Bubba Thomas. We called him Bubba because that’s what he called everybody else. As far as he was concerned, all males were named Bubba. Bubba Thomas was a tall and lanky Trooper who loved his work and was good at it. He was easy-going and rarely got upset. He always had something good to say about everybody. Bubba was one of those Troopers who all the others looked up to … He was tall, too. It seemed like he’d been on the Highway Patrol forever. He knew it. He loved it. He was an institution.
I’d just finished supper and was heading South on Robinson Road. In this area, the road was fairly straight with a few dips and mild curves. Dusk had just turned to darkness. As I topped a slight hill, I noticed two sets of tail lights on the next ridge, but didn’t think too much about it. After all, traffic was always light on this road and visibility was good … But I picked up my pace. As I arrived at the location they had been sitting, I was in for a surprise. The roadway was filled with smoke and there were two parallel sets of wide rubber marks. I could smell the rubber and see the two cars about ¼ mile ahead of me. I notified the Dispatcher and other Patrol Cars.
It wasn’t until later that I learned this, but now’s as good a time as any to throw it in. These cars had been built and geared for a short drag strip. They were mighty quick on the take-off, but not much on top end.
As I quickly approached, they had apparently slowed down to compare notes. Neither of the cars had hoods on them and their motors were humongous … No registration plates whatsoever. I turned on my blue light and siren. One of the vehicles immediately gave up and pulled over onto the shoulder. The other took off. That’s the one I wanted! I didn’t even slow down for the first one, but set my sights on the one trying to get away. The road was becoming much more curvy now and I could catch up to him in the curves, but he’d walk off and leave me on the straight-aways.
Bubba let me know he was trying to get into position at the end of Robinson Road, where it “T” intersected with New Hope Road.
For a couple of miles, we played the game of him leaving me, then my catching up to him, until we got close to the intersection. I could see Bubba sitting on New Hope Road and off on the right shoulder, with his blue light on, as we approached. The car slowed some because he was going to have to make a turn one way or the other. As he slowed, I put my front bumper on his rear one and shoved him into the intersection. He was now trying to turn right and I was shoving straight. He lost it. I backed off.
Bubba was a one-man welcoming committee. That’s all I needed.
There was no other traffic out and I watched as Bubba chased that car around in a circle for a few laps. Suddenly, it slowed and the driver’s door flew open. The driver jumped and ran. Both Bubba and myself bailed out of our cars and ran after him. We left the one passenger in the car … Just sitting there. The fellow had a pretty good jump on us and we couldn’t really see him, but we could hear him thrashing around in the bushes as we ran after him. Before long, I came up to a barbed wire fence with a lot of briars behind it. I could see the movement back in there and knew that’s where he’d gone. I wasn’t going to chase him thru that mess and Bubba wasn’t excited about the idea either. We caught our breath and walked back to our cars.
When we got back, our cars were still sitting in the roadway with their blue lights going (We’d taken our keys. We weren’t that stupid!). As we approached the car we’d been chasing, we noticed a large man standing beside it.
“Officers,” He said. “I live in that house over there and heard all this commotion going on out here, so I came out to take a look. While you were out running after your suspect, I walked over here and told this teenage passenger to stay right where he was. He did!”
We thanked him. After talking to the young man for a little bit, he told us everything. We called for a wrecker and let him go. An hour or so later I went to the address of the young fellow who’d been driving the car. His father answered the door and said he wasn’t there. I let him know why I’d dropped by and told him I’d be back the next day.
When I came back at the appointed time, the young fellow and his father were waiting. That boy had scratches and cuts all over him from the thicket he’d gone thru. With his father beside him, he honestly laid it all out. He ended up paying dearly for his mistakes, but I’m convinced he learned more from this event than most kids do from college.
Everybody screws up, but that’s not important. It’s what we do after we screw up carries more weight.