Some six years ago, in the Spring of 2015, at the end of National Police Week, after putting on the Officer Down Memorial Dinner here in Andrews, NC, a Dinner attended and thoroughly enjoyed by seven counties of Sheriffs, Police Depts of two cities, the Forestry Police (Federal), the Tribal Police (Federal), the State Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, DEA, et alii, I enjoyed rather intensive hazing from some of the same law enforcement agencies by way of accompaniment for nine months straight, like turning on a light switch. Every trip out. Hey! If you’re not hazed, you’re not loved, right? That what the SEALs say.
For the following nine months I counted only one half of one trip up to Graham County from Cherokee County or down into Clay County or into Macon County that I did not have bumper to bumper law enforcement accompaniment, often beginning at the end of my driveway. Bumper to bumper includes about one car length between vehicles regardless of speed or conditions. The one half of one trip that this didn’t happen occurred because it wasn’t my usual time and day to go over the mountain. But they got me on the way back. Sometimes this lasted the usual twenty miles each way. I would get accompanied to the church in Robbinsville, and then they would patrol back and forth until Mass was over, and then jump on my bumper right outside the church and stick with me all the way to Andrews. The record, in another direction, was something like 26 miles, for one guy. But there have been hand-offs, so that one pulls off only to have another literally squealing his tires to get on the bumper once again. I think that’s called gang-butt-rape. Sigh. I think the record for the hand-off thing is 36.2 miles, two counties, just crossing over into a third. This is never once blue-lighted or anything. It’s just a nice and comforting presence.
The vehicles might be marked or “unmarked.” In these parts, “unmarked” cars are rather noticeable, what with being Dodge pursuit vehicles or the usual Ford SUVs, but with crash bars utilized only by law enforcement, and sporting the usual driver-side rotator flood-light atop the sideview mirror, sometimes with a speed-laser on that corner of the dash, often with multiple tiny antennae and, of course, light-bars inside the top of the windshield, not to mention rectangular white and blue LEDs in the grill, you know, all totally undercover. I think they are starting to catch on that that’s all a bit too obvious and are snapping up “druggie cars” utterly unmarked. Finally. Good for them.
Anyway, the longsuffering accompaniment was not only bumper to bumper, but the pursuit vehicle’s right-front bumper might well be next to my back-left bumper, you know, just for fun, as in the video above. That’s the PIT maneuver position. Super dangerous. But it’s all good. Nothing happened, never stopped, except once, which is an epic story of hilarious irony with the Sheriff of that particular county himself (now many sheriffs ago) saying, in apology, that he only wanted to ask the question: “Who are you, anyway?” That stop was listened to by two entire counties over 911 scanners, as I found out later: a huge audience. This is the entertainment for the county. Just doing his job, I’m sure. I almost laughed out loud with the usual “Who are you, anyway?” question that I’ve gotten throughout my life in so many embassies and consulates foreign and of these USA.
But all that fun and hazing spread out almost daily over nine months ended extremely abruptly when I went over to Rome, Italy, for the Missionary of Mercy thing of Pope Francis at the beginning of 2016. When I came back after two weeks away, there was no longer any accompaniment, zero, like a light switch being turned off. Dang! I kind of miss it. But, be careful what you wish for.
“LET’S CAUSE A HEAD-ON COLLISION” INCIDENT:
Just the other week, going up to Graham County, there was what could only be guessed to be a spotter car going up the gorge ridge up from Topton. You just get a sense for things being totally out of place. To get where it was, the person had to stop on a blind curve and reverse without getting rear-ended far into tall weeds without accidentally sliding down the ridge some hundreds of feet, that car being right on the edge of death trying not to be seen. Really precarious. Head lights still on, the driver, eyes peeled, was on the phone. Hmmm. I’m in the habit of noticing things that are just not right. That’s training, or really just common sense. Being aware of one’s surroundings can help avoid trouble and save your life. I’m already cautious, but now the antennae were up all the more.
Graham county is infamous for “insurance” incidents, in which a couple of cars will box you in, cutting you off on the front to be right in front of you and then another hanging to the side in the oncoming lane of traffic, with them simultaneously slamming on their brakes, purposely causing you to rear-end the car to the front, a “driving too closely” incident that will gain the perps life-long insurance payments. This happened to me a number of times, but – having been warned of just such scenarios – I always slammed on the brakes (no one behind me) before they could slam on their brakes – only to have the perps also slam on their brakes just one nanosecond later – but with me escaping their malice by that nanosecond. I even had a couple of cars do this to me twice in a row within minutes on the same stretch of road. If it doesn’t work the first time, try and try again, I guess. It’s not like I didn’t recognize their cars a couple minutes later… Good ol’ Graham County. But I digress.
I didn’t have to wait long for what looked to all intents, purposes and any reconstructions like an ambush, a big white pickup truck fully parked in my lane – sideways – on what is called Dead Man’s Curve, a totally blind and restricting curve. I had to slam on the brakes and go into the at least temporarily vacant oncoming traffic lane on this blind curve in order to avoid T-boning the white pickup. Was it illegal to cross a double-yellow? Not in these precise circumstances. Saving life and limb is paramount, regardless of any possible malice on the part of the guys parking sideways in an active traffic lane on a blind curve. If I had more antennae, you know, like for CBs, Ham Radio, Radio-collar dogs, etc., they would have all have been deployed after this weirdness. I think what they wanted me to do was to avoid them and not go over the double yellow on an entirely blind curve but drift to the right onto what’s called Jack Branch Rd, a perfect place for an ambush if there ever was one. That road comes out from Anthony Branch Rd. It was just after that that I would meet the next installment of stupidity.
My guardian angel being my antenna, I was now very actively looking for another vehicle to do something stupid. Sure enough, shortly thereafter, on another blind curve also involving logistics of a blind hill – just after Anthony Branch Rd – I again had to slam on the brakes. A very large work truck sporting a snowplow usually found on a Mack Truck had stopped in the lane in front of me for no reason that I could figure out. No flashers, in gear, with the brake-lights on, ready to chase in this 55 mph zone. There were guard rails tight to the white lines on both sides. I didn’t want to cross the double yellow line and pass him even though there was no traffic coming because he could easily catch up to my little Subaru and apply the snowplow. Ain’t gonna happen.
Instead – never taking the bait to drive recklessly in these kinds of situations – I fully stopped and put on my emergency flashers some hundred yards back. I outwaited the guy until he saw the line of vehicles behind me slowing up as they crested the hill, including the original white truck parked sideways on the blind curve. This was now creeping me out as the plow-vehicle started moving along only far below the speed limit, but allowing me to stay back a couple of hundred yards, even as the white truck and the others kept back a couple of hundred yards despite the low speeds. That’s something that simply doesn’t happen in these parts unless something else is afoot.
If these were law enforcement officers working undercover, all I have to say is that they obviously don’t know how to conduct what’s called a “felony stop” which has very specific defensive tactics. This was pitiful. If this was law enforcement, they wouldn’t get any trouble from me whatsoever. If I happened to be dangerous felon, considering the unprotected logistics they put themselves in, twice, well, I hate to think about it. If these guys are law enforcement they really, really gotta get some training for felony stops. But – Hey! – maybe this is all hazing and a showing of love in good humor! Great!
Arriving into town I pulled off at a tiny strip mall that had many entrances/exits (just in case) so as to watch the parade pass by, or stop. If anyone would have pulled over next to me, 911 would have been called while I was hightailing it to the Sheriffs Department just down the road. The parade all slowed down to about ten to fifteen miles and hour, four to five times below the speed limit. The driver of the original truck blocking the road sideways was rather apoplectic as he passed by slowing down even more. I was dumbfounded when I now saw the orange – State – license plate and the letters […] on the back as he and his passenger passed by. More hazing? More love? I’m not going to criticize any of this. This was one of the more exciting accompaniments I’ve had. Great entertainment. It’s certainly good training for situational awareness. I’m sure that’s what this was all about. Great! It’s to laugh, now that it’s over. But in all actuality, it was likely a bunch of felons who stole a State license plate and put it on their own vehicle. Really. Not. Smart. Felons never are.
So, don’t get me wrong, if it isn’t something felons were up to, I’m sure it’s all for good-natured accompaniment keeping me on my toes. I’m sure someone will confess soon, laughing, all in good fun. It’s all good. I love it! :-)
ANALOGY WITH SHADOW-DOG:
As an analogy, I am reminded of the protection-accompaniment I get from Shadow-dog:
Shadow-dog also trains me up in situational awareness. Just my opinion, but methinks that Shadow-dog counts as law enforcement since it was law enforcement and our local first responders who arranged that I get him. In the wee hours the other morning (usually about 3:30 AM) the local druggies were making quite the ruckus outside the rectory. They seemed to be mightily pumped up on adrenaline, perhaps chemically assisted. Fortunately, they were making a beeline to the neighborhood drug house. They had set all the dogs of the neighborhood into loud commentary. The druggies have often threatened to beat the brains out of Macie-dog, catty-corner from me. The pellet gun shootings are now eight for Shadow-dog, two for Laudie-dog, and one for Franky-dog across the street. All survived, but some with permanent injuries. Shadow-dog won the prize for his staid rhetoric and confident oratory, keeping the druggies moving right along. I’m happy to have also this – if you will – canine law-enforcement accompaniment. Gooood daaaawwg!
ANOTHER RECENT BUMPER TO BUMPER ACCOMPANIMENT
This time, a marked car got in behind me within a couple of hundred yards from home and stayed right on the bumper for 25 miles, no push marks on my back bumper mind you, but it was really close, which, I contend, is really dangerous. I had tried to avoid all this by pulling off and not getting back on until he was long past, but no. He did the same and got right back on the bumper, right on the bumper. If you do have to slam on the brakes because there’s a tree down (common in the Nantahala Gorge after a rain) or some other traffic oddity just around a blind curve, the nice officer isn’t going to see that. He might judge that to be nefarious brake-checking, and then you’ll immediately have guns to your head. That would rather make the love-hazing all the more complete, don’t you think? So, I don’t much like this, but there’s nothing one can do. This kind of thing, now frequent once again, started up after I asked a certain law enforcement agency (of which there are many in the area: Police Depts, Sheriff’s Depts, Troopers, Tribal-Federal, Forestry, etc.) what the ratio of chaplains to counties is for their particular branch of law enforcement. One for every ten counties he said as we waited together at the check out line at the grocery store. I can’t imagine that this would make anyone upset. So I guess this is bumper to bumper thing is just more love-hazing, seeing if I can tough it out all calm, cool and collected. Well, yes, to all that. I find it humorous even while it’s also a learning experience.
I guess it’s so bad these days that all law enforcement has to assume that there is no longer any kind of support from the community. Sad, that. I always support the thin blue line. There are some bad eggs. But that’s true in every sector of society. Not that any of those possibly mentioned above are bad eggs. Not at all. These are all good guys. I’ve seen that myself, and had heard the same from many. Thanks, always, to law enforcement. That trust might get me killed. Whatever. It is what it is. lol