Once upon a time there were two brothers. Both boys were strong, brave, and valiant. Both boys loved their community and wanted to contribute to the common good. But both boys were very different.
The older brother could be very serious. He was generally more serious than his younger brother, straighter laced if you will. He kept his hair short, his clothes pressed, and his shoes polished. It was his duty to let people know when they did wrong and often people resented it. He had to stay serious, maintain a bit of an edge and be vigilant. This was partially because he likely was wired a bit like this and partially because of the responsibility he had taken on.
The younger brother…oh boy…night and day.
The younger brother, if you let him, would grow his hair long and his mustache as bushy as possible. He much preferred a tee shirt to a button down. He loved hanging out with other younger brothers (and sisters) and when they all got together there was a lot of cutting up and laughing.
The younger brother had taken the responsivity of protecting the community and they generally appreciated him for that. He really didn’t care if citizens broke a few rules as long as they were being safe.
The two brothers loved and respected each other but their personalities and responsibilities made a ripe environment for a picking at and teasing each other.
I’m a younger brother…
I was introduced to this sibling rivalry in Guntersville. We regularly responded to the police department on medical aid calls for people they arrested. Mike Frachisuer was one of our police officers. For some reason Mike always felt the need to try the most recent submission technique he had learned out on me. I was always, even at 19, willing to let him try. They always worked better than I figured they would.
When I took the instructor course for Escaping Violent Encounters a few years ago I met the founder, Kip Tietsort, a former paramedic and law enforcement officer. I think he had the best, and probably most accurate jab at firefighters that I’ve heard yet.
“Firefighters eat until they get tired and then sleep until they get hungry.”
Admittedly, I had a few Saturday, Sunday, and holiday shifts where that was definitely the case.
I met Cobb Police Officer, now a Major over a precinct, Jeff Adcock one afternoon in the early 1990’s. We were both young skinny guys in our mid 20’s I suppose. A few shifts later, about 2am, Rescue 5 was dispatched with Engine 4 for a roll-over crash on Atlanta Road at I-285.
When we got there, sure enough, there was a car on its roof. Three rather…. uh…large women inside hysterically screaming. Coming home from the club you better keep it between the lines. We’re setting up cribbing and getting out the Hurst Tools. Officer Adcock is trying to calm the ladies and I hear him holler…
“HEY! Do you girls like cops?’
Hysterically they scream “Oh YES…. YES…. YES…we LOVE cops!”
Now he is laying on his belly reaching in to hold one of their hands
“Well, I’m a BIG, GOOD LOOKING cop!”
I had to say something…
“Dang Adcock, you just lied to those ladies TWICE in one sentence!”
I always love telling that story about Jeff.
As the younger, more mischievous, brother I guess we tend to pick at the police more that they do us. They usually take it pretty well. I think they just consider the source and realize what knuckleheads must of us are and let it go.
When I was still at Station #5 in Vinings we ran regularly with an officer that must have been about 6’5”, maybe more. This joker was tall! I bet he didn’t weigh 170 pounds though and he had a head full of thick blond hair.
I tend to give nicknames. I don’t know why. They just come to me. Everybody has a talent or maybe a liability but I started calling him Big Bird. He ignored it initially.
Bump into him at Quick Trip getting coffee “Hey BIG BIRD!”
On an accident scene as he is taking a report “BIG BIRD I need their license when you’re done with it please.”
As he is directing traffic “BIG BIRD we going back in service unless you need us.”
I’d like to be able to say I wasn’t trying to irritate him but, on some level, I was. At some point, I don’t remember how, he let us know it wasn’t appreciated and to stop calling him Big Bird. I can’t help but grin an impish grin even now, right or wrong. Mission accomplished.
In keeping with the fowl theme, excuse the pun, I have to mention my favorite. The notorious Hawk Hagebak.
Hawk was a motor officer when I first came to Cobb. One of my first shifts at Old 4 on Atlanta road he came in. When he found out I was a rookie he stopped riding his Harley and started riding me! That joker rode me unmercifully. He rode me to the point that I hated hearing that bike pull up into the engine bay.
I’ve said for years that it only takes one personnel change to change the entire chemistry of a shift and crew. When I transferred to Station 5 we had a younger bunch and we took on a little saltier nature. Somewhere, somehow, someone dubbed Hawk “The Pigeon” and it stuck. There were more than a few afternoons giving Hawk a hard time when he came in. Of course, he was never slow to reply with a comment about “Hose Draggers” or “Ladder Monkeys”.
Years later Hawk was in charge of Cobb County’s Motors Division. I was working in the Training Division as a Training Lieutenant.
The main building sits on a hill overlooking the training grounds. I came back from lunch one day and Hawk was on the training grounds with the motor officers and it looked as if he was reading them the riot act about something. Each motor was parked in line, front wheel turned the same direction, helmet on the same mirror, each officer at parade rest on the same side of their bike. Hawk had his back turned to us as he was pacing and really letting them have it.
I stepped to the top of the hill.
Hawk froze, mid-stride but didn’t turn around.
Reluctantly he turned as I waved to him; “Heeeeyyyy PIGEON!”
He threw his hand up but the way he did it betrayed more about what he was thinking than I can, or should, communicate here. It’s a family friendly blog.
The road to the Cobb County Public Safety Training Center is a narrow, winding road through some woods that is hardly two-lanes wide. We once received an email forwarded by our Division Chief from the Police Major that oversaw the Training Center. It seems that they were of the opinion that the firefighters were driving too fast down this little access road when they were coming back from lunch. They asked us to inform these personnel that they needed to slow it down.
The other Training Lieutenant and I were incredulous! Are you kidding us?! Those cops drive like bats outta Hell anytime they come down that road and they are asking us to have firefighters slow down?
A statement had to be made.
Options for this are limited when it’s just two flunky fire lieutenants going against a police staff of dozens who have guns. Sarcasm and practical jokes are about our only tools.
The car I was assigned was an old, white, Crowne Victoria with two little square strobes on the dash, one white, one red. There was one blind spot on the access road that bent to the right. Just past it was a wide spot to park on the left side. A perfect place for Lumpy, the other Training Lieutenant, and I to “Run Radar” on the police.
One afternoon, just before 1300, when everyone was returning to their classes from lunch, we parked my car on the left side just past the blind spot. What did we use for a radar gun? An old, orange, pistol grip 1 ¾” nozzle. What else?
I can’t help but laugh thinking about the multiple police officers that rounded that corner doing 35 or 40 or 45mph in a 25mph zone only to see two firefighters pointing a nozzle at them. They nearly locked those cars down and, as they passed, we horse laughed them all.
I know the majority of my stories are fire related. If I’d been on the other side I could have shared more from that perspective. Maybe some of my law enforcement friends can offer a story or two.
Brothers fight and disagree and argue and pick at each other. It’s natural I suppose. My two boys are as different as night and day so I see it all the time. At the end of the day though they love and care about each other. The two brothers in this piece are the same way.
I think it’s based on mutual respect.
I’m not going to chase this rabbit too far but I think I have to say it. I fear for the police these days. I’m genuinely afraid for my brothers and sisters in blue. Our society has no respect for authority. Law enforcement has such an invaluable job and it has become exponentially more dangerous and difficult for them.
God bless them.
When I first became a volunteer firefighter I had a job in a hardware store in my hometown of Fairfield, a suburb of Birmingham. There was a Birmingham Police Officer, David Jones, that used to hang out there quite a bit.
One day I told him “David, I don’t know how you do it. There is no way I could go into a house looking for somebody with a gun.”
He replied “Well, there is no way I’m going into a house with smoke pouring out of it looking for what is burning.”
Like I said; mutual respect and admiration.
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