Monday, September 20, 2010

“Close Call on the Cold Floor”

Spring is always a pleasant time of the year, not necessarily my favorite,
but close. Sundays, however, were one of my favorite days to be on patrol in Colville and maybe the other cities I would later work for as well. People seem to get along better on Sundays. Usually it required no more than driving around and waving at the taxpayers as you cruised through the city streets. However, there was one Sunday where my life could have come to an abrupt end. During my nineteen years as a cop, this was the closest I came to being on the receiving end of the medical examiner’s gloved hand.
It started out pretty normal for a Sunday morning. I stopped at a restaurant to have coffee and while I sat sipping away and enjoying the sun through the window, I was interrupted by the dispatcher. I was advised that the custodian at the Stevens County Courthouse, which was an old, large two-story brick building located in the middle of Colville, had seen and heard someone inside as she unlocked and opened the door. On a Sunday? Of course my thoughts turned to the possibility that what she had seen was a ghost which would be pretty cool and wouldn’t require any paperwork. It was wishful thinking as I left my seat at the restaurant and drove to the courthouse.
The custodian met me outside one of the doors and appeared to be shaken up. A Stevens County deputy was just leaving his house and advised me that he would be there shortly to assist in doing a building check. As I asked questions of the young lady, I saw movement at the end of a hallway. Okay, so it wasn’t a ghost. I advised the deputy that I was going to have to enter the building without him and did so with my .45 Colt Commander in hand. Moving quickly down the long corridor, it became apparent just how noisy my feet were on the cold, hard floor. No matter how hard I tried to soften my steps, there was a loud echo throughout the building. It worked both ways, as I also heard the steps of the person who was trying to avoid
me, while the sound of both of our footsteps bounced around the hollow hallways.
I repeatedly went up the stairs and back down on the other side of the building for what seemed like an eternity. I decided to see what would happen if I doubled back and waited on the second floor at the top of the stairs. I took a low position and sure enough, the idiot taking two stairs at a time bounded near the top just as I brought my 45 around the corner and into his face. He dropped to his knees and I saw for a terrifying moment that he also was armed with Colt .45 automatic that was within inches of my nose. I would have been well within my rights to pull the trigger, but I didn’t and to this day I don’t know why I didn’t. If it happened right now, I would send that massive hollow point round into that young man without hesitation. He could have done the same thing, but for some reason he lowered his weapon and his head onto the cold floor.
That was without a doubt the closest I came to getting myself killed while on duty. The young man was taken into custody without further incident. As it turned out, he was trying to find the records office so he
could destroy his criminal file. The deputy arrived just in time to help me get the cuffs on the bonehead.
I spent the next few hours completing my report and then returned to the sunlight in the window of the restaurant, enjoyed another cup of coffee and the rest of my Sunday shift.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The death of a friend can take one by surprise and after our initial emotions are done flowing, most of us reflect on our own lives and contemplate our own end as if we are constructing the basis of a novel that few will read. We are all but a drop of rain in a big pond, but for some, the ripples that will emanate from that drop as it strikes the surface can go on for a long time. In some cases they will reverberate from shore to shore many times having an untold affect on the stillness of the body of water which it strikes. I suppose this is my metaphor, describing how we all have an effect on those around us.
Bruce Robertson, left Sitka, AK on a hunting trip on August 25th and just before he left he posted the following on his Facebook page:

Today is the day! heading out to the woods to chase deer. If you don't hear from me, it's only because a bear got to me. Will post photos later. Have a good day
everyone! Mom, I love you!

Those last four words are so powerful and so important. I got into the habit a few years ago of saying I love you to my kids and sisters whenever we finish talking either in person or on the phone. My first born is still uncomfortable with that because I am sure that when he was a little kid I didn't say it much and for that I am sorry son. I have an idea that a number of people that were close enough to Bruce to feel the ripples of his life will say "I love you," more often. Consider it a beautiful reminder and a gift from Bruce, I know that his mother does.
Bruce failed to return from his hunting trip. On August 30th, he was discovered at the base of a ravine by friends and search and rescue personnel. The announcement was made on his Facebook page by Gary White in a heartfelt way. Gary pointed out that Bruce was doing what he loved to do; he was hunting in some of the most beautiful country in the world. Bruce was truly a real Alaskan outdoorsman and what better way for him to depart this life and send out that last ripple. As fitting as it was Bruce, that ripple kept a number of people under water for a bit too long, mainly because it came too soon my friend, it just came too soon.
Since Bruce's last ripple spread throughout the pond, some of his very close friends and relatives struggle to reach the surface, and I worry about them. The message from Bruce is that you must take advantage of his strength and remember how tall he stands. Stand on his shoulders until you reach the surface and breathe, you will be okay.
Something strange about writing this story, one of the few people I would normally be sending this to for an opinion was Bruce. We exchanged a number of writing projects looking for approval of our written thoughts, and ideas, pardon me as I prepare for another one of Bruce's ripples.
Bruce did not choose the time of his passing but if he had, it would have been at the end of an August month while he was hunting in the mountains that surround Sitka Alaska. In a number of ways that is a comforting thought. For me, a nice fall day would be preferable. I love the color and smell of fall just like Bruce loved the smells and challenges of a good hunt in his beloved Alaska Mountains and one more thing, thanks Bruce for choosing our pond, love you buddy!

Bruce Robertson 1969-2010