“One for the road”…There was an old Hotel/Pub in Marble Arch, London that had an adjacent gallows. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial of course) to be hung. The horse drawn dray carting the prisoner was accompanied by an armed guard who stopped the dray outside the pub. He asked the prisoner if he would like “One Last Drink”.
If the prisoner said yes, it was referred to as “One For The Road”. If he declined, the prisoner was “on the wagon”.
Years ago, people tanned animal skins. Families collected urine in a pot and once a day sold it to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive, you were “Piss Poor”. Worse than that, the really poor folk, could not afford to buy a pot. They “Didn’t have a pot to Piss in”. Per Snopes.com: “One for the road” is a folk tale. The “Pot to Piss in” is true.
Street Crime #13A
During my police career, I bounced from patrol to investigations five times. I was unable to pace myself. When I worked investigations, I burned my candle at both ends. I was 100% dedicated to my investigations. When I was deep in a murder, rape or robbery case, I physically, mentally and emotionally did not clock out and go home. I stayed with the case through the night without sleep. I imagined things in a strange way. In my mind, murder and other cases were like food. Food is cooked and consumed right away. If it is left on the table, it begins to deteriorate. Soon it is unfit for consumption. In some cases, it becomes contaminated with bacteria and is harmful. Once a crime is committed, it instantly begins to deteriorate. Evidence is lost, witnesses leave or forget things. This was the manner I approached my cases. I knew the clock was ticking and every minute passed was lost forever. Because of the numerous suspects I arrested, I often spent the following day after a crime in court on other cases. I had to do my part in our judicial system to convict them. After court, I would go home, eat, shower and sometimes lie down for a power nap. At work, I often cleared my old, office desk and stretched out for a few winks. I stayed up so many hours, my eyes burned so I medicated with convenience store eye drops.
Needing R&R from investigations again, I put in for a transfer to day shift patrol. Patrol had its dangers. I knew this well but it offered a less stressful experience in police work. On patrol, one was permitted to handle only one call at a time. In investigations, I was always loaded with many felony cases. When I worked murders, my in basket never stopped receiving purse snatchings, burglaries and other crimes to be worked. When I was consumed with a murder investigation, I hated being called to my commander’s office and chastised for not writing reports on lesser matters.
I had returned to patrol service only a few days earlier and was not assigned a permanent, marked unit. I was assigned a spare car from the pool. These cars were dogs. They had over 200,000 hard police miles on them. They sat in the rear, police parking lot reminding me of a junk yard. Many of the units had flat tires, dead batteries and equipment that did not work. It was a scorching hot summer day in Louisiana. The “pool bomb” I was assigned had a low tire needing inflating. I opened the driver’s door to add my gear and was met with a blast of hot, stinking air. The temperature in the car had to be over 140 degrees. I eased in and cranked the beast. I flipped on the air and let it begin to cool. When I stepped out to finish loading my gear, I was completely soaked with sweat. The cheap, synthetic black uniform I wore was like a sun magnet. I always wore police Rocky Boots, a tee shirt and, of course, my thick bulletproof vest. Once my gear was in place, I sat and took out a roll of damp, sanitary wipes. The car smelled of Church’s Chicken. I recognized the light, crispy batter crumbs all over the driver’s seat, armrest and floorboard. Every knob and switch was coated with a shiny coating of chicken grease. I wiped the knobs and switches and rolled to the police garage. The air compressor kicked off and on with only the fan recirculating hot ,stinky air.
Needless to say, this Irish cop was not happy. I found myself in a bad mood which was not professional. I needed to suck it up and be grateful I was living my dream! I wanted to be a cop all my life and was blessed to join the ranks of S.P.D. After I aired the half bald, low tire and had a mechanic recharge the Freon, I was finally ready to head to my favorite beat, Cedar Grove.
S.P.D. district, or beat number 9, was referred to as Cedar Grove. The northern boundary was Hollywood-Pierremont. The most direct route to my beat was Linwood Avenue. As I drove south on Linwood, I noticed the front end of my Pool Bomb was out of alignment. If I released the steering wheel, the car would swerve into the oncoming lane of traffic. The car still smelled of greasy, fried chicken and the damn good times radio did not work. The traffic light at Linwood and Hollywood, my favorite intersection in the entire world, caught me. When I crossed Hollywood, I would officially enter my beat for service. Traffic was heavy that afternoon as I sat at the light having a personal pity party. I saw a blue Chevy Impala heading north on Linwood, the opposite direction. The light caught it as well and we sat facing one another. The driver began to flash his lights off and on. He rolled down his window and stuck out his arm waving frantically. It was clear he was trying to get my attention.
I thought, “What now? I can’t even get to my beat and crap is already hitting me! Why do I always ask to be assigned to a busy beat? Why am I such a damn fool? I could be in Southern Hills riding around a peaceful neighborhood.”
I snapped out of my pity party and flipped on my overhead emergency lights. When green light traffic allowed me to ease through the intersection, I pulled up to the large man in the Chevy.
“Hey officer, my wife is in the back seat having a baby! Will you escort me to L.S.U.M.C. hospital please? She is very close, officer!”
I told him to stick close to my rear, but not too close. I spun around and off we raced. I notified headquarters of my emergency escort as I forced other motorists to the curb. We sped north up Linwood at a pretty good clip. Soon we rolled beneath the emergency room portico of the hospital. I parked my unit and ran to the E.R. The automatic doors opened and I stepped inside. I recognized a nurse down the long hall speaking to a patient on a gurney. She was married to a cop buddy of mine and was one of the best nurses I knew. I knew one day I could likely end up in her care because the streets were dangerous. I hoped she would be at my side if and when that day arrived. I shouted to her about the lady outside having a baby and ran back to the Chevy. I yanked the right rear door open and saw her. She was a large woman wearing a big, floral print cotton dress hiked up above her hips. She had on no underwear at the moment. Her feet were resting on the seat with her head against the other door. As I leaned in to tell her help was on the way, I saw the head of a baby slipping out. It happened so fast. Water and fluid gushed out of her and splashed on my pants. I reached in to catch the baby. I had never before experienced anything like this. My wife was very pregnant and would soon give birth to our baby. Strangely, at this moment I thought of her. What would I do if she had the baby in the back seat of my car or worse, in our home way out in the country?
I caught the baby boy. I always heard babies were like puppies. They were born with their eyes closed. Wrong! This little guy’s eyes were wide open and looking directly at me. I was not sure he was able to focus but he looked right in my eyes. He did not whimper or cry. He just looked around. I held him in my now dripping wet hands. Someone patted my back and I looked over my shoulder. My nurse friend reached for the baby and all the stuff attached. I stepped back and stood next to the big father.
I was amazed when the mother slid across the seat and stood outside the car looking at her new son. She walked to the gurney and sat on it like I often did on the tailgate of my pickup truck. The nurses rolled her into the hospital as she held her little boy. The father followed her so I returned to my car. I got my bottle of wipes and used several to clean my hands. I glanced at my spit-shined boots and noticed they were completely covered with stuff. My pant legs from the knees down were wet. I started my unit in a daze. I drove from underneath the portico and turned right on Linwood heading in the opposite direction of my beat. I stopped at the light and turned right on Kings Highway. I played back the events that had transpired from the light where the father flagged me to handing over the baby to the nurse. My mind was cloudy as I reached Fairfield several blocks east of Linwood. The light was red and I flipped on my turn signal to hang a right and head back to Cedar Grove.
Suddenly, someone was directly behind me honking their horn. I looked at the light and it was still red. I looked in my mirror and saw the same Chevy sitting behind me. Once again, the big driver was waving his arm out of his window. I shoved my shifter in park and met him between the two cars. He stuck out his hand and I took it. He was smiling as he spoke. He thanked me for helping his wife. The baby was dong fine and he wanted to know my name. I handed him my card. He asked me to say my last name. I said it so he would hear the proper way it is pronounced, Mac Gay Hay. He repeated it and asked what J.P. stands for. I told him James Patrick.
His last name was Washington and lived way out in the country near Frierson, LA. He was going to name his son after me.
So James Patrick Washington, I say to you, sir. We have not met since the day you were born. I hope your life has been nothing but blessings.
After this experience, I took great pleasure when I talked with women who were pregnant. When they shared their fear of tremendous pain and suffering they would face, I enjoyed telling them I delivered a baby and that was a bunch of hype. Having a baby is simple and natural. I described how the mother of James Patrick Washington handled her childbirth. She never cried out in pain and slid across the car seat and climbed on the gurney without assistance. I never added James Patrick was her fifth baby.
Another Day #13B
I was back on patrol in Cedar Grove. The weather was so hot it had a calming effect on our criminals. Crack Houses sprang up overnight like mushrooms in our city. It seemed on every corner in the ghetto there were street drug dealers we called Slingers. Red and blue spray painted, abandoned houses marked with gang graffiti intimidated the good citizens who lived in fear and felt like prisoners in their poor neighborhoods. I was riding just outside my beat in a little area we called Clanton. Years earlier, it was built for employees who worked in the Cedar Grove Glass plant. Now it housed very poor folks mostly living on assistance. Unemployment was sky high and so were violent crimes in this little section. Many of the rent houses sat vacant or had squatting gangs using them as crack houses.
I drove along scanning the streets, houses and backyards for anything requiring my response. I passed a little white, rundown plank sided house. I looked in my mirror and shifted to reverse. I backed up 50 or so feet and stopped. To my right, I saw something that made my blood boil. I counted 17 pit bull dogs chained around the dusty dirt yard of this home. The dogs were staked in the yard like a minefield to protect the house. They stood in the direct sun in agony without food, water or shade. There were no doghouses only a big, steel stake sledge hammered in the dirt with a big, car chain attached. At the end of five feet of each chain was a dog with its tongue hanging out. I looked in the driveway for a car in hopes of finding the owner of these neglected animals. I informed dispatch I was on an animal call and requested she call the national weather service at the regional airport to get the current temperature. I was informed it was 100 degrees with a heat index of 117. Our departmental policy required me to observe the dogs in the neglected state for one hour before calling the animal control office.
I was not going to sit in my pool bomb and watch them suffer. I went to the crack house and beat on the front door. No answer. I went to each dog and took the overturned water bowls and carried them to the water faucet on the side of the house. After I watered all the dogs, I went up and down the street knocking on every door for a block. Some of the residents refused to answer my call. They peeped between the blinds or curtains of their doors or windows. Several people did answer but did not know the owner of the dogs.
I went back to my unit. When the time was up, I requested animal control to respond to my location. I was determined to save these poor dogs and my temper remained on edge. I knew some of the neighbors knew who owned the dogs and would call him/her when the animal control unit arrived.
I saw the new Ford F-250 as it turned on my street. The big, white Ford had brand new, all aluminum, custom camper box attached to the back bed area. The truck was traveling at a slow rate of speed. I stood next to my unit and waited impatiently. The driver was purposefully taking their time to arrive. I saw the large lady behind the wheel. She pulled up and rolled down her electric window halfway. A cool blast of air swept over me. She did not put the truck in park. The frown on her face told me this was the last place she wanted to be. She asked me what I had. I pointed to the dogs. Her frown grew as she asked what I wanted her to do. I told her about the temperature and the hour I waited. I told her I watered the dogs before she arrived. I wanted every dog saved and taken to the shelter. With her ugly frown, she took a deep breath and slammed the truck in park blocking the street. She stepped from the cool confines of the truck. She was several inches taller than me. Her light blue, cotton uniform shirt was freshly starched and without a single wrinkle. Her dark blue unifor m slacks were pressed with razor edge creases.
She reached up near the big, silver dog box and grabbed a long metal pole with a rubber loop at its end. I saw one used before when another animal control officer confronted an aggressive dog that attacked another dog. The aggressive dog was backed into the corner of a fenced yard and we had ourselves a little standoff until the pole and loop caught him.
This lady walked slowly to the closest dog. I still see this dog in my mind. She was a small, tiger striped little thing who had recently given birth to a litter of pups. Her tits were full of milk. She cowered as we approached her. She lowered her head like she had been beaten and tucked her tail between her legs. The officer extended the pole and snagged it around her neck. I used my bolt cutters to snap the master padlock from her chain. The officer dragged the dog to the street and opened one of the several cargo doors. She brought the pole to her side sliding her right hand along the pole as she prepared to hoist the dog into the chest high dog box. When the dog’s feet left the ground, the snare around its neck started choking her. The dog weighed no more than 30 pounds but being at the end of this long pole compounded her weight. The lady did not have the strength to raise the dog to the box. I could not take it anymore. I stepped in and took the pole from her hand. I pulled the big rubber loop from the dog’s neck and lifted the scared dog to the box.
I was mad before the officer responded. Now I saw the type person I was working with and my blood almost boiled over. This lady was an animal control officer for a pay check, medical benefits, to ride around in her new expensive truck and do nothing. On top of that, she was seriously afraid of dogs. There were no other dogs in her truck. She spent her day doing nothing but riding around town. I had to catch and carry each of the remaining 16 dogs to her truck to load them because she was afraid. When I finished, she climbed in the truck and, without thanking me, drove away.
As the dog catching impersonator pulled away, I heard another car behind me. It had to be the owner. The $5,000 burgundy, candy painted, classic Buick Electra 225 was speeding my way. I noticed the gold plated grill, spoke wheels and gold chains hanging from the rear view mirror. He screeched to a halt and rolled down his window. He was angry and I was pleased.
“Hey man, what you do with all my dogs?!?”
“Are you referring to the dogs that were in that yard?” pointing behind me.
“Yeah man, those my f………g dogs!”
“Oh well, I’m glad you are here now. I need to see your driver license.”
“I ain’t giving you shit, man!”
He was reaching for his shifter about to drive off leaving me standing in the middle of the street.
“Hold up just a minute mister and hear me before you leave. If you drive off, I will follow you. I will call the cavalry and a team of officers will set up a roadblock. We will drag you from your car and if you resist, which I hope you do, we will take you down hard. You will likely need a few stitches in the emergency room before we put your ass in jail. I will call a wrecker and the driver will wrap a couple of big rusty chains, like you have in your yard, around the front bumper of your nice, classic deuce and a quarter. Or you can just hand me your driver license and I will issue you 17 citations for animal cruelty and you can be on your way. Which will it be, sir? Impound wrecker, hospital and jail or a hand full of tickets. Your choice, doesn’t really matter to me.”
He gave up his license and received a citation for each count. When the case landed in city court, I knew the young prosecutor was intending to drop 16 counts of animal cruelty and let the thug plead to a lesser charge. I was ready for her. I walked her through the case. Before she told me her plan, I continued.
Ma’am, if you intend to drop the bulk of these charges and give this dirt bag a slap on the wrist, I want you to know what I plan to do. I will call every news agency in town and hold a news conference outside this courtroom. I will give graphic details of this case and soon your boss’s phone will be ringing off the hook. It will be remembered when he runs for re-election.
Though she did not like my plan, she decided to take him to court on every count. I took the witness stand and he was convicted. He spent months in jail for his crimes. For many years, I rescued neglected dogs, cats and even a horse once from a backyard. The dog catching impersonator and I became a team. She sat in her little air conditioned truck and chatted on her cell phone while I loaded her truck on a regular basis.
Not every day as a cop on the street is filled with shootouts and high speed chases.