I’d only been 16 a couple of months when I loaded up my trunk with water balloons and my back seat with fellow high school juniors to go attack the freshmen’s homecoming float worksite. We sped along Johnny Cash Parkway towards Gallatin, when a voice from the back told me I’d just missed my turn. Without warning any of my passengers, I negotiated a U-turn at about 50mph across four lanes. Smoke billowed from my tires. Screeched tires disturbed local wildlife. My friends screamed obscenities, but they were approving obscenities (e.g., “hell yeah, dude!” and the like).
Then I saw flashing lights.
There was no shoulder, so I kept driving slowly down the dark, one-lane road, looking for a place to pull over while the patrol car followed. I performed this brilliant maneuver for about 1/8 mile.
The cop started yelling through the megaphone attached to the side of his car that I should “PULL OVER NOW!”
I put my hands up in a “what am I supposed to do?” gesture.
Cop: “Stop your vehicle!”
I pulled to the side of the paved surface, right into a ditch. My passengers were slammed against the right side of my car, as my view of the horizon suddenly tilted 45 degrees. The cop hit his brakes, got out of the patrol car, and nervously approached my vehicle, just as I decided I’d better get out of the ditch. I tapped the gas pedal, throwing mud and dirt all over the approaching cop, who was now audibly cussing me and flailing his arms to shield his face from dead leaves.
Cop: “STOP YOUR VEHICLE NOW!”
I stopped, undid my seatbelt, got out of the car, and approached him as I apologized for my erratic behavior. My friends were bent over laughing in the back seat.
Cop: “Please get back in your car.”
What I heard: “Please get into my car.”
I continued walking towards the officer.
Cop: “GET BACK IN YOUR CAR RIGHT NOW!” His right hand moved towards his holster.
I did an about-face and sprinted back into the driver’s seat. My buddies told me I was going to jail.
Cop (from just outside my down window): “Did you know it’s illegal to do a U-turn in the state of Tennessee? Especially like that! How much have you had to drink tonight, son?”
Me: “Um, I didn’t…I don’t…nothing.”
Cop: “I need you to slowly step out of the vehicle, and bring your license and registration please.”
I comply. We stand just behind my car. He shines his flashlight on the passenger side of the car.
Cop: “Doesn’t look too bad, actually. Nothing you can’t buff out anyway.”
Me: “Hope so.”
Cop: “How long you been driving anyway?”
Me: “Um, about 2, maybe 3, months.”
Cop: “Your insurance is going to skyrocket if I write you a ticket right now.”
About 20 seconds creep by in silence.
Cop: “It’s startin’ to get a little chilly. Maybe Fall will be comin’ soon.”
Me (putting together the gut, mustache, and Southern accent and looking for an “in”): “Yeah, I reckon it’ll be deer season before you know it!”
Cop: “Oh yeah! You a hunter?”
Me: “As often as I can be! Bucks, does, centaurs, you name it!”
Cop (chuckling): “That’s great. I like Dickson for whitetail. You?”
Me: “My Pappy and I head on over to Hickman County out I-40 West. We got a shanty out that way.”
Cop: “Sounds nice! Well, look, kid, you got any alcohol in this car?”
Me: “Absolutely not.”
Cop: “What about in this trunk? Would I find anything if I looked in there?”
Me (knowing I have a trunk full of water balloons, water guns, and other weaponry): “Nope. Nothing.”
Cop: “Well, okay then. Drive safe, and tell your friends to quit laughing at you.”
And he let me go.
After we finished pelting the freshmen and destroying their float, my passengers told our classmates about our evening, and the Buick became “The Digger,” as a result of its ditch-digging and leaves-tossing maneuver on the pursuing officer. Of course, that was only the beginning of The Digger’s run-ins with the law, meaning this series will have to end with a “to be continued…”
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