This week, we are back to Wisdom from Wibaux for the story of Sheriff Bunny.
Our Local Sheriff Bunny
Our local sheriff, Arleigh Meek, was known simply as “Bunny.” He had been in office for a very long time prior to my teenage years. He ran unopposed many times for the Office of Sheriff and concluded his career after 50 years of faithful service.
A humble, quiet man, Bunny was always present. He just showed up at all the community events. Bunny always wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, and a cowboy shirt with a simple badge attached. He never carried a gun, and drove an unmarked police car except when he would attach a police light bar to the top of his car to escort the basketball team back into town after playing in the district, divisional and state tournaments. There is a weigh station two miles out of town and as we would drew close, the bus driver would use the CB radio to let Bunny know. As we pulled into the weigh station, year after year, without fail, Bunny Meek would be sitting in his car with lights flashing ready to bring us home.
During the evening and on weekends, Sheriff Meek would drive his unmarked car, slowly patrolling this town of 1200. I never saw him pull anybody over for a traffic violation because Bunny was everyone’s friend. He was the equivalent of Andy Griffith, minus the uniform and a whole lot quieter. He went to Saturday night mass, without fail, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church. So if you wanted to rob the only bank in town, 5pm on Saturday, was the time to do it. Bunny genuinely was, as the Scripture invites, “slow to speak…slow to anger…” I never saw him raise his voice or appear angry. Do you have a mental picture of this faithful public servant?
An Upstart from Out of State
When the long-time under-sheriff resigned for another career in a nearby town, Sheriff Bunny hired a man from out of state. Montanans are suspicious of anyone who comes from out of state. This man was certainly no exception because he was the opposite of Bunny. Younger, fiery, angry, opinionated and impulsive, he loved pulling people over, even for mild traffic infractions. He too drove an unmarked car but loved popping the blue tear drop flashing light (think the old Hawaii Five-O) onto the roof of his gray International SUV.
Bunny apparently didn’t feel the need to reign him in, because this young whipper snapper continued to express himself in ways that made me suspicious of his ulterior motives. My mother and I disagreed about him because she admired his ability to seemingly relate and connect. He could sell ice to eskimoes as the saying goes as far as I was concerned. He was too slick and frankly, made me uncomfortable, although I didn’t know why. My mother would take home-cooked food to his apartment because she felt sorry for him since he was single and only ate hamburger helper.
One time he asked me to “patrol” with him on a Sunday afternoon. A motorcycle sped through town and he slapped that blue light on the roof of his SUV and off we went. Lighting flashing, siren blaring, turning the corner on two wheels…you would have thought he was pursuing a felon. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out a motorcycle can outrun most vehicles any day and in fact the motorcyclist out ran us. This young deputy called off the shase, ruining his engine in the process. None of it made any sense to me other than an over-developed ego looking for attention and devotion.
An Insurrectionary Meeting
I will never forget the night my mother announced there was a secret meeting being held at the senior citizen center because some people were beginning to think Sheriff Bunny was just too laid back and wasn’t doing his job. Guess who organized the meeting? My mother! Of course, on behalf of the new deputy sheriff.
As a teenager, I did not have the language or the experience to name what I was feeling. But I was absolutely appalled. I went to the meeting for about half an hour. I could not stand seeing people I had known all my life berate and belittle our beloved sheriff. When I saw the new deputy sheriff egging people on, asking them questions, and informally facilitating a character assassination session, it was more than I could take. If you have ever participated in such a dysfunctional meeting, group think takes over and people you thought you knew well become strangers.
I left the meeting on my Yamaha moped and was driving home even though they were still going strong at 9:30pm. I turned the corner to go down the alley behind our home so I could put the moped in the garage and I heard a voice say, “Hey Jeff, where have you been?” Frankly, it spooked me to the point I almost wrecked my moped. I slammed on my brakes and turned around and there sitting in a lawn chair in his front yard was….Sheriff Bunny Meek. To be continued next week….the plot thickens…and there is a lot of wisdom to come forth. Please stay tuned.
–Rev. Jeff Gannon