He had a big beak of a nose, his face weathered by the Oklahoma wind, set upon a thin, small frame. He always spoke what he thought was the truth. He had decided his own uniform, starting first with a large brown felt cowboy hat. His green and brown cowboy shirt gave him the look of country sheriff and cowboy boots, really shined cowboy boots.
He had been a poor man’s cowboy, a trucker, and this was his last rodeo, a high school parking attendant. His job was to make sure that all the students driving obeyed the rules. He hated to be called Barney, a name given to him after the inept deputy Barney Fife of Mayberry fame.He didn’t understand teenagers at all or them him. Those who challenged his authority knew that he would take the violation to the supreme court if necessary.
My first day as disciplinarian and ‘Dean of Students’ of a school of a 1000 students, I possessed the physical instrument of power, the black walkie-talkie. All day long I yearned to hear the static call to arms of the walkie-talkie. Nothing. With the volume turned up, louder nothing. In early afternoon, I made a pit stop at the admin restroom when Jim’s nasal voice finally blasted out. I was so shocked by the noise, I hit all three walls.
“I got a problem out here,” his voice squawked. “I don’t know what’s the matter with this girl. She don’t know where she lives. She don’t even know her name. I think you better come out.”
Drugs, I thought. always a problem. I dashed through the halls to the back door. As I opened it, I saw Jim standing guard beside a 4 year old girl on a tricycle.
I walked her around to the front of the school where a worried mother seemed to have lost a child.
It was just a few weeks later when Jim in his emotional high voice said,” I’m going to need some help. There is something strange wrong in this van.”
“Which way is it going?” I asked trying to gauge the situation.
“No, It’s right here, But I just don’t understand it. ”
I hurried to the parking lot, a bomb, a fire, Jim was sure stirred up. Jim was standing next to a travel van. he held out his hands to slow and quiet me. Jim slowly touched the side of the van and I was to do the same. The van definitely had a motion and some sound, kind of a rhythm. His eyes looked at me wondering.
I stepped forward and Pounded on the door,”Open the door!” After 30 seconds of rustling about and me about to pound again , the door opened.
Inside were a boy and a girl quietly studying Algebra 2.
Down the road about a year, a breathless Jim,” We got a gun out here?”.
“Whose got it?” Me wanting to know.
“No, it’s in a car,” shouted Jim in a nervous state. “Better hurry.”
When I got into the parking lot, I spotted Jim slipping out behind a truck. He pointed to an old gray Honda.There was no one in the lot and no one in the car, but yet we were sneaking. I took a peek, ready to duck and run. It was a gun all right, a rifle. On it was written ‘Star Wars Super Trooper’ It even had the orange tip. He had never heard of Star Wars, and the orange tip, Jim had never heard of such a thing.
Jim did have our back the day that every siren in the county screamed towards the school. He pleaded urgently for me to meet him in back, that there were men dressed in black on the roof, even their heads were covered. Breathing hard as I reached him, I looked to the roof. Everything said was true. I dialed 9-1-1.
It still gives me chills to think how fast and how hard they came. The dispatcher said the first car responding said his eta would be 1 minute. With sirens still coming , the police chief on a foghorn demanded that the men come down the ladder. As they reached the bottom rung, the police grabbed each black-clad man and took them to the ground.
I heard a young voice call my name.
To summarize, these four boys carried water-balloons to the roof in preparation to throw them down on students at noon. Lucky not to die that day.
Again Jim had done his job, he always told the truth as he saw it. Jim never understood a single teen-age joke or why he was made fun of. He did know that he would give his life to protect any of them.
I miss Jim.