Friday, November 14, 2008

Writer's Island "Embarrassing Predicament" & Sunday Scribblings "Stranger" - 11/16/08

This weeks prompt of “Embarrassing Predicament” from Writer’s Island and “Stranger” from Sunday Scribblings lend themselves to this story. My kids have been encouraging me to write about this event, not one of my finest moments. First, a bit of background.

I retired from the Air Force in 1992 and for some reason, still unknown to me, moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. I went to work for the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) as the sole Wyoming field rep. My job in a nutshell was to sit in bars and listen to music, writing down what I heard. You see, to play music in public you are required to have a license which pays the creators of that music royalties. My job was to build a case against those that refused to purchase a license. Some called me the music police.

I received a pretty good salary and a company car. Pretty good gig. Except for one thing, Wyoming is freaking huge and traversing it winter is nearly impossible. For those not familiar, Cheyenne is almost not even in Wyoming. It is on the extreme southeastern border. The drives to Mammoth, which is almost not even in Wyoming on the extreme Northwestern border or Evanston, which is almost not even in Wyoming to the Southwest, are grueling. So I decided to move to the exact center of the state. It didn’t exactly take Euclid to find the center, since Wyoming is almost a perfect rectangle. This task would have been much more difficult had I been somewhere like Michigan.

The exact center of Wyoming is in the middle of nowhere (as most of Wyoming is) on Highway 20, near the town of Powder River, with a population of 51. So I selected the closest town with streetlights and a gas station. I moved to Riverton, Wyoming in 1994. Riverton is a nice town of a little under 10,000, with a great golf course (very important to me).

As Wyoming cities go, it is a virtual megalopolis, 9th largest in the state. Some of you who live in more populous areas are now gasping at this amazing fact. You are also wondering where this embarrassing predicament with a stranger occurs. OK, here it is.

Riverton sets smack dab inside the Wind River Reservation. This huge piece of wasteland is shared by two tribes, the Arapaho and the Shoshoni. I knew nothing of Native Americans (though I have some blood) other than what I had seen in old westerns. I have since found out that those accounts were somewhat slanted. I had heard about a lot of crime on the reservation, but most of it is between the two competing tribes. A bit like the Crips and the Bloods or the Hatfields and McCoys. They don’t necessarily love each other. But, though I am a white eye, I was still a bit wary of being a stranger.

Late one night, I was leaving the IGA grocery store, walking to my Ford Taurus POS company car. Two young Native American men cut me off from my car. That part of the parking lot was nearly empty. They were saying something to me, but Native American’s are very soft-spoken and speak almost under their breath. They also have a strong accent and dialect that I became familiar with later. I could not understand them but I knew one thing for sure. I had only been in town for a week or so and I was being robbed. I had a bag of groceries cradled in one arm and a gallon of milk hanging from the other. My survival instincts took over. I was not going to be a victim. In a surprise attack, I swung the gallon of milk upward as hard as I could against the jaw of one of my assailants. He went airborne over the hood of my car. The plastic jug exploded, showering the crime scene and me with milk. The other thug ran away before I could select something in my grocery bag to hit him with.

Almost immediately a police car arrived with blue lights blazing. The city cop asked me what happened and I proudly told him my heroic story. He started laughing, which I thought odd. He said, "You ain't from around here are ya? They weren't robbers, they were beggars. They wanted your change." I tried to explain and he waved me off. He said, "I will take care of them, just don't be clobbering our citizens with 2%." Luckily, the unconscious Arapaho draped across my car was not seriously injured. I was really sorry about what happened. I could have just said no. I am sure those two guys were not expecting my reaction to "spare change?" Put yourself in their moccasins. You ask a stranger for some change and WHAM, he initiates a homogenized attack on you. I left some money with the cop to give them. Not really, but, in hindsight, I wish I would have. It would just make me sound like less of a jerk.

I went back into the store to get a fresh jug of milk and a paper towel. The night manager met me with one of each. He said it was on the house because watching that episode was worth it. He had called the police to get rid of the beggars, who were bothering customers. He hadn't expected a vigilante would show up. For the rest of my six years in Riverton, every time I saw that particular police officer or any of the IGA night crew, I was referred to as the milkman. Coincidentally, I was never approached by panhandlers again.

People that know me know that I am a charitable person and not prone to attacks on Shriners, the homeless, or Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

19 comments:

Laini Taylor said...

That is an awesome story. Thank you for sharing! And wow, to live in the middle of Wyoming! My father likes to joke that Wyoming doesn't really exist but is just a cartographer's error, that when they filled in the rest of the map, there was a space left over and they just came up with a weird name for it :-)

Missy said...

This is truly an educating and humorous piece of writing. That had to be a scene.

Wyoming brrrrrrrrrrrrr man what were you thinking. I'm from Oklahoma and the winds here are cold but the air there has to be frigid

Lilly said...

Hehehe...I had a bit of a chuckle..reminded me of something I did..I loved hearing about Wyoming too. Nice one!

SweetTalkingGuy said...

Great little story, candid and to the prompt.
Very informative!

Lulda Casadaga said...

Too funny! I can just picture that milk a flyin!! I'll be back to check on your scribblings. :)

Mary said...

Great story! I love the visual of the clobbering someone with milk.

Anonymous said...

Hehe!! That is my favorite story of all time, I think. Love you. Carly

linda may said...

G'Day, that is funny and embarrassing.
Hey, I saw on the map there is a town there called Lander, that is my married name. It was a great joke before we were married to have a rhyming name and I still get the occasional joke about it from people I meet.

paisley said...

oh that was great!!! i bet you will go down in old indian folklore as that white crazy bastard- the milkman!!! love it!!!!

Linda Jacobs said...

The milk just makes this story! I'm sitting here cracking up!

Redheels said...

Your story was hilarious!! In a small town like that I bet the story really did get around……no wonder you didn’t have any more beggars.

tumblewords said...

Oh, I'm glad you did post it! It's funny, personal and indicative of so much of life.

Charlie said...

Thanks for sending me this Rick. You're a good writer, entertaining and funny and I'll keep your blog on my favorites list. Looking forward to checking it out. Don't be a stranger. Charlie

Cricket said...

This is so funny - just goes to show the importance of understanding what is being communicated. Your post has reminded me of an embarrassing situation with a stranger. I will have to write about it tonight.

Anonymous said...

Great story! You are so good at making me laugh until I cry. Thanks for your humor.
Skooter's Mom

Shadow said...

gimme that rainbow wrapped golf course any day...

Anonymous said...

I love that story. Having lived on the Wind River I totally understand. I remember when I first arrived there and how I felt. Think of this I had only been in Wyoming one other time. I had moved there from Philly. Talk about a "Stranger in a Strange Land". An East Coast Jew on the Wind River Reservation. Of course, that is a story in itself.

Cate Wainright said...

It seems you engage in the most interesting opportunities to get yourself remembered! Being 'remembered' is significant, while 'noticed' is a passing glance.

Cate Wainright said...

It seems you engage in the most interesting opportunities to get yourself remembered! Being 'remembered' is significant, while 'noticed' is a passing glance.