Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Last Patrol

I met BS "Pat" Pidgeon in the spring of '83. I remember him best on the day a local commuter plane crashed on the state highway in our county near the airport and cartwheeled down the northbound ditch adjacent to the road. There were 14 souls aboard and we spent some time locating and digging them out of the deep snow that day. We were there for hours protecting the scene and waiting for NTSB. Later on that afternoon,  I saw Pidgeon on the east/passenger side of his patrol car.  He had a pair of binoculars and he was looking at the mountains to the west.

Days later, I asked him what he was looking at. He told me wasn't looking at anything. He said he had to take a piss and so he pulled the binoculars out so that people would think he was looking at something else, glance that direction, and wouldn't notice he was taking a piss.

In that moment he had won me over. I picked him to be my role model cop. I was 22 years old, stupid, cocky, and I have no earthly idea of what he ever saw in me. We became friends although some 25 years separated us. I loved to ride with Pat. We'd drive around the county, take an occasional call, and inevitably Pat would pull some crazy shit that would leave me with my mouth wide open.

A lot of what happened back in those days was marginally acceptable and tolerated. Justice was delivered a little differently back then.

One thing I learned early on was that you didn't point your finger at Pat. We had taken an early morning 911 call in a subdivision out in the woods. It was covered in deep snow. It was a domestic kind of call and the male part of the battle was a little agitated and kind of aggressive. The girlfriend was still in the cabin and we were standing in a driveway about 100 feet from the house. Pat wasn't the kind of guy you tried to intimidate and this guy kept raising his voice and yelling at Pat. Pat was yelling back. Then it happened. The guy, holding his car keys, pointed his finger right in Pat's face. Pat immediately grabbed him by the wrist, stripped the car keys out of his hand, and launched the whole set of keys into the deep snow about 50 yards away. The guy, needing his keys to drive away and go to work, immediately went searching for them and Pat left me to guard him while he checked on his girlfriend. It had only been a verbal argument and when we left- the guy was still trying to find his keys.

Pat wouldn't write a traffic ticket to save his life. He hated traffic tickets. We would do traffic accidents all the time and Pat might note on the report who was at fault- but he'd never write a ticket. He prided himself on having the same ticket book he had been issued 7 years earlier. 

I think Pat hated tickets because he was the most notorious speeder in the region. Other departments  were constantly stopping him and letting him go. Officers let him go- not just because he was a good cop but because he was fearless. He'd get right in the middle of any fight. When I needed help, I always breathed a sigh of relief when Pidgeon arrived. I know the other cops felt the same way. In our little rural corner of the world, I always thought those 55 MPH speed limits were too restrictive anyway. Man, I used to get stopped a lot. No tickets. That just pissed off my ex. She was the kind of gal who got a ticket every time she got stopped and you can guess why. If there is a speeding hell for cops, I will be looking forward to seeing my friend Pat when I get there.

I could write about so many things. Every day was an adventure with Pat. Once when the loudest burglar alarm in the world was shrieking and the jewelry store owner was taking her time getting to the store, Pat's solution was to rip the whole alarm off the wall. A couple hours later the Sheriff called us in, got our stories, and made Pat pay for the alarm.

Or the time Pat shot a hole in his ceiling with his .45 and declared that was where he was going to put the stovepipe for his wood burning stove. Or the time he shot some dog that had jumped through his screen door inside his house searching for Pat's dog who was in heat. Insane stories, very funny stuff. That was vintage Pidgeon.

Pat loved his wife and daughters. I think all that estrogen gave him patience. He would always talk about his wife and daughters and even when they upset him- you always knew he loved them. Pat was grateful for his family and all of his blessings. He viewed retirement checks like manna from heaven. Pat retired many years ago and moved to a little town. He loved to hunt and fish- Pat was an excellent shot and a firearms instructor.

Pat's wife Barbara encouraged me to visit Pat when one of his best friends died. I did, but not enough. That's the way it always seems to be. I always think I have more time.

In all of the years I knew Pat- I'll be damned if I ever hunted or fished with him. Until last year. We decided to go coyote hunting one day.

We loaded up our guns and drove for hours. All we did was talk. There was no speeding. We drove for miles and miles, found some obscure bodies of water, gazed at them. Talked about fishing and I chewed him out for giving his boat away. The guns never left the truck that day and truth is, the coyotes were pretty safe. We stopped at a country store, had lunch, and eventually returned home. This as it turned out, was going to be the last patrol for Pat and I.

Oh I stopped by his house a few times, the last time in October when I asked him to hold a few things for me while I moved back to Montana. That move fell through and instead, I found myself moving to the warm desert near St George, Utah. 

Pat died during the night at home, sometime after the Superbowl. He always seemed so healthy even for his age (80s) that I thought he'd be around a lot longer. His passing caught me by surprise and I've been trying to make sense of it ever since. That's the ridiculous part. We think we have some sense of control but we do not. We think we have time that we do not. We feel guilty for something we have no say in and cannot foresee. 

I am going to be grateful for the time I did have with Pat rather than feel sorry for the time I missed. I think Pat would have wanted it that way.








3 comments:

Shoban Illiterati said...

Sounds like a guy anyone would want to know and befriend. Not a snowflake. I really enjoyed reading this and would love to hear more amusing anecdotes. I am going to put some binoculars in my glove box right now.

Shoban Illiterati

JohnM said...

Thanks for sharing Brian. I always enjoy your writing.

Unknown said...

Love and peace brother.. You guys are a dying breed. Sorry about Pat.. Greg..