A few years ago -- after the tragedies at Waco and Ruby Ridge, but before a former American soldier by the name of Timothy McVeigh decided to make some sort of twisted political statement by murdering a lot of innocent people, including children in a day-care center -- I went out one afternoon to fill my gas tank and enjoy the weather.
Maxie, my German shepherd, became alert as I belted on my weapon and put on a jacket. "Want to go for a ride?" I asked, knowing what the answer would be. Maxie bolted to the kitchen and stood by the cabinet where her leash and collar were kept.
I stopped long enough to choose a baseball cap. Most cops have a collection of baseball caps and a patch collection at some time in their careers. I passed over the assorted caps collected from departments from Houston to New York City and the comic hats with slogans like "Dial 911 and make a cop come" and "This body protected by Smith & Wesson." That day I selected a new cap that I hadn't worn before.
A couple of days earlier, I had attended a party at my publisher's office in Nashville where we had celebrated the success of a book called "America's Dumbest Criminals," which had just made the New York Times Bestseller list and was about to appear as a syndicated television show, also called "America's Dumbest Criminals." Among other souvenirs being handed out were black baseball caps that said "ADC Task Force," as a take-off on the book and television show. It was a very official looking cap.
At the little market where I buy fuel, I filled my tank and enjoyed the weather as planned and Maxie sat with her head out the window watching the other customers go by. I noticed that a man who had just come from inside the little market was standing behind a pick-up truck and peering closely at me and my dog. I glanced at his tag and saw that it was from Texas.
As I turned off the pump, the man strolled over towards me. He was wearing a black tee shirt and cowboy hat, blue jeans and a pair of cowboy boots with elaborate stitching. "That's a real good lookin' German shepherd you got there," he said.
"Thanks," I answered, as if I had somehow been responsible for how good looking my dog was. Men say the same thing when other men compliment our wives and girlfriends, even though none of us have anything to do with that either.
Obviously, the man had something to say so I took my time putting the cap back on my gas tank. Finally he nodded toward Maxie and asked, "Drug dog?" "Explosives," I answered, not having the heart to tell him that she was just a good friend and not in law enforcement.
"There's been a lot of people mad at the police here lately especially you federal guys."
"That's true," I answered,
"Well, I just wanted to tell you that not everybody feels that way. There are a lot of us who admire the work you do and the risks you take." He put out his hand and I shook it. "You tell the guys up at the ADC I said that when you get back to work."
"I'll certainly pass it along," I answered.
"Can I pet your dog?" he asked,
"Your tax dollars bought her," I said. Maxie was glad to be the center of
"You take it easy," the man said, then went back to his pick-up and waved before he got in. Maxie and I watched him pull away, heading south out of Knoxville on I-75.
All right, maybe I should have been truthful. But it was a hard time for cops especially the guys from the FBI, ATF and the ADC.
David Hunter is a retired detective and the author of several books. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org