We just got back from a sort-of last minute trip to south Georgia last night around 8:20 or thereabouts. I have MUCH to share, but some of it needs further meditation in order to process.
My daughter and her family; my best friend from high school; First Baptist Church of Screven; and singing "Darktown Strutters' Ball" with my 89 year old mother; those will all have to wait. Today, you get to hear about my encounter with the Georgia State Patrol, on the road from Screven to Canoochie Creek.
We have two functional vehicles. One is a 2010 Econobox which is the daily vehicle of my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after, trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. It gets 7,532 miles per gallon, and two adults and two very small, very naughty children can fit inside, as long as everyone promises not to think deeply and thereby use up all the oxygen. Luggage? Ummm...two pair of socks and one set of clean undies. Not EACH! No, for the whole family. It's about SHARING, ya see?
The other is Claire's Truck, so named in honor of the generous benefactor who willed this 1991 Suburban to my firstborn son some years back. He passed it along to me about a year and a half ago, when he realized I'm taking everyone to church in the Econobox. The Suburban, which is in near-showroom condition, has a 350 cubic inch V-8 engine, gets 12 miles per gallon, and weighs slightly less than an M1 Abrams tank. Elements of the Red Army could have used it to invade whatever country they were looking to acquire at the time. Umm...that last part isn't true. It IS true, however, that it's a favorite of the Secret Service, FBI, executive security firms, and that no Mary Kay salesperson anywhere has been able to get one painted pink.
Here's the downside: because it is so heavy, and has that big honken engine, there is not a lot of feedback from the highway about how fast it's going. Sure, the speedometer works just fine, but it is my experience that mostly people drive by how it FEELS. If everything is calm and quiet, assuming traffic and road conditions allow it, you go a little faster. If stuff is rattling and it feels like the windows are going to blow out, you slow down. In Claire's Truck, the rattling doesn't START until around 90 mph.
Even on Georgia country roads.
Our one-way trip was around 270 miles, from Woodstock, through Atlanta, Macon, Lothair, Uvalda, Baxley, and other smaller locations you may not be familiar with, to Screven. For MOST of the trip, Vanessa had some advice for me:
"1. Slow down, you're going too fast!"But we made it safe and sound to Screven, and we didn't get a ticket.
"2. You are going to get pulled over, and"
"3. You are going to get a ticket!"
We arrived to hugs and kisses, played with the baby, played with 2 2/3 year old Josh, played with the dog, were inspected and approved of by three of the four 25-pound cats. And went to bed, with big honken fat cats sleeping on and with us. It was a good night's sleep; we NEED cats to sleep.
Next morning, we reload some few items into Claire's Truck, including Josh's car seat, and Vanessa, Kenneth, Alicia, Josh and I set out on a 184 mile round trip to visit my best friend from high school, Billy Doniel, who has a horse farm in Canoochie Creek. We went through, Baxley, Lyons, Vidalia, plus other small places you haven't heard of, with miles and miles of country & no people or cars to speak of. And Vanessa had some advice for me:
"1. Slow down, you're going too fast!"Now, I wish it to be made known here that I was NOT going too fast for conditions. Visibility was unlimited. No rain. Flat, straight roads. No traffic. I was running between 70 & 80, and Claire's Truck was just purring along, all the gauges had smiles on their faces. But it WAS a 55 mph zone.
"2. You are going to get pulled over, and"
"3. You are going to get a ticket!"
And so, somewhere on US 1, after the turn off for Cedar Crossing and before you get to Santa Claus, when I saw the State Patrol car we passed make a U-turn in the road behind us, there was no question in my mind about what was on his.
"Looks like you were right," I said to Vanessa. "That State Patrol car is coming after us."
"I TOLD you to slow down!" she replied, with a bit, just the TINIEST bit of vindication in her voice.
So, I found a nice wide place in the shoulder, and pulled over.
You ought to know at this point that I have held a Georgia Concealed Carry permit for about 15 years. It was a necessity back in the days when I rode my motorcycle to the .22 pistol target competition, and has been a convenience and comfort ever since. Never had the need to use my concealed firearm, but I am a firm believer that it is better to have one and never need it, than need one and not have it. And on this particular occasion, I had my pocket pistol, plus my car gun, as well as 3 unloaded .357s in the luggage compartment. Two of those were six-shooters I bought last summer for Cowboy Action shooting, and never had the opportunity to shoot. I was taking them to Billy's farm to see if he wanted to try them out with me. The third one is a Dan Wesson that I stuck into my gun case for no particular reason. BUT!!!! There is a FORMAL and ESSENTIAL procedure you MUST follow when you encounter a cop, and you are carrying concealed. So I followed it.
First, as I was waiting for him to catch up with us, I rolled down my window, and stuck both of my (empty) hands out, so he could see them. Then, when he got close enough to hear me, I said "Officer, I have a concealed carry permit, and I have a loaded .380 in my pants pocket and a loaded 9 mm by my seat." Actually, I think the first thing I said was "I was going too fast, wasn't I?"
So the GSP trooper tells me just to leave them right where they are, and asks me where my driver's license is. And I told him it was in my hip pocket. And the whole time, I'm keeping my hands out the window, where he can see them.
I did NOT want that trooper to have nay reason WHATSOEVER to be concerned for his safety.
So, we chat a bit. He asks for my license, and I hand it to him along with my concealed carry permit. He wants to know where I'm headed, and I explain about my grandsons in Screven, and my high school buddy in Twin Cities, and that's why we are where we are on this fine Georgia Saturday morning.
So he tells me to wait right there, and heads back to his car with my license and weapons permit in his hand. And I turn to Vanessa, and say "I'd bet there is at least a 50% chance he's not going to give me a ticket."
"Yup! He's running wants and warrants on me right now, and I'm clean."
I can't describe the look she gave me then. It had a bit of the look you might have when you eat an oyster for the first time. And a bit of the look you give the person who told you to eat it.
And sure enough, when the trooper comes back with my license, he is NOT carrying a clip board. He gives me a warning, and asks me to slow down for him, which I am happy to assure him I will do.
And then he comments on a window sticker on the back of Claire's Truck.
"Are you really members of the Single Action Shooting Society?"
I assure him we are, and mention I have two unloaded cowboy action guns in the back. And he politely asks, if I have the time, if I wouldn't mind showing them to him.
Oh, HECK yeah! There's nothing more that gun enthusiasts like than showing off their guns! So, we step around to the back of the truck, and I open the case, and show him the Uberti Single Action Army revolvers are unloaded, and let him handle them, and we comment on the beauty of the case hardening, and I tell him about our plans, and how they changed, and how we all have aliases: Alicia is Sparkle Dancer, Kenneth is Serious Ken, Vanessa is Sweet Pecan, and I am Papa Pat. And after our little sharing session, we leave to go our separate ways, with my assurance that I will keep the speed down.
And as we motor off, I have to laugh. Reason: Vanessa is MAD at me, because I didn't get a ticket! And I'm smiling right now as I type this, with my fat black Manx cat sitting on my left hand. See, I DESERVED a ticket, and she had been warning me the whole trip that I was driving too fast, and that I was going to get pulled over, and get a ticket: and I DID, but then I DIDN'T!!! Now, it was impossible for me to eat humble pie. I did, after all, have an encounter where I was guilty, guilty, guilty; and when you come out of that unscathed, it feels GREAT! But I did, however, attempt to console her by pointing out that she was right all along.
It was the best I could do.
But there is no way she is ever going to like the fact that us gun guys love our guns enough that we will cut each other some slack.
I don't know how much of of a factor, and which way it worked, that I'm a long-haired, white bearded grandfather biker with a black wife, with a car full of grandchildren of various colors. That could go either way, depending on how many times the trooper sang "Jesus loves the little children" when he was a boy.
In all seriousness, though, I am betting that the biggest factors in my favor were that I showed him my hands before he ever got close, which likely kept him thinking safe thoughts, and the fact that I admitted up front, before he said anything, that I was driving too fast.
Now, this was the LEAST significant moment on our trip. I'm sitting here with a cat on my lap, and my heart is full of joy as I think about Billy and Vicki, and what God has done for them; and my daughter & her family; and my precious sister and my dear old white-haired mother, who will turn 89 in three days. But those are experiences I need to cherish in my heart for at least one more day before I am able to share them with you.
Be at peace!