that’s joe in the photo above. ma called him cousin joe, although i’m still not sure how exactly we were related. i think he was granddad’s cousin. but i just called him joe.
longtime readers will recall i’m a bit of a recluse, so i was never around him much once i made it past the point of mandatory family reunions. but mo met him for the first time after granddad’s funeral, and we sat on the back porch and listened as he told stories. joe had a lot of great stories.
he was a lifelong law enforcement officer. started as a highway patrolman and then became a Texas Ranger, the tejas equivalent of rock star. when he finally retired from that, he became sheriff in my hometown. something about the badge, i guess.
he told the most amazing story i have ever heard on the porch that day. i can’t repeat it because i’m not sure he’d want it made public, but mo still gasps when she remembers it. ask me sometime after our fourth beer and i’ll tell you.
but mostly he was a good guy. car chases, detective work, filling his partner’s boots with shaving cream. cop stuff. he died a few years ago from a failing heart. we went to the funeral, and i was stunned. an hourlong procession of police vehicles from the church to the cemetery. Law enforcement guys take things seriously. i was honored to be in the middle of it.
that’s the face i plug in when i read that an officer was killed. joe risked his life every day. you pull over a drunk guy on a back road in west texas, you never know how it’s going to end. joe was lucky.
i’m not a guy who cries a lot, but i was struggling last night while we were putting out the papers. the story went from bad to worse to unthinkable. i kept thinking about joe. about all the families who had their own joe, and how their lives had changed in an instant.
we get caught up in numbers. five dead. worst police incident since 9/11. but they’re not numbers; they’re human beings. decent people who risk their lives every day to keep us safe. families get phone calls in the middle of the night. somebody loses their own cousin joe.
how can it possibly make sense to kill people because you’re mad that people are getting killed? what the hell is wrong with us?
i don’t know the answer to this senseless cycle of violence. i’m not even sure i know the question.
i just know i’m mad. and so, so sad.
and i wish i had another afternoon on the back porch with joe. those were great stories.