Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Suspicious Activity

Small town life in southern Oklahoma is a tapestry of ardently patriotic, conservative thinking, God fearing Christians who cast a watchful eye on any outsider passing through their communities.  Cars traveling down the pot-holed streets are identified as “Larita Ruth’s sedan” or  “Billy Joe’s truck.” Occasionally, an unidentifiable vehicle ventures into town and ambles down the street through a gauntlet of stares and whispers.

“Who belongs to that car?”,  “What do you reckon that black truck is doing here?”,
“Never seen that vehicle before?”, all common comments heard from the sidewalk crowds as the stranger passes through.

Tishomingo, Oklahoma, located on the northern banks of the Washita Arm of Lake Texoma is one of the many towns that encompass the local region known as The Bible Belt.  Townfolk, recalling their proud ties to the confederacy, call it "Little Dixie". 

My wife’s family has lived in Tishomingo, Oklahoma since it's formation when the Chickasaw tribe settled here after being forced to cross America on the Trail of Tears leaving behind their traditional homeland east of the Mississippi River.  With the exception of us, the entire family still lives in the community.

Even though we have moved away, we've always owned several small properties in the community. Although, in hindsight, I am not sure if we own the properties or the properties own us.  Still, they are old and in constant need of repair.  I frequently make trips from our home in Dallas to tend to the constant repair and upkeep of buildings over 100 years old.

In the middle of this summer, I made another trek to Tishomingo. A long postponed trip to repair holes in the roof, chase out wildlife, and clean up brush and trees. Arriving early in the morning, I spent the first day trimming trees, hauling trash and raking leaves in 100 degree temperature. As the Sun faded from the western sky I took my first step into the house to prepare for bed. 

I never located the animal that died some time ago in the house, but the odor of death still lingered in the air.  There was no way I could sleep with that odor permeating each room.  So, reluctantly, I grabbed a flashlight and sleeping bag then headed for the back seat of my truck.

Tucked in comfortably, I soon fell into a deep sleep.  I was awakened suddenly at the sound of metal hitting my window. Spot lights from the back of the truck lit the entire street as red lights pulsated off the sides of neighboring homes.

“Step out of the truck with your hands up!” a voice bellowed.

Confused, and still half asleep, I raised my head over the seat and stared straight into the end of a flashlight and two sillouettes, made large and smaller, blurred and unblurred by the pulsating lights. Two men standing at the back side of my truck peered into the window.

“Step out of the truck, now!”, the voice commanded.

I slowly opened the door with hands held high and stepped out barefoot and shirtless onto the gravel road. “Who are you?”, I asked.

“Pole-Lease Officers, what are you doing in that truck?” responded the older man.

“Sleeping”, I said.

“Sleeping! Why are you sleeping in your truck? We got a call about a stranger in town. Where you from, boy?” the older officer demanded.

“I am a sixty-one year old boy from Dallas, Texas. I own this property. I am no stranger to this land.” I raised my voice in disgust.

"If you own the property, why are you sleeping in the car?", queried the officer.

It was a good question that required a logical reply.  Unfortunately, I was not awake enough to give one.

"Because something died in there." I said, pointing to the house.

I tried to pull the words back  as quickly as they escaped from my mouth. I knew I had said too much as the two officers placed their hands on their guns and backed up a few steps. It was time for me to gather my thoughts as quickly as possible and muster a more thorough response.

"No, I mean like an oppossum or squirrel or something like that." I corrected myself and continued, "Defininately animal! That dead smell is just too much. Some kind of varmit died in there and I just couldn't stay inside with the odor.  It was too late to go anywhere else so I slept in the car."

The officers looked at each other, then relaxed.  "Let me see your ID" the older one demanded.

I asked permission to go to the  the truck to get my wallet. Looking in the glove box I saw my loaded revolver. Oh, no! I had forgotten that I brought it for some target practice with a friend. I quickly  retrieved my drivers license and a handful of mail from the truck's seat.

"The mail is addressed to me at this address. I own this property." I explained again.

"Got anything in the truck your not suppose to have?" came the question I dreaded.

"No, I am suppose to have everything I have." I nervously replied.

He called in my ID and car tag to be checked out. In a few minutes the report came back clean.

"You can go Sir, but don't sleep in your car.  We don't allow suspicious activity to go on in this town. Go in the house or go back to Texas." The officer commanded.

"If I am not breaking the law, I am going to sleep in the truck, on my property, in this town. Tomorrow, I'll sleep inside." I responded with as much courage as I could find.

"We will be watching you", the younger officer said.

"I feel safer knowing that." I added,  " This town has far too much suspicious activity."