DEPUTY’S OBSERVATIONS: My Father’s Lessons
My hero. (photo by Michele Looby)
By Frank Hinkle
My parents are members of the greatest generation, the ones who grew up during the Great Depression and were young adults during World War II. Like most young men of his generation my father quit high school to join the service to defend his nation against our enemies, following his two older brothers into the United States Navy. He scored highly on the Navy’s aptitude test, which qualified him to undergo training for one of the most difficult rates: Aviation Ordinance Man. He became an “Airedale,” mastering the skills not only of an ordinance man, but also as an aerial gunner so that he could both “fight & fly” on a Navy patrol bomber. When WWII ended he was reassigned to permanent Shore Patrol duty in Atlantic City, New Jersey, chasing deserters. Imagine what Atlantic City was like in 1946, with service men returning from over-seas and everyone celebrating the end of the world war.
Dad has always been a tinkerer, building mechanical and electrical devices of his own creation. He built a speed boat from scratch when I was in grade school. He built gardens sheds and room additions, from digging the foundations to running the wiring. He made his own water fountains for his garden. He repaired televisions and radios. He tried to pass some of his knowledge on to me, but alas, I had little aptitude for such skills.
My father has always been “colorful” in his description of things. He has the ability to turn a phrase so that the listener understood exactly what his point was. During my career in law enforcement I had many occasions to think back to phrases that my father used and apply them to my daily duties. His sayings became especially important to me while I was on the “psycho squad” with Deputy Marshal Phil Ford.
It will help if you understand the simple principles of electricity and magnets to better understand my father’s observation. Why, you ask? Because in my humble opinion and experience people are affected by magnetic forces.
Electromagnets: If you take a steel rod, wrap copper wire around it and then connect the wire to a power source, like a flashlight battery, the energized wire will cause the steel rod to become a magnet. The more copper wire wound around the rod (the “coil”) and the greater the power source, the stronger the magnetic field. This is how many household appliances and electronic devices operate. Electromagnets are the heart of electric motors. The read/write heads of a computer hard drive or of a tape reader use an electromagnet. The electric locks on an automobile use a solenoid, which is another form of the electromagnet.
I’d like to share some of my father’s words of wisdom with you, to help you better understand the people that we deal with on a daily basis.
“That boy isn’t wrapped too tight.” When the wire is not wrapped properly around the rod, the magnet doesn’t work as efficiently; intermittently at best, or not at all. Me & Phil took a lot of patients to the county mental health facility that only operated intermittently on their best days. My partner “Big Al” Culbertson, our department range master & gunsmith would say that someone’s “barrel was bulged” or that “the screws had come loose on his side plate.” If you shake an old GI .45 pistol you can hear the parts rattling around inside. If you shake some of our “frequent fliers” you will hear the same thing; loose parts rattling around.
“That boy is wrapped way too tight.” Conversely, if you wrap too much wire around the rod or supply it with too much power, your electromagnet will get too hot and burn up. Increase the power even more and your on/off switch might become useless and you may not be able to shut your magnet off. If you’ve had the opportunity to observe someone who has done too much methamphetamine you will understand what point my father was making. Al would say that the guy had “over-tightened his barrel and the sights weren’t aligned.” The guy on your beat who wears the tinfoil hat suffers from this condition and he is trying to insulate himself from the electrical stimulus coming from that outside source. He’s plugged his 110-toaster into a 220-outlet. His antenna is pulling in too many stations.
“That boy didn’t have enough windows in his house growing up.” A person suffering from this condition has probably lost their power source and doesn’t know where to look for it. They’re shaking the flashlight but nothing is happening. They’ve loaded 9mm cartridges into a .45. Their handcuff isn’t ratcheting anymore. Their phone is off the hook and they don’t hear the tone. They haven’t just lost a few bricks; the pallet is missing as well. His antenna fell off.
Phil Ford never made any of these differentiations. To him they were all “cuckoo” and what flavor of cuckoo wasn’t as important to him as in the entertainment value of reenacting our encounters for the amusement of our fellow deputies. He never reenacted his part in the little drama; he always acted out my part of it. He was always the straight man and I was his plucky sidekick. But as with the magnet where opposites attract and like ends repel, in trying to distance himself from my actions he only showed how much alike we were.
I hope that my father’s observations help you to better understand the people that we deal with on a regular basis.
Our best wishes for a Happy Father’s Day, and again we thank the Greatest Generation for all that they have done for us.
Stay safe, and stay alert.