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Monday, 09 April 2007

The Ringtailed Tooter of Thunder Road

By Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles

In the mid 1950's my father was a badge-wearing member of the Men in Blue - a Fort Worth policeman. His beat included parts of the Jacksboro Highway, aka "Thunder Road" - notorious for illegal gambling, mob activity, women of loose morals and tight clothes, and bootlegged liquor.

The stretch of road on the city's northside was a pretty woolly place and it was well known that a local vending machine company operated one-armed bandits in many a backroom joint. It was also a well known dirty little secret that more than a few Cowtown cops were on the take, supplementing meager city pay with some grift earned by tipping off certain proprietors when a raid was planned. It was partly because of the corruption and day-to-day violence that precipitated my dad's short career as a beat cop on the infamous northside.

Late one night, Dad and his partner pulled over an older model Cadillac. The sedan was riding quite low in the rear (remember, this was long before official "low-rider" machines) which usually indicated the driver was smuggling hooch out to the dry counties (no liquor sales allowed) in west Texas where oil field roughnecks would pay cognac prices for a bottle of rot-gut whiskey.

A quick search of the vehicle presented enough medicinal spirits to warrant a haul downtown to the hoosegow for the hapless "healer". On the patrol car radio, Dad spoke to the night dispatcher to see how long it would take to get the Caddie picked up and impounded. Tough news - it was an 8-ambulance night on Thunder Road, and could be hours before any tow truck could do the honors.

Knowing that a trunk full of free booze on the side of the road would be easy pickin's for an entrepreneuring slime ball, a coin was tossed and Officer Dad was elected to drive the car back to the precinct station with his partner leading the way in the patrol car.

The first few miles were fine and uneventful. With a new baby in the house (me), Dad was tired, sleep-deprived, and probably worried about all sorts of domestic problems. Suddenly from the behind the front seat, down near the floorboard, there's a scuffling scratching noise. Slowing the car a little, Dad peered into the rear-view mirror. Did his partner give a good lookover to the backseat area? What if there was an accomplice in the car, hiding down on the floorboard, maybe under that pile of old newspapers?

White-knuckled and continuing to drive, Dad wrenched the steering wheel sharply and in one liquid movement sure to make even Yakima Canutt proud, he slammed the gearshift into "park", opened the driver-side door and rolled out onto the pavement, all the while getting his gun loose from the holster. After a few seconds, he realized there was no gunfire erupting from within the car. In fact, there was nothing...no movement at all.

Warily, and probably a little painfully, he stood and slowly opened the rear door; only thing out of the ordinary was an old battered suitcase that now had a weird clicking noise coming from within. Thinking it could be a bomb as Jacksboro Highway had several gangster-style "hit" bombings during this era of Cowtown's long illustrious past, Dad inched back from the strange noise. Okay - no bomb, but there was something very much alive in the dilapidated luggage.

With much trepidation he pried opened the lid just a crack; two glowing orbs glared back at him from within the dark recess followed by a cat-like hiss. There was a length of chain in the front of the suitcase and with a quick jerk, out came a white-faced coatimundi, quite pissed off at the world. I have no idea how Dad managed to subdue the critter enough to get him back to the station house.

Officer_dad

The four-legged rapier-toed felon must have caused quite a stir that night. After the initial unplanned introduction, the coati proved to be quite tame. Fortunately, someone grabbed a camera and took the shot you see above, thus giving our family a verifiable record of the event. As a child, I remember the framed photo was always displayed on a sofa end table; Dad was more than happy to tell curious guests about the hooch hauler and his unusual accomplice. In fact, he always prefaced the tale with "Do you want to hear about the time I arrested a ring-tailed tooter?"

Though we have owned many an exotic pet courtesy of my father's odd jobs or acquaintances, my mother drew the line at this furry curiosity. The coati was remanded to the Fort Worth zoo for a lifetime of cushy incarceration.

Which reminds me of that mean-assed monkey we had for a while - bit a chunk out of my brother's arm once when the monkey escaped and was up in our front-yard tree. 'Course it didn't help much that we made goofy faces at him through the garage door window just to watch him grimace and curl his lip - the monkey that is, not my pesky little brother.

But, that's another story...

[EDITORIAL NOTE: We have added a "new rule" to the story submission guidelines. Your story may not be an excerpt from a published book. If it has previously been published in a magazine, another website or your own blog, that is fine. But this site is not meant to be a promotional tool for authors or book publishers.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:34 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

What a great storyteller you are as I learned long ago visiting your blog. Love the colloquial expressions you employ. Then there was this bit of alliteration:
"...haul downtown to the hoosegow for the hapless "healer." I hope we get to read more stories from you.

Oh Patti.....this is so good. I can tell this is going to be another great blog. Thanks. Dee

Great story, now don't make us wait too long to learn about the mean-assed monkey. His name wasn't George, was it?

"Let me tell the story, I can tell it all
About the ring-tailed tooter running illegal alcohol"

Great story, Patti.

Excellent!


Ronni, this is such a wonderful idea for a blog!

Thank you all for making my first story submission fun!

Hope to get the chance to spin another!

A "white-faced coatimundi." Wow! Never heard of it.

My father was a fort worth cop back in the 50's too probally knew each other sounds like tey had the same beat

Great story! I remember worrying about "chain gangs" when I was kid in Fort Worth. The 50's weren't all sweetness and light. You really brought those times to life with your tale.

Thanks,
Sharry

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