The Legend of Pete Gun
When growing up in the heat and dust of northern Nevada in my teenage years, my parents’ social lives seemed pretty boring and inactive to me. Though upon retrospect considering the way most people go through life today, often living in near isolation, with “friends” on social media, they were fairly active. My mom’s best friend at that time was a med-surge nurse named Diane. Long legged, with matching long dark hair, Diane spoke with a very calm, steady tone, fitting for the challenge of her career. Her thoughtful intellect was also a great kinship to my highly erudite mother.
When I was about 15 or so Diane started a steady relationship with a stoic, clean-cut blond fellow named Pete. I didn’t get to know him well, as often they would just come by, then leave to go out to dinner or some other event with my parents, but Pete left an impression on me right away. While he likely only stood about 5 feet nine inches, his stature made him seem well over six feet. He stood straight up, eyes out, back rigid, looking out at the world. It wouldn’t have surprised me if once Pete tied his shoes in the morning, he never looked down again until it was time to remove them at the end of the day. Pete also always wore a suit. Not a three piece breasted bespoke suit from Brooks Brothers. No, this was more of the ready-wear, off the sale rack at Sears & Roebuck, “it fits, I’ll take it.” type.
Pete didn’t talk much with me when he and Diane would come by, often only giving me a quick nod, or an adult curt, “keeping out of trouble?” greeting with a slight grin, to which I’d struggle to avoid giving a typical 15 year old smart ass answer due to Pete’s self-assurance, instead uttering something akin to, “I think so.” If mostly because I didn’t want to utter anything that could possibly get back to my father.
Late one warm summer day Diane and Pete came by. This time when Pete came into the house he took the coat of his suit off to escape some of the heat, and I saw something I’m not sure I ever had seen before, on anyone.
Pete had a gun.
Pete had a badge.
Pete was a cop.
I did my best not to stare, and instead act like I had the same level of disinterest in adult lives as I ever did, but wow did my mind think about it the rest of the night.
My parents, Diane and Pete the Cop went out to dinner like they always did. When they came home and I finally talked with my mom, I couldn’t help but blurt it out, “I didn’t know Pete was a cop!”
“You never asked.”
“What does he do?”
“Pete’s a homicide detective, a sergeant.”
Wow! A detective! That must be exciting, I thought. “Does he have cool stories?”
“No, he doesn’t talk much about it. He heads up a unit that deals with some awful things. Murderers, serial killers, stuff like that.”
Apparently Pete was not just any detective, but a very good one. He had started out as a beat cop working the street, then studied criminal justice, and got to where he was the hard way with several years of work. He was well respected by other cops for this, in that he could stomach some of the worst of what man does to each other, detach his emotions, and seek out minute details in each case and solve them. He was also liked in court by prosecutors for his ability to paint clear, if ghastly stark details, in an incisive way, using his years of acumen.
I never looked at him again the same way.
Pete apparently also had a lead foot. Nobody drove faster than Pete. He had a muscle car that could do it, and a badge that said so. One visit Diane amusingly shared a story once about how they were doing about 85 mph along the highway in Pete’s Mustang when a patrolman came up behind them and flashed his lights, pulling them over, which Pete calmly did. As the patrolman approached, Pete casually rolled down his window, “officer”. When the cop asked for his license, Pete made sure he showed his badge. After a moment, the patrolman figured out who he was talking to, smiled, “drive safe sergeant”, walked back to his car and drove off.
I never, ever wanted to be a cop. I never wanted to even be like Pete. But he had an intangible confidence as a self-made man that had a subtle impact on me, just like it had on others, like a small legendary slice of honor from my memory.
Legends may exist in lore, but aren’t built from there, they are human, flesh and blood, around us, and real in our memory, and that memory keeps them alive. Not grown from birthright, they are made, from sweat, toil, labor and dedication. From the devotion of doing what they do well, that legend germinates from within and grows into a legacy given to us that we may not realize. A legacy that may be small, even sometimes forgotten, but undeniable impactful to those who are touched by it.