I was reading the police blotters for Wednesday’s paper when one of them me smile.
It might have been the one about man who came home and allegedly found someone lying in his driveway – imagine minding your own business only to pull up to your house and find some lout trying to sleep where you're trying to park.
Anyway, he's woke up, gets wound up and ends up in jail.
It brought back memories of when I covered cops and courts on a regular basis. Though there were plenty of times when the subject matter was grim, there also were plenty of times when things cracked me up.
In fact, I’ve always thought the cop beat is one of the best there is at any newspaper and the reporter who gets to cover it is lucky. That's for a number of reasons, not least of which are the good cops themselves.
I’ve never figured out how they put up having to deal with the worst society has to offer on a regular basis, but they tend to do it with grace, bravery and an unflagging sense of humor.
Speaking of humor, one of the perks of covering cops is compiling the police blotters. Jessica Holthaus does that for us now and I think she does a good job of pulling the more interesting stuff out of the pile --- some of it not funny at all – and making it an interesting and informative read.
By the way, fine cops – including Maj. Thomas Cribbs, a Pembroke native and head of Hinesville’s top-notch detectives division – warn you to take these things with a grain of salt because they are merely the first report of an incident
But that's part of what makes them so interesting at times. And as depressing as it can be to wade through hundreds of pages of testimony to man’s inability to stay out of trouble, there are those incidents that, whether they’re the complete story or not, tend to bring a grin to your face.
Actually, some of them can make you laugh out loud. Or at least shake your head in bemused wonder.
For one thing, you learn there’s nothing that somebody won’t steal – even a toilet seat and toothbrush is fair game. I've seen police reports where both items were swiped.
Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure there's anything I haven't seen reported stolen – even, on one occasion, a kitchen sink. Churches aren't spared, either. There was a time a few summers ago when it seemed most of the churches in Liberty County were hit hard by thugs who took their air conditioners.
Who would steal from a church? Plenty of people, apparently.
And then you come across a report about some guy who shoves about five packs of ribs and a bottle of wine down his shorts at a supermarket and tries to walk out the door. Those guys always get popped. Or you find a report about a woman who claims a UFO landed in her back yard, causing some sort of freezer burn to her plants.
You also learn that driving is a lot more hazardous than it seems. I’ve seen a wreck report where the cause was blamed on a lawnmower which somehow wound up in the middle of I-95.
I've seen one in which a woman said she rounded a curve on a dirt road near her home and ran smack into a dumpster – pushed into the middle of the road by some enterprising hoodlum, apparently. I read one report where a wreck was blamed on a bee that ran amok in a car and another in which a man ran off the road after a particularly hard sneeze.
What’s more, things tend to fall off trucks, or sail from them like kites. Things like mattresses – once with a kid riding atop it to hold it down, I read in a report. It was a miracle the kid survived.
Of course, there are always the things that make you wonder how smart some folks are. A woman goes to court, gets her license revoked for a whole host of traffic offenses, comes out of the courtroom and gets in her car and drives off – a cop sees her do it and pulls her over before she can get a block away.
One scary note: I don’t know what the latest estimate of uninsured drivers in this area is, but my guess is there are several a week in the area who get pulled over for some dumb reason – like going 70 down Hwy. 17 – and don’t have insurance.
Off the road, there are the things that make life seem like one giant Three Stooges short – like a guy who wound up in the hospital getting stitches on his head because a friend bopped him with a beer bottle.
The reason: The victim said he and his buddies had been fishing off a pier when he decided as a joke to pat one of them on the butt. That apparently didn’t go over very well with the guy on the receiving end of the pat. He whirled around and cracked the victim square in the noggin.
I also recall a report about a man who beat the tar out of a roommate with a fireplace poker because the roommate used the last of the hot sauce. Or one where a woman called the cops because her middle-aged, live-at-home son wouldn't take a bath.
I remember reading about a fight in a nightclub parking lot (those are always interesting) where a woman who had snatched the hair extension piece off another woman was standing on a car whooping and waving the thing over her head like some kind of scalp, a deputy wrote.
And while I never saw this report, I was told by a deputy over in Liberty County about a dog who came back from the dead. She said she was sent to a mobile home for that reason and saw a dog covered in dirt standing at the front door barking.
It turns out the dog had been hit by a car and appeared dead to its owner, a young woman with kids. A funeral followed and the dog was laid to rest. But the dog, evidently only stunned by the impact, had other plans. It dug its way out of the hole, scratched on a door and apparently scared the heck out of everyone inside. They called 9-1-1. The rest is history.
Speaking of which, here are my two favorite episodes from incident reports. They happened roughly a decade ago, but I still remember both about as clearly as if I'd just picked up the incident reports and started scribbling notes.
The first involved a 60-something-year-old Effingham County woman who called police to report she had been talking about a soup recipe with a longtime friend when they disagreed over an ingredient and hung up mad.
The woman said not long after that she started getting a series of phone calls in which the caller would make obscene noises and breath heavily and then hang up. After several of these calls, the woman said she used the Star 69 feature to trace the call and found the number belonged to the friend with whom she’d been discussing the soup recipe.
Then there’s the Effingham County man who drove home from work one afternoon to find a guy standing on his front porch – it was wooden – with a hosepipe in his hand pouring water down a rather sizeable hole in the middle of the porch.
The hole wasn't there when the victim had left for work. The man with the hose was no stranger to the victim, either. He was the victim’s former exterminator. They'd had a falling out and the exterminator got canned.
Instead of calling it quits and moving on, he apparently decided to get revenge. So when the victim left home, the exterminator started a fire on the man’s front porch. He had second thoughts as the flames got bigger and grabbed a hose to put the fire out – and then he got caught.
Way back when I covered cops full time, there were a few who said I made light of crime. Not a chance. I think crime is serious. But I also think some criminals deserve to get laughed at.