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May 5, 2014

Town is no place for cowboys

PRYOR, OK — “To protect and serve.”

That’s the law enforcement motto. For the most part, it’s true. I have many friends in law enforcement. Mike, my boyfriend, is riding two horses for a Vinita police officer, his close friend, right now.

This is a preface to say this opinion is not about a profession and all the people in it. It is not a generalization. This editorial is about the actions and conduct of one individual. One individual who happens to be in that profession.

There is no reason for any police officer to be combative, discourteous, threatening and snide to the people who pay their salary. The people who pay that person to write them tickets.

The ranch rodeo at Claremore was last weekend. For two days, the town is filled with cowboys trying to earn a spot at the national finals of ranch rodeo in Amarillo. You’d think the town would welcome the rodeo with open arms because a lot of people get motel rooms, eat lots of food and buy a lot of other things. Maybe it does.

Saturday night, Mike and I went to watch. As a rule, I would be driving, but for some reason Mike was piloting my car.

Just a short distance from the arena, a state trooper fell in behind us and hit his lights. We were not speeding.

“Oh, I don’t have on my seatbelt,” Mike said.

“Well, there’s $20 for Rogers County,” I said. “You’ll have to get my purse out of the back seat so I can get the insurance card.”

Mike pulled into a strip mall and into a parking place because there was a lot of traffic. He couldn’t reach my purse, so he got out to open the back door and get it.

Mike makes his living dayworking on ranches and shoeing horses. He does most of his driving on section line roads in a ranch truck. He has little knowledge of traffic stops. He was just trying to do what I told him.

I heard the Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper before I saw him.  

“Stand up. Put your hands where I can see them,” he said. Gray crew cut, mirror sunglasses - the picture you get in your head when someone says gunnery sergeant.

“You get stopped, you do what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it. For all I know you might have just robbed a bank.

“Stand back up here. I didn’t tell you to go reaching for stuff. You got out when I didn’t tell you to. You do what I tell you to do when you get stopped. You do not get out.

“I know you come from a different world than I do, but here you do what I tell you to.”

That was not the first time during the stop he would say that - we do not come from the same world.

Well, despite the fact we were in town, you could travel five miles in any direction and it’s all ranch country. And why would he say that, anyway?

So I started thinking about profiling. We had on five-inch brim hats which would be easier to spot than turbans.

The trooper was certainly correct. We come from different worlds. Above all, courtesy and respect are most important in the world of working cowboys. Mike kept telling the guy he was sorry, he was just trying to get my purse for the insurance, but the trooper just kept going off.

Most working cowboys wear a sheath knife. It’s a necessary tool and sometimes all that stands between the cowboy and getting injured or even killed. Being able to cut a rope quickly is sometimes the most important thing.

I finally get the insurance card out and Mike asks if he can get it from me.

“Leave that knife in the car. You wouldn’t want a gun pointed at you,” “Gunny” said.

Really? Are you kidding? It’s a flipping seatbelt ticket. Not a problem. Mike was caught. Here’s the $20, Rogers County. All this bravado was unnecessary.

I wonder if Mr. Cop felt invaded and maybe a little intimidated being overrun by cowboys.

Maybe he thought we were somewhere we don’t belong. He might have been resentful. Maybe he was having a bad day. I don’t know and I don’t care. That’s no way to act or treat other people.

He took Mike to his car while he wrote the ticket. Mike said the trooper told him again “I know you come from a different world.”

What did that even mean? And why did he keep saying that?

The seatbelt ticket we expected and was no big deal.

Mike also got a warning for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. Because we turned left to stop when he got behind us. But since he was right behind us, wouldn’t it be the same thing whichever side we got off the road?

We’d hardly gotten back on the road when we saw “Gunny” had stopped a motorcycle rider. He was probably telling him they come from different worlds.

The trooper was right - we do come from different worlds.

Thank the Lord for that.

Town is no place for cowboys.

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