By Craig Hastings
I’ve been a police officer a long time here in Tuscola. Add to this I was born in Tuscola in the old Jarman Hospital and have never lived anywhere else. I’m a Tuscola spirit through and through. It used to be in my career I knew just about every family that resided here. I knew pretty much who was related to who, regardless of last names. If I didn’t know who belonged to who I could always count on the two guys that knew more about fellow Tuscolians’ family trees than the people themselves. Boyd Henderson and Butch Hall some how know who is related to who regardless of last name connections. All of these things made my job much less complicated. It was easier to connect the dots back in the 80’s and 90’s than it is today. There are so many people moving in and moving out all the time now making it much harder to keep track of who is up to what.
I’ve worked with three generations of families in my time here. If I stay much longer it will be four generations. I’ve had to arrest a lot of people over the course of 38 years. I’m proud of the fact that most of those people who still live in the area hold no grudges against me and are friendly to me when they see me out. And no, it’s not because I’m still a police officer either. Understand, back in their less law abiding days I don’t think many of them cared for me at all. How did I know? Because many of them I either fought with or for sure was given a good verbal dressing down when they saw me and without hesitation “flipped me the bird.” You know, this is when three fingers and the thumb cramp tight leaving the middle finger standing up all by itself. The person afflicted with these finger cramps then show it to you…proudly.
Being “flipped off,” “given the bird,” “given the finger,” etc., never did a thing for me. For what ever reason the gesture will incite fire and fury in the recipient causing him/her to throw down and invite a physical confrontation. This I’ll never understand. On top of this, the unspoken words from which the gesture represents isn’t an act either person wants from the other! Oh well, I could go on and on talking about what different hand gestures are meant to represent. Since they’re boring to me, I won’t. There is but one childish performance that bothers me when I’m the intended target. Spitting my direction on the road or sidewalk. Not because the gesture is meant to anger me but because when anyone spits in front of another I find it a disgusting act. Let’s be honest, when one spits it’s usually because there is something nasty inside one’s mouth that they don’t want in their mouth.
I believe Tuscola still has an ordinance on the books that prohibits spitting on a sidewalk. The old timers told me it was intended to prevent you and me from having to view what someone else hacked up/chewed up and decided the best thing to do was spit it out on a sidewalk. So, if you don’t like me and see me out in public, spitting my direction will irritate me, but I’m not coming for you, not even with an ordinance violation complaint. However, the memory of the act is something I’ll keep in my pocket for the future. All of my words have led me to the reason for my story this week. Recently, I was dispatched to a house to conduct a welfare check on the occupant of the house. An every week event sometimes a couple of times a week.
The call came in as a 911 call so I broke away from my lunch and drove to the residence. I knew who I was going to be talking to inside and wasn’t real sure how I would be received. I hadn’t seen nor heard from the resident for many years. For many years in my career I had reason to come to know this person. Making any of those contacts difficult was the fact that my parents had been very good friends of this person’s parents. I remember their parents at my parents’ house in Hillcrest many times. The years separating our age are just a few, and we both attended Tuscola schools.
As it turned out the resident was a bit down and out and, by admission, a little depressed. They had fallen over a piece of furniture before my arrival and had cut themselves just barely. There was some confusion about the 911 call and how the fall turned into a 911 event. The resident didn’t remember making a 911 call but admittedly was trying to call someone and tell them that they had fallen but was OK. What I did figure out real fast was that this person needed someone to talk to about life and the world we live in right now. So I stayed awhile, and we shared opinions on current events and how great Tuscola was in the 60’s and 70’s. The later is something I could share for hours on end. The resident like myself wishes to turn back the clock to say 1969 and start forward reliving life in Tuscola, Illinois.
We had a good talk and then a handshake, and I left. Thirty minutes later I was requested back at the address. The resident wanted to give me a book to keep. He insisted, so I left with the book and a promise to return the book if it was ever wanted back. It is something I think I will actually read, and I don’t/won’t read many books. The book was given to me for being “Kind enough to listen to me when I know you have better things to do.” Understand this person, I’m sure, at some time in their life, and more than twice, had reason to dislike me a lot. On this day maybe, just maybe, they changed an opinion about me they had felt for a lot of years.
I could have walked in and pretty much walked right back out that day for there was no emergency or real injury. I’m glad I left my own attitude in the car that day and stayed and just visited with a person that really needed someone to talk too. I’m sure this person was taken back when it was me that walked through the door. Anyway, it was a good day and one that makes me proud to be doing what I’m doing. Trust me when I say that this isn’t usually how these things go in today’s world. I recently told a group of people sitting at the same table that if I was 23 years old today and trying to figure out what to do with my life, I would never have chosen law enforcement. Not because it’s been a bad career choice for me. I did well in my first 30, but the last eight have not been so good. We all feel as if we wear a target on our backs even when we’ve done nothing to deserve the rings. I can’t do this forever and therefore, I’m worried.