I had met Mitch about six months earlier. He was the county’s constable. He was seventy-three years old. Not a real big man, but you could tell he was tough.
Mostly, I remember he liked to bird hunt. In winter, he tried to bird hunt every moment he wasn’t working. I envied that. I was busy working as a news reporter, Mondays through Fridays and a whole lot of Saturdays and Sundays.
I cajoled the sheriff to let me do ride-alongs with his deputies. I was looking for the big story in small town Mississippi. It was exciting. Riding in a cruiser, going out to the county line, visiting real honky-tonks in North Mississippi, stopping an occasional DUI.
I was young. I was “at work.”
Every time I saw Mitch, he was talking about bird hunting.
He had been one of the first Mississippi Highway Patrolmen.
One night, I was riding with the Chief Deputy. We were like two kids with a fast car with a tank full of gasoline. Cruising the gravel roads, talking, looking for trouble. I wanted names and photos. He was sworn to uphold the law.
There was trouble.
A man was in a house with a gun. Things got serious. Blue lights flashing, suddenly we’re going 100 miles an hour, a lot of talk on the two-way. The house was on the other side of the county. We got there fast.
Others were already there.
The man in the house was mad. Crazy mad, I thought. And, he had a gun.
The chief deputy got behind an old tree in the front yard. The man in the house broke a window with the rifle. I hid behind a car. Just like on TV. Tense.
Then Mitch stood up. He took off his jacket, he was wearing a white shirt, silver badge over his heart.
There were no bullet proof vests that night.
“We need to talk about this.” he said. Mitch was calm, like a preacher in church asking for an offering. “There’s no need for you to get hurt.”
Yes, you could hear a pin drop. I was praying for the man and myself.
“Look, I’m unarmed. I am taking my gun off. I’m going to turn around, I don’t have anything to hurt you with. We need to talk.”
Mitch turned his back to the man.
He looked at the Chief Deputy. “Don’t let him kill me!” he said in an urgent whisper. He turned back around and walked up on the porch. “We just want to take you to the hospital, that’s all. We’re here to help. We’re not going to hurt you.”
They talked for a minute or two. The man stepped out of his house.
A minute later he was in a cruiser, headed to the hospital.
Mitch picked up his gun belt and his jacket, then headed to his car.
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