Everyone who worked for the State Police as long as I did have
dinged up a patrol car. Although I may have set a new standard for starting early. My father and his cousin worked for the department also, and during that time, we lived in Little Rock. One day when I was about three-years-old, my dad and cousin Dale, who lived with us at the time, went to work in Dad’s car leaving Dale’s
in the carport. Dale apparently had left the window down on the driver’s side and I managed to crawl through the open window. After rummaging around under the front seat, I managed to find a loaded Smith and Wesson .38 revolver. Before everyone freaks out and wants my cousin retroactively jailed for being so reckless, remember this was the late fifties. During this time parents smoked in the car with the kids and children were allowed to roam freely about the back seat. When we got somewhere and my folks opened the car door, it looked like opening the doors at an AC/DC concert with all the smoke billowing out. And in Dad’s favor ,if he ever needed to get on to my brother and I while driving, all he had to do was hit the brakes and we were immediately thrown into the front seat.
Anyway back to the story. Apparently even at a young age I had the basic fundamentals of gun handling understood, if not safe gun handling. Upon discharge, the .38 caliber slug tore through the front passenger side door and on into my Mom’s rose garden. One down and one to go. My grandparents lived in Paragould and we visited them frequently. I loved going to their farm located between there and Jonesboro atop Crowley’s Ridge. On one visit, when I was eight years old, Granddad was at the farm getting in hay. My dad, little brother and I went and located them in the hay field, where they were loading square bales onto and old wooden trailer that was hooked to my Grandfathers old diesel Ford
After a while my father called me over and told me to drive the tractor and loaded trailer the two miles or so to the barn. I can remember being so proud and feeling grown up and important. I got on the running tractor, depressed the clutch and put in gear. You see, I had some of the fundamentals on this tractor business down pat. As I started to drive away and make a big circle in the field, my dad called to me to wait just a minute. As with the gun, I knew just enough to make me dangerous. I knew I needed to stop the tractor, so I turned the key off, which would have worked on the gasoline powered 8N Ford tractor that Granddad owned, but not on the diesel.
While I was merrily making my way through the field back to Dad, I was frantically looking down at the controls and steering column in a desperate search for something that would stop the blue beast. Notice I said “looking down.” I never saw the right rear of Dad’s issued unmarked State Police car before I plowed in to it. Dad rushed over and turned off the still running tractor. I remember crying and knowing I was in real trouble. I mean, the Colonel might even put me in jail or something. One of my favorite memories of my Dad happened next. He told me not to cry or worry that it was his fault for putting me on that tractor at such a young age. I felt totally relieved. He never told me what he told the Colonel about the damage. Looking back, now I wished I had asked.