Yesterday I was talking to man who told me about his brother-in-law. His brother-in-law was a state trooper in the State of South Carolina. This trooper lost his life during a routine traffic stop in 1975, unknowing that the men he had pulled over were fugitives and subsequently shot him down. This fallen hero left behind two young boys, of whom their uncle said, “they were never quite the same after that, growing up without a dad.”
It is no accident that this story was shared with me yesterday, for you see, yesterday afternoon my father pulled into the driveway and went “10-8” for the last time after thirty-five years as a Mississippi State Trooper – safe and sound. This is after literally thousands of such routine traffic stops, over a million miles of driving, and dozens of altercations and non-routine traffic stops. My father also has two sons, and we grew up with a dad.
Even as a pastor I will not attempt to explain what is a tragedy but is lost in the mystery of God’s Sovereignty. But I do know that His timing in allowing me to hear a story that could have been shared any day, of all days yesterday – was His grace in reminding me of what I have to be thankful for, and I am thankful for my father, Sergeant First Class Roger Blackmon (ret.).
I wrote and read the following poem this past Saturday at his retirement celebration where over a hundred friends, family, and co-workers throughout the years gathered to honor him. A couple of helpful facts: “The Gray Ghost” was the nick name of Confederate Calvary Commander John Singleton Mosby. It was also my father’s Citizen’s Band radio handle – coined in a similar situation to the one recorded in the poem. The mottos, “to Serve and Protect,” and “Valor and Arms” are the mottos of policeman universally and Mississippi, respectively. The rest (if difficult to understand) is specific to our family, or families like ours.
The Gray Ghost
What’s that in the fog? The trucker said.
It’s a gray ghost! A voice squawked and shook his head.
A handle fitting for a rider in gray,
With flashes of blue, he’s just made your day.
Mornings so early and nights so late,
A sweet wife and dear children daily await.
The arrival of one so daring and caring,
To bring home whiskered hugs, and sirens blaring.
Magnolias, Mockingbird, and Kudzu pass by,
Out his window as the roads he does drive.
A weaved smoky hat, a silver whistle, and leather,
A gray shirt, striped pants, a blue tie and holster.
Shined boots, a badge, cuffs, and a pen,
Sunshades and a book, he daily rolls in.
A whir and a blare, a radio man answers,
“Ten-seven, I’m home, if you need me just call,
To serve and protect, with valor and arms.”
When the time comes, He’ll never be late.
He’ll chime in as before , “Now I’m Ten-eight.”
No more chases, late nights, or arrests to be made,
He’ll simply come home and rest in the shade.
A cold glass of sweet tea, a recliner and truck,
His t-shirt, bdu’s and boots laced up,
He walks through the door, no shooting vest on,
Walking tall, big hands, he’s flesh and bone.
If duty calls, there’s none more loyal to be had,
To me he’s not a ghost, he’s simply Dad.