Something you don’t do is mess with my family. I’m not a testosterone filled muscle head who is always looking for a fight. I’m a peace loving male feminist. I don’t solve my problems with violence. I’ve walked away from fights with those exact words and been hit from behind. And still didn’t go on the offense.
Someone invaded my bubble of peace this week. Someone crossed a line that you do not cross without consequence.
My maternal grandmother—Mamaw—had been in the hospital for some health problems and is back at home. Family members have been taking turns sitting with her to help her get around as she’s on a walker and still in some pain. One of my cousins spent the day with her yesterday and about noon sent out a group message on Facebook to the family with photos of a woman passed out in Mamaw’s back yard and a young man being questioned by police in the driveway that my family shares with her.
She explained that the couple had showed up and were nosing around the back porch. When she went to the door to ask what they wanted they asked if they could get some pears from the tree in the back yard. My cousin recognized the guy from church from years ago, and asked Mamaw if it was okay. She said it was okay so they commenced to staggering around the yard and the woman passed flat out in the yard limp as a rag doll.
The young man’s family attended church with ours for a few years. We knew him and his family well and so it didn’t seem dangerous to let them pick some pears from the tree, and in fact, the young man’s father had done just that but years ago.
My cousin called the cops and two SRO (Student Resource Officers) showed up and questioned the couple and then let them go. They left Mamaw’s house and drove up my other (paternal-Chainring) Mamaw’s road. There’s a bit of drug activity on her road. And when I say “a bit” I mean an unacceptable amount of vehicular traffic. In particular there are two destinations where people go looking.
I left work and headed east. It’s a forty-five-minute drive back to the county and that gave me time to cool down. After a few misguided scenarios, I settled on going to the sheriff’s office to get more information. When I arrive one of the SROs was getting ready to leave and I asked him about the incident.
He explained that they knew the couple were drug users and they tried to find probable cause to arrest them, but because they had been “invited” onto the property their behavior didn’t constitute public intoxication and while the female was obviously intoxicated the male did not seem to be impaired. “Just goofy” was how he described him.
I was as satisfied as I was going to be with that conversation so I thanked the officer and went home. On my drive back to the county earlier in the day I had wanted to confront the officer and ask if the kid had been let go because of who his daddy is. The father had run for county office a few years back and lost. But during my cooldown I decided that wasn’t prudent as I could possible end the day sitting in jail if things played out along the lines of my mood. I was proud of myself for having an even and civil discussion and was beginning to calm down and think more rationally.
I kept my eye out for the kid though, and had full intentions of warning him against ever coming back to visit Mamaw. I decided that the drug problem had pushed too close to me and my loved ones and since the police—while helpful and responsive—hadn’t been able to do anything due to the circumstances I felt like I needed to make it known that kind of behavior wasn’t going to be tolerated any longer.
When I got home I decided to put my baseball bat by the kitchen door. I couldn’t find it. I went out to the shed looking for a substitute and found a hardwood ax handle. I moved it to the wall behind the kitchen door. The kitchen door is closest to the road where all the drug traffic passes. We have other means of protections as well, but I wanted something handy to the yard.
We’ve watched for years as my cousin and her deadbeat boyfriend (I call him Breaking Bad) have dealt drugs and attracted all kinds of bad actors onto the creek. They live right across the road from us—opposite Mamaw—and we’ve worried for a long time that something like this was going to happen, as it’s known that she’s elderly and that she’s alone much of the time. I also have an uncle (“K”) that lives with Mamaw Chainring and I believe he sells pills or pot. I have no proof for either, but the patterns exist that point to drug activity. High frequency and intensity of traffic and then periods of no traffic. Lots of different people, staying only five minutes or so…yeah. I’ve watched it go on for years and years. We’ve seen needles. We’ve heard the screaming arguments from the Breaking Bad house on the hill. He broke her arm not so long ago. They have feral children. No car. No jobs. Lots of “friends” that don’t stay very long.
We watched Uncle K make a deal just behind our back yard one day last year. I almost snapped that day. Somehow I talked myself down.
After a failed attempt at fixing dinner last night my wife (who was at a meeting) texted back and said: Order pizza. So I did. When it was time my ten-year-old and I headed to town to pick up food. On the way off the creek who should we pass? The pillhead who’d been at Mamaw’s earlier in the day.
The ten-year old’s eyes got big as I made a u-turn in the nearest driveway and proceeded to drive excessively fast to chase him down. It was easy. I know that road like no other. I’ve driven it my entire driving life. I caught him. And after he passed Mamaw Chainring’s road and my house and Mamaw’s house I knew he was headed on up to the head of the valley and on to wherever he lays his greasy head. I started flashing my lights.
“No matter what happens, no matter what you see, you stay in this car,” I told my daughter. I felt like a bad parent. But I could not let him get away.
He stopped, and I stopped a few yards behind him. I got out and walked up to the driver’s side. He opened the door but didn’t get out.
“Are you So and So?” His girlfriend was in the passenger seat.
“Yeah,” He didn’t seem alarmed.
“Did you show up at [Mamaw’s] house today?”
“Yeah,” his brow furrowed, “We were just there to pick pears.”
I cut off what he was going to say next:
“Don’t ever show your face there again.”
“I know her, I go to church with her! She’s a good woman…”
“Don’t ever show your face on that property again. If you do, or if I find out, you’ll regret it.”
The girlfriend said: “We were just picking pears” and So and So got angry and defensive.
“I know why you were there. You weren’t there for pears.”
My memory is a little fuzzy, but the next exchange ended with him hollering:
“I’m not on drugs! I’ll take a drug test right now!”
To which I replied: “If you’re not on drugs then you had no business going up Chainringville Road after you left her house.”
The girlfriend interjected: “We were going up there to see our friend ‘K’ Chainring.”
“He’s my uncle,” I said, “and I know why you were going to see him.”
So and So tried to make some point and once again I cut him off.
“If you ever go there again I will F*¢% up your $#!+ so bad you’ll wish you’d never been born.”
I’ve never said anything remotely like that to anyone in my life. But I meant it. What that meant was: I won’t call the cops if I see you; I’ll call an ambulance.
He argued again, saying I couldn’t tell him what to do or where to go. I locked eyes with him and said in the calmest voice I could:
“You don’t want pears that bad.” He fell silent but glared back at me.
“You DON’T want pears that bad.”
He drove off in a spray of gravel.
We went and picked up the pizza and drove back to the creek. As we approached the house I told my daughter: “I’m going to drop you off with the pizza, and then I’m going to go talk to Uncle K.”
I left the kids with pizza and told them to stay put. I texted my wife and told her the kids were at home and that I was going looking for K. She texted back: Be careful.
I wasn’t afraid of K. He’s too decrepit to be much of a threat. I was more afraid of myself at that point. I wondered if I had crossed a line in my mind. I wondered if I would just go off on him. I love my family. I even love all but one of my dad’s (other) brothers. I looked up to them growing up despite their bad habits. K is a good person. He’s just messed up.
At a certain point the consequences of kicking the hornet’s nest becomes equal to or less than ignoring it. My wife and I have discussed this at length over the past few years. We knew if we called the cops on Breaking Bad up on the hill there would be repercussions. In fact, nosing around trying to find evidence of their illicit activities elicited a veiled threat from him a couple of years back. That’s another long explanation and a story for another day, but basically he let me know he had a gun and he was watching me back.
I know Breaking Bad is small time (and reportedly now in jail). And so by disrupting his little home occupation business we could anger someone higher up on the food chain. There’s the distinct danger of escalating the situation. K is small time. Or at least he seems to be so. So and So is just a sorry user. But even so, just making it known I’m watching—and willing to act—opens a Pandora’s Box.
K wasn’t home. I went back to my house to wait for him. I knew it wouldn’t be long before he returned. I stood at the kitchen door eating pizza and eyeing that ax handle. I knew if I went out to meet him with it in my hand he would understand how serious I was. But when he turned on Chainringville Road I went out empty handed to wave him down.
“You tell your little buddy So and So to stay off [the] Creek,” I said. I stood with both of my hands on his door.
“He ain’t my buddy. I’ve told him and his girlfriend to stay away from me.”
I implored him to remind them. I told him So and So and his girlfriend had been messing around Mamaw’s house earlier in the day. I told him to tell the rest of the people that came to see him I was watching, and I was sick of it. He said all his “friends” (my quotes, not his) were honest and wouldn’t steal from anyone. I told him I knew why people came to see him, and he said again all his friends were honest.
“That’s all good and fine, but you tell them I’ve had enough, and if something bad happens to anyone I love I might go crazy.”
He seemed to take my point to heart. And I let him go.
I will say again, I’m not a violent person. I don’t use violence to solve problems. At this point I don’t see any other recourse with these people. They have invaded my bubble of peace. They have disrupted my quality of life. They have threatened the things most dear to me.
A few years ago I was out one evening on a bike ride and got a text from my wife. She was worried, and asked me to come home. Over the course of the evening two different strange men had come to our door looking for my Uncle K. He hasn’t lived in our house in at least thirty years. I rode my bike as fast as I could to the house of a man I knew nearby and begged him to give me a ride home. Nothing else happened that night, but it was the first real shadow cast over our home from the drug problem.
Not too long ago someone walked up to the door after dark and knocked. The dogs hadn’t barked, and there was no strange car in the driveway. He tried to sell us some used DVDs. He wanted $5 for them or $20 for the whole CD wallet of discs. He didn’t want to take ‘no’ for an answer. We started locking our car doors after that. When someone needs a quick $20 and seems desperate but won’t tell you why…
I won’t say I’ve been pushed too far. I’m a cool and collected person most of the time. I’m a law-abiding citizen. I prefer peace over confrontation and drama. Even a peaceful man can find himself at war. Even the quiet man can find his voice.
I hope that my warnings were enough to maintain the peace of my home and family. I sincerely hope this. I pray it to be so. I do not want to be cooled by this shadow ever again. Unfortunately, my actions yesterday have not solved the individual or community drug problems that surround me. I know that.
For now, I will maintain my vigilance.