Officer Cueball, Southlake P.D.

Tsk Tsk Tsk

Today I read a tweet about Volvos, which made me think of the only friend I’ve ever known to actually drive a Volvo (Katie Thomas). From there, I started thinking about other friends who are equally outliers in their vehicle make & model choices, and I of course remembered Micha & her black Lincoln sedan. In a time when everyone drove CRX-SI’s or Camaros, Micha was bucking trends.

Back during high school, Southlake was seemingly small enough that you could fit it into one of the pockets of your Z Cavaricci pants. One time, Micha got into a fender-bender at the corner of Dove and Shady Oaks. Her car was rear-ended, knocking out the tail light. The Southlake officer attending the scene was a familiar one: a big, meaty individual with a perfectly-shaved chrome dome of a head. We sarcastically referred to him as “Officer Cueball”, and he was always around, it seemed. He wrote me my first-ever traffic ticket, which was my last one when I realized you could get out of subsequent tickets by telling officers, “Sorry I was speeding, but I was trying to get to football practice on time!” After Officer Cueball ensured that everyone was safe, he instructed Micha to get her tail light fixed at some point.

Several months later, I called Micha to see if she wanted to come over. I waited a long time for her to show, but she wasn’t there yet. I started to get worried and went outside to walk around & kill time while waiting for her to arrive. While out front, I peeked through the grove of trees which separated my house from the street, and I saw some flashing lights. I walked down to the creek to get a closer look, and I saw that the lights were from a police cruiser participating in a traffic stop. And when my cat’s eyes kicked in and I could see better, I saw that the perpetrator was a sedan…a black. Lincoln. Sedan.

I gleefully ran back to the house, then sat on the hood of my GMC Jimmy to ride out the traffic stop. Finally, the flashing lights stopped and slowly up the driveway came Micha. As her headlights illuminated me, she got full view of me laughing and going “tsk tsk tsk” with my fingers. In frustration, she sped to her parking spot, got out, glared at me, then said, “Suck it, clown!” before headed inside the house without me.

I followed her inside and found out that it was once again Officer Cueball on the scene. And that when he pulled Micha over, he wrote her a ticket for having a busted tail light, the very tail light he reminded her to fix and never did. I asked her if she said the same thing to Officer Cueball that she said to me, and I got an old-school middle finger.

It’s a good thing that Micha never changed.

Photo Credit: Wiffle GIF

Goat Wars

X-Ray the GoatI forget their names, but back in the day we had some amazing next-door neighbors when we lived in Southlake. The husband was pure Texan, tall, handsome, well-mustached and born wearing his Stetson. His wife was homecoming-queen gorgeous, and together the two of them had three adorable children. It was fun growing up next to them, having conversations across the fences and sharing beers with them on long, hot summer days.

Then they moved away, relocating to another part of town and leaving their spread empty. New neighbors moved in named Susan and Ed. They seemed normal enough — an older pair of city-slickers who moved to the country and immediately screwed up their dreams of owning a ranch by purchasing two of the crappiest horses I’d ever seen. Soon after they settled in, my mom and dad invited Susan and Ed over for dinner and a friendly drink. Mother thought it would be a nice occasion to break out her wedding crystal, which didn’t get much use in the casual country setting they lived in.

Ed made quite an impression when it was discovered the hard way that he was a Vietnam War veteran. Something in the post-dinner conversation triggered a flashback, and immediately he was being ambushed in a rice paddy by invisible Charlies. Instincts taking over, Army training kicking in, Ed dove behind our couch for cover and retaliated with a grenade attack of my mother’s crystal. His wine-filled goblet smashed against the far wall, and red wine stained the carpet and furniture all around. Damn Commies!

Needless to say, the relationship between my parents and the new neighbors didn’t start on a high note. Yet mom and dad were still willing to give them a chance.

Horses tend to get bored standing out in pastures all day waiting for their meals, so my family decided that ours could use some companionship. When I was in high school, we had a goat named X-Ray. He was previously owned by a friend of ours in Denton. I can still remember the night when my father and I drove to get him . . . we threw him into the back of dad’s truck, bound him to its bed with bailing wire, stopped at a 7-Eleven for the reward of a Big Gulp, and returned home with this strange beast. He was a great goat — until he suffered from an intestinal blockage and literally blew up. It seems the sucker got plugged up from swallowing something he shouldn’t, then filled with gas and split down the seams.

Years later, it was time to acquire a replacement goat. I have no idea where we got him, but soon enough we owned a tiny black-coated dude named Billy Ray Bracken. He was quite a friendly goat, with his constant companion being Rator, our Tennessee Walker gelding, followed by our other horses Missy and Casi. One day, our diplomat decided to expand his circle of friends. As Billy Ray often went wherever he wanted, this included going over, under — and through the fence to hang out with the neighbor’s horses.

Our neighbors Ed and Susan tolerated it for quite some time. But then one day, Susan approached the fence to have words with my mother. The conversation spiraled down hill faster than you can say “clusterfuck”.

“Get your goat off our property,” said Susan.

“Why,” my mother asked, “Did something happen?”

“Get your goat off our property.”

“What did he do?”

“Get your goat off our property.”

“Why won’t you explain–”

“Get your goat off our property.”

“I don’t understand–”

“Get your goat off our property.”

“You’re being a bitch–”

“Get your goat off our property.”

And so forth.

From that point on, I was often recruited by my father on fence-mending expeditions to prevent future goat excursions. If Billy Ray had battered down part of the fence, we would go out and build it back up. Should the beast have burrowed underneath, we’d drive wooden pylons deep into the ground to prevent future jailbreaks. Finally in the end, we strung up yards of electric hot wire. This seemed to do the trick, although every now and then Billy Ray would mysteriously find a way to keep seeing his friends next door.

Sometime later, my mother was performing her weekly chore of mowing the lawn with her John Deere. Zigzagging around in the summer heat, one hand occupied with the steering wheel, the other with a cold beer, she would draw straight, regular swaths across our rolling pastures. Earlier that week, Susan and Ed had decided to expand their menagerie through their purchase of a German Sheppard named Casey. It’s been said that animals resemble their owners, and Casey was no exception — the dog was quite dense.

Casey disregarded her owner and ran over to our property to bark at our horses and spread chaos. Ed clambered over the fence to retrieve his dog. He’d chase after the disobedient hound, but every time he came close to rounding her up my mother would pilot her riding mower between the two of them. Ed would get held up in traffic, Casey would pull farther away, and mom would reward herself with a chug.

This spectacle went on for nearly half an hour before Susan felt the need to help. She walked to the fence and prepared to climb it over to our side. Mother cranked the steering wheel, sped towards the fence, parked on the other side from Susan, stood high in the saddle, and sternly said, “Don’t you dare set foot on my property!”

Susan blanched and began, “How dare you take that tone with–”

Mother cut her off. “Don’t you lecture me! I’m a realtor and I know my rights. Set one foot over that fence and I’m calling the cops.” With great timing, my father stepped outside. Although he was some distance away, he witnessed these two women staring down one another. Susan turned to gaze towards my father, who returned the gesture by grinning, then demonstratively dialing the police on his cell phone. She climbed down from the fence and walked back to her house, and not for one second did she take her angry glare off my mother.

Somewhere down the line, my parents became visionaries by embracing Texas Hold ‘Em and hosting gambling night every Friday evening. All of our close friends would come over to play, drink, and smoke the night away. One night, a police cruiser drove up to the house. Two officers, a younger patrolman and his older partner, asked to speak to my mother.

Since our town was small enough that everyone knew just about everyone, we recognized the two. The younger cop also knew my mother and said to her in a friendly country drawl, “We’re reeeeeally sorry that we have to be here tonight, ma’am.” The officers were there because of the goat. It seems that Susan and Ed had grown tired of the goat trespassing upon their green pastures, and they had called the cops on us! Before the night was through, my mother was issued a citation for “animal at large,” one of the more obscure laws on the books.

And so began…The Goat Wars.

The police in our town historically do not like to bother the citizens they protect. They don’t like to intrude upon their homes. They hate to get involved in disputes between neighbors. Live and let live. And because everyone in this town is someone you encounter on a regular basis, officers feel especially awkward handing out citations for stupid laws like “animal at large.”

The younger officer who issued my mother’s citation said to her, “Now, ma’am, you can pay the fine. Or…” And at this point, his voice gained a nudge-nudge/wink-wink as he spoke, “…you can take your neighbor to small claims court.”

My mother is as sharp as a knife, and the officer’s emphasis was not lost on her. They both knew that the courts don’t like dealing with bullshit — if she went to court, it was likely that her neighbor’s complaint would be dealt with in my mother’s favor or dismissed. The next day, mom drove to the city courthouse and spoke with the attending clerk, who asked her, “OK, ma’am, did you want to pay this citation or take it to court?”

“Court, please.”

“OK, then–”

She quickly interrupted, “When can we get a jury together?”

The clerk was surprised. “Jury?!”

“Yeah,” said my mom. “I want the biggest fucking trail I can get for my tax dollars!”

I love my mother.

There isn’t much to report on the court battle. It was small claims court, which meant that (sadly) there was no jury, no lawyers, and all parties represented themselves. This didn’t stop my mother from making my father argue their case in front of the judge, which he did begrudgingly. Mom was salivating in anticipation of getting her arch-enemy neighbors on the stand, envisioning tearing them up in the same methodical fashion as her hero Perry Mason. In the end, the parties presented their arguments, the judge thought about it, and he declared that he couldn’t rule on the issue. He just couldn’t determine who was at fault with all of the ridiculous things that had occurred between the two families.

One of the more interesting things about my parents is their love of the world of competition chili-cooking. These events are pure Texan, a fun way to pass the weekend, and a wonderful ways to raise money for charitable causes. My parents have been involved in this activity ever since I was a little kid, and every Valentine’s Day they host their own cook-off in our back pasture. All of their closest chili head friends attend.

If you’ve never been to a cook-off, visualize a pasture full of RVs, trucks, and trailers, all of which have been parked there for several days. Each vehicle sports some sort of personalization such as NASCAR stickers, rebel flags, or giant attached tents. Dozens of men, women, and children of all ages mill about, wearing all sorts of outlandish costume (how you look is almost as important as how your chili tastes), drinking beer and cooking chili, ribs, beans, and brisket all day each day. When the night comes and the chill of the winter night arrives, everyone gathers in the barn to continue the fun by blaring country music, dancing, and drinking until they pass out. Such events can last for days and be great magnets of attention.

One year, all of the cooks were gathered around the barn to hear the results of the chili cook-off. My parents were reading off the winners of the top-ten trophies when we noticed that two police officers were approaching the building. One of the cops was the same young patrolman who interrupted our poker night with the “animal at large” complain. My mom went to speak with him.

“Ma’am, we’re reeeeeally sorry that we have to be back here again,” said the familiar younger officer. You could tell that he was quite embarrassed to have to pass along the following news: that the police were there to investigate reports that my parents were operating some sort of cult. What would you think, seeing a pasture that was empty, now filled with all sorts of party-hardy people from out-of-town, up all day and night, brandishing all sorts of wild decoration and costume?

I believe that my mother was pissed off now.

At the time, my father was a member of the city’s planning and zoning commission. One day, he used the powers of his position to scour property records at city hall. He soon discovered that the fence diving our pasture from Susan and Ed’s was completely on their side of the property line. They were ultimately responsible for maintaining the barrier. My father immediately called and told me to come down from college. We spent the next morning removing all of our improvements that we’d done for the fence. Off came the electric wire. No more pylons in the ground to prevent digging.

The goat spent the rest of the afternoon battering down the fence and digging all sorts of subterranean routes.

One rainy weekend night, I drove down from college to visit my parents. I drove up the muddy front road to our driveway to find it occupied by my parent’s behemoth of a RV. I had to park on the soaked lawn, then trudge to the house through a fleeting miniature lake. By the time I got inside, I was cold, wet, muddy, and sour in mood. I came to find out that my parents had good reason for parking the motor home on the driveway — it seems that they caught Susan and Ed spying on them!

Indeed, our neighbors would sit in their living room for hours on end and stare across the pasture and into the kitchen where my parents often hung out. The driveway lay in between, and the RV was parked there to block their view. They were forced themselves to park in the mud, just like me, because there was no room left on the driveway.

I asked my parents why they just don’t close the blinds, and my mom told me, “Like hell I’m going to let them win.”

The rain continued for days. So much so that the creek that divided the land between our houses and the street was at a dangerously high level. Water came up to the bottom of our bridge, so we still had the ability to come and go. As for our neighbors, their lower bridge was completely submerged, and the only way for them to leave their property would have been through a gate onto our land along the fence we shared.

Too bad that, in response to my complaints about parking in the mud, my father moved the RV from the driveway and parked it in the only place where he could: in front of the gate.

Another Friday poker night came with another visit from the police. Our friend the young officer, who was becoming like family with his frequent visits, once again apologized for the intrusion.

Susan and Ed had called once again, this time to report that we were violating an anti-redneck city ordinance by keeping junked cars in our yard. The law applied to any vehicle parked long-term in front of one’s house, and in the front was our tractor, our motor home, our friend’s horse trailer, another friend’s boat…and my truck. My beloved Jimmy, which I parked at home to save money during college!

Before, I wasn’t involved in this dispute. But now, it was personal, and I wanted to get back at those fuckers.

Speaking of fuckers, we got a new Labrador Retriever during this time. As the dude got older, it grew close to The Day that all puppies dread. On the day we were taking him to be neutered, he broke free from his leash before we could secure him in the car. That dog bolted faster than we could keep up, and he promptly ran next door, found Susan and Ed’s dog Casey, and humped her brains out.

Some weeks later, we soon found out that Casey wasn’t fixed either. You should have seen how butt-ugly those German Sheppard/Lab mix puppies were! There’s still no word on if our dog ever had to pay child support.

Finally, God jumped into our little war of social attrition with an empathic closing statement. One of those Texas summer storms suddenly brewed, and in a literal flash the giant post oak that anchored our neighbor’s pasture was split asunder by a lightning strike. Soon after, Susan and Ed decided they had had enough of the country life. They put their house on the market, sold it quickly enough, and disappeared.

A mere week later, my parents sold their own house and began to build their dream home in
Paradise, Texas. Although they had outlasted Susan and Ed by just seven days, that was plenty enough time to claim victory in the Goat Wars.

As for Billy Ray Bracken, he moved to Paradise with my parents and continues to spend his days drifting from property to property. Not every part of the new property is fenced yet, but the locals are a bit more laid-back and don’t seem to mind his wanderlust. Despite the animal at large, Mom and dad get along with everyone living around them.

So perhaps the saying should be, “No fences make good neighbors?”

The Surprise(s)

I got home from school, went straight into my dad’s office, and fired up his computer.

Within moments, the system was up. A few swift keyboard commands fired up the internal modem. And chirps and clicks of static noise confirmed a successful connection to one of the many bulletin board systems I perused each and every day.

While browsing around some message threads, the screen suddenly went haywire with bursts of random, ASCII characters. My session locked up, and I was unable to enter any commands. I cursed in frustration, causing my dog to pop up in excitement at the noise.

Looking at the clock, it was 4:00pm, the time my mother regularly called to ensure I was safely home from school. Many times I had asked my mom not to do this, as her incoming calls always knocked me off of my modem connections, and getting reconnected to bulletin boards wasn’t the easiest of prospects. But since she refused to let me disable call waiting while I lived under her roof, we played this cat-and-mouse game each and every day. I picked up the phone, and indeed it was mom.

After chatting for a few minutes about the school day, mom asked, “Will you be there when we get home from work?”

I thought for a second. It was the day before Thanksgiving, so all of my friends were busy doing their own thing. I said, “As far as I know, sure.”

“OK, sweetie. Love you,” she said.

“Love you, too.” I hung up.

Moments after placing down the receiver, I realized what day it was. Sure, it was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. But more importantly, it was Wednesday, as in “the day before Thursday”, as in “the normal day of the week when my favorite comic book shop received their new shipment of comics but instead got them one day earlier because of the holiday.” The shop would be open today but closed through the weekend. If I wanted new comics, I had to go…now!

I sprang into action. I grabbed my wallet and keys, hopped into my truck, and flew down Davis Parkway towards Hurst, the town that was home to the closest comic book shop. I got there with plenty of time before they closed, and the owner Stephanie was furiously trying to unpack the new shipments and get the shelves stocked. I helped her out a little, reading a quick comic book here and there between opening boxes. Because I was a regular customer, Stephanie held my favorite titles behind the counter, ensuring that my weekly reading list’s comics were never sold out before I could get my hands on them. I ended up spending quite awhile there. I eventually purchased my booty and headed back out in my truck.

Right before turning onto the highway heading home, I spied Best Buy and recalled that I hadn’t rewarded myself with a new CD in quite some time. I steered into the parking lot and spent an hour browsing the stacks. Eventually I settled on some discs and attempted to get back to Southlake.

While fumbling around with my in-dash CD player, I passed North Halls Mall on my left. The video arcade inside called to my soul, and I felt the irresistible urge to play some pinball and Galaga. Soon enough, a slowly depleting fistful of quarter-dollars filled my pocket, and somewhere video game designers were already cashing their holiday bonuses.

Finally, long after the sun had set, I made my way back to Southlake.

Moments after walking in the door, I was accosted by my parents. Both were sitting in the living room, sternly staring at me as I walked in, arms laden with plastic bags of pop culture goods. My mother barked, “Where the hell have you been?”

This was in the age before cell phones, when parents had to wait for their kids to call them — and they had to be home to receive such calls. But in general, my parents treated me with kid gloves, and as long as I returned home before it was too late or called to tell them where I was—both of which I failed to do–they weren’t particularly concerned with what I did.

But they were aware that I regularly drove south to get comic books each and every week. And even in the past when I’d fallen off the grid like this, they hadn’t reacted so sternly as they were now doing. I mouthed back defensively and very much like an obnoxious teenager, “I went to the comic book store to get my comics before Thanksgiving!” I punctuated my exasperation with a breathy, woe-is-me, get-off-my-back-man, “Shhhhhit!”

The two of them said that was fine, but they berated me for not calling or leaving a note. I had little fight in me, so I let them finish their lecture. I then shut myself in my bedroom at the front of the house to read my comics.

My High School Room

I lay on my bed, underneath a sea of posters and pictures dedicated to my favorite fictional heroes. I digested book after book, absorbing tales of earth-born mutants, Kryptonian-born saviors, and all-too-human everyday heroes.

Midway through my weekly ritual, a string of lights began to shine through the blinds. One after one, the sweeping beams of headlights swung left to right as a series of cars came up the curvy road leading to our house. Multiple vehicles were descending upon our farm. Yet since I was self-centered enough to not care unless I knew they had something to do with me, I ignored the event and resumed reading.

Through the thin walls, I could hear the doorbell, and Gos, Tyson, and Murphy barked in excitement at the prospect of visitors. I could hear the murmur of voices as several people entered the house and were greeted by my parents.

Moments later, the sound of shuffling footsteps came closer, capped with swift raps on my bedroom door.

Before I could say come it, open flew the door and standing in my room was every single one of my friends, with my girlfriend Pam forming the point of a visibly-annoyed phalanx of high-schoolers.

They barked in unison, “Where the hell have you been?”

Apparently déjà vu was also one of my friends.

I responded to them with the same annoyance I projected to my parents. “I went to the comic book store to get my comics before Thanksgiving! Fuckin’ A!”

When tempers finally cooled and notes were compared, it turned out there was an amazing orchestration of people and food that was thrown into chaos when I vanished earlier that afternoon.

It turns out that Pam and my friends had been secretly waiting for hours at a nearby pizza joint, so that my parents could bring me over for my surprise 18th birthday party — a surprise party which I had failed to show up for, because nobody bothered to me about it!

The whole gang was there: Pam, Micha, Matthew, Katie, Todd, Dan, George, Scott, Bill, and Nancy. And since they were tired of waiting for me to show up, they decided to bring the party to my place.

We had a silly time, goofing off within the house, outside on the volleyball court, and inside the barn.

It’s worth noting that up to this day, there had been a hard-fought detente between me and my friends regarding my girlfriend. Out of 136 other members of our senior class, I was seemingly the only person who got along with her. My friends tolerated her presence only because of how I felt about her, but such peace was tenuous at best.

While out in the barn, Pam had found one of my mother’s horsewhips, an artificial riding aid that my mother used sparingly to gentle coax her Tennessee Walking horses into proper form. Pam brought it into my group of friends and jokingly announced, “Oh, cool! S&M!” Everyone that laughed did so politely and without sincerity.

Pam then gave the whip a mild crack, inadvertently sending its tail straight into George’s face.

George’s cat-like reflexes saved his face just in time, but they weren’t quick enough to completely avoid the attack. The tip of the whip flicked him hard just below the eye as he fell back. Then in an explosion of anger, he flew forward and lunged at Pam, screaming at her, “What the fuck!?”

Her eyes grew into saucers as she realized the enormity of her mistake. All of us were aware that George had a fiery temper, but even I was surprised at how honestly scared I was for Pam. I jumped in between them to prevent the unfortunate scene of one of my best buddies beating the shit out of my girlfriend in my house on my birthday before all my friends.

It wasn’t until after Pam broke up with me months later that I realized that this was the moment in time when everyone stopped assuaging their intense dislike for her. Through their actions tonight and onward, my friends let me know that if I wanted to hang out with them, I sure as hell better not think of inviting her along.

Tempers eventually calmed down enough for everyone to gather in the kitchen for the best part of any birthday: presents and cake. I then discovered that it wasn’t all about me; it was also Micha’s party.

Born just five days after me, Micha made it hard for me to forget this calendric coincidence. After all, she had spent the better part of the past week delightfully reminding me that I was the “older one”. This was a healthy break from her other persistent cue: because I was the one of us with facial hair, I would also be able to grow a goatee, thus solidifying my secondary role as the “evil one”.

So when we were gathered together, out came presents for both of us. I was apparently the easy one to shop for, as everyone gave me comic books. Titles like “Justice League” and “Green Lantern” helped solidify the survive-the-holiday-weekend arsenal I had purchased earlier that day.
Unbeknownst to me, unfolding nearby was the curious saga of Micha and her three birthday gifts from the boys.

The wrapper came off the first present, revealing a plastic dog dish. Quite a curious gift, as she didn’t own a pet of any kind. The box in came in contained no note, no card, and no explanation. She looked at Matt, Dan, and Todd, who were all equally unforthcoming.

Micha ripped open the second present, which contained a can opener. Her eyebrows arched as she sensed the brewing diss. I was on the receiving end of an evil glare that silently said, “Alright, you’re part of this. What the hell’s going on here?” I shrugged helplessly, as I was not included in their evil plan.

It didn’t take long for the last vestiges of Micha’s good humor to dissolve when the third present turned out to be a can of Alpo. Matt, Todd, and Dan were highly amused at this point. Despite—or because us—this, Matt and Micha would hook up just a few months later. It’s my assumption that the highly inane chain of gifts was the horsemeat equivalent of a guy letting a girl know of his crush by being mean to her.

Thankfully we had a knife on hand to cut the upcoming birthday cake — it could be used to also cut the tension hanging in the room. Attempting to reset a birthday steadily going awry, Micha decided it was time to reveal the birthday cake. Beaming with pride, she returned with a foil-covered baking pan containing a cake she had baked herself. Micha removed the foil, held it before me, and wished, “Happy birthday, big brother!”

Her trademark smile faded as she registered the confused looks of those in observance. She looked down. Written in frosting across the cake she was giving me were the curious words, “Happy Birthday Micha!”

Somehow, someway, Micha had baked her own birthday cake.

Micha quickly glared at Nancy, who was doing her best to not furiously crack up. It turns out that earlier, Micha had used Nancy’s kitchen to start baking the cake, but she trusted Nancy to finish decorating the cake while she rushed to work. That is when Nancy took advantage of the opportunity to pull the prank currently in progress.

That so makes up for being the older one.

Later that evening, we were all running around the farm once again, playing grab-ass and celebrating until long after midnight. We were high-school seniors, and I was having the best birthday ever. I felt that such good things would never end. I felt the same about Pam.

I took a moment to pull her around the back of a horse trailer for a private moment. Pressing her back against the trailer wall, I leaned forward and gave her a deep kiss. Then I whispered, “I love you.”

Pam smiled back at me, but didn’t say anything. It wasn’t until the next semester that I realized why.

Sergeant Gos, Mole Patrol

Shaun the Sheep MoleTo make a long story short, I got into a bunch of trouble when I was in junior high school. Not long after, my family relocated from Dallas to Southlake, a good half-hour away. At the time, Southlake was still somewhat out in the boons, a small satellite city that boasted a Dairy Queen, a state championship football team, and not much else.

The timing of the move stunk — we moved at the beginning of the summer, and my new school would not start up for several more months. I was 15 years old, a half-year away from getting a driver’s license, living out in the middle of nowhere, far away from the few friends I had. It was hot outside, so I was stuck indoors without cable television. I suppose I could have done something productive like get a job–oh wait, I couldn’t get to a job without a car now, could I? Young, sad, lonely, bored, and under stimulated, there was only one thing which could save the day. I needed a new best friend.

So my new summer project was to get a dog. And not just any ol’ dog…he had to be big, outdoorsy, smart, and totally dedicated to me. Based on my mother’s recommendation, I decided to get a Labrador Retriever. I spent a ton of time putting research into it all, reading about AKC registrations, the best prices to pay, and how to research afflictions such as hip displacia. It wasn’t long before I was an expert on the breed, and I started spending every Sunday looking through the classified ads.

One Sunday, I found a dog shopper’s wet dream in the following ad:

Black lab puppies, AKC registered, all shots, 8 weeks, $25.

Wait a minute, I thought. Way too cheap to be true. Most of the prices I had seen for quality pups were well over $250. I called the owner, and told him there must be a mistake. Nope, he said, all the pups were indeed twenty-five bucks a pop. The man bred Labradors as a hobby, but he had just been transferred out-of-state and was forced to have a fire sale.

My father drove me over to Euless to get my dog. I met the owner, and he took me into the backyard to meet the litter. Their mother was lying along the back fence, spent and dead-asleep. It was meal-time, and her horde of kids swarmed around the breakfast table. I walked to the opposite end of the yard, turned to face the crown, and whistled loudly. One pup, a black Lab with a white chest and feet as big as its head, stopped what he was doing and walked across the broad lawn to visit me. That was how I found Gos and took him home.

This hound was smart as a whip. In just one day, I taught Gos to fetch the morning newspaper. Between our house and the street we lived on was a broad acre of land. It was cut into quarters by a bridge-covered creek and dusty front drive. One day, I took Gos outside onto the front porch, looked at him and said, “Gos! Go get the paper!” He looked at me with that slightly-cocked head, which was how he expressed showing attention. His radar ears sprung up when I mentioned the emphasized word, one that he had heard often when my father fetched the newspaper each morning. I pointed towards the street and continued, “Go on, Gos! Paper!” He became excited, his attention darting between me and down the driveway. One more “Get the paper” from and BOOM! Off was Gos, dashing down the driveway, across the bridge, and finally to the street. Within seconds, my best friend was rushing back with a mouthful of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

The next day, I was eager to show off to my dad. The three of us gathered on the front porch, my father barefoot in his bathrobe. I gave the command and Gos zoomed away. Soon he was running back up the driveway with the newspaper. Then he jumped off the bridge into the creek, ran to the property next door, and finished off the exhibition by burying the paper in our neighbor’s flower bed. My father cussed a storm, threw on his clothes, and drove to the nearby gas station to purchase a replacement.

Along came the third day and there we were again on the front porch. Once again I pointed, once again I commanded, and once again my puppy was off on his quest. After crossing the bridge, I lost track of Gos amongst the trees and early-morning fog. I called for him and heard the jingle of his collar. A canine silhouette emerged from the mist, and I saw Gos flying towards home. In his mouth was the paper –or something about that size. As he got closer, I saw it wasn’t the newspaper. As he came closer, I saw that he was carrying something which was moving. By the time he reached the porch, I saw that he was carrying a squealing, flailing, pissed-off mole! I screamed, jumped back into the house, and slammed closed the front door. The last thing I saw was Gos cock his head to the side as if to say, “Umm?”

My mother heard the commotion and yelled at me to not slam the door. Exasperated, I said, “Th-th-the dog’s got a freakin’ mole in his mouth!” We both rushed to the kitchen window and witnessed an amazing sight. Gos was taking the mole, pitching it high into the air, and smacking it across the lawn like a baseball. The mole would fly into the outfield that was our farm and hit the ground running. Gos would chase after, sweep him up and begin the next at-bat. The final out came when he gave the mole a giant heave across the fence — the creature scampered far away. And never returned. Since that morning, we never had moles bother our farm ever again.

And that is how my best friend got his name: Sergeant Gos, Mole Patrol.