Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Sheriff Aaron Massey was a kindly man, as my Mother used to say. Portly, religious, soft-spoken, and honest, all can be used to describe this man. That is until you pushed the wrong button.

In the mid-70's, in Newnan, Georgia, life was quite. A small, typical Southern town, where they "rolled up the sidewalks" at sundown. In fact, when the largest industry in Newnan, an aluminum plant, changed shifts at 11pm, any business that had been opened closed for the night. This would have been a couple of gas stations and a late night diner. From 11:01pm until 5:00am, nothing legal went on in the City of Newnan, Georgia. With no attractions, this small town was quite, very quite. 

As a City of Newnan Police Officer, after making a few rounds to make sure all the business doors had been locked and all the car lots still had their inventory, there was less than nothing to do. boredom sets in quickly. Usually, some of the guys would pull their patrol cars to hidden spot so that  the Chief, Lt., or any passing motorist would not see you, and shoot the breeze, play a few hands of cards, toss pennies at the line, or anything to keep you awake and sane. 


If you live in Georgia, you are going to see possums run across the road, at least try to run across the road. Most don't make it. There is a whole story behind that theory. From the most remote crossroads to Downtown Atlanta, you are going to see possums in the street. So when I say it was common to run up on a possum almost anytime you were patrolling at night, well, it's like saying the sun will rise in the morning. NO big deal! Unless of course, you know how to have some fun with a possum!
For those of you reading this that have limited knowledge of the way possums react to humans(and just about any other creature larger than them), here are some basics.
1. Possums are nocturnal, so much so, that if you see one in the daylight, you begin to think it may be rabid.
2. They will run from almost anything.
3. If a possum can not out-run its pursuer, it will "play dead", hence the term, playing possum.
4. If you tap it lightly with a stick when it is attempting to play dead, it will stun the possum and give you more time with the possum. That is to say, put said animal in a sack, box, or trunk of your car.
5. How long each possum "plays possum" is strictly dependent on that possum, so one must act quickly if the animal is to be moved, because this little critters have razor sharp teeth and will use them.

Well alrighty then, now that you have your Possum Primer under your belt, lets get to the heart of this story: A POSSUM IN THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE AT 3AM!

When I was at Newnan PD, during the '70's, the Sheriff's Office was in a long brick building on the corner of Perry St. and East Broad St. The small county jail was a building next to it. The county building closed for business at 5pm every day and everybody including the Sheriff went home. The only one left in the building was the dispatcher for the deputies. The door on East Broad St. would be locked, leaving the only access to the dispatcher thru the Perry St. entrance. The reasoning was several fold. 1. There was rarely a reason to speak to the dispatcher face-to-face, 2. If anyone did enter, they could be heard walking down the tile floor, the distance seemed at least 100 yards. This would give the dispatcher time enough to get up and lock the door, if needed, and call a city officer if assistance was needed. The dispatcher was to lock the door because the Sheriff DID NOT ALLOW DISPATCHERS TO CARRY WEAPONS!

We all knew this rule, which made the Possum Run such a fun prank! Well everyone has to play by the rules for that to work. I guess I should have known better, given the dispatcher on duty that night. Over the years his name has slipped into that vast canyon of unimportant facts. I am sure that some length of time after I have published this article, at say, 3:00am, I will sit bolt upright in bed, calling his name, rank, etc., once again giving my wife the needed ammunition to have me committed. I can plainly see his face now, just not associate a name with it. Let's move on. He definitely did not play by the rules!

Well, as luck would have it, I ran up on an unlucky possum that was boxed in to an area while looking through the trash cans(the possum was looking, not me). I pulled up with my lights on bright, blinding the critter, and ran towards the possum with my riot baton in hand. That 3ft. long bone-crusher made easy work of 'stunning' the hapless possum.

As I was loading my cargo in the trunk, I looked back over my shoulder and could see the door to the County Building only a block and a half away. What luck! This was going to be a piece of cake! I quickly turned my patrol car around, gained speed, and coasted to the unlocked door. In an instant I had the trunk open, grabbing the barely awake victim by the tail, half-running the 15 feet to the door, and depositing the centerpiece of the joke on the shiny as glass tile floor.

 I stood outside the door watching the possum regain whatever mental abilities it had before being dealt a near death blow from an instrument designed to break bones and send men to hospitals if need be. I saw the door to the dispatch office open at the end of the long hall, emitting the only light available, acting as a beacon for the unknowing little marsupial as it took its last long walk in this life.

I have read most of what Edgar Allen Poe has written. I know what it is like to get caught up in the suspense, to have the hair stand up on the back of your neck, the goose bumps, letting your imagination of unknown sounds take you to that most scary place in your mind! But that was just reading, the sights and sounds were not real. I can not even begin to know what thoughts and fears ran through that dispatcher's(if not down his leg) mind as those little 'click click click' toe nails approached nearer and nearer his door. Why didn't he stand up and LOCK THAT DOOR?

Footsteps make a definite noise. You can  usually tell if it is man or woman, child or adult. A limp can be discerned. The speed and determine are all told in footsteps.  The 'click click click' of those damned toe nails give no information of anything natural, of anything sane, of anything not evil. What could they be? LOCK THE DOOR!

As I sat in my patrol car, lights out, outside the dispatcher office window, I was on an E.A. Poe field trip. In my mind I could see the wide-eyed fear on his face, beads of sweat running down his face uncontrollable, his heart beating so hard his badge bounced against his chest. Every nerve of his being trembling! WHY DIDN'T HE LOCK THAT DAMNED DOOR?

It was a combination of things; the night was dead quiet, being summer time the dispatch window was partially open, and the fact that I was not expecting the explosion of that .45 caliber handgun. The second shot was just as loud! All he had to do is scream like a little girl from the surprise of seeing that big ole possum within 3 feet of him, not reenact the Shoot Out at The OK Corral. That guy was so scared by the time the possum came through the door that he clipped off 2 rounds without even looking. HE SHOULD HAVE LOCKED THE DOOR!

Gravity apparently was the only thing on my side that night. Being as I was on a hill, I dropped the gear shift into neutral and silently let my car roll out of the area. I made my way to the opposite side of town and started calling in tag numbers of suspicious parked cars, praying that I had just awoken from a bad dream. Yeah, I wished upon that star until about 7:00 am that morning.

That kindly, soft-spoken, gentle man know as Sheriff Aaron Massey had come to work, found out what happened, and as every officer on both the city and county stood before him, The Sheriff was none of those afore mentioned qualities. I did not know that tomatoes could turn that red much less a man's face. If ever a man wanted to cuss but held it back, it was Aaron Massey.

I did not hear most of what the sheriff said, as I was thinking of places that I could put in applications for work. The summary was that if he ever, ever found out who did this, well, life as they knew it would not be worth living. I can not recall any punishment being given to that gun-slinger dispatcher, but then again, seems like it was a nephew or something like that.

One of the few times in my life that I listened that that small inner voice and kept my mouth shut, and kept my job. HE SHOULD HAVE JUST LOCKED THAT DAMNED DOOR!   

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