Not all lawbreakers need to be subjected to hours of intense interrogation before they give it up and blurt out a confession.
I saw that a few times back when I worked for the Department of Public Safety and regularly read incident reports from Highway Patrol troopers. It didn’t happen all the time, but more often than I might have expected, a person pulled over for speeding or driving erratically would confess to another offense as soon as the officer asked.
“If I looked in your car, would I find illegal drugs?’’ “Darn it, yes. I have a baggie of weed in the glove compartment.’’
As I said, it didn’t happen a lot, but it was there often enough to be noticed.
I saw the same phenomenon this past weekend during the annual Woster family reunion at a lodge atop the bluffs of the Missouri River near Chamberlain. Our son agreed to put his boat in the water and give a bunch of the young relatives wild rides around the river on an inflatable tube that bounces and jolts through the waves. The beach area we normally use during the reunion is half underwater this summer because of high flows on the Missouri, so we had to find another place to gather.
We chose the north park. Most of it is blocked off, but there is access to a swimming beach. Well, I haven’t been around that beach for years, but when we pulled up, there were no signs and no rope line of buoys to keep a boat from entering the area. And there were no other people using the beach early on a Friday afternoon. We — okay, I — motioned the boat driver to come on in.
My son had no more than shut off the boat motor and waded ashore than a Highway Patrol vehicle pulled to a stop in the parking lot. While I was thinking (“Hey, no signs. No barriers. Nobody swimming here.’’) my son was throwing his hands in the air and telling the trooper, “I’m the boat driver. You’re probably looking for me.’’ He didn’t confess to a string of bank robberies or the Capone crime spree, but you could say he gave it up way sooner than some other scofflaw might have.
The trooper could barely stifle a grin as he stuck out his hand to shake that of the miscreant with the old Bayliner. He exchanged pleasantries and then asked our son to try to find another place to beach his boat. All’s well that ends well, right?
During the brief trooper-citizen contact, a member of the Chamberlain Police Department swung by to see what was happening. My younger brother took a photo of me talking with the two law officers and posted it on his Facebook site. The photo makes it seem like I’m trying to use some influence on the officer. I knew better than that. My high-school buddy and fellow 440-yard runner John Dannenbring was a trooper. He once told me that during traffic stops when someone tried to drop a name of another trooper to get off easy, he’d say, “Oh, yeah, that guy. Nobody in the Patrol likes him.’’ The response pretty much cut short the name dropping.
We found another spot to use to pick up and drop off boat and tube riders. The gang spent a fun-filled afternoon on the river before heading back to the lodge for supper and some of the most free-wheeling, high-volume conversation imaginable. The Woster clan includes many members from several generations with strongly held and loudly stated opinions. The movie “This Is Spinal Tap’’ features a rock band whose amplifiers go to 11 instead of 10. Woster gatherings start at 11 and work up the dial.
We get loud but seldom really angry. We started the annual event 15 years ago, after our mother died. She’d have loved this year’s gathering. We had great participation from families, with noise and laughter and food and kids running every which way.
Had she been on the swimming beach when the trooper arrived, she might have gone toe-to-toe with him. Her grandkids could do no wrong.