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Sunday, August 28, 2022

Pidgeon and Me

 I met Pidgeon in my very early 20's, shortly after becoming a sheriff's deputy. He was the investigator for our police department.

Pidgeon probably shouldn't have been a cop. He was a funny man, kind of impulsive, and prone to do things outside the box of normalcy. He was a straight shooter and honest. He swore like a sailor, another trait I admired deeply. I think that's why I liked him so much. I think I found someone even more impulsive than I was. Latching onto Pidgeon for a role model cop/mentor probably wasn't the best choice I ever made- but that's what I did.

Very early on in my patrol career, Pidgeon and I went to a burglar alarm. It was a very audible alarm installed in a jewelry store. It was absolutely shrieking so loud that it was damaging my ears. Pidgeon it seemed, was having the same problem I was having as we waited through eternity for the owner to arrive. Pidgeon finally had enough, took matters into his own hands and decided to simply destroy the alarm and the wires connecting it to the audible speakers. It worked. No more shrieking.

The owner showed up about 15 minutes later, none too happy with Pidgeon's handiwork. That afternoon, I found myself in the Sheriff's Office explaining what happened. The Sheriff pretended to be angry with us and ultimately the office paid for the repair of the alarm system. I think that incident cemented our friendship. 

For the next four years, Pidgeon and I worked together. It was probably the best four years I spent in law enforcement. I learned a few things about Pidgeon. He hated enforcing traffic laws and was quite proud of the fact that he had the same 25 ticket, ticket book, that he had been issued when he came to our department 7 years earlier. 

I also learned that you did not point your finger at Pidgeon. That set him off. One day at an early morning domestic dispute, there was a foot or so of freshly fallen snow. The angry man half of the relationship emerged from the cabin before we could get to the front door. The angry guy pointed his finger in Pidgeon's face and told us to leave. Pidgeon stripped the car keys from the guy's hand and launched them about 25 yards away in the deep snow. "Go find em!" Pidgeon yelled.

Another time, we were looking for a stolen truck which was being operated by a man from France. He had quit his ranch job and run off with the owner's truck. We scoured the valley and eventually found the guy at a restaurant. We needed the keys to the truck. The French guy came outside and pointed at Pidgeon. I don't recall what he said. Pidgeon immediately became incensed and read this guy the riot act. Pidgeon said we were taking this truck, asked for the keys, and told the guy to get the fuck out of there.

Most of us would have been happy to leave and escape jail. Not the French guy. He kept asking Pidgeon what his name was. As though the French guy was going to call our boss and complain. He kept repeating Pidgeon's name back, calling him "Peeejon." Exasperated, Pidgeon just looked at him and yelled, "tell em I am the old motherfucker with the glasses!" They guy never called our office.

Trying to intimidate Pidgeon always ended in failure. It just wasn't a good move.

A couple of years before he retired, Pidgeon was driving past a scuffle between an unruly drunk motorist and one of our younger cops. Pidgeon hit the brakes of his truck, jumped out in a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops, and grabbed the guy so that our bewildered patrolman could cuff him.

Pidgeon was a notorious speeder. I lost count of how many times he had been stopped. Once he got a ticket from the neighboring sheriff's office by the Sheriff himself. He was pissed. Pat wasn't a hypocrite- he didn't ever give anyone a speeding ticket. I think he was angry that the neighboring Sheriff gave him that ticket.

Now Pidgeon had to drive through this guy's county, a very vacant one, once a week about two in the morning. Pidgeon had a second job, a delivery job. When that employer bought a van with a 440 engine, Pidgeon knew that would be the last ticket he would ever get in that county. About a year later, Pidgeon was driving back home from the delivery job at about 15-20 over the speed limit. The Sheriff saw him, pulled out, and began the pursuit. Pidgeon mashed the accelerator to the floor and outran him- losing him at the county line. 

I laughed out loud when he told me the story. Vintage Pidgeon.

I helped emcee Pidgeon's retirement party. I couldn't tell many of the stories because there were many children present and any good story about Pidgeon had plenty of profanity. But I told a few of them.

Sadly, Pidgeon passed away about a year and half ago.  I spent a little time with him but not nearly enough.

I often think how Pidgeon shaped my life as a police officer. In our time, we didn't have a policy manual to guide every single decision we did or what we could say. We used whatever judgement we had and tried to make the best decisions. Often we did this in a vacuum by ourselves. Pidge locked up a few bad guys. He let many minor offenders go. He had a sense of right or wrong and he saw the big picture. If you could get past the salty language, a minor eruption and some bad judgement here or there, Pidge was a pretty good guy. 

He was a character. I don't see these kinds of people anymore. Today, we have these cardboard cutouts for cops, guided by policy on every matter. Thankfully they still give the cops the same discretion we once had- that discretion has contributed quite nicely to my nearly clean, driving record since retirement. Pidge would have liked that.