I'm going to tell y'all a true story. It involves my neighbor, and we're going to call him "Vern".
Last week, in our neighborhood, a crew of some guys ostensibly doing some contract work for the state, showed up with a fleet of 3 or 4 tractors equipped with side-arm mowing attachments, like big bush-hogs on sideways-reaching backhoe booms. These contraptions are safe for their operators, because they can drive along on the pavement and reach well afield to trim back banks and brush. They are not safe, however, for people and property (as we shall see) beyond the business end of the bush-hog.
The safety factor deteriorates markedly when the operators run the bush-hogs in a vertical position, not to mow over the ground, but to mow back the limbs of trees from the road's "right-of-way." I put "right-of-way" in quotation marks to illustrate scorn for how much "way" the State consistently expresses ownership rights thereof. Anyways...in addition to the 3 or so tractors, the contractor had a crew-cab truck and a couple fellows acting as flagmen.
Vern could hear the activity slowly progressing down the road, I am sure: Rrrrr-urrr-rrrrr-urrr-GGGRRRINDDCHHHH!...Rrrr-urrr-rrrararr-urrrh-GGGGRRRRIND-GGGGRRUNCHHHH-CHUH-CHUH!...like a chain-saw some of the time, and a massive wood-chipper the rest of the time. I didn't see Vern during most of this, and I suspect he was working inside his place. At least, he wasn't immediately in the yard. I was half-studying the work and its progress and half-studying some weeds in my garden, when the lead tractor pulled what we'll call "the exploding tree trick." I watched that tree literally blow apart, sending chunks of limb and trunk 75' into the sky. And, it was close enough to Vern's house, that many of those chunks (20 or more, perhaps...most of them about the size of an empty paper towel roll) found their way onto the top of one of Vern's outbuildings and into his front yard. I have every reason to believe that Vern saw it, too. He was outside in a matter of seconds and picked up a chunk the size of a Louisville Slugger from within 20' of his front porch.
I remember thinking immediately that if that slung chunk hit a fellow in the head, it might knock him out cold. I bet Vern swinging that chunk upside a moron's head might effect the same result, and that possibility became readily apparent. Vern strode deliberately around his outbuilding and into the road, shaking the stick at Mr. Tractor Guy. Tractor Guy set his parking brake and stepped out of the cab, and it looked for just a second like he was thinking about coming on down the ladder. But he didn't. I heard the entire exchange.
Vern yelled at Tractor guy that he'd slung his debris all over the buildings and yard, and that if there'd been a child or small animal in the area, one of them could've gotten dead by the flying shrapnel. And Vern shook the bat-sized stick of wood at Tractor Guy for emphasis, as he spoke. Tractor Guy said, rather smarmily, that he didn't mean to, and that he was sorry. But, Vern said "Sorry doesn't work here. You're either doing something the right way, or the wrong way, and sorry doesn't fix or excuse the wrong way. Don't do it again!" And Vern turned away from the tractor and threw the stick in the ditch...about as hard as he could throw, but away from the tractor and Tractor Guy. Again, I suppose, just for emphasis.
He pointed his finger at Tractor Guy and said "Be careful." Tractor Guy didn't hear him (or pretended to not hear). And Vern stepped closer again and shouted, "Be! Careful!" And, he walked away with steam coming out his ears. Nobody in his right mind would think about being anything but "careful" after that advice from Vern, especially given his rather imposing presence with or without a stick.
A few minutes later, with Vern gone back inside, the entire crew of tractors seemed to decide that that particular area of brush cutting was close enough for government work, I suppose, and rambled on down the road, around the bend and out of sight.
That certainly could have been the end of it, and should've been in my opinion. Au contraire, mon frère...
Some 60-90 minutes had passed, and Vern & I were in his tool-shed, where he was sharpening my lawn-mower blade...right out of the scene from Sling Blade (I think I heard Daniel Lanois' guitar in my head). Vern told me to keep in the shed, then laid down his file and walked out the double door as a car's approach audibly slowed near his driveway. I saw him walk further toward the road as a Sheriff's Department car pulled into the drive and two officers got out. I wasn't hiding, but didn't announce my presence, either...I'm absolutely convinced they never knew I was there in the shed.
Of the two Deputies, the driver seemed to be the senior officer. Senior Deputy was in regular uniform, and Junior was sporting more combat-appropriate attire. I heard Vern ask Junior where his Baklava mask was. The response was good natured, but mumbled.
The senior deputy asked Vern what the trouble was, and Vern said he didn't have any, but that some carelessness by the "state boys" could have caused some damage and trouble, narrowly averted by good fortune. Senior Deputy asked Vern his name. Vern said, "Vern." Sr. Deputy asked for his last name, and Vern said, "just Vern...that should be enough." Sr. Deputy told Junior Deputy to go take down the license number of that truck in the driveway, and Junior obliged.
Senior then addressed Vern, "We got a report that you were in the road, bothering the state workers."
Vern: "I don't know what constitutes 'bothering', but all I did was tell the tractor guy not to be so careless with his work." There was an edge creeping into Vern's tone.
Senior Deputy: "Well, they have a job to do, and they know how to do it."
Vern: "Excuse me, but bullshit. I've run every piece of equipment these yayhoos have ever seen, and I can do better than that by only trying a little bit. All it takes is an ounce of want-to."
Senior: "Well, I'm telling you not to go back into the road, and to leave them alone."
Vern: "Well, I don't mean any disrespect, but you can't tell me where to go or what to do."
Senior: "I take that as very disrespectful. Don't go back over there, unless you wanna get arrested. If you have a problem with them, you call us."
Junior Deputy had only walked about 20 paces onto Vern's property, and had returned closer (but not too close) to the discussion.
Vern: "I haven't done anything to warrant getting arrested, and I don't call law enforcement for anything. I don't call 911; that's a recipe for getting your kid killed, I heard."
Senior: "What are you talking about?"
Vern: "Boiling Springs Lake? This year? Family calls 911 for medical assistance with their 90lb teenage son? Two officers have kid largely subdued, when another officer shoots kid dead?"
Senior: "There's more to that story than you know. I do know...it wasn't the cop's fault."
Vern: "Okay, if that's so, give me one shred of evidence that exonerates that officer."
Senior: "We can't do that. It's an ongoing investigation."
Vern: "You can't do so, because there is none. 19 year old kid with a screwdriver? Already subdued? I'm not even a hero LEO, and I can't envision a scenario where I'd be threatened by a weakling kid with a screwdriver. The cop is a murderer, plain and simple. And good people can't just call the cops anymore."
Senior: "You know what, I bet if the State wanted to press the issue, they might find that your outbuilding there is encroaching on state right-of-way."
Vern: "Don't even try that one. I've been a surveyor, too. I know where the property is and isn't."
Senior (to Junior): "Let's go." To Vern, as they back out of Vern's driveway: "Stay out of the road."
Vern: "Y'all be careful. Don't shoot no kids."
The End. Maybe.
There was once a time when you might call the police or fire department for help getting your cat out of a tree. No longer. You're just as likely they'll get it down by shooting it down. "That tree is on State property, Ma'am...And, by the way, where's your cat license? What, no cat license? Hands behind your back."
By my estimation, Vern was the only one who did nothing wrong. The Deputies obviously overstepped their authority by threatening false arrest, as well as violating Vern's 4th Amendment rights to move freely and be immune to unreasonable search. Oh, plus violating the 1st Amendment by restricting his free speech. Tractor Guy probably felt threatened but there was no real evidence of that (without a lingering, stick-wielding Vern in the roadway). Maybe he felt a bit upstaged and embarrassed. What's the value of pulling your gun (your hired gun, the Sheriff's Department) on a homeowner, but to project State authority over the individual? How big a coward are you if that's how to best restore your wounded manhood?
Is there a role that iconic Andy Taylor could play in this Sheriff's Department? Yeah, I doubt it, too. Even here, the Land of Livermush, small-town USA, the lawmen who should represent some devotion to the well-being of its citizens are nothing more than thug arms of the State, and self-appointed arbiters of right and wrong.
And, if your own LEOs aren't aggressively distancing themselves from the kid-killers, and baby flash-bangers and dog-shooters, please do not delude yourself with regards to where their loyalties truly lie.