Country and Disco. Rednecks and Hippies. Back then when I first patrolled the streets in the 1970s, be it in the Army or out, I … profiled … or rather nicknamed the guys I would see roaming the bars and restaurants at night. When the dancing parlors shut down each night, waves of “Country and Disco” folks would gravitate into the 24-hour diners. Some also gravitated into our jails. It didn’t take long to realize you were more likely to have trouble with a guy dressed in black with a felt cowboy hat than one duded up like a hair-sprayed member of the Bee Gees. Profiles in wardrobes. To our dispatcher, they were all “pay-tre-ons.”
Some of the bouncers in the country and Western clubs were rough and rowdy people, and I have written some of their stories before. Like them or not, we got to and had to work with them, and they were indeed the first line of eyes and ears for a lot of stuff. They tipped us off, they pulled us out of scrapes, and they watched our backs. We watched theirs. When I was a detective later on, they helped clear some cases, even murders, for me.
One night at the Duster’s Club, two bouncers I’ll just call Ralph and Randy were whistled over by a barkeep pointing to a loud patron who was starting trouble. As they approached the disturbance, the patron turned, yelled, and held them at bay with an open palm.
“You stay outta this!” the man screamed.
Ralph thought the man was drugged more than he was drunk.
“Say, padnah,” Randy said, “come on, we just need you to leave, hear?”
“Fuck you, skunk!” the man declared, “I ain’t cha padnah!”
With that, the man pulled a big revolver from under his jacket and pointed it at them and shoved it straight out at arm’s length. Randy and Ralph ducked and backed away, and the customers nearby shrieked and ran. But overall, this place was noisy and big, and the shock wave didn’t rumble through the whole crowd. The rest of the place just two-stepped right on by. Kind of like life, really, when you think about it.
The man charged the bouncers swearing he would kill them. The barkeep called the police. And that would be me. I was about two miles away.
“Pay-tre-ron at the Duster with a pistol,” the dispatcher told me on the car radio. This “country-sounding” dispatcher, not a mental giant, always mispronounced the word “patron,” calling them “pay-tre-ons,” like they were some kind of an alien race. Our running joke for night shift when this dispatcher was on duty was – “wonder if we’ll be invaded by the Pay-tre-ons tonight?”
“Ten-four,” I said and, of course, there was no backup available. Everyone was busy with his or her own Saturday-night alien invasions.
As I pulled up into the Duster parking lot, to my surprise, I saw Randy and Ralph kneeling beside some parked cars in the parking lot. They were peeking over the trunks and hoods to the north to a cheap motel beside the nightclub. They ran to a wall and motioned me over.
“He’s in there!” Randy told me as I walked up to them. He pointed to the motel. I stared, ducking down, too, because … I can take a hint.
“Who?” I asked. The guy with the gun? I thought he was in the Duster.
“He ran out the door and across the lot. Ralph and I follered behind him. Come here,” Randy said, and brought me to the corner of the motel. “He is in that room.”
“He’s madder than hell. He is on drugs,” Ralph said. “I swear he was gonna kill us. He’s got a big-assed revolver. He pointed it at us and at half a dozen people in the bar.”
He singled out the room window for me; and I could see a light was on inside, and there was a lot of movement inside. The curtain was partially open. I worked my way around the corner while staring at the room window for any action. And then I slipped down the motel’s south wall and up the west wall until I was right beside this window.
This was an old-fashioned, cinder block-constructed motel. Each room had a horizontal window with a sliding glass, windowpane, and a curtain. The window was partially open. No screen on the window. I peered inside.
An angry man was pacing the small room from the bathroom door to the front door. Back and forth. He was quietly cursing to himself, clenching his fists, and waving his arms. On the corner of the dresser by the front door was this “big-assed revolver.” I pulled out my .357 Colt Python, my own big-assed gun, in case he decided to continue his angry walk out the door holding that damn thing and shooting up the place.
I stepped back and saw Randy and Ralph looking at me from across the parking lot. The loud and busy interstate highway ran behind them. I made a big circling motion with my hand and then pointed to a spot on the far side of the door, a signal for them to go up the service road and down the far side of the motel. I was all alone here and needed their help. But if my quick plan would work, I needed them; and they were itching to help.
I watched the man pace. When Randy and Ralph got into position on the far side of the door, I got into mine. At a moment when the man was near the bathroom door and far from his gun, I reached into the partially open window, hooked the curtain, shoved the window and curtain open as far as I could and pointed my Python at him.
“Police! Freeze!” I barked. Which he did. His eyes cut over to his pistol.
“No! Don’t even think about it.”
Outside, Ralph tried to open the door, but it was locked.
“You will walk over to the door with your hands up. You will unlock the door,” I told him in the most menacing voice I could muster. “You keep your hands up. If you touch that pistol, I will cut you in half.”
He looked hard at me. He understood that message and marched over to the door. As he got close to his gun, I inched my pistol in just a bit more for a better angle. Yes, I would have cut him in half. He unlocked the door.
As soon as the knob jiggled, Ralph and Randy barged in with quite a double tackle on that guy right onto the bed. I thought the bed would collapse, but it didn’t. They immediately proceeded to pommel and beat the tar out of him. I casually stepped around the wall and into the room, got his gun and stuck it inside my Sam Brown belt . I took a quick peek into the bathroom for anyone else. Accomplices. Beaten-up girlfriend. Dead guys or gals. Yeah, no telling, as that stuff happens. But the stinky bathroom was empty that time. Meanwhile, the beating on the bed continued.
“Okay, okay, okay,” I said, trying to tone those guys down just enough to get a space to handcuff the guy. The suspect was busted up a bit by now. But way back then, which I still affectionately refer to as “the good ol’ days,” the jailers received and booked-in near-dead prisoners all the time, and never so much as offered an aspirin to them. Today? Today, they get new teeth, a manicure, special trip to the hospital, and a scholarship.
(I’ll just put this photo up here, just cuz I think it’s special.)
Off to jail. Detectives on Monday morning would work the rest of this. Get statements. The guy, a Texan but an out-of-towner, had no prior criminal history. I charged him with possession of a firearm in a bar, which was a felony then, and for the assault of pointing that pistol at Randy and Ralph. Etc. Why’d he do it? Hell if I know. I just did my part of the job. As usual, I never saw nor heard from that suspect again. He must have plea-bargained himself a deal.
I guess today, decades later, all this would have to be handled differently than “1970s Texas-style.” Today, a SWAT team would be called for a 4, or 6 or maybe 10 hour, negotiated stand-off. And well, those bouncers would’ve been able to beat the guy up either. Times have changed.
Yup, I never saw him again. Just a whole lot of folks like him. The world was full of those damn “Pay-tre-ons.” It was an invasion. He went back to his home planet.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@forcenecessary.com
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