Night of the Gila Monster • Alvin Richardson
I tell this story now only because the statute of limitations has run out on the crime and I can no longer be prosecuted for it. It is a story of black-hearted revenge perpetrated by myself and Rev. Jim. Jim was not a parson at the time, being only 16-years-old and had not, at that point, considered becoming a man of the cloth. He was concentrating rather on the fine points of hooliganism at the time. His days as a preacher would come later.
We sought revenge on the high sheriff of Rutledge and he was the lone policeman in Rutledge where we grew up. The offending actions were varied and quite annoying. Some of the forbidden actions were: 1. We couldn’t spin our car tires in town to show off for the girls; 2. Couldn’t walk the railroad tracks at night; and 3. Couldn’t even have a rowdy football game in the local park if our local fuzz deemed it a nuisance to the public tranquility. He was downright dictatorial and arrogant. The time was well overdue that he be given his comeuppance.
So we plotted our vengeance.
The right Rev. came up with an idea that we planned and executed with a precision that would have made the CIA proud. Step one was a trip to South DeKalb Mall where we sought and found the scariest animal in the establishment. That turned out to be a juvenile Gila monster. Now for the uninitiated a Gila monster is a venomous, slow-moving reptile that can grow to be two feet long. Our little baby measured only about half that but he was still a fearsome looking creature. The sign on his cage gave his Latin name as “Gigantus Uglium Quadroped” which roughly translates to “big, ugly, four-legged lizard” and we named him "Big Ed" for no particular reason. That accomplished we transported our new pet back home and moved into phase two of the operation.
The next part of our plan was to patiently wait for a time when the sheriff decided to pull a night shift. We kept close surveillance on our target and determined that his pattern was to be on duty each Saturday night. Armed with that information we executed phase two. We would conceal ourselves under cover of darkness until our enemy went to make his rounds on foot. At that point we would deliver our package onto the front seat of the police car and then retreat to a vantage point on top of a nearby building to see what would transpire.
I pause momentarily here to add a couple of details. We learned through research that Gila monsters typically feed on bird and reptile eggs but will eat a variety of food. When we transported our little buddy to the police car (I use that term loosely because it was a 1966 Ford Fairlane) there was a ham sandwich sitting on the front seat. I reasoned that Big Ed might enjoy that tasty snack so I un-wrapped it and put him down on top of it. He seemed happy with his new accommodations so we left him there and retreated to our reconnaissance post.
Now we waited for the grand finale. I’m not sure what we expected to happen but it would certainly be fascinating to find out how the uppity lawman would respond to this unique emergency.
Finally he rounded the corner and headed back toward the tiny shack that served as police headquarters where his car was parked. The moment was at hand. As he opened the car door we positioned ourselves for the best view possible and were treated to one of the finest quick draw displays ever seen outside TV westerns. His pistol was out and blazing away at the front seat of his car and debris was flying everywhere.
In the aftermath I couldn’t tell you for sure if our boy shot up his car because the lizard scared him to death or if he was mad because Big Ed was eating his ham sandwich. I also cannot report accurately on the shooting prowess of Deputy Dawg so I don’t know if Big Ed died eating a ham sandwich or just got the hell out of Dodge when the shooting started.
Soon afterward, the RPD permanently closed down. I cannot say if the high sheriff retired or if the budget was insufficient to supply him with the number of bullets necessary to keep the peace in Rutledge. Nonetheless we soon returned to spinning tires for the girls, walking the railroad tracks at night and having some raucous football games in the park. Our retribution was complete and all was right with the world once more.
Printed in the June 21, 2012 edition