Thursday, July 31, 2008

Somebody's Mama Died Last Night

If you are reading this blog for the first time, may I suggest that you read parts I,II,and III of the Sand Box series first. Enjoy and come back.

Randy J. Cole

Prior to the days of 911-enhanced emergency phone systems, law enforcement and other emergency services had to rely on the abilities of call takers to pry basic information from those in need. Not an easy task considering it is damn near impossible to remember what your address, and at times, even your name is when the shit is hitting the fan. I know, because as an officer, I have experienced it myself. Prior to my becoming an officer, before radio communication was common place, many small communities throughout the country used a simple light on a pole located somewhere in the city. The officer would notice when the light was on and stop by the office where the call taker had written down the information given by the caller. That would make Mayberry a pretty darn modern department in the early sixties considering they had radio communications.

This story takes place in a time when Stevens County had radios, but 911 had not made it to our corner of the world yet. It was important that the call taker/dispatcher could dispatch officers, as well as other emergency services, to the location where they were needed. On this cool summer night, I was the only officer on duty for the City of Colville. It was shaping up to be a rather dull night of door shaking and an occasional barking dog type of shift. You’re bored out of your mind, but when the night is over you are relieved that nothing requiring paperwork had happened.

The call came into the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center at about three a.m. An elderly woman told the call taker/dispatcher that she was having pains caused from a hernia for which she was being treated. She was able to tell the dispatcher her address and only wanted him to call her son. She could not say what her son’s name was and seemed to be disorientated. Unable to get more information from the caller, the dispatcher asked me to respond to the address and see if I could make contact with the caller. I found the address to be that of a modest, small, neat one-story house located about two blocks from the sheriff’s office. It was also located the same distance from the ambulance parking facility across the street from the sheriff’s office. The ambulance personnel were and still are dedicated volunteers, the same as most small communities throughout the country. The ambulance facility had sleeping quarters, but those on-call could stay at their own homes provided they lived within the city limits of Colville. They would be notified of an ambulance run by a paging system which in no way resembles the pagers of today. As I recall, they were very large boxes that would be placed in one’s home when they were on-call.
The dispatcher kept the caller on the phone and told her that I was at her residence. She responded with, “All I want is for you to call my son”, but yet could not or would not give any information as to who her son might be. She did tell the dispatcher that she was not able to get to the door to unlock it and this information was passed on to me. I walked around to the side of the house and found a light on in what appeared to be a bedroom. The bottom of the window was about five feet from the ground and open about three inches and was also covered with a screen. There she sat on her bed talking to the dispatcher and I made my presence known. At this point, it was not clear that a major medical problem existed, however based on the fact that she could not get off the bed, it was best that we page out the ambulance crew. At about this point, I observed the woman fall back on her bed and passed this information on to the dispatcher. I was able to pry the screen from the window. Fortunately, the window was not locked in place and I quickly slid it open as far as I could. I pulled myself into the open window, a task which would be impossible today. As I slithered my top half into the room, the window, without warning, slammed down on my waist and managed to key my portable radio which was attached to my side. Panic ruled the moment as the unresponsive woman lay on the bed to my left. It was obvious she was not breathing. I was forced to become a circus performer, all the while cussing a blue streak which, unfortunately, could be heard by other law enforcement units throughout the county. I am sure that many of the local citizens who had police scanners sat straight up in bed wondering if they had heard the nice policeman correctly. Somehow I managed to get my right elbow to the window and slid it open to the point where I could roll onto the floor. If the woman was having an out-of-body experience looking down at the scene, I am sure I looked like a monkey humping a football. Everything fell out of my pockets and my gun belt also popped off as if spring-loaded. I jumped to my feet with my radio and advised dispatch that the woman had no pulse and no respiration. I began CPR, as I had been trained, knowing that the ambulance would soon be arriving.
A police officer doing any type of emergency first aid in those days of the early eighties, usually did them without the benefit of any type of protection. Mouth-to-mouth meant just that. People need to be thankful for the developments that have taken place within the last five years such as the advent of the Automatic External Defibrillator or AED. Most small law enforcement agencies carry these in their patrol vehicles. Thousands of lives have been saved with this technology. God how I wish it would have been around back then.
In an effort to keep me informed, the dispatcher advised me that the paging system appeared to be down and that he was attempting to place phone calls to the ambulance crew on-call. These were not the words that I wanted to hear. All I wanted was the sound of the wailing sirens and the flash of red lights bouncing off the light-colored walls and more strength. I provided CPR for seventeen minutes before the ambulance rolled to the front of the house. The crew rushed in and took over the responsibilities of pumping this stranger’s heart and providing the necessary air to her lungs. I collapsed in the corner as if I had just gone fourteen rounds with a heavy- weight boxer. Death is a foe that does not give in to defeat easily. This woman, who had been struck down by what appeared to be a massive heart attack, was loaded into the ambulance and transported to the hospital. I was a total mess and because of the amount of sweat that had drenched my uniform, I went home and changed clothes.
It was about six in the morning before I made my way to the hospital to check on the status of the patient. I was met at the emergency ward entrance by one of the ambulance attendants, who also happened to be my sergeant at the police department. He was very calm as he told me that the lady had passed away and that I had done everything possible. The sun was coming up and it looked as though it would be a beautiful day. My Sergeant looked at me and said, “I need you to do something now. I need you to deliver a death message”. I responded with, “I think I can handle that boss, just tell me where”. He looked a bit surprised as I said that. He removed the pipe from his mouth and said, “You need to tell the chief that his mother just passed away”. I was stunned. I had no idea that the woman who was asking for her son was referring to the chief, my boss. When I arrived at his house, he was in good spirits and family was there as well, visiting from out of town. I broke the news to him and his response was as to be expected by a son who loses the mother who gave him life.
This story doesn’t have a happy ending, but then again, life itself can be painful and all of us experience this type of loss. Police officers are no different and many of those we serve think that we shouldn’t have the right to a bad day. This is a good time to remind the reader that law enforcement officers bleed on the outside as well as the inside, just like everyone else.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Some Color for the Page

I decided that maybe a little color from the slope might be nice. This little batch of flowers are loctated in the parking lot area of the Alaska Airlines termanal in Deadhorse. This is the airport that serves passengers traveling to the North Slope of Alaska. These are known as, "River Beauty."

Little closer view for you flower lovers.

Anytime Now

While going through some older photos, 2003 , I found this one of a goofy little dog we once had. Peter Parker was his name and he was a character. He would get up on the sofa 15 minutes before the kids would arrive home from school and stand watch. One of his flaws was that he thought he was flawless. He found out he wasn't when he was ran over in front of some of my kids, by a big truck. I was of course on the slope at the time, so my then wife, Julie, had to deal with the aftermath.
I still miss him!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Somebody Slap Me

In Sandbox one and two, I gave you an idea about my life when I was just a kid, playing my life out in a sandbox. The continuing stories will be about some of the unusual true life events that took place long after the sandbox was gone and after the badge became a part of my life. I hope you enjoy reading them.

A good dream, as well as a bad one, can leave an impression on you like a song that you just can’t clear from your mind. Early on in my career, I had one of those dreams, actually, more of a nightmare. It was so realistic that I sat straight up in bed and realized that I was soaked with sweat. At least I hope it was sweat.

The dream put me behind the wheel of my patrol car while I was working the graveyard shift. I can still see it like it was yesterday. In this dream, I was driving slowly on Colville’s main street and as I went past a sporting goods store on my right, I heard the tell-tale sound of my tires rolling over broken glass. I could even see small shards reflecting the light from my headlights like an early morning layer of snow. I aimed my spotlight at the front of the sporting goods store and saw large, jagged holes in the picture windows that lined the front of the building. The sidewalk was covered with glass as well and it was apparent that the holes had been created by a large caliber weapon from the inside out. I bent my right arm at the elbow and my hand wrapped around the pistol grip of the jet black, Hi Standard Model 10 semi-auto shotgun, which was stored in an upright, locked position just to my right. Once the release button was pushed, it fell into my arm like an old friend. It was my favorite weapon while I was with the Colville Police Department. I pulled my patrol car past the end of the building, stepped out of my car and took a position at the front corner of the store. Things slowed down to a movie dream sequence as I looked across the street toward a restaurant that was located about a half-block away. Standing in the doorway was a man yelling, “He’s in here, he’s in here”, all the while beckoning me with his arm. I left my position and walked in slow motion across the street. The man who had beckoned me was no where to be found. I entered the doorway and pulled the door open. A white flash, an explosion, and I was wide awake fighting to get the sheets off. My wife turned on the light, looked at me, and wondered if she should run. I was bothered by the realism of this dream and was unable to sleep the rest of the day.

When I went to work that afternoon, I shared the dream with another officer, who had been my trusted field training officer and always a good person to talk to. He listened patiently, but being a man of few words I don’t recall him commenting on my experience.
It was the middle of the week and I was well into my graveyard shift. It was a cool, summer night and the town appeared to be quiet. It was about one-thirty in the morning when dispatch told me that they had received a strange phone call from an unidentified man. He had said that he was involved in a minor car accident in an alley behind some businesses located on Colville’s main street. I responded from the other side of town. A Stevens County deputy called me on the radio. He said he was in the area and would assist me. The deputy arrived moments before me and I turned into the alley about a half-block behind him. I could see him moving forward checking the buildings to his left with his spotlight. He was adjacent to the sporting goods store when his brake lights briefly came on and then his backup lights. I looked on curiously as his big green and white cruiser accelerated so fast that the rear end began to bounce as it tried to keep up with the command of the deputy’s right foot. I slapped my transmission into reverse and did the same thing, but other than trying to avoid being hit, I wasn’t sure why. The deputy was yelling on his radio, but since we were so close, I wasn’t able to understand him until I cleared the alley and slid sideways into the street. The deputy stopped in the alley after turning his car sideways. “There’s a man with a shotgun at the back of the sports shop and he aimed it at my head. Take the front!” I heard that loud and clear and it wasn’t until I was turning the last corner and traveling up the main street of Colville that I started to recall the dream of a few nights before. I turned off my headlights, but in the dull light of the surrounding street lights, I could see the glimmer of shattered glass on the roadway. The sound of it being crushed under my tires as I drove past was unmistakable and I began to sweat.

I pulled my car to the curb and hit the release on my 12-gauge friend. It fell into my right arm just as it had in my dream. I took my position and waited for off-duty officers to arrive. Jim, the officer I had shared my unusual dream with just a few nights before, arrived and surveyed the numerous holes in the front window of the sporting goods shop. He and another senior officer went inside the building to search for suspects. Moments after they completed the building search, the sound of someone yelling caught my attention. It was a man standing in the doorway of the restaurant located down the street, just as it had played out in my dream. I was scared at this point and really, who wouldn’t be? The other two officers came out and looked at the man who was still beckoning us to the front door of the establishment. The three of us walked to the entrance. Jim, looking a bit spooked, instructed me not to go through the doorway, so I covered the entrance from the corner near the alley. This allowed me to watch the front door as well as the exit to the alley. The other two officers went through the front door and a short time later exited to the alley. The suspect had left the back way before our arrival. I was relieved that he had left the building and that the grip of the dream had been released.

The moments of relief were short-lived as the dispatcher advised that a woman had called in a panic stating that a man had just broken down the back door of her house. The specific address of the incident was given as the 700 block of Pine Street. I did say specific, but to me it didn’t matter as my house was located at 710 Pine Street, but I was so full of fear that I had forgotten my own address. All I could envision was that the person who had killed me in my dream would fulfill his obligation by harming my family instead. I drove like a mad man to get to my house, rules no longer applied. I turned my patrol car onto Pine Street to find the two senior officers standing in the middle of the road with the suspect. He had given up without a fight after being chased out of my next door neighbor’s house at gun point. Thank God it wasn’t my house and that no one was hurt.

The caller who had reported the accident earlier in the evening had been identified and was taken to the police department for questioning. He said that he had been riding around with the suspect all night and they had indulged in alcohol as well as other stimulants. The suspect, who was the driver of the 1970 green Ford Maverick, became paranoid and felt he needed to acquire a weapon. Although he couldn’t see straight, he somehow managed to travel down the alley behind the sporting good store at a high rate of speed. He almost made a ninety-degree left turn, crashing through two double freight doors at the back of the building. The doors simply closed behind the vehicle and without close examination you never would have known it was inside. The amazing thing was that the Maverick had less than a half-inch clearance on either side. The passenger ran from the scene not knowing what his buddy was going to do and decided to report a minor traffic accident. The only reason the deputy had not been shot that night was because the cocking mechanism on the shotgun had been damaged by the suspect while he was blowing holes in the front of the building.

Needless to say, that night proved to be one of the most exciting nights I had ever had during my 19 years as a cop – and also one of the strangest.

Sunday, July 20, 2008



I thought I would share some more things about the North Slope that might interest you. The North Slope is the largest borough, or county, in size (not population) in the United States with an area mass of just under 90,000 square miles. The population is somewhere between 7000 and 9000 people. This does not count the oil field workers in Prudhoe Bay, which is within the North Slope jurisdiction. The borough has a camp in Deadhorse, which houses the government agencies. One such agency is the NSB Police Department. I worked for this agency for 10.5 months back in 2001 but left for employment with a private company after 9/11. Here are a few photos which depicts the NSB’s standard patrol vehicle. The thing that set the vehicle aside is the very unique emblem of the department. It really does capture the soul of the North Slope. I look forward to sharing more unusual things found in this part of Alaska.

This graphic has got to be one of the most interesting ever to be placed on a law enforcement vehicle.

All images by Randy J. Cole

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Day on the Slope

A caribou strolls along a small lake near the main road, under the watchful eye of waterfowl.

Every summer, tourist arrive by the bus loads to dip their toes into the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean.) This spot is the only access where they can fulfill their desires. The area is known as East Dock and is within the controlled access area of the Prudhoe Bay oil field. Many people go a step further with total submersion. Cloths are optional. To visit this site you must arrange a tour with the private tour company located in Deadhorse, just off the oil lease property. Holland America and Princess Cruise Lines both have regular tours to this location and upon thier arrival on the slope are handled by the same tour company. Would you believe that the numbers this year for those coming on the oil field for a tour will top 8000 between May 15Th and September 15Th. For more info about the tours let me give you this number. 907-659-2368. and the web site,

After 9/11, I was directly involved in the tours for two years. It was amazing to see people arrive with so many negative ideas about the oil industry. After seeing the standards in place that we must abide by, and seeing first hand just how clean this place is, most walked away with a different point of view.

Sand dunes in the Arctic? Yep, and they are hundreds of years old. The sand is blown to this area from the Sagvanirktok River Delta. They are located just off the main road which takes you to the East Dock area. They are for viewing only. No personnel is allowed to walk on the tundra or any area such as this, without being allowed to do so by the BP Environmental Department. This requires a permit process.

Geese and other waterfowl are everywhere. This year it seems like there are more birds then ever. It is one of the highlights of being on the slope. Watching the animal life do its thing.

All images by Randy J. Cole

Saturday, July 12, 2008

SAM 970

We have established that I enjoy history. If I could make a living out of visiting historic places and things I would do it in a heartbeat.In February 2007, I made a trip to Seattle, WA and visited a remarkable place, Boeing’s Museum of Flight. I had been there before but the aircraft I had stopped by to tour had not yet arrived. SAM 970, the first jet powered aircraft to be used as Air Force One had been delivered to the museum, on loan from the Air Force Museum after its retirement in 1996. The aircraft sits among other historic aircraft outside, and across the street from the main building. Personally I think it should be undercover. It is easy to see the elements taking its toll on this beautiful machine.

The aircraft was delivered to the Air Force for use as the presidential plane in May of 1959. President Eisenhower took his first jet ride in SAM 970, in August of the same year. His destination was Europe.
September of 1959 Nikita, Khrushchev, used this aircraft while touring the United States.

January 20th, 1961, SAM 970, becomes President John F. Kennedy’s Main transport aircraft.

October of 1962, SAM 970 makes way for a new sister. Replaced by the even more famous 707, tail number 26000.

February, 1963, with the assistance of The First Lady, a new color scheme is introduced to the presidential fleet. The amazing white on blue over silver colors that she sported until President Jimmy Carter came to be. He felt the color scheme was too showy and had it toned down a bit. Heaven forbid that the aircraft with such a significant purpose be too flashy.

SAM 970 remained a faithful servant and was used by Vice President Johnson, to fly into Love Field, Dallas Texas, November 22ND, 1963.

1970 to 1971 the aircraft was used to transport Henry Kissinger to Europe and elsewhere for secret talks where plans were made to disengage from the Vietnam War.

1972 SAM 970 was part of the official fleet that flew President Nixon and company to China.

All in all it was a pretty long and important career with the U.S. Government. If only the walls could talk. She sits now, waiting for visitors from around the world to come aboard and get lost in her history.

All images by Randy J. Cole

Lincoln's Rain

The Peterson House. Lincoln was carried through the door, and down this hallway to a back bedroom where he would slip away, into the ages.

Lincoln’s Rain
By Randy J. Cole

Those who were there said it rained that day,
It surprises me not that history was destined in such a way.

Did you feel the rain strike your face,
as those in blue carried you to that place?

Across the street to the Peterson house, you were laid upon the bed,
Your wife, your son, spoke sorrow and pain, so many prayers were said.

Did you feel the rain strike your face,
as those in blue carried you to that place?

They said that a dream came to you, and gave you a chance to see,
Perhaps you chose to ignore the thought, or decided it was destiny.

Black draped the house of white, as you filled the history pages,
first by horse, and then by train, you were carried into the ages.

Interesting Tidbits

For those of you who have not had the experience of going to Washington DC. I thought it might be interesting to give you some tidbits of information that can be found in the basement of the Fords Theater. I for one love history, although you would never know it if you were to look at the grades I received all through my school years in this subject. What a shame that I wasted those years. Today, if given the chance to visit the spot where a major event has occurred, I find myself lost in thought. Transferred to the moment that history was changed. I love it and I know that many of you have this ability and share my interest in these kind of events. The Fords Theater is one of those places where it is so easy to get lost in the moment. The displays are remarkable.
Today is would not seem so odd to hear of a person trying to obtain a memento of a serious rip in history by taking a souvenir such as an item with a blood stain on it for instance. It seems morbid but people are in fact fascinated by such a collection. It would appear that even in the days of Lincoln, such trophies were not uncommon. This photo is of the overcoat worn by Lincoln at the time of his assassination. The information provided says that after Lincoln was shot, trophy seekers actually cut pieces from the overcoat which were stained with Lincoln’s blood to keep as souvenirs from the event.

The door you see behind the coat is the original door that Booth opened to fire the fatal round.

The murder weapon, a .44 caliber pistol. Experts say that if this gun were to ever be placed up for auction, it would without a doubt become the most expensive hand gun in the world.

All images by Randy J. Cole

Sunday, July 6, 2008

An Angel in The Hand is Worth Two in The Bush

When you work with children as a course of your career as opposed to raising your own, you will indeed cross paths with some extraordinary young souls. I say that because we as parents usually consider our own children extraordinary. This story took place sometime between, 1994 and 1996, while I was a D.A.R.E. officer for the Bothell, Washington Police Department. During the school year I was responsible for delivering the anti drug message to seven elementary schools in the city limits of Bothell. I remember many of the 6th graders that were required to listen to my program, most of them because they were really little shits with skin. However, the ones I remember the most were the ones that taught me something. They helped me grow and understand more about human nature then they will ever know. One of these young people went by the name of Charlie. She was a dark haired, quite kid. The other students seemed to ignore her most of the time and I could sense a loss of self-esteem in her eyes. Her skin was somewhat pale when compared to the rest of her boisterous classmates. But something else was present that most would not see. She had a glow about her, almost angelic. She did not speak much during class but managed to smile when the time was right. It was just before Easter and I entered the classroom. Sitting on Charlie’s desk was one of the most amazing Easter egg trees I had ever seen. A limb about sixteen inches tall with small branches surrounding it. No vegetation was present but hanging of each small limb was a hollowed colorful Easter egg. They were attached with ribbons of various colors. I had never seen anything like it. I commented on the art work and Charlie told me that she had been its creator. I was shocked when Charlie said she had made it for me. The work this child had put into it was astounding. It was clear that Charlie had a heart and talent and she remained one of my favorite kids during the rest of time as a D.A.R.E. officer. When I was finished with the class at Charlie’s school I didn’t see her again for sometime.
The Christmas that followed was a cold one for that part of Washington. The officers I worked with on that department were very business like, but most of them had a heart of gold. During that holiday season one of the patrol officers saw Charlie out in the cold pulling a dead bush out of the ground. This was near the little apartment that she lived in. She was accompanied by a few of her siblings. The officer pulled up next to Charlie and asked her what she was doing. Charlie told him that Christmas was at hand. This bush was to be fashioned into a Christmas tree for her siblings. The officer was taken back by what Charlie had said. Imagine a twelve year old girl rising above a horrible situation and trying to provide some sort of normalcy for her family. This is true inner strength. During further investigation the officer found out that Charlie’s family was in a pretty tough spot. Her father was not able to provide for the family and had physically abused her mother as well as the children. The officer organized his shift and they provided not only gifts and a tree for the family, but a party with a Christmas dinner. I was very proud of those guys on that patrol shift and the detectives that took part. I wish I could have been there.
Christmas came and went as did Charlie’s father. He committed suicide within a few months of the holidays. It was tragic yes, but I know the family had been set free in some respects and could move on with their lives.
A few weeks later, I was called to the Police Department to meet with some people in the lobby. I had no idea who it was but as I walked into the lobby I was confronted with an angelic smile. Standing before me was Charlie and her mom and siblings. Charlie had grown in the short time since I had seen her last and I remember making that statement as she rushed up to me and buried her head into my chest and sobbed. All I could do was pat her on the back and tell her it was ok. Her mother smiled and with watery eyes said that Charlie just wanted to say hi and thanked me for treating her well in my class. I felt pretty good for the rest of the day. The family had moved on and was going to be in another part of the state with things seemingly going well. It was about a week later that I received a letter from Charlie’s mom. She said that it was nice to see me that day and that it was the first time Charlie cried since her father had died. She said that I was one of the few male role models she had in her life. I feel very privileged to have been in Charlie’s life even if it was for a short time. I know I always say that I am not religious but I am pretty sure that angels are out there and I am also sure that one of them is named Charlie. I hope that she and her family are doing well and yes, I will even pray for it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

OMG, its the news!

You ever look at a news report that is so bizarre that you just can’t keep your mouth shut. I usually don’t write these kinds of thoughts down as I find it better to wait until I am seated at the lunch table with co-workers and make my comments just as they are taking a drink of liquid. I love it when someone shoots milk out of their nose. The problem is that I had to eat lunch alone today, so I will share my thoughts with my readers but with a toned down texture. Some of you might be shocked as you think I am a really level headed individual that would not want to offend anyone. That is true, but dog gone it, sometimes I just can’t hold it in. I used to do stand-up comedy while I was a police officer in the Seattle area back in the mid 90’s. Thanks to a young and very successful comedian by the name of Kyle Cease. He talked me into trying out a few lines on an open mic night at a Seattle club. I did, and I liked it. I wish I would have stuck with it. Anyway this is where my morbid side comes from and if I offend you I am sorry.

The story that I picked up on this morning was located on the FOX News online. How could you pass this up?
Three dogs have been given a stay of execution by a Sherriff in Tulsa Oklahoma. These dogs were to be put to death because they had appeared in some porno films involving a 54 year old woman. OMG, I love dogs, they are my favorite four legged pals. These dogs are to be rehabilitated and put up for adoption. Hhhhhmmmmmmm. I am not sure I would be comfortable sending my child out to toss a ball with these animals. Would you dare bend over to work in the garden? It would also be a bit uncomfortable locking eyes with them. What the hell are you looking at? I know what you are thinking. How do you rehabilitate these animals? After all they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! See, nothing in the lives of these animals will be normal, even a simple phrase like that can’t be said anywhere that someone is about to drink milk. God help these four legged creatures and the comedians who will be on stage this weekend.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

How Many Independence Days Left?

By Randy J. Cole

The clock on the wall hangs silent, the calendar turns yellow with age,
years of warnings came and went, no one left to turn the page.

I wonder if the Mayans had it right, with the year twenty twelve as the date,
perhaps the answer depends on who we choose, as our next head of state.

Things are heating up in the world, and not just the climate alone,
A few more years of strange events, we will be living in the Twilight zone.

If you believe in God, I suggest you pray, do the things that you have missed,
I fear the end is coming one way or another, because Mother Earth is pissed!