Cops Up the Creek / Teaching / Society / Social Order / NoHierarchy / Cops /
@ K. 2001 03 26

Help! Police!

The other day I was cleaning up the trash the public had thrown into Little Charlie Bowlegs Creek near the Hardee County border of Highlands Hammock State Park. A park officer, state level, came and stopped me, wanted to know by what authority I was on restricted lands. When this Lisa Yokem’s radio to the ranger station didn’t legitimatize me on the first hail, I suggested that we proceed with the work while waiting for a ranger to pick up, invited her to help if she wished. Wrong thing to say while she was bent on demonstrating power: especially since I hadn’t genuflected when I saw her gun. She informed me that no one was moving until she could confirm that I wasn’t trespassing.

There I was — arrested — from my good work till she found credentials she could recognize.

Note: She wasn’t picking up the trash. Neither I bet had she arrested any of the litterers. Hundreds of pounds of trash in the creek in the state park proves how well Environmental Protection and the Florida Park Service had been doing its job. Furthermore know: I pull hundreds of pounds of trash from the same hundred foot stretch of creek every couple of years, have been for more than a decade. And it’s a long time ago now that the park gave me my own key: exactly so that I could come and go.

Once again a favorite joke is appropriate:

High holidays at Temple Beth Shalom. The temple has expected such a huge turnout that guards have been hired to make sure that members of the temple have priority in seating. Just the adult male members have already filled it. No more admitted.
A boy arrives, stating that there’s trouble at home: his errand is to fetch his father, a member.
The guard says he can’t enter. Boy puts up a fuss. Fuss becomes a distraction.
“I’ll only be a minute,” the boy insists: “I know where he usually sits.”
“All right,” the guard relents, “only one minute. But I’m going to keep my eye on you:

and if I catch you praying …”

More on all of this as I find time. Meantime, an important part of the meaning has found its way into a core file.

This is hard to get right. After a few drafts I hope one will be not only good enough to keep but be good.

It’s 2001 03 24. I’m on the dyke like road next to Little Charlie Bowlegs Creek, close by the dam at the north west corner of Highlands Hammock State Park. A friend is with me and we are chatting with two women on horseback, a child held on the saddle in front of one of them. A vehicle appears on this backwoods berm: a cop car. I have been intimate with this spot for more than a decade. I see my own vehicle which I admit via my set of keys to all park gates, bestowed on me more than a decade ago by the park administration. I see park vehicles occasionally: usually only if I’m driving it. This is the first time I’ve ever seen non-park-specific law enforcement back here. I’d never even seen a Fish & Wildlife guy in this retreat.

The officer came up on foot. I finished what I was saying to the women on horseback and turned my attention to the policeman: a woman I was beginning to realize. Guns and badges block my ability to see a person. I asked if she were state or county, sheriff or police. She answered: an answer I don’t remember, it didn’t register, but rushed to take from me the charge I had assumed over the conversation: she was on my turf; I wasn’t on hers.

The police woman said that she’d gotten a report that a truck was back on the dam road. Certainly it was. We’d checked at the ranger station on the way in. Stopped for trash bags, said where we were going, what we were doing. But even if we hadn’t, it’s me, pk, the forest’s friend: tormentor of fish but the creek’s protector. The park gave me the keys to the place long ago. I enjoy and maintain odd reaches of the state conservation lands twelve months a year, night or day. I protect native life and weed the alien. Except for the human. As always, we make ourselves the exception: the most dangerous invader of all.

The officer clearly didn’t want this to be a hard case. She said that what she’d seen along the creek on her way in looked more to her like clean-up than like trespassing. If she’d asked who I was and what I was doing, we’d have been fine. What she asked was who knew I was there. “Pete, as of yesterday,” began my answer. Pete is of course Captain Peter Anderson, the boss at Highlands Hammock. I’d collared Pete the day before at the ATM machine outside Publics and told him what I’d been telling George (third in command) (first in seniority, I believe) and Linda (one of the more veteran rangers): the water is the lowest I’ve ever seen it. More trash is visible in and retrievable from the creek than ever before. Help me get it before more rains come, while the getting is optimum.

I told the officer that I’d made the plans with Pete, and with Linda before Pete, and with George before Linda. Whatever the exact order of words were, I established those names and that we’d dumped trash at the roadside where the country road crosses the creek. She’s radioing the ranger station, not getting through. Now she asks me who I am. Paul, I answer. pk. Paul Knatz. Tram Paul.

“Tram Paul?” she asks. Tram like the ride for the public? Yes, I assure her. And I’m about to add that my tram tours are famous. Internationally. I’ll come back to this point later. I didn’t get far into it with her at the time. Multi-tasking, she’s also trying her radio. I’m cooperating with her questions: just making sure she notes my annoyance at being questioned. (More about why in a moment.) Seeing that she’s not reaching her addressed station I suggest that she accompany us back to our trash pile so we can proceed.

Now. Nothing’s very far wrong so far. It’s not news to me that the park doesn’t coordinate its information well. It doesn’t surprise me that the cop is under-informed, put in presumable charge of something without being properly introduced to it. Typical government.: the clueless supervising the competent. I wasn’t suggesting that she skip her investigation unconfirmed: I wanted to see it confirmed, see what the park administration would do this time to avoid noticing its own information stagnation, its misinformation flow. But no. The officer apparently decided that I hadn’t adequately appreciated her authority. Maybe I didn’t know what a badge was. Maybe I didn’t see that she was the one with the gun, the handcuffs … She tells me that I don’t seem to understand the situation, have things backwards: we’re not going anywhere until she can confirm my story.

Ron and I were cleaning the stream. We took hundreds of pounds of trash from it over a period of a couple of hours. Beer cans, soda bottles, fishing line, hub caps, car batteries … This is in a state park where wildlife is “protected.” People have been trashing the creek as long as I’ve known it. My first comment on first introducing myself to Pete (Boss Pete, Captain Pete) in this connection, 1989, was that just off the county bridge, the creek looked like the Sargasso Sea: things collect, nothing drifts away. The state has a budget to write laws. State law enforcement has a budget to enforce law. Supposedly the law is clear about littering in a wilderness preserve. The State didn’t enforce its laws. The State didn’t clean up the mess. The State didn’t notice the mess. I’ve pointed messes out hundreds of times, offered to provide part of the labor, offered to organize the balance of the labor, all unheeded until I just go and do it myself. All this cop seemed to care about was that someone might be illegally cleaning up the mess. The cleaning had to be stopped, harassed, disrespected, punished. Prior to interrupting our work, the cop hadn’t been arresting litterers. She hadn’t been cleaning the creek, or the forest. Do her backwards values, perverted priorities represent “the people”? I’m afraid so, but not in any way that should ever be mistaken for legitimacy. The state takes the budget to protect the park. I do the work without receiving any part of the budget. At least let me do my work without interference.

I’m going to have a hard row to hoe to come back here and fill in the details as I want in the tone that I want. Glance around and see that common hebetudes are particularly galling to pk. I have a long history of suffering at the hands of officious hebetudes. More as I can. It’s important, what I haven’t added yet, so I have to rush back.

pk’s Worst

Note: I understand that the “Indian” word for creek is Apopka. I can’t say which “Indian” language: other than the one the white man noticed. “Charlo” means “trout.” Now: I’ve caught hundreds of bass around here and gross after gross of the more common sun fish: blue gills, shellcrackers, warmouth … but I have yet to see a trout in Florida Fresh Water: nor a char. So let’s take “trout” to mean “fish.” Charlo Apopka is the native “name” for stream after stream in this part of the world. Just around the south edge of Highlands County is a stream called Fish Eating Creek. That’s it. Charlo Apopka means fish-eating creek: flowing water where people would find fish to eat: and eat them.

My guess about Bowlegs, despite abundant oral testimony, some of it written down, to the existence of a local “chief” called Charlie Bowlegs, is that it’s merely a description of the meandering shape of the particular creek that defines the western edge of Highlands Hammock: the Little added merely to note that it’s a tributary to a larger creek of similar shape and function. If there was a local chief, and he was bowlegged, and people called him Charlie Bowlegs, I bet his real name was Running Bear or Hawk Who Walks and that “Charlie” or “Bowlegs” was given to him by the Was’i Chu (or by li’l injuns using Was’i Chu ignorance and rudeness to make jokes.

2005 01 28 The other day I had a parallel experience that I must report, must fit the time.
I’ll probably put it among my already existing comments on Highlands Hammock State Park. [to be resurrected]

Cop Stories

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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