him, my cell phone rang. It was Tim. He whispered, "Where are you? Are you ok?" I told him that I was fine so far, and that I had just met Dave's son. I tried to describe my location, which was quite difficult since I hadn't the faintest idea where I was. Tim then whispered, "I don't see Dave. He isn't where I thought he would be." Wonderful. I politely told Tim to get his ass over to my location (wherever that might have been).

I began my interrogation of Dave's son, Luke. Luke didn't have a deer license, so I had him with one charge, but as he led me to his treestand (which I had walked right past without seeing), I realized that it wasn't baited. I asked Luke for his phone, which he handed over without a fight.

At this point I was beginning to worry about how Matt would go about getting back across the field to his car without being seen. I also worried that he would blunder right into Dave and end up getting shot by the drunken idiot. I decided to take Matt's bow and arrows, his i.d. and his phone and have him walk over to the farm house where I would meet up with him later. Matt agreed and began walking across the field. My phone rang again. "Where are you?" Tim asked again, "Are you ok?" I explained what was happening and told Tim that he could meet us at the house. "Which house?" he asked. Then he said, "Right now I'm in a field with horses. I don't see a house." I had no clue where Tim was, and just as I was about to describe the house, I heard someone yell, "Hey!". Off to my left I saw a guy dressed completely in camo approaching me.

My first thought was, Whew, Thank God Matt is ok. I pointed towards Luke (who was walking across the field), so that Matt wouldn't let himself be seen. It was at that moment that I realized it wasn't Matt. The guy yelled again, and Luke turned around and started walking towards him. Just peachy. Now I had both Luke and his lovely, mean, drunk father. The guy that, don't worry, Tim was going to take care of.

I quickly called Tim and updated him on the situation. I tried my best to once again describe my location. Tim was clearly confused, and out of breath. He kept saying, "I feel like I've walked two miles! Where the hell are you?" I wanted to shout, "I'm in a pasture in the middle of nowhere right next to the non-existent tripod stand you wanted me to find!" But I didn't.

I'll speed up the ending of the story since it lacks excitement. I managed to keep the two men at ease until a bedraggled Tim found his way to us. Neither treestand had bait, but neither man had a deer license. By the end of the night, the two men were shaking our hands, and pretending to be very ethical hunters. They continually lied, "We would never hunt over bait. Someone must be trying to set us up." I'm not that stupid, but what could I do. We cited them for what we could, and walked the mile back to Tim's truck (which included a nice little field trip through a field with one VERY big bull).

I got into Tim's truck and vowed never again to do something so stupid- especially when I knew it was stupid going into it. It is a bad feeling knowing that Luke was watching me the whole time and I didn't have a clue where he was. If he had wanted to (or if Dave had been drunk and desperate enough) they easily could've put a bullet through my back.

Tim and I were lucky. Next time he calls and says, "Are you ready for this?" maybe I'll hang up. (Kidding of course).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Grand Prize

AJ is an idiot. I don’t know how else to describe him. The first time I heard about AJ was from his mother who called me one day wanting me to come over to her house to “scare” her son into behaving better. She was just sure he was out spot-lighting at night and needed a talking to.
The second time I met him was after the school superintendent called me to complain that AJ was skinning raccoons in the back of his truck in the parking lot of the high school. AJ not only had no trapping license, but also had a truck full of untagged traps in his truck along with about 5 raccoons.
Then there was the time that Red caught AJ out at a wildlife area off-roading through the mud and fields in a wildlife area. Red called me and asked if I knew AJ. “Yes,” I moaned, “I know AJ. Whatever he did, tell him I’ll be over tonight to write him a ticket.” I wrote him a ticket that night and thoroughly explained that he needs to keep his vehicle on the roadway.
Red caught him again- the very next day.
AJ is an idiot.
Every time his number pops up on my caller i.d. I groan and weigh the pros and cons of actually answering the phone. Every time I do, I regret it. For reasons that are beyond me, he acts like my best friend in the world. Like instead of receiving tickets every time he sees me, he is receiving a check for $100.
AJ can no longer legally drive. Anything. He is barred from driving as a result of having too many traffic tickets. But like many idiots, this doesn’t slow him down.  This past winter he was arrested and taken to jail TWICE in one day. The first time he was caught driving a snowmobile following a blizzard that left the county buried in snow and ice. A deputy hauled him off to jail, where his grandparents immediately posted bail. Later the SAME afternoon, he called into dispatch from his truck (a white beater with an orange flashing light on the roof—which is always flashing) to report a road that “needed plowed” (just like EVERY road in the county that day). The city cop arrived. Then took him to jail.
AJ is an idiot.
He called me recently to ask me if he needed anything special to be a waterfowl guide. Aside from a brain, in this state no other licenses are needed. When AJ calls he always has a list of about 25 questions that he fires at me, one right after the next.  Two of his questions this time included, “What is a woodcock?” and “Is a rail one of those brown and white birds?” I told him that he might want to bring a bird book along before he shoots anything with his clients.
Last night I went to a Whitetails Unlimited banquet. I had just finished telling another officer about AJs big plans of becoming a waterfowl hunting guide. The officer responded by chuckling and rolling his eyes. Then I sat there with Red, listening to the announcer describing the next raffle. There were four gun cases. Inside one of the gun cases was a gun. Inside the rest were other prizes, one of which was a “one day duck hunt with a local guide… worth over $200.00!” I leaned over to Red and said jokingly, “It’s probably guided by AJ.”  Red and I laughed. Not 5 seconds after I cracked that joke, the announcer said, “AJ, are you here tonight?....Well, I guess AJ isn’t here, but he is a local, experienced waterfowl guide, ready to take the winner on a once in a lifetime duck hunt.”
I stopped laughing and nearly choked on my prime rib.
Just goes to show:
1.       This particular Whitetails Unlimited Chapter should look into background checks of their prize donations.
2.       The poor fellow who “won” this guided hunt is either going to know what he is doing and figure out that his prize was really the unusual form of punishment called, “Being stuck with an idiot for 4 hours”, OR he will shoot a Kill-deer under AJs instructions to shoot a Woodcock.
3.       If I can find AJ hauling his client out to the puddle where his blind is located, I will laugh all the way to jail after I arrest him for driving while barred.
4.       AJ is an idiot.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vacation Blues

I just survived, or maybe I should say that “Red” just survived our family vacation. It was a close call. If I had had my duty weapon, he might be dead by now.  I realize that many who read this blog are men, but I’m sure there will be a few mothers/wives who can relate to the “vacation blues” that a mother/wife experiences during a family vacation. The cause of the blues is mainly due to the realization that you are not only vacationing with the two children who plowed through your birth canal, but also the one you married.
First off, there is the actual traveling. I was a prepared mother….I had a bag stocked with “travel presents” that Chatterbox and Towhead would be allowed to open every so often in an effort to reduce the chances of tears and boredom and the “Are we there yet?” syndrome that strikes every child within the first hour of any trip. I have been staunchly against the car dvd players. I want my kids to remember seeing the landscape, and experiencing travel, instead of being zoned out in front of Spongebob Square-pants or some other equally stupid cartoon for the entire length of the trip. In short, I’m an idiot. The travel presents were a failure. I made the mistake of getting the kids different “presents” therefore causing Chatterbox to immediately scream, “I want ___________ (whatever Towhead just received)”. Who knew that a 4 year old girl would want the same toy/book/snack as a 2 year old boy? Me of course. I am the mommy.
Secondly, Towhead was teething. I think. Or he had an ear infection. Or he simply hated traveling. Whatever the cause, he felt it necessary to cry. And cry. And cry. I found myself leaping from the front seat to the backseat. Singing. Putting on puppet shows. Playing numerous games of “This Little Piggy” (only to have Chatterbox scream, “No-It’s my turn!!”) Coloring. Head caressing. Peek a booing. Face making. Ear plugging. Cursing. And shooting dirty looks to…. Red.
Red was driving. The whole time. He was in pure bliss. Red has the ability to simply block out all else that is happening in the car, and enjoy the ride. He gazes out the window, watching for birds to add to his life list. He goes no faster than 2 miles over the speed limit (even when Chatterbox is whining, “I have a tummy ache” translation: “I have to go poopy really bad”). He even has the gall to apply the brakes now and then, just to piss me off. I distinctly remember the same thing happening when I was pregnant and needing to pee. He would go at idle speed two blocks from our house.
He gave off the vibe: No worries here! Mommy will take care of it.
Red’s other downfall? He can’t handle changing plans. I have to give him several days warning if I so much as think about asking him to stop at the store on the way home from work to pick up a loaf of bread. Otherwise I must explain in great detail what I expect. And it must be worded very carefully. “Would you mind swinging into the store and getting a loaf of bread? I didn’t have time, since it is deer opener and all.”  (What I want to say is- Stop at the store and get bread. I didn’t have time because I too have a full time job- two hours of which was spent trying to come up with an idea for supper since the only suggestion you ever have is ham-steak. And because you used up the last slice on your day off with the children at home. Even though on my days off (as well as my days on) I frequent the grocery store with both our children. And no, it isn’t fun but I do it anyway.”
Silence. Silence.
“You mean, like the gas station (which is less out of the way)”.
“No, I mean like the grocery store. Where bread doesn’t cost $7 a loaf. It is the place where there are rows upon rows of food. Many people go there. And some people even take their children. I rarely purchase our roast beef from the BP. “
Silence. Silence.
Then, ten minutes later he will call me, while inside the actual grocery store and ask me to direct him to the correct aisle.
I digress.
After three hours spent in the car with my miserable children, cramped into the backseat and stressed out, we finally pull into a rest stop so Chatterbox can take care of her tummy ache. This is accomplished by me standing inside the stall with her and telling her, “Chatterbox, you have one mission here. You need to concentrate on pooping. Don’t ask me why there is a bug on the wall, or ask why there is water on the floor or ask why fish like to swim. You should have only one thing in your mind right now. Pooping. And don’t ask me why.”
Red, in the meantime is standing out in the grass with Towhead who has also filled his pants. Red apparently doesn’t do diapers on vacation. So, while I’m changing Towhead’s diaper, Chatterbox locates a playground at the rest stop and proceeds to have lots of fun going down the slide. After I finish changing the diaper, I feel it is only fair to let Towhead slide for a while too. I could use a little break myself. BUT. This wasn’t part of Red’s plan. He shoots me a dirty look as I tell Towhead to try out the fun slide. After about three turns Red tells the children it is time to go. They disagree. Usually this is when I step in and remind them that they must obey their father. Only this time I stay quiet. He can be the bad guy for once in his life.

Thirty minutes in to a two hour side trip on the second day. Towhead was grabbing his ears and bawling. I was miserable. Finally I said to Red, "You know, I don't think we are going to make it all the way." He looked at me in confusion. Had he not been hearing his son (and his wife) crying for the last half an hour? "Towhead is obviously in pain. I don't know what to do." His response? "I don't think there is anything you CAN do." He continued driving in peace. So I said, "Well, how about NOT driving for two hours?" Sure enough, as soon as those words left my mouth, little Towhead shut up. See? Red was right again (or so his smug look tells me). We continued on our merry way.
Then, there is the continental breakfast at the hotel.  The room was packed when we arrived. The hotel was hosting a wedding party and a church group and they all wanted breakfast at the same time. So we walk in. I’m holding onto Towhead so he doesn’t bolt for the pool and holding Chatterbox’s hand for the same reason. But there are no tables available. Instead of helping me come up with a plan of attack for providing our offspring with the most important meal of the day (without losing them in the melee), Red makes a break for the food. Two minutes later he arrives back with a plate full of biscuits and gravy (for himself) and looks at me like I should’ve found a table for all of us by now.
I’m regaining control.
There is more to the vacation from hell story. But I think this is good enough for now.
It is safe for me to remove my handgun from its safe in the morning and go to work. I look forward to chatting with people who, though they may be wearing shirts that read, “If It Flies It Dies” (it is dove opener, after all), at least they won’t expect me to cook for them, do the dishes and put their children to bed. After baking a cake. And having sex.
Thanks for letting me vent. I better go now- we are out of milk. And I need to unpack Red’s bag.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Squeal Like a Pig

Sometimes I can hear the banjo from the movie Deliverance before I even get out of my truck. It is almost like a version of having the hair raise up on the back of your neck. And my heart-rate speeds up a notch.

And it ticks even a little faster when, after running a driver's license, the dispatcher responds with,  "Are you 10-61?", meaning, "Are you standing right there with this dirtbag?" Immediately I know that the person I am dealing with has a warrant for their arrest. I don't check the record of every person that I run into, but sometimes I get that feeling, (um...not profiling), that I ought to check into things a bit.

I was working a "dirty" wildlife area in my territory late last Saturday night. I'm always a little bit creeped out working this area by myself, especially at night, and my nerves become even more high strung when I see someone's campfire, down by the river, and well off the road.

So it was 11:30 pm, when I drove my truck over a dirt barrier and made my way to the river. I parked the truck and walked to the river's edge where I found two guys, both with lines in the water. And a dog. A snarling, unfriendly dog.

I always approach people in a friendly manner- asking if they have had any luck yet. First clue- Sleazy guy #1 wouldn't look at me. Second clue- Sleazy guy #2 didn't call off his mean dog. They had driven their car over the same dirt hill I had and parked it on the edge of the trees, near where they were fishing. I asked for their fishing licenses and as they were digging through their wallets, I casually walked over and looked through the windows of the car. There was the usual clothes, cans, and assorted junk....and, covered in a blanket on the floor behind the front seat was an uncased .22 rifle. I bit my tongue and walked back to the men.

Each man handed me a license. Sleazy guy #2's licenses had a first name of Ann. I was pretty sure that this tattooed, greasy-haired, person standing before me was not named Ann. After pointing this out to the man, he admitted that Ann was his fiance. He handed me a driver's license and asked if I could "call it in". "Sure!" I said, and walked back to my truck.

The first person I called was the dispatcher at state radio, and that is when I found out that Sleazy guy #2 had an arrest warrant. After asking me if I was 10-61, she asked me what my "20" (location) was....Sleazy guy #2 had an aggravated assault on is record. Great. No troopers available, but they would try to get a deputy on the way to back me up.

Next I called our licensing system. No fishing license on record either. Just before getting out of my truck to talk to the men again, my phone rang. It was the sheriff's department wanting to know exactly where I was. First off, I must explain that many of the sheriff's deputies in my territory are rather clueless, so my chances of getting one of the few good ones was pretty slim. You would think a county deputy would be familiar with all the roads in the county. But you would be wrong. And it didn't help matters that I wasn't on a road at all. The deputy (of the clueless clan) said he would "try to find" me.

So, I was left with a I tell Sleazy guy #2 that he has a valid warrant? Do I let Sleazy guy #1 know that I saw the rifle in the car?

It is always a balancing act. How long can I stall before the deputy shows up without aggravating, or making these two guys nervous. I had already spent plenty of time on the phone, and Sleazy guy #1 was pacing. I decided it was best to leave sleeping dogs lie. I didn't say anything.

My fear was that if I dealt with Sleazy guy #2 about his warrant, it would make him nervous (and perhaps desperate). If I dealt with Sleazy guy #1 about the gun, I might find out that either Sleazy guy # 1 OR Sleazy guy #2 had another gun tucked conveniently in his pocket.

This tactic has worked pretty well for me in the past. Rather than get the suspect all hot and bothered without back-up, I wait until help arrives before dropping the bad news. One hunting season I happened upon an individual who had a $50,000 federal warrant from a state on the opposite side of the country. And the state was happy to extradite. It took about 10 minutes for 3 troopers and a deputy to show up on the dirt road, out in the boondocks to help me out. Unfortunately, my deputy back-up on Saturday was a wee bit on the tardy side.

Eventually I felt I had stalled as long as I possibly could, and decided to tackle the "rifle in the back-seat" issue first. I informed Sleazy guy #1 that I had spotted the rifle in the back of their car. I acted like it was no big deal-I just needed to make sure it was unloaded to make it safe. Then I asked if I could search the rest of the vehicle to make sure there were no more guns. Slezy guy #1 decided not to cooperate. No, I couldn't search (meaning either...yes, there are more guns in there Mrs. Warden....or do you like drugs Mrs. Warden? Because that is what you will find....or both).

By this time Sleazy guy #2 wanted to know what was going on with his fishing license. So, I broke the bad news that he had never purchased a license for the current year, and that he would receive a citation for not having a license. Just as I was about to break the especially bad news about the warrant, the deputy came thumping over the dirt mound. Just in time.

Sleazy guy #2 found out he was going to jail, and Sleazy guy #1 found out he was getting a citation for the uncased gun. Luckily, though they were obviously disturbed by this turn of events, neither one decided to act on it. They were cooperative.

The fiddle music went away. This time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Translator Wanted.

Sometimes I run into a stumbling block. It happened last night.

I was down below a dam checking fishermen when I come across two men who were fishing with a small stick with line wrapped around it. As soon as they saw me, one of the men tried to hide his stick under a rock. Too late- I saw it.
So I approach them and ask to see some fishing licenses. Blank stares. I ask again. More blank stares...and then "No Ingles! No Ingles". The men were clearly of Asian descent and I have run into this problem before. Luckily I was prepared, I pull out my handy dandy cards I had a Chinese professor from the local university translate for me. One of the cards says, "Do you have a fishing license?" So, I point to the sentence in chinese characters and one of the men excitedly says, "Oooh! Yes! License!" And he nods furiously. I point to his bag and try to play charades to ask if his license is in his bag. After several rounds of charades I give up, and pick up his bag and mime my way through getting consent to search its contents. Nothing. Not even an i.d.

When I show the second man the same sentence he furiously waves his hand around in the air like he is saying "Bye Bye", leaving me a bit confused as to whether he means, 'No, I don't have a license" or
'Man this place reeks of dead fish'.

So I turn back to the first guy and ask (in a loud voice, because it is hard not to do, even though I know he isn't deaf), "License?" I make a motion with my hands indicated that I need to see it with my eyes. I point to my eyes then point to the sentence asking about a fishing license. The man again shakes his head madly and starts saying, "Highway! Highway!" while he is pointing up in the sky. Huh?

"Your license is at the highway?"

"Highway! Yes! Highway!"

I point in the direction of the nearest highway and say questioningly, "Highway? Highway 6?"

Suddenly he starts making a shape in the air of a box and pokes his fingers into the box, "Highway!"

I point towards his bike and begin the pedal mime. I'm standing on the edge of the river running in place with my hands on imaginary handlebars, pumping away and saying very loudly, "Go to highway? Ride your bike to highway? License at highway?"

The Chinese man begins laughing at me.

I turn back to the other man and he merely begins his wild goodbye wave.

So, I take my fishing license from my pocket and pretend like I am handing it to an imaginary game warden. Then I switch places and become the imaginary game warden. I take the license from the imaginary me and look at the license admiringly, then give the imaginary me a giant thumbs up, in a desperate attempt to show that they need to show the game warden the fishing license.

The man laughs more. Apparently I'm putting on quite a show. More fisherman are beginning to watch my little one woman act.

Finally I pull out my pad of paper so I can attempt to get the man's name. I give him the paper and a pen, then pull out my flashcards. I find the one that says, "Please write your name."

The man smiles grandly, happy that he can finally do something that I'm asking him to do. He grabs the paper and scratches out what appears to be about 15 Chinese characters. I'm fairly certain that the Clerk of Court won't accept a citation written in chinese characters, so I begin belting out the abc's song. The men look at eachother and begin clapping along.

I give up.

I wave my hands back and forth, meaning "NO", then I pretend to reel in a fish, meaning "FISHING". NO MORE FISHING UNTIL YOU SHOW ME A LICENSE!

"Highway! Tomorrow!" He points to the river, "Tomorrow!"

"No," I say, shaking my head, "No more fishing!"

The men laugh and begin clapping some more. "Sank you, Sank you!" they say happily.

Just as I turn to walk in shame back to my truck, the men pick up their sticks and throw the line back into the water.

Mission accomplished. Or not.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Every once in a while...ok, let's be honest, quite often, I encounter someone that makes me feel like a pretty darn good parent (at least in comparison).

Tonight I got a phone call from the "Range Officer" at the pistol/rifle hooting range on one of the wildlife areas. He reported that someone brought a baby to the shooting range. The baby was in a stroller, with no ear protection, inside the fenced in shooting range. A blanket covered the baby (it was 90 degrees today), and the child had been bawling for the last half hour.

By the time I arrived at the shooting range, the couple had gotten the baby into their car to go home. I approached the (very young) parents, and instructed them to never, EVER, bring the baby back to the shooting range again. The father just stared at me like he wanted to punch me, and the mother had a perpetual smirk on her face like she was going to start laughing.

"You have probably already given the baby some hearing damage by exposing him to these gunshots out here...not to mention all the lead," I said.

More blank stares and smirks...then the dad said, "Well we put the blanket over top of his stroller to muffle the sound. I stuck my head under there and it was just like wearing earmuffs."

I lectured him about the fragility of a baby's eardrums, and told them that if I ever saw the baby at the shooting range again that I would pursue Child Endangerment charges.

"Well, we are taking him to the sprint car nationals  next weekend, so he will be exposed to even more noise," the father said (purely to piss me off) as he climbed into the car to leave.

They drove away and I looked at the Range Officer in disbelief. How could a parent be this stupid?

After I left, I called a deputy to find out whether Child Endangerment would really fit the bill. He said that he didn't think it would, but it was definitely a candidate for the Dumbass Parent of the Year Award. It was one of those moments when I really wished I could give someone a ticket for being stupid.

I hung up and called DHS.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pot? What pot?

I've spent the last several evenings arresting drunk people driving boats. Of course, I always stumble on them as I'm on my way back to my vehicle to head home for the night. Two nights ago I had an especially interesting one. He was not only drunk...but also high.

Here is a list of things this gem said to me throughout the evening.

1. "Pot? What pot?"
"The pot that I quite plainly smell right now. Where is it?"
"I don't have any pot. Do you guys have any pot?"

2. "Pleeeeaaaase? I'm already in enough trouble out here. Can you please pretend you didn't see the pot?"
"What do you mean you are already in enough trouble out here?"
"Two weeks ago some lady said that I raped her. It was a misunderstanding."

3. "How much did you smoke?"
"I didn't smoke anything."
"I'm not stupid. How much did you smoke?"
"I didn't smoke anything."
"Open your mouth so I can see your tongue....thank you...that's what I thought. How much did you smoke?"
"Maybe one hit."

4. "Is there anyone you can call to come and load up your boat? We are going downtown, so someone needs to take possession of your boat. Who can you call?"
"I could call my wife, but she is still mad at me about the rape."

5. "You are under arrest for Boating While Intoxicated. If you are going to be decent with me, I'll cuff you in the front for the ride."
"Wow, I feel like a seal. These are great flippers!" (as he claps his cuffed hands together).

6. "Can you pleeeeaaase turn on the lights and sirens? This is the worst night of my life, at least you can make it a little more fun for me."

7. "My nipples are hard. Can you turn down the air?"
"Unless you want my nipples to be hard."
"No thanks"

8. "And I'm not going to say anything about women drivers. That would be a bad idea right now. So I'm not going to say one thing about bad women drivers. By the way, why couldn't Helen Keller drive?"
"Because she was a woman! Ha Ha Ha!"
"Didn't you think that was funny? Even a little bit?"
"I guess not. Sorry."

9. "Come to think of it I don't think I smoked any of that weed."

10. "This is a Drug Recognition Expert. He is here to run you through some tests to see how much the drugs are affecting your body."
"What drugs?"
He fails each test miserably until finally he says,
"Ok, I don't want to do any more tests. You have already looked at my eyes enough"
DRE: "Sir, we only have about 2 more minutes to go in these tests. We would appreciate it if you would just finish it up."
"Well....alright. I guess you probably know by now that I haven't smoked anything anyway. Go ahead and finish."

11. "I was fired last week because my boss said I have a bad attitude and that all I care about is boating."
"You sure it wasn't for getting arrested and charged with rape?"
"Could've been that too."

12. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law..."
"That is what got me into trouble with the rape. I told the truth."

Uh huh-That was about four hours of my life I will never get back. Is it hunting season yet? Pleeeaaase?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cops Against CSI

People shouldn't be allowed to watch CSI.

Let me re-phrase that...people shouldn't be allowed to watch CSI and then call me. I wish the department would outfit me with all the gadgets that the folks on CSI have in their back pockets, but to be perfectly honest, even my flashlight barely works...and I had to beg for that. The chance of my supervisor handing me some kind of handheld, fingerprint reader, dna matcher, bad guy-finder do-dad is pretty far out of the question.

So, here are some calls I've taken where I think the expectations might have been a bit high. And these are really just the few I could think of in the last ten minutes:

Q: "My jet ski was stolen, but I found it parked at a sandbar on the river. Can you come and take a look at it?"
A: "And then what? I can come and look at your jet ski that was once stolen but later found. And I can look at it some more. But no matter how long I look at it, I will never be able to take fingerprints from it. And even if I could take fingerprints from it, I have nothing to which to compare them. No matter how long I stare at the jet ski, no visions will come to me. I'm not a psychic."

Q: "Someone was trespassing on my property last night. I never saw the vehicle, but you should be able to come up with something from the tire tracks they left."
A: "Um. No. I won't be able to determine jack from the tire tracks they left. Unless they happened to drop the vehicle registration on top of the tire tracks, there are only about 100,000 vehicles in the state with the same exact tires making the same exact tracks as those left in your driveway."

Q:"I found an arrow in the road. I'll keep it for you in case it ever matches up to another case you are working on."
A: "Thank you so much for the help. I'm sure someday I will be able to match up the arrow to a poaching case. Was the arrow hand-made in some unique fashion, or is it a lot like the rest of the billion arrows sold to bowhunters nationwide? I'll scan it with my super-duper arrow identifier 3000, and maybe look at the blades under a spectra-micronoscope to determine the dna of the hairs the arrow might have once touched from the deer that was missed."

Q: "There are a pile of geese thrown in the dumpster behind our apartment complex"
A: "Did they happen to tell you who shot them? Oh, and did they have a license? Because otherwise, we have no violation."

Q: "I found a small piece of camo clothing on the barbed wire fence where someone has been trespassing. I saved it in case you can use it as evidence."
A: "Good thinking."

No, I'm not bitter. Just don't get me started on Law and Order.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blast Off!

I just saw a little too much of the Super Wash guy.

Super Wash Man is sweet, older gentleman, with a soft spot for cops. Everytime I pulled into the car wash he would come hurrying over to my stall and feed the machine full of quarters so I could give me truck the "VIP" treatment. He'd smile and tell me to have a nice day.

I always pictured Super Wash Man, going home to his elderly wife, greeting her with a peck on the cheek, and sitting down on the front porch for a piece of apple pie that she baked specially for her sweet Super Wash husband. His cat would curl up on his lap, and he would tell Super Wash Wife all about his day- the cars he saw, the people he talked to, all the squad cars he helped keep clean...

But then.

My dream.

Was smeared.

Like a bug on the windshield.

I was driving through the wildlife area, minding my own business, listening to NPR, when I noticed a red pickup truck stopped in the middle of the road up ahead. Slowly, I pulled up behind the car.

"That's strange," I mumbled to myself. I couldn't see anyone in the truck. Why would someone park their truck in the middle of the road and walk away? Maybe it was broken down.

There was just enough room for me to pull my truck up alongside the red truck, so I could drive past it. I inched my truck up to the driver's side of the red truck, and looked into the window.

And that is when I saw it.

Someone was mooning me from the driver's window...

"What the hell?" I said. Why would someone moon me?

But then.

The person turned and looked over his shoulder. He was thin, and had gray hair. It was Super Wash Man. First he had a look of terror on his face. And then a look of recognition.

Then suddenly a woman sat up from under Super Wash Man. She had long, curly blond hair. She wasn't wearing any clothes. And she wasn't Super Wash Wife.

I got out of my truck and walked up to the window and told them to put on some clothes. Then, although I sadly knew the answer, I had to ask anyway, "Ma'am, are you here by choice?"

"Yes," she squeaked.

"Ok," I said.

I turned around, got into my truck and drove away.

My image of sweet Super Wash Man is forever tarnished. I will never be the same. And I fear, I will never again, get a free car wash.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Fair Time

I worked at a booth today for the county fair. I don't know if I pinched the person who was in charge of booth locations, or not. How else could I have deserved this booth location? On one side I had a view of this:

For those of you who have not had a chance to sit next to this for 8 hours...from what I could gather it was the cow shower area. All day long cows got a good scrub down. Some even got a bubble bath treatment.
And on the other side of our booth we had a great view of the Ugliest Cake Contest.
This was my favorite:
You just gotta love county fairs.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


The boat I wish we could provide for our seasonal officers
Our state hires "seasonal" officers. These are usually college age people (usually guys) who are hired to patrol the water and the various atv parks throughout the state. I am the direct supervisor of three seasonals- two water and one atv.

Here is the thing...we give them a canister of OC, handcuffs, and a radio (that may or may not work) and send them on their way to perform law enforcement duties. Is it just me, or does this seem like a tiny liability? Therefore, I find myself becoming a mother hen to these boys. I worry about them. I bake them cookies. I call in to check on them. I insist they call me if they run into any problems, and I require that they work together on the water, especially at night.

Tonight I was sitting out in the yard watching my kids play when I got a call from one of my seasonals. He was alone (the other officer was at a funeral today), and had someone stopped on the water. When he ran the boat operator's driver's license through state radio dispatch, he found out that the guy who had a warrant for his arrest. My officer was understandably a wee bit nervous. He had no clue what to do. I told him to call the communication center and find out what the warrant was for, where the warrant was out of, and whether the person had a history of violence.

He called me back about two minutes later and said that his guy had a history of assaulting peace officers. Just when I tried to respond, I him begin talking to someone else in the background. Then he began yelling. Then the line went dead.

I leapt from my lawn chair, ran into the house, grabbed my vest, my gunbelt, and my radio and headed for my truck.

And then comes the part where it is hard to be a  mom and a law enforcement officer...Chatterbox began wailing. Here was mommy sitting in the lawn watching her play one minute, and the next I'm running in a panic for my truck. She followed me in the house bawling, and screaming that she wanted to give me a hug and a kiss. Of course, I snap at her and tell her that "MOMMY HAS TO GO! RIGHT NOW!"

But Chatterbox didn't give up. She insists on a hug, a kiss, and a butterfly kiss, and a "don't let the bedbugs bite etc etc etc." I tried my best to give her a hug on the run. But it broke my heart to leave her there with tear stained cheeks and confused. Normally when I leave for work I take the time to let her go through her routine. If I don't come home, I want her to know that the last thing she did was kiss me and tell me that she loves me. But all I could think about was my boy, alone and in trouble.

I took off down my street with my sirens blaring. I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw my sweet four year old daughter standing on the sidewalk. Crying and waving. I knew that she was probably crying because I didn't wave back. Her normal goodbye routine was shattered.

Luckily, my seasonal officer is ok. A couple county deputies and a Corps of Engineers Ranger arrived before me and took the wanted person into custody.

My officer went home in one piece. And my daughter is asleep in bed. And I still feel bad.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's a Keeper

It was scorching hot this morning, so I decided to stay in the air-conditioned truck as much as possible. Luckily I have many small ponds in the urban areas of my territory I could drive around and check. So, I set off to find some anglers before the sun had a chance to scare everyone off.

I came upon a pond in a housing development where a few people were fishing. Of course, I always like to watch for a while first to make sure I know who was fishing and who wasn't. There looked to be a father/son team fishing on one side of the pond. Dad was baiting the hook and helping the boy cast. It wasn't long before the bobber took a dive and the boy reeled in a really (and I mean really) small bluegill. Dad removed the fish and tossed it back into the water. Definitely not a keeper.

My attention shifted to the other side of the pond where an elderly man was sitting in a lawn chair holding onto a rod- line in the water. He was a "cute" old guy- kind of round, with a baseball cap smooshed onto his head. I hate to say it, but he was even sporting some plaid shorts. It felt like I was watching a Norman Rockwell painting.

Suddenly the old boy's bobber disappeared, he set the hook and pulled up a fish that rivaled the size of the one caught by the young boy on the other side of the pond. Tiny. But, instead of throwing it back, he threw it into a five gallon pail next to his chair. I watched him do this about three more times- the fish never bigger than a child's hand. Now, there is nothing illegal about what he was doing, I just thought it was strange that he was keeping such small bluegills. It looked like an awful lot of cleaning for such tiny fillets.

The sun broke over the rooftops of the houses and the air heated quickly. The old guy was calling it quits. He packed up his stuff and started walking around the sidewalk that surrounds the pond. He was walking in my direction, so I decided to wait until he got closer before getting out to check his license (no need to sweat if it can be helped right?)

Just as he came up to where my truck was parked I got out and started chatting with him. He was a friendly guy- reminded me of my own grandpa. When I asked for his fishing license, he set down the bucket, and a cloth grocery bag he was carrying. I noticed that inside the bag was a half a loaf of Wonder bread. He dug out his lifetime fishing license from his pocket and handed it to me.

"So, did you catch some keepers?" I asked, nodding in the direction of his bucket.

"Oh, no. I'm not keeping those," he said.

"Ummm. Can I ask why you have them in your bucket then?" I asked, trying not to sound like an idiot.

"Well, I'm going to dump them out over there," he said, pointing toward a house on the other side of the pond, "I want to make sure there are fish in front of my house."

"Oh," I said (because what the hell are you supposed to say to that?). I didn't want to sound rude by asking him if he really thought the fish would stay where he dumped them. They do swim, you know.

I gave his license back and watched him continue to his house. Sure enough, he reached the house he was talking about, and dumped his bucket of teeny tiny panfish into the water. Then he sat on the bank and proceeded to rip the remaining half of the Wonder bread loaf into teeny tiny pieces and throw them in the water after the fish. When the loaf was gone, he stood up, brushed the dirt from the back of his green plaid shorts, walked up to his house and went inside.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. But I decided to laugh-just a teeny tiny bit.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This Land is Your Land...Maybe

I left a meeting this morning feeling pissed off moderately frustrated. There may have even been some steam coming from my ears, and it wasn't because it was 100 degrees today. I sat around a table with the Sheriff in my county, 3 city police chiefs, 2 DNR biologists and a county supervisor. Sound like fun yet? I didn't think so.

The purpose of the meeting was to be bullied into discuss the possibility of "giving" ten acres of one of the state's wildlife areas over to the law enforcement agencies in my territory so they can build a private shooting range. Am I the only one who thinks this doesn't sound right?

I am in a unique position here...I am a law enforcement officer who understands the importance of regular shooting. My life may depend on it someday. But my heart tells me that taking 10 acres away from the hunters/anglers of the state is a poor choice.

Here are the problems I have with this plan:
1. The DNR already has a public rifle/pistol range (25, 50 and 100 yards) and a shotgun range. We offered to reserve the ranges for various agencies as needed.
2. The hunters of the state have been paying for the use of this wildlife area for many years, and it doesn't seem right to hand it over to a private group.
3. More than 10 acres would be affected--it is a shooting range that will be located right next to a waterfowl refuge on one side, and good waterfowl, deer, turkey, and pheasant hunting on the other.
4. This state ranks low in percentage of public land...very low.
5. Even if the law enforcement agencies give the DNR more than 10 acres in return, it wouldn't be contiguous to this wildlife area.
6. The sheriff apparently wrote a letter to the biologists and other interested parties. In the letter he said that "the DNR officers in the area" (me) are FOR this shooting range because I would be able to use it. This is a complete lie- I was never even told that there were talks about this issue two years ago, let alone ask for my opinion. The sheriff completely made it up.
7. Can't they purchase private property??
8. The interested agencies have already "saved up" half a million in "drug money"...couldn't they build an indoor range and make a little money by charging outside agencies to use it?

Of course I brought up all my "issues" with this plan at the meeting and in the process didn't make any friends with the leaders of all the law enforcement agencies in my territory. Not a good feeling when I rely on them for back-up sometimes.

But what is the role of the game warden if not to try to protect the wild animals and their habitat? Wouldn't any conservation minded person want to keep a wild area wild for the sake of their children and grandchildren?

One of the biologists told me that this kind of thing happens all the time...and it usually goes straight over our heads to the director and then the governor. We will likely lose the 10 acres.

Why is it that so many people see a big wildlife area and only see empty, unused space? What is the value of this land?

All the photos I included are taken in the wildlife area in question...I don't see any empty space.

What do you think?

Monday, July 18, 2011

10 Comments That Make a Game Warden Cringe

I can't speak for all game wardens, but here is a list of things people say to me on a fairly regular basis that drive me batty. Unlike my previous top 10 list (see: 10 Things I Secretly Enjoy Saying to Violators), this list contains responses that I would get great pleasure from saying, but for fear of a complaint to the governor's office, refrain from doing so. I'm really not quite as bitter as some of these sound...(and no offense to anyone actually named Billy Bob).

10. Billy Bob: "I was going to be a DNR, but decided not to."
What I want to say: "Really Billy? I've never heard of anyone aspiring to be a governmental agency before. Maybe you should look into becoming a Department of Human Services instead. I hear they are looking for more of those."

9. Billy Bob: "Since when do they give you guys guns? Do you use them to shoot animals or something?"

What I want to say: "No, Billy. Actually we save most of our bullets to shoot people. It is kind of a dangerous job considering that every Billy Bob we run into is carrying a shotgun, handgun, rifle or knife (or more likely, all of the above plus a six pack). Thanks for asking though."

8. Billy Bob: "There is no sign saying I can't do that."

What I want to say: "Billy, there aren't enough signs in the world to keep you from doing something as stupid as this. Here's your sign Billy-just carry it around with you."

7. Billy Bob: "You have the best job in the world. All you have to do is drive around in a boat all day."

What I want to say: "Billy, it's 95 degrees today-why don't you take my bullet-proof vest for a while, my 15 pound duty belt, and my polyester shirt. Oh yeah, and give me your beer. Let's see who has more fun."

6. Billy Bob: "I'm just calling because I set a live trap and caught a skunk in it. Just wondering when you will be able to come and take care of it."

What I want to say: "Billy- did I tell you to set a live trap? No. Did I tell you that I would come and release whatever you caught? No I did not. Here is a piece of advice though, another game warden told me that if you dress completely in camo and approach very slowly you will be perfectly fine. Give me a call back and let me know how it goes."

5. Billy Bob: "My friends and I are drinking a few beers and we got to arguing about whether or not you can party hunt pheasants. My friends say no and I say yes- thought I'd call so you can tell them they are wrong."

What I want to say: "Billy, it is 2:00 am, I'll look it up after I wake up and call you back. What is your phone number?"  2:00 am the next morning: "Billy, sorry it took me so long to get back to you. The answer is no."

4. Billy Bob: "Just calling to let you know I rescued a fawn. It's mother abandoned it so I brought it in the house a couple days ago to protect it from the dogs. Any idea what I should feed it?"

What I want to say: "Billy, just because you did not see the mother does not mean that it was abandoned, and you probably just ruined her day by kidnapping her baby. And by the way, congratulations- you probably just signed its death certificate."

3. Billy Bob to his son, Junior in a stage whisper: "Junior, you be good now and eat your cheeseburger or I am going to call her over here to arrest you.  But just don't tell her about the deer we rifled last night."

What I want to say: "Billy, this was not funny the first 6789543 times I heard it while eating in a restaurant, and it isn't funny this time either. Be more creative."

2. Billy Bob: "I know my son Junior and he would not do something as stupid as that. I raised him to hunt by the rules. You got the wrong kid."

What I want to say: "Billy, the apple apparently doesn't fall far from the tree. Your son is a little smart-mouthed, disrespectful shit who needs to learn his lesson. Unfortunately I'm the only one willing to teach it to him."

1. Billy Bob: "I pay taxes and I pay your salary. I'll have your job!"

What I want to say: "Actually Billy, since I caught you taking a buck out of season with no license, you actually DON'T pay my salary. I'm paid through hunting and fishing license fees, not taxes. So buy a license and then come and talk to me. Oh, and I think after your employer sees your name in the paper, it is more likely that I'll have your job."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

To Fish or Not to Fish

My husband,Red, doesn't take hints. For instance, if I want him to give the kids a bath, I can't say, "I have so much to get done, but the kids really need a bath. I wish they were old enough to give themselves a bath, because then I could do the dishes while they are bathing. I'm  beat after working all day, I wish I had ten minutes to sit here and close my eyes--but then the kids wouldn't have time for a bath." Red would simply remain reclined on the couch, perfecting his slug impersonation.

I have to give very specific instructions, "Red, can you fill up the tub with water, take off Chatterbox's clothes, put her in the tub, wash her with soap, get her out, dry her off, put the towel in the hamper, drain the tub, take Chatterbox to her room and get her pajamas on?"

Oh, but even those instructions aren't quite perfect enough. He would say, with a confused look on his face, "Can I?"

And I would have to say, "I meant, WILL you?"


So, when I wanted a fly rod for Mother's Day (last year), a game warden I work with called Red on the phone and said, "Red, get your wife a fly rod for Mother's Day. That is what she wants."

It worked! Then it sat in the package for two years. Until today.

It is my only weekend off this month, so we drove up to my parents house for a visit (AKA a built in babysitting expedition). My location is still undisclosed, but let me just say- it isn't trout country. My only hope was to try for panfish.

Here is a list of my catches:
1. A tree
2. A stick
3. The back of my shirt
4. The line
5. The back of Red's shirt.

Here is a list of what I didn't catch:
1. Fish

Red is a pretty good fly-fisherman. In general he is very good at pretty much anything he does (except taking hints from his wife). He is a perfectionist-check out the kayaks he built in the photo below. When we have remodeled rooms in the house, after I spent an entire day spent re-painting the bedroom, Red would waltz in after getting home from work and point out all the paint drips that I missed. In retrospect, he probably wasn't the best choice for a fly fishing instructor. But he was all I had since I forgot to pack the instructional video that came with the rod.

Red's actual instructions weren't is just that his gaze made me nervous. He got out his fly rod and started fishing, but he kept looking over at me. He had that pained look about him like he was struggling to hold in criticism. Or like he had an acute attack of appendicitis.

Finally, after watching Red catch two bluegills and a smally, I sat on the park bench (no mountain stream for us) and untangled my line, intending to call it quits for the day. He came over, probably feeling a little sorry for me and asked, "So do you like it...aside from not catching anything."

I said, hoping for a little sympathy, or maybe a kind word, "Well...I wish I knew what I was doing wrong. I'm embarrassed by my form-I obviously need practice."

He didn't take that hint either. He just nodded.

So, unlike all the other great fly fishing blogs (of which I am extremely jealous), there will be no cool photos of a trout grabbing a fly under the surface of the water, or me kneeling down and holding my beautiful catch for all to see. Nope. I'm tempted to post the picture that Red took of me fishing, (after I said to him, "It would be nice to have a picture of me trying to fly fish for the first time." And after he looked at me blankly, clearly not taking the hint, "Red, take a picture of me.") but I'm worried that my form is so bad, I will lose the few readers I have on this blog, who will no longer take me as a serious outdoorswoman.

The one thing I haven't told Red yet is that I AM HOOKED. I might hint about it tomorrow morning.

Friday, July 15, 2011

OFF with You!

Ok. This is not funny. Except that it is. In a dark, cop-humor kind of way.

Dispatches to wildlife areas are not always about poaching. Sometimes people get lost. Other times people are cooking meth. There are times when someone is stranded in a boat. Sometimes people go off-roading. And there are times when someone tries to commit suicide.

In this state, much to my chagrin, people can camp in a wildlife area without paying. They may not even be hiking, birdwatching, hunting or fishing. They may be homeless. Or they may be on the Sex Offender Registry and "unable" to find somewhere "safe" to live. So, they (and I am generalizing here of course...don't mean to profile or anything) take there belongings to a parking lot in the wildlife area, pitch a camp and light a bonfire. Then they start drinking Busch Light. Why Busch? I don't know. All I know is the last time I drove through the biggest wildlife area in my territory I counted the boxes of thirty three empty cases of Busch Light strewn along the roadway.

Last night, just as I was getting Towhead into bed (he is fully recovered by the way), I received a call from dispatch, "Can you go out to "Big Castle" (the wildlife area with a fake name)? We received a 911 call that someone tried to commit suicide with an Off can in a parking lot across from the boat ramp. We have an ambulance en route, but the deputy wants you to respond."

"What do you mean, with an Off Can?"

"Like with a can of Off."

As usual, the dispatcher was less than helpful. The only Off cans I knew about were of the insect repellent variety. So I went.

I arrived to find a sheriff's deputy wandering the wildlife area roads in his squad car, searching for the right location. He was lost- no wonder he wanted my help. The ambulance however had better luck- they had reached the scene and loaded the patient before I even stepped out of my truck.

The parking lot was strewn with junk (including some Busch boxes!). A dirty green tent was pitched near the back of the lot and a campfire was smoldering in a makeshift ring in the middle. A middle aged woman was sitting in a lawn chair smoking a cigarette. Tied to a tree was a little black and white dog.

The deputy and I approached her and asked what had happened. Long story short- she and her sex offender registered son were "staying for while" at the wildlife area while they looked for a suitable (legal) place for them to reside, where they were outside the required distances from schools, daycares etc. She started complaining, "This is the only place we can live. We figured we couldn't bother anyone out here." I begged to differ.

Anyway, she and her son had a little drunken spat. In the end, her son was forced to pull the guilt card on his poor old mom, by raising the can of Off insect repellent high into the air and proclaiming something along the lines of, "You made me do this Mom!" Then he tossed the can of Off into the fire and leaned over fire- arms spread-eagled, hoping to bear the brunt of the explosion in his face, ultimately causing his own tragic death.

Except it didn't work.

Turns out Off insect repellent (or at least the 3/4 spent can he tried to use) didn't carry the bang he longed for. It poofed in his face causing some burns. But he didn't quite get the drama he was shooting for. Nothing along the lines that would cause him to go down in history as the martyred sex offender son of a drunken, abusive mother.

The deputy gave the mother a ride to the hospital in his squad car. The mess in the parking lot was left for me. They never did come back to claim the dog, or their belongings. The dog went to the animal shelter where it was hopefully paired up with better home, and the dirty green tent and all its contents went into the dumpster.

Lesson one can gain from this story? Not much, except that Off cans in fire do not make effective tools for suicide. All you get is a burned face and maybe, if you are lucky, life-long repellency from mosquito bites.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wilderness Refuge

“It was my university, my theater, my refuge and strength. When I rejoiced, I went there to celebrate; when I was sad, to be consoled. In every weather, I worshipped there.” – Paul Gruchow
One thing was very evident from the moment I became a mother. Kids have a way of screwing up your plans. It didn’t matter that I had four hundred and twenty two things I needed to get done today. It didn’t matter that I my work phone rang twenty one times today (no- I’m not exaggerating). It didn’t matter that I up until this very moment, I didn’t have any peace and quiet.
Towhead woke up with a raging fever. His cheeks were flushed, his ears were red, and he was bawling. It was quite clear that my sweet little boy felt like shit. Nothing makes a mother feel quite as helpless as a sick child. Aside from timely doses of ibuprofen there was nothing much I could do except put aside all plans of getting anything accomplished and hold little Towhead all day long (or at least it felt like it was all day).  
After reaching a fever of 104, I took him for a field trip to the doctor. Going to the doctor at a teaching hospital is not fun. I think it is possible that it is less fun for the mother than the babe. The clumsy resident that we were forced to see before the real doctor would come into the room, tried (for way too long) to fish chunks of earwax out of Towhead’s ears so he could determine whether there was an ear infection.  As Towhead wailed like a banshee, Doc Jr. kept looking up at me and whispering, “Very sorry, still can’t see.” Finally, worrying that he would pierce Towhead’s eardrums with his little earwax digger tool, I told him that we would just wait for the real doctor. “Yes, very sorry. Very sorry,” he said as he slunk from the room.
After Doc Jr. left the room, I paced back and forth. Just when I managed to stop the steady flow of tears running down his cheeks there was a knock at the door. It was Doc, Jr. again, “Um, I’m sorry. I guess I kind of forgot to finish the exam. I still have to get a throat culture and palpate his stomach.”  Needless to say, this didn’t instill any confidence and the day went downhill from there.
You are probably wondering how all this ties into the quote that started this post…it was bedtime. Red had to work late (of course, conveniently had to band some doves on the night I needed him home!). I managed to get Towhead to sleep. Then it was Chatterbox’s turn. She is more challenging. She won’t stop talking and she has a bedtime hug/kiss/butterfly kiss ritual that takes at minimum 10 minutes to complete.
I read her a few stories and turned off her lights and lay down next to her. And then it happened—it was quiet for ten whole seconds and we heard the cicadas.
The long, pulsating drone took me back thirty years, to trips to my grandma’s house. We always went in July-prime cicada time. I slept in a bed next to my brother and listened all night to the chorus outside of the window. At first the sound only brought a trickle of tenuous memories, rusty from disuse. They slowly started to come faster in a strong rush, full of sights, sounds and smells. I remembered the morning smells of fried eggs on the gas stove, the sound of Grandpa listening to a Cub’s game, the sound of Grandma and my mother talking and laughing at the kitchen table, and the smell of the musty old basement where my brother and I dug through boxes of old Mad magazines.  I remembered Grandma’s yellow bedroom, the lacy curtains in the room my brother and I sometimes slept in, the smell of Grandpa’s pipe, and the laughter of my brother watching Bozo the Clown on the old console tv.
My point is that it need not be a towering mountain range, a raging ocean shore pounded with waves, or a million acres of pristine wilderness. Something as simple as a cicada can create a place for my mind to escape. Maybe next time it will be the smell of an old brown oak leaf that will give me a little peace in a hectic day. Something will remind me that the search warrant that I needed to serve today, the phone calls I needed to return, the wildlife area I needed to drive through, and the pile of laundry that needed to be washed don't rank anywhere near my kids on the list of priorities.
My little blonde girl was lying next to me, her hair a tangle on her pillow and her left eye shaded in a birthmark that surrounds her eye and creeps down her cheek. I told her about the cicadas. She smiled when I told her to listen to the cicadas outside her window and think about me, when I was her age, lying on a bed in my Grandma’s house and listening to the cicadas outside the window.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Darth Warden

It is evident that I suck at pretending. I can handle playing store with Chatterbox or pretending that Towhead is a dog so he can fetch stuffed animals...but when it comes to game warden training, I will never win an Oscar. Unfortunately "scenario training" is a big portion of any career in law enforcement. Whether you are a city cop, a state trooper, or a conservation officer, there will surely come a time when you will have to put on your uniform and "play cops and robbers" with the boys.

There are a few problems with scenario training...namely that the scenarios that trainers come up with are never like real life. The most recent training scenario I took part in was at our statewide training session.

At first I was encouraged because we were told to pick a partner. Usually we have to do scenarios alone while everyone watches (and heckles). Being one of the lone females, I usually have to secure a partner before it is necessary, so I'm not left standing there like the last kid picked in gym class. Luckily I thought ahead and had already my neighboring officer, Smithy, to be my partner in case we should ever need one during our training weekend.Smithy and I get along well out in the field, and I work with him quite often, so I figured the scenario would be a piece of cake--I would just make him do all the talking.

When it was our turn, we went to the training area (located behind a truck that was hooked up to a big camper) to get the instructions from the trainers. That is when things went downhill.

It was raining, so all of us (the three bad guys-which were actually other game wardens, Smithy and myself) were wearing our raingear. All of our raingear is state-issued, and therefore, identical. Mossy Oak Camo pattern. I knew that it wasn't going to go well as soon as they started strapping knee pads, elbow pads, and a Darth Vader mask, and helmet on all of us, including the bad guys.

Here were our instructions: You have just arrived at a deer camp. If you go outside the cones you are out of bounds. Just do what you would normally do. That's it.

Then they took away our real guns and gave us "Air soft" guns, which are basically paint guns that hurt when you get hit.

My first mistake was not looking for the cones before starting the scenario. I was too busy arguing with Smithy about who was going to be the primary officer (the one who has to talk) and who was going to be the secondary (the one who stands there and makes fun of the one who talks).

I lost the argument.

When you go into a deer camp wearing elbow and knee pads, a facemask and helmet, you have to fight the urge to pull your gun in the holster. It just seems like something bad might happen when you are surrounded by four big guys dressed in identical camo who look like they are about to de-fuse a bomb. BUT, you are supposed to "do what you would normally do." Normally I don't draw down on a group of deer hunters unless they give me a good reason to do so. In real life if they were wearing those outfits, in my book it would qualify as a good reason.

So, Smithy and I stepped from our trucks and walked into the camp. While the bad guys and I were in the midst of our fake conversation, I found an untagged deer and Smithy found a loaded rifle leaning against a tree. Smithy ordered them to move away from the rifle so he could walk over and get it unloaded. I thought that we were in the clear...obviously the point of the scenario must have been that you needed to find the weapon and clear it. I was wrong.

After the gun was unloaded, I asked to see their deer tags. Bad Hunter 1 displayed his license, Bad Hunter 2, who was sitting by the campfire cleaning under his fingernails with a machete, said his license was inside the camper. Smithy, being the observant officer he is, noticed the machete and told him to put the knife down. Bad Hunter 2 didn't want to put the knife down. Smithy gave him the order again. This time Bad Hunter 2 made a run for the camper.

As Bad Hunter 2 ran for the camper, I started running for cover. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bad Hunter 2 grab a rifle from inside the camper. I screamed "GUN!!" at Smithy, and Smithy made a dive for the other end of the camper. This wasn't good. Now, in order to shoot Bad Hunter 2, Smithy and I would be firing towards each other. On top of that, I wasn't sure if I was out of bounds. I stood there trying to ask the trainer if I was still playing by the rules, all the while taking fire from Bad Hunters 1 and 3 who must have pulled handguns out from inside their raingear.

As I felt myself getting pelted with bullets, I fired back at Bad Hunter 3. Finally Bad Hunter 3 fell to the ground and pretended to be dead. Still the trainer wouldn't answer my question about the cones. I guessed that meant that I must not be out of bounds.

Meanwhile, one of the trainers started yelling at me, "Can that rifle shoot through the camper?" Umm..yeah. Just as I was about to run for cover, someone came up behind me. I drew my gun and pointed it at the man clad in camo wearing the Darth Vader mask. He raised his gun in response. Just as I was about to pull the trigger, I  realized it was Smithy. Luckily I didn't shoot him.

The trainers blew the whistle and the scenario ended.

We were gathering around for a debriefing when one of the trainers asked me if I was ok.

"Yeah, why?"

"Look at your hand," he said.

I looked down and saw that blood was gushing out of my finger and running down my hand. It was swelling up rapidly and looked nasty, covered in the tell tale blue ink of my partner's gun.

Smithy was standing off to the side of the group looking like a dog who had just peed on the carpet.

"Sorry," he said, "I didn't know it was you. I can't believe I shot my partner."

He will never live this down.