For The Black Sheep
Announcements: The Sheriff’s Office wishes everyone a happy, healthy, and safe New Year. The next Citizen’s Academy will be class will be forming soon. For information call 533-5815. This month’s blog story is the first of several I hope to present in honor of some of the friends I have had the pleasure to know and work with over the years. Most are retired now and some have moved on to other areas where I’m sure they are enriching the lives of those around them in the same colorful way they did mine.
For The Black Sheep…
And now, on to our story…*
Once upon a time, there was a brotherhood of men who protected and served those who lived in southern Tuolumne County. Their deeds were known far and wide and are now the stuff of legend; at least among those who have followed in their footsteps. These men were called by a name known only to a few in the present day. They were “The Black Sheep.” And this, is their story (well, one of them anyway).
Groveland Ca, somewhere in the 1970s
It was a humid summer night and rain scented air funneled into Deputy Dean Gilford’s patrol car through a partially opened wing window. He drove slowly through downtown Groveland and a quick glance at the luminous dial on his Timex told him he still had two hours to go before the end of his shift. He was looking forward to a few hours of sleep before he had to get up and head down the hill for court at 0830. The overtime pay was nice, he thought, but he’d trade it for six straight hours of sack time if he could. Ironically, the voice of Tom T. Hall singing “I Like Beer” poured from his dash radio speakers as he neared the saloon. Gilford scanned the building front and noticed a man standing next to the big iron doors with his forehead against the wall so he wouldn’t fall over. Great, thought Gilford, another late drunk arrest…so much for a few hours of sleep. Gilford slowed further and glanced into his rear view mirror to check traffic, which was non existent at this hour. He looked forward again just in time to see the man stumble backward and fall into the street right in front of his patrol car. He slammed on the brakes, managing to get the old AMC Matador stopped inches short of crushing the man where he’d fallen.
Exiting the car, Gilford pulled his baton from the brackets mounted on the door panel and without conscious thought, slid it smoothly into the ring on his leather Sam Browne belt; a move he’d done so many times it had become second nature. Gilford walked around to the front of the car and stared down at the tough looking man laying there laughing to himself. He appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties and looked like a miner from the 49er era. He had a large bushy beard and wiry grayish hair sticking out from under a much used slouch hat, and didn’t seem to be aware of how close he’d just come to being turned into a skid mark. Just then he looked up and saw Gilford standing there.
“Hey Occifer, don’t you know you can’t park here!” he hollered. “You better keep yer day job!”
“Uh huh” said Gilford, ” What’s your name mister?”
“Davey” said the man.
“What’s your last name Davey?” Gilford asked.
“Crockett,” his intense laughter ending in a long weez. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Gilford frowned and shook his head. “You know what you were doing is illegal right?”
“Naw, I’z jus takin a little nap” answered Davey.
“What’s that?” asked Gilford pointing at a newly applied urine spot on the saloon wall.
Davey lifted his head and waited for his eyes to follow. When they arrived he assumed a surprised expression and cried “Some SOB peed on the saloon Occifer!
Gilford then pointed to a matching spot on Davey’s pants and said, “What’s that?”
“What the…that SOB peed on me too!” Davey exclaimed. “Occifer, you gotta go ketch that man, he’s dangerous!” At this, Davey laughed uproariously to himself.
“All right” Gilford said, bending down to help Davey up, “Let’s go.”
“We goin on a date Occifer?” Davey snickered, “Cuz it looks like yer tryin ta pick me up”
Gilford turned his head to the side to avoid inhaling the noxious fumes emanating from Davey’s breath and said, “We’re going down to my office and if you behave yourself, you can have a hot meal.”
“Huh? said Davey, yer a waitress too?”
Gilford packed Davey into the back seat of the patrol car and started the long drive to County Jail.
“Where you from Davey?” Gilford asked
“Right here in Carson City Occifer” Davey answered.
“Really” said Gilford, stifling a laugh, “lived here long?”
“All my life… look over yonder,” Davey said, pointing to an old Victorian house. “That’s Doc Willoghby’s place. “He won a no bell prize fer peace…I mean, a piece of
an ol’ bell prize… I mean a prized bell piece…uh, he was a mighty famous man at one time. He brought me into this world too, not placin those doins at the same value ya understand. ”
“You don’t say” said Gilford.
“I do say,” answered Davey matter of factly. “And there’s Miss Scwartzhertz’ old school house,” pointing toward a low flat roofed building. “She learnt me my ciphering and the like, swung a mean ruler too; we was all scarte to death of’er.”
“And right over there, Davey continued, is the Carson City, City Hall.”
Gilford held back another laugh when he saw Davey was referring to an old and rapidly deteriorating barn, barely visible in the darkness.
But as they started down the Old Priest Grade, Davey said “Hey now, this ain’t the way to the Carson City Jail. What you got up yer sleeve buster?”
Gilford looked up at Davey’s irritated expression in the rear view mirror and decided a little fun was in order.
“Well it’s like this,” he began, working hard to keep back the grin that threatened to come to life across his face, “the Carson City Jail is full tonight and we have a mutual aid agreement with Tuolumne County. So you’re going to wake up there tomorrow morning. You might as well sit back and go to sleep, it’s a long drive.”
“What?” cried Davey, “Yer takin me all the way Tooleemee?” “How’m I supposed to git back?” he hollered “Can’t I jes pay you the fine now and go on my way?”
“Sorry friend” said Gilford, “But just to show you it’s not personal I’ll tell you a secret. Tuolumne County Jail has the best food around. So when you wake up, ask for a table on the balcony and order the Denver Omlette, you won’t be sorry.”
“No kiddin?” said Davey. “That’s awful nice a ya Occifer”
“My pleasure Davey.” Said Gilford, smiling in the mirror.
Forty minutes later Gilford and several jail Deputies carried the happily snoring Davey into a cell and covered him with a wool blanket.
Jail Sgt. Ray Hansen was in a bad mood when he showed up for work the next morning. Between the neighbor’s barking dogs and his little girl’s stomach ache, he’d only had a few hours of sleep. He was hoping for a nice quiet day without any problems with the inmates. When he heard one of the prisoners had barricaded himself in his cell and was refusing to eat because he’d been promised a balcony table, a Denver omlette with wheat toast, orange juice, cognac and coffee, and was holding his own against five jailers, he groaned and cursed the Black Sheep…again.
* The story is based on actual facts however, the names and occupations of the people involved have been changed to protect their privacy.