A Trooper and A Gentleman

FOR the regular date with the young lady who ``does'' her hairs, I dropped my lady-love off at the salon saying, ``There, I guess you're on time.'' She, starting to extricate herself from the seat-harness and descend, made reply thus: ``On time! The way you drive, I'm lucky to be here before tomorrow!'' This rejoinder was not unmerited. I have never in my life run after a train, a trolley, a bus - and when ``in the city'' I refuse to hurry while the attendant holds an elevator door for me. There's always another. And as a motorist, if you notice, I'm the joker up ahead who pokes along with both hands on the steering wheel and keeps 390 urgent tourists behind me.

``I shall overlook your sarcasm for the nonce,'' I said, and after she alighted and closed the door I continued toward the bank to deposit my $5. I think we still have two banks in Maine that are owned by somebody in Maine, and I use one of them. All the out-of-state banks seem to be faltering, one way or another, so our two Maine banks are glad. When I come in the staff lines up to bow, and the manager comes from out back to shake hands and thank me. Five dollars are $5.

But now a handsome gentleman in the uniform of a Maine State Police trooper signaled me that he desired a conference, and I deigned to oblige him. I bade him a pleasant good morning and asked if I might help him. He told me I had been speeding. I said, ``That's the nicest thing anybody ever told me!''

We had a pleasant colloquy and parted the best of friends.

I have always had a great fondness for our state police. And every so often a chance happening makes me think of three of the best friends I've had - three state troopers who were kind to me in my salad days. I was the new boy with the local weekly newspaper. The three highways into town were patrolled by these three state policemen on motorcycles, and every morning they would rendezvous at Helen Campbell's doughnut shop. I could stop by, and they would acquaint me with anything of a police nature they had encountered since last we met.

They were John Crosby, who patrolled to Bath; Eddie Marks, who had the Augusta run; and Rosswell C. Hamilton, who had Route 1 as far as Portland. I spell Hamilton's name out in full, because nobody ever called him anything except ``Razz.'' These boys were gentlemen all, and with deference to a fledgling hack they not only gave freely of their facts, but advised me about what I shouldn't report to spare the publisher the nuisance of a libel suit, or to save me from punches in the nose. Fruitful as these meetings were, they were also pleasant socially, and I came to admire the trio and our Maine state police in general.

When John Crosby retired he became security officer for a shipyard. Eddie Marks became chief detective for the department, and remained semi-active after retirement. His daughter collected some of his murder-mystery cases and wrote a book about him, but somehow Eddie's prowess as a sleuth played second fiddle to the fact that he used to patrol the highway on his motorcycle with a full-grown black bear in the sidecar. This did attract a certain amount of attention.

Razz Hamilton was without doubt the homeliest man ever to do police work. He looked like the approach of the Assyrians when he parked his ``bike'' and stepped forward to speak to an offending motorist. He would slowly remove his gauntlets, take off his goggles, lift one foot onto the running board (automobiles all had running boards in his time), and the driver would wince and quail. Then Razz would smile like the sun bursting from behind thunderheads, and he would say, ``Good morning! Welcome to our be autiful State of Maine!'' Homely as he was, and fearsome as he could appear, Razz had the heart of a cream puff and the disposition of a toasted marshmallow. He was a fine public relations man, and tourists would go home to tell about the extreme pleasure of being arrested in Maine.

One bitter December day, John Crosby came into my cubicle at the newspaper to say, ``It's too cold for a bike. Ride me up to Pejepscot.'' So I was able to repay John, at least, for the many kind things they did for me. When we got to Pejepscot, we found a nasty highway mishap. And John had begged a ride from me so precipitously that I now remembered - I'd forgotten the camera.

Speeding? Me?

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