Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Rolling boxcars

Past another milestone. I rolled boxcars this year. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. When you’re 40, you can say that you might have half of your life left. At 50, with a little luck you can still have a good 30 years. I guess you’re supposed to possess some wisdom with all these years of experience. Maybe some of my experiences support my position of our military in Iraq. We have all seen the crimes committed in Haditha and Abu Ghraib. I understand how these inhuman events take place because of my experiences.

Our military is all volunteer. In that respect, the military attracts many of the same type of people who become police officers. A soldier and a policeman are put in situations where they have absolute power over other human beings. That is a power that many people cannot possess without abuse. I have been the victim of that abuse on several occasions. I was not mean or looked for trouble, only had one fight in my life which I tried my best to get out of. I don’t believe I was a bad kid, never got into any trouble with the law with the minor exceptions I hope to detail.

I was working as a painter’s helper and attending Kilgore College at night in the summer of 1961. I don’t remember the course, but I was probably taking six hours Of electives trying to make up for my lost freshman year. I was only twenty, but I bought a bottle of beer after the last final and drove back to Longview. Everyone hung out at the Malt Shop, a drive in similar to Sonic. I got out of the car with the beer and went over to where some of my old high school friends were hanging. Wayne Brown told me a cop was in the bunch of cars, so I bent down and threw the beer under the car and the car next to it. The bottle probably slid onto the grass at the edge of the parking area. Sure enough, the cop came over and arrested me. He told me he wanted the beer. I told him I didn’t know where it was, which was kinda true. He then took me down to police station where I was taken into a room where his Sargent was seated. The sarge was asking me where I got the beer etc. Of course, I told him someone bought it for me but I would not tell him the person’s name. When I questioned why my "crime" was getting so much attention, he told me to shut up or he was going to come across the desk and beat me. I shut up. The next day, I had to go to court. I pleaded not guilty because I thought they had to have some proof and I knew they didn’t have the bottle of beer. The case was tried later that day. I saw the arresting officer come into the courtroom with an empty beer can. When I saw that the police were going to lie about the evidence, I decided to plead guilty. The judge berated me and told me I just needed to tell the truth. I thought, how ironic. I was supposed to tell the truth but not the police. The arresting officer did take the time to tell me he was sorry as we left the courtroom. He was sorry, but still willing to lie under oath.

I arrived in Houston to start my first post graduate job in the summer of 1966. I was dating a girl that had just graduated from SFA. We double dated with a guy that was a friend of hers, I really didn’t know him. We had dinner, went to a movie and then ended up at a pub. We had a pitcher of beer just before closing, which was midnight in those days. The guy’s apartment was just a block away from the pub, so we got the pitcher to go and left for his apartment. A police cruiser squealed to a stop, lights flashing as we got out of our car to go into the apartment building. This was Saturday night at midnight. In about five minutes, there were 5 police cars at the scene. They had my date and I separated from the other couple as the cops were discussing what they wanted to do. I casually said to my date, you would think all these cops would have something better to do on a Saturday night in Houston. I didn’t know it, but a cop was behind me. He slammed me onto the hood of his car and brought his nightstick up hard under my chin. He yelled "you don’t like it!" I shut up. We were taken to jail and charged with illegal consumption. We were all over 21, which must have upset them. In other words, we were charged with drinking the beer out of the pitcher as we were walking across the street to his apartment. We were lucky to have enough bail money on us or we would have had to spend the night in jail. I didn't contest the charge. I didn't know what the police might do if I contested the charge.

I was 21 and working the graveyard shift at an all night service station in Austin. I thought it was a good job because I could work from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM and still take six hours in summer school at Texas. I probably made 50 cents an hour. I didn’t have a car, so I had to hitch hike there and back which was a little problem, The station had little business after midnight, and the only chore was to mop down the driveway, usually about 2:00 AM. I could study the rest of the time between Midnight and 8:00 AM. One night while I was mopping the driveway, a guy came around the side of the building with a shotgun. He had a pillowcase with eye slits over his head. After I gave him the little bit of money in the cash register and my wallet, which must have had all of a dollar. He then told me to start walking across the overgrown field behind the station…. pushing me along with the shotgun in my back. When we came to the top of a slight hill, he told me to start running to his left. He was probably parked on a little road that was to his right and ran perpendicular to Ben White Blvd, where the Jack Ritter service station was located. I thought he was going to shoot me in the back so I did all the zigzag moves I had seen in the John Wayne WW II movies. The next couple of weeks, the police made several trips to question me with photos to identify. The guy had a hood on. How could I identify him? Finally, a detective asked me to come downtown to be questioned. It hit me….I was a suspect. He scheduled me to take a lie detector test and told me that the monkey was going to be on my back…his words. I was taking B Law in summer school and asked my professor, Mr. Purser, what to do. He volunteered to go with for the lie detector test. I could tell the detective was not pleased to see the attorney. I failed the lie detector test on all questions relating to the robbery. The only question I passed was whether my wallet was taken in the robbery. Mr. Purser’s fee was a pack of Salem Longs. Anyway, the police got off my back, probably because I had a lawyer. Two months later, I got a bill from Texaco for about $200. The guy had been using my Texaco credit card, which was in the wallet. In those days, a copy of the receipts was enclosed in the monthly bill. One receipt had a license plate number. The receipt was for a $1.25 worth of gas. He had charged tires battery and car repairs. No license plate number on any of these big charges. I gave the billing packet to the detective. I called him a month later and they had the guy and he confessed to the robbery. I was really glad my name was totally cleared. I told Mr. Purser.

Well, that is some of what a boxcar’s worth of experience has taught me. I wonder just how few Iraqi hearts and minds our military has won over. My bet is not many unless some dollars are involved. You don’t need a boxcar’s worth of experience to reach this conclusion. Just look at the TV reporting. The one scene you see over and over is soldiers kicking in a door before storming in with weapons ready. Some people should not possess absolute power over other human beings, or even animals. I'll bet there are many, many more incidents of abuse by our military then the ones reported. The pentagon probably only admits to the ones where there is undeniable proof of the crime.

How have you ever been selected for a jury??? All you have to do is say that you are more likely to believe the accused over a cop because of your life experiences. You're set!

As a former RA, I do have to confess that my life experiences have always taught me to actually err on the side of law enforcement. What do they have to gain? (As a "law enforcer" in my role as RA. - I thought it was ridiculous that I had to prove someone had beer in the dorm room. Why would I lie?) It's just interesting how there are two sides to everything. I can't remember all the details now, but I had to go to student court and they actually found in favor of the guy who had entered the dormitory with a bottle of whiskey over me. I was pretty ticked.
Petie, found this news item after the post.


I don't think you can compare the mind set of an RA in college to the cops on the street. I am not saying they are all that way, but I think you will find a higher percent of them are "cowboys" then in any other profession. That's the problem, they have so much power with so little supervision.
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