Back in the stone ages when I was on the job, I always carried a pocket full of sticky badges to put on kids who I met along the way. I would put it on their shirt, make them raise their hand and take this oath:
“I promise to tell the truth, make my bed, clean my room, do my chores and eat all my vegetables ... including lima beans.”
After smiles, giggles and such, they became “Junior Troopers” and went on their way, with a wink and the mouthed words “thank you” coming back from their parents.
On one occasion, I was working a PR detail at the county fair at our booth. I noticed a young man and his younger sister, probably 8 and 6. They were at the next booth with their dad but apparently no mom and they kept glancing over at me, shyly smiling then looking down when I met their big eyes.
I slipped a couple of sticky badges out of my shirt pocket and waived them over to me. I watched them tell their dad and, giving them the nod, here they came.
We went through the motions including high-fives, they became Junior Troopers and then their dad followed behind from the next booth. He looked familiar but from when or why I couldn’t figure.
He said, “You probably don’t remember with all you do, but I want you to know something. You arrested me about a two years ago ... “
Right away I braced for an onslaught of hate and maybe even a violent outburst but instead, his voice grew very quiet as he went on to explain.
“You made me realize I’m an alcoholic. You arrested me for DWUI and those two,” motioning to his kids who had by this time moved on to a bee exhibit and were tasting honeycomb “were in the back seat. You remember?”
Not only did I instantly remember, I remembered how angry I had become. He was hammered and called me every name in the book as I cuffed him; screaming to his kids. The kids were screaming too as you might imagine. I had to call Family Services and wait, with him cuffed up next to me in my squad and his kids in tears crying behind me in the back seat for the hour it took for a wrecker and social worker to arrive. The entire hour was him, telling them, about the mean pig taking him away from them.
Anyway. he went on to apologize and explain that experience had changed him and, although his wife had divorced him, he’d been sober ever since. Even showed me his two-year sobriety coin. We shook hands and I got back to my cookies and punch duty.
I looked up and watched as he rejoined his kids. They waived and smiled big. Apparently they had forgotten our first meeting.
He looked too. He winked, mouthed a silent, “thank you” and the three walked away. Alive. Sober. And happy.
At times, a badge is a great gig.
Jim Geeting is a retired Wyoming state trooper and author. He lives in Rock Springs. Write him at email@example.com.