Earlier in the week with my BROC group, we had lunch and our monthly meeting at the new Mexican restaurant in town, La Fuente, in the old KFC building vacated a few years ago. I liked the feeling in the place. The walls were hand-painted with Mexican landscapes, the colors of the walls and furniture comfortable suggesting Mexico. The food was good Tex-Mex and, to my delight, not buried in cheese. The waitresses were attentive and friendly. I declared it a good feeling place and went there with my friends Lucas and Judy from Atlanta for dinner last night. We had good meals, comfortable surroundings, the people in there people I feel at home among. Highway 21 was the scene out the windows, cars and pickups passing by, yet the restaurant felt like such an enclosed atmosphere the scenes in the windows were detached from the reality inside as if they were huge flat-screen tvs showing traffic. No story to follow, tv with sound muted. Eye candy. The television set was over by the bar, the best place for it, since we can't have restaurants without televisions.
While in there Monday for the meeting, I saw sheriff and some deputies come in and occupy a booth. All familiar faces, friendly, good people, law enforcement the chosen contribution to their community. Seeing them together reminded me of something I already know and seldom think about. The news over the last years and social media are stressing cops killing unarmed black people all over the country, bullying by police, I felt my own attitude had become jaundiced by something that has nothing to do with where I live. And just as quickly as it came to mind, I saw familiar faces of men I know to be good people who do not harass anybody or beat up pregnant women. I knew a few relatives of some of them, good people. I said to self, I already know they are not what the publicity by way of media in urban situations makes them out to be. Kind of like the way a dog shakes its head when it comes in from outside, changing from wild mind to indoors with the humans mind. Or in my case changing from monkey mind to rational mind. I was thinking Alleghany's law enforcement is not anything like law enforcement in the urban press, nor has it ever been even close.
Thinking of the present sheriff and the one before him, even the one before him and the one before him and the one before him, good people I believed had service to the community their intent. Even when a scandal erupted, as it did a few times, very few, the intent to serve was the same. Scandals only have to do with money and most of us are irrational about money, so I tend not to see any blame in a scandal. Take our present sheriff, Bryan Maines. I know him a familiar face over a lot of years by name and he knows me by name, he knows people I know and I know people he knows, I know him by his reputation and he knows me by mine. Though we've only met a few times, face to face we start off already acquainted. You don't have to know Bryan well to see that this is a man with a good heart, the kind of heart you want in a sheriff, neighbor or anybody you know. I can say the same of every sheriff in my time in Alleghany. We have different opinions about the different ones, but I maintain they were all good-hearted people with intent to help keep mayhem at bay so the rest of us, their community, can live peaceable lives if that's what we want. The objections I've heard over the years about sheriffs and deputies had to do with personality characteristics. We all, every one of us, have characteristics in our personalities that piss other people off, most of the time not enough to cause a reaction. Except when you hold public office.
There was one sheriff whose integrity I questioned until a day I saw him in action. I was at a friend's house attempting to convince him that blowing his head off might be painless for him, but it would pain the hearts of everyone dear to him the rest of their lives. His wife-replacement girlfriend called the sheriff for help. Mike came in the door to see someone he'd known most of his life, knew his personality, his temperament, his extended family, his record, his reputation, somebody he knew. Mike sat down at the kitchen table with him friend-to-friend and said he'd seen fifty-nine dead bodies, wishing he'd never seen the first one, adding he remembered them all. Mike said, "I don't want you to be number sixty." Then it came up friend had already taken a whole container of girlfriend's pills he believed were pain pills. He was dying as we spoke. Girlfriend flew into emergency mode like call the rescue squad. She picked up the empty container to see what pills he swallowed. Prosac. He'd taken the wrong ones out of her medicine cabinet. Started with a P and was unpronounceable, must have been deadly. Thanks for dropping by, Mike, good seein ya.
photos by tj worthington