Sunday, November 23, 2008

Freezing HOT

Are you ready for another installment of the Trooper Bob Chronicles? We have already established that he was a DPS officer back in the day. He was a trooper and my mother was a nurse. Let me ask you, do you think there was anything we as kids could get away with without them knowing about it? You bet there wasn’t. They knew everything sometimes before we knew ourselves. But this isn’t about me it’s about my daddy and his partner.

Being a trooper back in the day meant that you changed assignments about every eighteen months to two years. In other words you were stationed somewhere then eighteen months later you were loading up all your belongings, your family and saying good by to friends and moving 800 miles away. Which is exactly what happened to my family in the early 1960’s my dad was transferred from South Texas to as far west Texas as possible. He was assigned to El Paso. With this new assignment came a new partner and this one was a young man about my daddy’s age with about the same sense of humor and wit in other words a very dangerous combination.

El Paso is located in the Texas off shoot of the Rocky Mountains or better known as the Franklin Mountains. They aren’t huge but in Texas they are considered Mountains. El Paso is also a high desert area which means very high temperatures in the summer range from the high 90’s to well over 110 degrees. It also can get frigid in the winter with snow, ice and below freezing temperatures. This story however takes place in the height of summer when the temperatures even at night were well above the 90 degree mark.

My dad and his new partner, Trooper Ray, had just received their new winter uniforms from the area dispatch office. They issued parkas complete with fur lining and fur trim, winter wool long sleeve shirts; winter felt hats and beanie hats. Yes is it was scorching hot outside but being like boy scouts the DPS wanted to be prepared. Ray and daddy had these in the back seat of their vehicle. They were working the evening shift and had planned on taking them home after their time was up. They were working the stretch of highway that was then between downtown El Paso and Anthony. It was desolate in those days and it was late with little to no traffic.

Then they saw it. It was like a gift from God for two bored troopers. It was a little ray of sunshine in a dark cloudless night. It was a station wagon full of a family on their vacation from New York. A smile crossed daddy’s lips and as if they were one mind Ray knew exactly what would happen next. The cherry light on the top of their vehicle was lit, the squalling of the siren began and they could see the nervousness of the driver of the wagon in his rearview mirror. The driver cautiously slowed his vehicle and pulled to the right of the road. Daddy followed suite and pulled the patrol car, red lights flashing behind the wagon. He then looked at Ray and they both reached into the back seat and grabbed parka, beanies, gloves and donned them while still in the vehicle. They slid galoshes over their boots and pulled their hoods up. They both exited the patrol car and ambled up to the wagon doing their best not to completely melt in the heat wearing their entire winter garb. The family, right down to the little boy in the backwards facing seat, looked at the troopers incredulously. My daddy approached the driver’s side of the wagon with ticket book in hand. He kept rubbing his hands together as if he had just entered the North Pole. The driver rolled his window down a bit but daddy informed him he should keep it just cracked that it was much to cold to roll it all the way down. The man confused and nervous did as he was told. Ray walked around the car looking at the tires and waving to the bazillion little kids in the back rubbing his arms and hands putting on his best “it’s freezing out here act”. My daddy asked the driver if he had his snow chains with him. The man totally confused said no that he didn’t believe he would need them out here in the desert. He asked why he would need them. Then my daddy and Ray explained to the confused northerner that down here in Texas we have these storms called a Blue Northern. They told him he would never be able to make it through the pass without his chains. They asked if the family had thought to pack coats and warm clothing for the children. The driver by this time was upset that they had come to stay a couple of weeks in the warmth of the desert only to find it was going to be freezing and the kids were upset because they would not be able to swim. This exchange went on for several minutes when the man stuck his hand outside the vehicle and said “Hey it’s not cold out there, it’s really hot. Are you sure it’s going to come one of those storms?”

This did not deter my daddy or Ray one bit. They told him he must be getting sick because it was really cold in fact it was so cold they were going to let the man go and find some chains to fit his car and get back into the warmth of their heater. Finally the man asked the two troopers what the temperature was to which they both answered in unison, well it’s about 95 degrees. The man totally confused at this point says “You think that’s cold?” The troopers looked at him and answered “Hell, yeah, anything under a hundred degrees is freezing.”

The family from New York drove off down the road totally and completely in disgust at the two Texas troopers who considered 95 degrees freezing. They had a great story to tell of the event when they got back to New York. My daddy and Ray got a great laugh out of the whole event, not to mention they lost about 50 pounds sweating in those parkas.

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