What Would Andy Do?

The siren wound down in mournful disappointment, echoing the troopers’ feelings at having lost these bad boys, long gone when the squad car rolled up to the abandoned truck.  Their chase ended on a lonely stretch of the Avenue of the Giants, bordering the towering redwoods of the Rockefeller Forest.

As a newly commissioned ranger, it was my job to protect the park and keep the peace therein.  So it was no surprise that I wandered up on the scene of the mounting manhunt.

I hitched up my still-new gun leather and sauntered up to the trooper in command. “How can I help, sarge?”  The veteran officer took one look at the obviously rookie ranger and brayed “You can help by getting back in your truck and not spoiling my manhunt.”

“I noticed all your men are searching right along the highway,” I offered.  “If I was running from the law, I don’t think I’d stick to the blacktop.”

The sergeant’s silent stare signaled unmistakable annoyance.  But rather than go away like a whipped pup, I thought through the situation, and it hit me that I’d seen this scenario once before … on The Andy Griffith Show.  Second episode of the very first season.  The state troopers leave Mayberry’s Finest out of the manhunt for Dirksen, an S-K-P (that’s cop-talk for escapee).

Putting myself in Sheriff Taylor’s boots, I pondered the brazen crooks these lawmen were hunting.  My first submission was that they were on the lam for knocking off a bank or liquor store.  I discounted this quickly, mostly because there were no banks or liquor stores within an hour of the Rockefeller Forest.  I ran with my next idea.  They were just a couple of local mountain boys out for a good time.  And we all know that local boys in pursuit of a good time always take the easy path.  It was too much like work to run far.  Can you picture Rafe Hollister chugging up a hill to escape Deputy Fife’s still-whacking axe?  Me neither.

I suggested to the trooper sergeant that “these local boys would probably be down this trail that starts where they abandoned their truck and wanders off into the woods.”

This time he offered paternalistically, “Why don’t you just go back into your forest and catch a poacher, and leave the police work to us.”  At least he recognized I wasn’t interested in chicken thieves.

Well I moseyed on into the woods, and no more than a minute and a half down that path, still in view of the sergeant, I found the local boys hunkered inside a thicket.  With a shaky hand and wavering voice I drew my service revolver and ordered the pair up and out and marched those boys right up to the man in charge.  He gratefully, if not humbly, took them off my hands.

I felt two regrets as I drove away.  I didn’t have a two-way radio to offer a friendly “TEN-FOUR!” to the sergeant.  The second?  There wasn’t going to be a slice of Emma Brand’s pie waiting for me back at the ranger station.

For the better part of four decades as a park ranger and then a small-town police chief I found myself often asking with a straight face, “What would Andy do?”  And more often than not I conjured up a practical and down to earth option in my quest to serve and protect.  A-la Sheriff Andy.  Ten-four?


  1. V Bailey says:

    Great story! Thanks for sharing.

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