CL Bud Nutter
I stood in front of the mirror in the locker room and inspected my new uniform; badge square, brass polished, gold buttoned black blouse crisply pressed, trousers creased and spotless and boots shined. The loaded .38 caliber revolver on my hip felt reasuring, yet alien. The black leather gun belt and ammo pouches gleamed. I certainly looked like a deputy. I squeezed my eyes shut and offered a quick prayer, “Please Lord, help me to be able to do this”.
Having passed my own inspection I reported to my shift sergeant for his. He barely glanced at me. So much for the pre-shift inspection. He told me that my partner would be Deputy Steve Williams, a veteran of several years. He made it clear that Steve was my senior officer and that I would follow his lead.
“Uh, Sarge?”, I croaked. He looked at me, eyebrows raised. I fingered my grey uniform tie as I searched for the words. I could not say them. I could not ask him The Question. I knew that no one could answer it but me. And I didn’t know the answer.
More than thirty years later I know that just about every young, new officer wrestles with the same question: Am I really man enough to wear this badge? When the chips are down during deadly circumstances, will I have the courage to do what has to be done? Will I discharge my duties with honor? Or will I lose control of the fear, and show myself as an unspeakable coward? A very momentous question, that.
I was blessed to draw the partner that I was given. Steve was a man’s man. He was a large, fit, former United States Marine, with two combat tours in the jungles of Viet Nam. He was a war hero in the truest sense of the words. His decorations included a Bronze Star for valor and two Purple Hearts. His devotion to duty was exceeded only by his courage, aggressiveness and ability to lead.
I came to envy his calm self assurance and his willingness to handle any and all assignments, no matter how mundane, unpleasant or potentially dangerous. Even the calls that most officers would just as soon dodge–death notifications, rotting corpses–didn’t seem to ruffle my imposing partner. My admiration for Steve was only eclipsed by my awe of him. I was comforted by his competence and courage, yet intimidated by his qualities. Next to Steve I felt like an imposter in my uniform. Such was my state of mind the night that I learned the answer to The Question.
I first wrote this thirty years ago as a ‘fiction based on fact’ piece for a specific mag. Didn’t fly. I recently decided to re-writ as non fiction first person memoir. Your critique is welcome and appreciated.