A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 041

Embarrassments 1, 2 & 3

"How come the dog officer is carrying handcuffs? Has he got a new method of catching 'em?" asked Alan Spear the other day.

The reason is less exotic. Marshall Colwell had been appointed a special police officer to go along with his canine duties and his helium balloon business. These are all subsidiary to Alan Colwell's main job collecting Spaulding Turnpike tokens, and in total allow him little time for sleep. Nevertheless, he is prepared to work these remaining hours if someone out there is in need of a pyjama modeler or a mattress tester.

One of the Marshall's first public duties in police uniform was to be in attendance at the Community Center dance and he displayed great aplomb and savvy on this occasion. His performance contrasted greatly with my display of naivete, when I was first pushed out into the street in a cop suit. Alan's confident showing made me groan at the memory of that April evening in 1966.

It was a Thursday evening, with a gusty west wind that had me wearing my chin-strap, to keep my hat from whipping away, Archie. A hayseed was I, freshly arrived in the big city of Glasgow from the wee farming village where I had grown up. Earlier that day I had been sworn in as a police officer, handed a uniform, and sent from the Training School, where I lived, to walk around the northern sector of the city center with an older policeman.

At 9:30 p.m. I was signed off duty, put on the right bus to take me back to the Training School, and told to get off at the first stop over the River Clyde. This only left a 200-yard walk to reach safety. I felt extremely conspicuous in the strange policeman's suit, like being inside a pulsating blue beacon. Please let the 200 yards be uneventful, I prayed.

Then I saw that I was walking towards a fire and was ready to execute a 180-degree turn, when I realized that I had been spotted.

"Hey, polis! There's a fire. It wasnae us that lit it. Honest. What are you going to do?" yelled a small tribe of grubby children, who were now tugging me towards where a metal meshed litter basket was strapped to an iron pole. More experienced officers, in consideration of the nationally infamous neighborhood (the Gorbals), which could hold its own with the Bronx and the docks of Marseilles, would have tersely said "Nothing, pal!" However, the basket of blazing trash filled me with dread, horror and responsibility. I cursed my luck.

Then came my brainwave. Noticing that I was right outside a pub, I charged in the door, tand found myself in an underworld of drinkers the like of which I had never seen. Groups of evil men could be glimpsed through clouds of cigarette smoke, plotting assassinations, planning armed robberies and playing dominoes. To a man they fell silent as I approached the bar.

"Still five minutes to closing time!" growled the charge-hand, misinterpreting the reason for my sudden appearance. (In those days, the law demanded that drinking cease at 10 p.m.)

"A pint of water, please," I requested, with urgency in my voice.

"What?" asked the barman, incredulously.

"I need a mug of water for a litter bin that's on fire," I explained.

"Oh," he said, "one pint of water for the constable's fire, coming up."

The bank robbers and assassins and domino players, following this exchange with great interest, rose and trooped behind me to watch the water being tipped over the blaze.

"Aaaaww," mocked the sizable crowd of spectators as the fire went out in a cloud of smoke and steam.

"Hooray," they cheered as flames broke out anew and struggled back up through the garbage.

"Another pint of water, Officer?" asked the charge-hand, helpfully.

"No thanks," I muttered, painfully aware, from the open derision of the onlookers, that I would have been more fittingly dressed in a clown outfit. I slunk away towards the Police Training School, glad that the incident had not been witnessed from the building. I neglected to give it a mention in my new policeman's notebook.

Embarrassments II: Planning Board member, Jane Cooper Fall, took eight slugs to free her ball from a sand trap at Farmington Country Club last week. Her card showed a 12 for a par-three hole.

Embarrassments III: Police Officer Ken Buttons, during a training session with a New Durham cop, somehow managed to drive his night-stick through one of the polystyrene tiles of Trudy Pense's Welfare Department ceiling. To avoid her wrath he traded tiles with the Police Department ceiling until such time as a New Durham tile could be installed. However, the awful truth came out, thanks to the discovery of a few polystyrene crumbs on Trudy's floor, by arch sleuth Roger Belanger, Town Hall custodian. Working for Farmington is exciting, I can tell you.

Head For The Hills: Farmington Outdoor Club is planning its first hike of the year on Saturday May 17 to Mount Chocorua. The climb will begin on Route 16 ascending by the Weetamoo Trail and descending by the Piper Trail, a total distance of 8.5 miles. The summit is 3,475 feet above sea level. Participants should be in relatively good shape.

Melee News: Last Tuesday, as is my daily habit, I walked into Cumberland Farms, took up a Boston Globe, laid down a quarter and departed. Unwittingly I left behind a shop full of chaos, reports of which filtered into Kristies from time to time over breakfast. Apparently, a bat had flown into the shop when I had entered and had chosen to stay and execute spectacular swoops up and down the aisles, in defiance of Cathy Beasley. A call to the Fire Department brought prompt advice: "Call the Police Department."

This she did and Batman and Robin, in the unlikely guises of Police Chief Carl Worster and Sgt. Brown, appeared shortly after in a puff of smoke. Wielding a broom and a chalk stick, respectively they performed a duty that could have been choreographed by Walt Disney, with Carl finally scoring a home run.

Goodbye: On Wednesday evening the Board of Selectmen accepted, with deep regret, the resignation of Percy Day as town road agent. Personal reasons were given. Percy is widely respected as a hardworking, straight-talking, unassuming man who worked on the road crew for 13 years. For the last two, since the death of Carl Baldwin, he has been road agent, and popular opinion is that he has done a darned good job. Although no fan of this column, in which he was mentioned from time to time, this column was a fan of his. Good luck Percy. The town's loss is someone else's gain. Pipe, and all.

Libyans Not Coming: Last week's column mentioned a fence around the property of Nick Servetas and was written in terms that he feels did not truly represent the situation. While being good enough to acknowledge the humor, Nick would like it pointed out that he has been obliged to take such steps for business and domestic reasons in order to enjoy the privacy and security to which he is entitled.

May 5, 1986

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