That Certain Coworker


There is little to be proud of in this narrative, and as my classmate and long-time friend, Laureen Kinnaman Roberts, said, “Sometimes you have to let God fix it because if you try, you are going to jail.”

The deputy lit me up as I turned left from the radio station’s parking lot and onto Highway 101. I pulled over immediately and gathered my license, registration, and insurance slip.

The deputy returned and asked me to exit my VW Bug. I got out, pocketed my keys, and moved between his cruiser and my car.

“I’d like your permission to search your vehicle?” he asked.

“Sure, but only if you have a warrant,” I said.

He took me by the left arm while reaching for his cuffs and tried turning me around. I swatted his hand away.

His response was to end my resistance, there and then with a quick but not very forceful punch to my throat. Before I could gag or cough trying to take a breath, or before my eyes filled with tears, I threw a punch that landed on the deputy’s chin.

He fell on his back and immediately began posturing. I went to the cruiser’s radio and called, “10-33, 10-33, officer down,” and the closest cross streets.

Across the highway, at the station, owned by Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, were some of the most dedicated rock groupies ever, Deadheads. Where they set up, they create a community, including first aiders.

These first aiders came over and began doing what they do. As this happened, law enforcement and ambulances arrived from all directions.

By this time, and knowing I had screwed the pooch, I had my hands on the hood of the cruiser, prepared for what was to come next. Handcuffed and seated in a CHP unit, deputies and police officers were still taking statements from witnesses when they whisked me away.

At the Humboldt County Jail in Eureka, Calif., they booked me for assaulting a peace officer, resisting arrest, and a whole host of other charges. But before taking me upstairs, I was relegated to the ‘chairs,’ where I called my job to tell them I was going to miss my upcoming shift and then a friend who worked in an attorney’s office.

She put me in touch with her boss, who took what information he needed from me then warned, “Do not talk to anyone about this case, not even your cellmates. I will see you tomorrow morning.”

Brief and efficient.

After the evening meal, I collapsed into my bunk and stayed to myself. I did the same thing after breakfast until told I had a visitor.

My lawyer, a small, stooped older man, told me that he had worked it all out and that the charges would ‘go away.’ Then he added, “Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see the judge until Monday morning.”

It was a long weekend.

Come Monday, they called me from the cell, gave me the bag holding my civilian clothes, allowed me a private shower and to get dressed. Then I was then handcuffed and escorted downstairs to meet my lawyer and the judge.

The judge made short work of the case, dismissing all charges with prejudice, meaning they could never be revisited or refiled.

Once on my way, I went to get my VW from the impound lot. That cost me $300 that I didn’t have, so I floated the man behind the counter a check.

Shown to my car, I learned they searched it anyway, finding nothing. Al the seats, door panels, the radio, and speakers had been removed and packed inside the vehicle.

It was a struggle to get the front seat on the track. Finally, I got a bolt in, but it still wouldn’t fit correctly, so I had to drive with it twisted and higher on the left.

Worried about my job, I hurried back to Garberville. There I found I needn’t have been concerned.

“Grab a cup of joe, I have something for you,” the man, who relieved me on Thursday, said.

Returning, he handed me a swollen envelope.

“The Deadheader’s took up a collection for you,’ he said. “Seven-hundred and twelve bucks.”

“Wow,” I said, taking the envelope. “I only need $300 for that check I wrote.”

“You’ll take it and that’s that,” he said.

Looking at the clock, it was a couple of minutes afternoon.

“Let me take over for you since you’ve covered my ass much of this weekend,” I said. “Take a whole 24-hours.”

“Sure kid,” he said. “Want me to drop some of that cash into your account before I do and bring you some food.”

“Please,” I said as I filled out a deposit slip.

Less than an hour later, he came be-bopping in, a Cheshire-kind-of-grin on his face and a bucket of chicken in hand, dropping my car keys on the counter.

“We got your Bug back together,” he said. “You put the wrong seat on the driver’s side.”

After he left and before it grew dark that November day, I went out to my Beetle and saw that the door panels were in place better than before and that my front seat moved back and forth with great ease and that I could even lay my back seat down. That was something I didn’t even know could be done.

Now jump ahead 36 years, and I’m sitting in the Cigar Bar in Virginia City talking with my friend’s Comstock Chronicle columnist Melody Hoover and her husband, Jim. I’m telling them about my strangest radio job in California before moving to Northern Nevada.

“What was your coworkers name?” Jim asked.

“Oliver,” I said, “But no one called him that. He was known as Ollie.”

The three of us looked at one another, knowing anyone with a long-handled feather duster could have knocked us over, as we realized I was talking about Jim’s older brother.

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