There was some real sadness this week.
Two of Oklahoma’s finest — two senior lawmen — sheriff’s in counties well away from Altus, suffered alleged entanglements with the wrong side of the law as a result of state bureau of investigation probes.
The Kiowa County sheriff reached an agreement with the district attorney rather than face charges for allegedly taking an official vehicle out of state for personal business.
The Carter County sheriff was arrested on bribery charges, according to a report by the Associated Press.
This is one of the parts I dislike most about my job, having to bring bad news about otherwise good people. Both of these gentlemen likely put away more bad guys, more criminals in their now shortened careers, than I will see in my entire lifetime.
Based on what my parents taught me, there are people who serve the community who will never get rich doing so, but just believe it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s through their tireless efforts and endless training that most things come out right.
I believe people like law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, teachers, preachers, the military and yes, maybe even a few journalists, should get a pat on the back for what are sometimes long, thankless hours of service.
I’m sure investigators feel even worse when they have to levy charges against some of their own. My hope is that whatever went wrong with this situations surrounding these lawmen gets straightened out. My prayers go out to all involved. I hope things like that don’t happen again, but we all have to be brave enough to see these things through.
On another note, I had the chance to get out of the office and to travel around the area a little. I visited Quartz Mountain on the weekend, and the place was packed at the lake. Not a place I’d like to visit again on a holiday, but it was beautiful and I hope to go back and explore when it’s not quite so crowded.
On the way back I was kind of poking along, exploring some back roads and saw my first jackrabbit in Oklahoma. Big, long ears, huge body for a rabbit, and even a little cocky, sitting there munching on some greens as he boldly watched me with only mild interest. I’m sure he knew he could be gone in a flash if he felt any danger and there wasn’t much I could do about it.
Jackrabbits were very prolific around San Angelo, Texas, when I was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base during my time in the Marine Corps many years ago. Ironically, there were five of us young and single guys who went out and bought motorcycles.
It was an impulse move, but we suddenly had our own little motorcycle club. We even had T-shirts made with our nicknames on the back.
We took our new purchases very seriously, so we drove carefully to break the engines in. That meant for the first 3,000 miles we wouldn’t drive faster than 45 mph.
I remember one day, I was in the lead and I heard the guy behind me beeping his horn, so I looked back. He pointed to the field on the side of the road.
It was a Texas jackrabbit that passed us, running along along the side of the road, just off the shoulder. We watched in amazement as it kept going, actually overtaking us still doing almost 45 mph and then suddenly he turned right and disappeared down a dusty country farm road. He was gone, but we laughed about it for days.
But that wasn’t our only experience with motorcycles and critters.
We were riding home late one night, probably going faster than we should and I was in the lead, again.
I saw something on the left shoulder in the darkness ahead, a furry ball kind of waddling toward the pavement. In an attempt to avoid it, I moved to the right. But it kept coming in the darkness, inching across the road and I moved further and further to my right, until I was riding the right white line, nearly on the shoulder.
At the last moment I saw a flash of white amid the otherwise totally black fur ball and realized it was a skunk. I lifted my feet up, but my back tire clipped the unfortunate animal.
Even at 60-70 miles per hour, with the deafening roar of the wind rushing by on a motorcycle and with my helmet on, I could hear the guys behind me screaming as they road through the skunk scent cloud.
Sounds funny now, but it wasn’t back then. We had to destroy our clothes and washed our motorcycles probably a half dozen times before they were fit to ride again. Just thinking about it I can still smell that scent even now.
Reach Eric Steinkopff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 580-482-1221 ext. 2072.