One of the best friends in my life (literally friends since the first grade way back in the late 50s and who is also the brother of the playwright) has a really wonderful step-daughter who pretty much schooled me on the current music scene when I visited them over the New Year’s Holiday. She’s a freshman up in Fredricksburg at Mary Washington College. She tangentially got involved in a catty kinda story and I’ll actually let her tell it in a minute after I expound on the hierarchy of law enforcement.
First you have your po-po, the real deal, the folks upon whom we here in Salemtown have come to depend. Then you got your security guards with guns, followed by your security guards without guns, followed by your rent-a-cops found at sporting events and concerts, followed by kids playing cops and robbers, followed by the average citizen watching and really empathizing with the cops on TV, followed by a child who is passing by the TV and is attracted to the gunfire and then you have your typical campus cop. I’ve rarely been impressed by the campus gendarme type.
True story: I was playing tennis with my college girlfriend in the spring right after daylight savings time sprang us forward. We were playing in the broad daylight around 6:00 PM when the our own Barney F. told us we had to leave because the tennis courts were being closed due to darkness. We attempted to explain that it appeared to be rather light, but since it had been dark the previous week at 6:00 PM, it stood to reason that it would continue to be dark on a regular basis for weeks thereafter. God, I’m glad he (or I) didn’t have a gun.
Anyway..here’s the story:
If you watched the weather any this weekend you might have noticed that Fredericksburg got a little snow. By a little, I mean that my friends from places like New York and New Hampshire (ed. note: storyteller is from Alabama) observed with great amusement as everyone else from below the mason-dixon line went crazy, stealing trays from the cafeteria and using them as sleds and snowboards, making snow angels, and having snowball fights like little kids.
Earlier in the day, before the snow had started to accumulate, I was on my way to eat lunch (and procure a sled of sorts from the dining hall) and I witnessed a dog chasing a cat. The cat ran up a tree–literally, ran straight up the side of the tree to a tiny branch at least fifty feet up before it stopped. I didn’t think to much of it until an hour or two later, when I passed by the place again and a small crowd of people was standing on the path watching this orange cat clinging to that tiny branch in the snow up in the tree with no apparent way of getting down. A few members of our animal rights club (whom I also know from Giant Productions) were there, calling the fire department, campus police, and anyone else, but of course everyone more or less had the opinion that if the cat got up there it would be able to get down. He seemed well looked after by the animal rights club, so I left and didn’t think too much about it again until I had finished Chinese food and decided to walk with my friend Will back to his dorm so I could get one more look at the snow at night.
This was at about 11 p.m. When we passed by the tree, there was a crowd of about 20 kids still there, and way up IN the tree was a freshman named Jeff, dangling in a harness by rappelling ropes. We watched him struggling to get up to this cat for a long time, and at some point, the kids under the tree who were pulling him up asked for help, so Will went over and joined the effort. I’ll restrain myself from giving a play-by-play of the rescue attempt, as exciting and nerve-racking as it was, and instead skip forward to the part where the campus police (who had been alerted about the cat many times over the course of the day and had told the animal rights club they could have their own little ‘coffee brigade’ all day if they wanted, but they weren’t going to to anything about the cat) showed up. By that time poor Jeff had given up hope on the getting to the cat, and was about to work his way down, but the police officer refused to let him come down on his own.
Instead, he called the fire department out and made them get the kid down with a ladder. About 10 feet above Jeff was the cat’s perch, but the firemen refused to extend the ladder to try to get him down. During the whole “rescue” effort, the campus police officer was shouting at Jeff about how irresponsible he was being, and demanding to know which residence hall was his. When Jeff said “Why do you need to know, am I being charged with something?” in a completely innocent tone, the officer started threatening him with all of these charges that didn’t even apply and calling him a smart ass. Jeff started to tell him his dorm and room number, but the officer said “No, its too late now, you had your chance and you decided to be a smart ass. I’ll have to find out on my own now, and that’s not going to be good for you.” Remember, all this while, Jeff is dangling in the tree at least like 40 feet up there, trying to help the firemen get the ladder into a secure place so he could come down.
When he finally did, the officer said everyone involved had to go to
the campus police station, and he kept boasting to the firemen about how he was going to charge them with falsifying emergency calls and all this nonsense. The officer insisted that everyone involved go to the police station right away (even though it was almost 1 in the morning, with classes the next day). Since Will had been recruited to help those pulling the ropes to get Jeff down, he was one of the “involved.” There were actually about five or six kids pulling that rope, but when they realized them might get in trouble, all of them split except for Will and one other, and of course Jeff.
This is getting much too long, so I’ll try to wrap it up. Will called me when they “released” him and the other two guys. They had kept him at the police station after 2 a.m. They had to write statements about what happened, and were lectured individually and as a group, and will all have to go through our judicial process and probably have to split a fine for the fire department having to come here. I know that trying to rappel up a tree in the middle of the night to rescue a cat probably wasn’t the brightest idea, but I can’t think of any school rules that were broken. If they were, most certainly not by Will, who was just trying to be helpful in the wrong place at the wrong time. I may actually have to appear as a witness at his hearing. Hopefully they’ll figure out he wasn’t really involved much more than the people watching were.
The cat was in the tree when the crowd dispersed at 1 in the morning, and he was gone when I passed 8 hours later. I don’t think anyone had the heart to search the bushes beneath the tree to see if he was down there somewhere, injured from his fall. We’re all hoping he just used one of those nine lives and walk away unscathed.
It’s certainly good to see that the campus cops are continuing to keep the student body safe, secure and out of harm’s way…sheesh.