This morning I traveled about five miles up the road to visit a friend (that's him in the photo) I haven’t seen since the first of the year. We worked together at the sheriff’s office and were two of the twenty-eight fired by the new chief law enforcement officer. I was there for a mere ten years; he was there for thirty-five years and served under three different sheriffs.
We sat and talked for several hours about old times and about what’s going on at the office now. We both realized that in many ways being fired was a tremendous blessing. He was the Chief Deputy and I was the Public Information Officer. We were both on call 24/7 and most days the job dominated our lives. Not being tethered to a pager and a cell phone all the time gave us the opportunity to catch our breath, to enjoy life at a much slower pace.
When we moved into this house three years ago he was one of the men who showed up with truck and trailer and made what could have been a hellish day almost pleasant. After we got settled he also came over several weekends and helped me renovate our guest bathroom. Part of his job as Chief Deputy was being the heavy. He meted out the discipline and could be a terror when the situation called for it. He was a very astute, pragmatic, survivor and a little rough around the edges at times. But it was his job and he did it to the best of his ability. Out in the community he had a reputation as a hard nosed, almost Machiavellian character.
He and I never locked horns. We had our disagreements and there were times when we didn’t stay in the same room together for very long, but it was always work, never personal. As I sat there talking to him I realized how much I enjoyed his company. He is a few years older but he’s also a country boy and on many levels we seem to understand each other. I also realized how wrong most people’s perception of him is/was. He was/is no saint by any means but he is a husband, father and grandfather committed to his family. He knows most everyone in the county and has helped a great many of them over the years. When I worked as a newspaper reporter prior to join the sheriff’s office I was aware of his reputation as a ball-buster (pardon the term), as an almost mythic figure with legendary fits of rage. Time and time to reflect have mellowed him. Well maybe not mellowed, but allowed the real Charlie to come out.
We were talking about photography and how I liked photographing old buildings in the county. He knew of an old church close by that I had never seen so we drove out in his truck and took some pictures. We enjoyed it so much we’ll do it again next week. And he didn’t say anything about the beard. What a friend.