Have You Been as Bad as I? Trouble with the Law

Ever break the law, legally? Or were you ever accused of something you didn’t do? I’ve had my brushes with the law and authorities often enough to qualify as a felon, if I had, indeed, done what they thought I did.

Let me first tell you what I was accused of so you can guess how I did them legally, or how I got away with it. Then I’ll explain them:

When I was about six years old, I was “arrested” by the police - taken to the police station - for stealing a tricycle.

At age six, I was locked in a closet at school for vandalism.

At age 16 I ignited some powder explosives in a classroom.

At age 20, I reached through the bars of a store in Mexico that had closed for the night, and lifted two bottles of soda so I could quench my thirst.

At age 25, someone shot at me for trespassing, narrowly missing me.

At age 35, someone called the police on me for threatening his wife.

At age 49 I was detained by the police and bodily searched, because someone had reported I was brandishing a rifle out my car window.

At age 64 I was accused of voting for Barack Obama.

Take a minute to see if you can explain these away, then I’ll start.

Ready? Here goes:

The tricycle: I was walking home from school with a friend. There was a tricycle on the sidewalk. My friend put his foot on the back runner and wheeled it forward. I asked if it was his. He said no. I assumed he would leave it be, and peeled off to the left for my own home. Later, my mother called me into the living room. A woman with wide, fierce eyes looked down at me and told me I was going to jail for stealing her son’s bike. The police soon arrived. I told my side of the story, but I was to go into the police station anyway. My mother asked if I wanted her to go with me. I’ll never figure out why I said no. But I did, and I found myself at the police station telling my story again. It just so happened that the police had my friend with them, too. So they put us in their car and said, “Tell you what: We’re going to drop you off near the home of the tricycle, and you two look around to see if you can find the trike.”

After the police left us alone, my friend led me toward his house. I wasn’t sure it was his house, because I never walked him to that point. But he said, “Let’s go next door.” We went next door, and entered the back yard. He went right into the shed, and lo and behold, among all the junk there was the trike.

After we emerged with the tricycle, the police car magically appeared out of nowhere. They congratulated us for our successful search, and they took me home in their car. I never heard more about that case.

Locked in a Closet: I was once told by my teacher that I could use some of the crayons or pencils in the closet, that I could help myself. Once I entered, and saw an open can on a shelf high above my head. I wanted to see what was in the can, so I tipped it toward me to look. A shower of crayons fell toward me, splattering on the floor. Just then, the door slammed behind me. I turned to open it, but it was locked. I kept trying to open it, but to no avail. So I yelled out, “I’m sorry I spilled the crayons! I’ll clean it up; I promise I will! Just open the door, and I’ll clean it up!” It seemed like more agonizing moments passed as I pleaded to be let out. Suddenly, the door opened. A surprised teacher stood aside to let me out. I bowed my head and crept sulkily out the door and headed straight for my desk. I had already forgotten my promise to pick up the crayons, and the teacher didn’t require it of me.

Ignited Explosive Powder: My brother and his friend were avid inventors, and they knew where to get ahold of elements that helped them make things. One thing they did was to make a type of gun powder. It was made with powdered zinc and sulphur. They ignited a small pile of it to show me a miniature mushroom cloud, like the atomic bomb. On other occasions, they packed it into a small tube, put the tube into a large pipe, drilled a cone in the powder, ignited it, and lo a large bullet was discharged with a loud bang. One day, my Civics teacher invited us to bring a project to class that described current affairs. So I asked him if I could talk about the atomic bomb, since it was a big issue those days. I also asked him if I could light a small pile of gun powder to demonstrate the mushroom cloud. After I assured him it was safe, he gave me permission. The presentation was a resounding success (sorry!).

Stole Some Pop: I went on a mission to Mexico. One of the places I slept and boarded at was the home of a woman who owned a store. She told us that whenever we needed something, to just take, and we could pay her later if she wasn’t there. Once a week we had what was called a “P-day” a day we could take a vacation from our work, and do some sports, or whatever. My companion and I played basketball one evening. It was a hot day, and we came home late, thirsty. As it was a bad idea, back then, to drink water in Mexico, we decided we needed a soda pop. But the owner had already closed the store, and was in bed. We didn’t want to disturb her, I volunteered to grab a couple bottles of pop from the cooler which was just inside the gated door, and I figured I had an arm long enough to reach them. Right while I was in the act of lifting one bottle, I noticed that a flashlight was shining in my face. I looked up, and it was a policeman. I turned and yelled for my companion to come. He didn’t hear me, and didn’t come (afraid of the police?), but the policeman didn’t do anything; he just continued on down the street. I concluded he must have known of our arrangement with the store owner.

Someone Shot at Me: This was while I was in Vietnam. I probably need say no more.

Threatening a woman: I worked for a man who ran out of funds to pay me. I resigned, and went to Small Claims Court. They said they needed to know his assets, what kind of house he lived in, and how many cars he owned. The man wouldn’t give me his address, so I did detective work and found what I thought was the house. To make sure it was the right house, I left my wife in the car and went up to the door and knocked. His daughter, sweet and friendly, invited me in. I almost didn’t enter, because I knew I had found the house. But for some reason I did. The next thing I knew her mother was on me like Scrubbing Bubbles on a stain. She ordered me to leave with a lot more words than were really necessary.

I later heard from my former co-workers that the owner had called the police on me, and that he was also going to kill me. He had reported that his wife told him, “I feared for my life!” My co-workers said he was arranging a complaint that would result in a suit against me. I never heard from the police, nor from a constable. According to my co-workers I was probably the 278th person they tried to sue, and that - by now - he had “cried ‘wolf’ ” too many times.

Brandishing a Rifle: I used to draw caricatures full time for a living. I traveled the western United States, sometimes with a group of artists, to set up booths at different malls. I was usually gone for two or more weeks at at time. To keep me company between cities, I took my guitar with me. I also used to sing at old folks’ homes between stops, as I felt this was a religious obligation (see Matt. 25), and an opportunity to grow spiritually and emotionally. One time I had just finished a show in Corpus Christi, Texas. I had packed all my things and was ready to head for the next town. But it was late, so I decided to find a place to sleep for the night. This time I decided to sleep in my station wagon so I could leave early in the morning. So I parked in an empty lot, faced the street, and pulled out my guitar. I was sitting in the driver’s seat, so I opened my window to make room for the finger board of my guitar.

After a while, a police car appeared between two dumpsters to my left. Another came up behind me, and third parked right in front of me, shining its bright lights into my face. I was ordered out of the car. When I put my guitar down, the policeman in front told me to keep my hands where he could see them. I was leaned onto the car while they frisked me and inspected my fanny pouch where I kept my money. They asked several questions repeatedly, wondering what I was doing here, and where I was going. As I was leaning against my car, I noted that I was across the street from a bank, and wondered if that bank had anything to do with this. I commented, “I see that I did something to attract unusual attention.” Nobody acknowledged my ability to show humor during a tense situation, and continued their inspection of me, and my car.

Finally, one officer announced that I and my car was “clean.” The one who had frisked me apologized and said that someone had called in, reporting that a man that fit my description and location was brandishing a rifle. He said that when they arrived and saw that I had a guitar, it was their obligation to finish the “established procedure” because of the nature of the report. As he departed, he called back, “I hope your visit to Corpus Christi is a memorable one.” Aha! so they are capable of humor!

Voting for Obama: Well, this is one accusation that is totally true, and I can’t deny it. But it’s not illegal, right? Have a nice day . . . .

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