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In my job as a Ranger’s Assistant, I had a Land Cruiser with a blue light that I was forbidden to use. Today, I tell you about the last time I turned it on.
As I have described in a previous story, one of my many summer jobs working my way through college was as a Ranger’s Assistant. Don’t confuse that title with Assistant Ranger – someone with actual authority. A Ranger’s Assistant’s job consists of much more mundane tasks such as picking up trash, building picnic tables, picking up trash, removing dead animals, picking up trash, clearing dead trees, picking up trash, cleaning buildings, picking up trash, digging ditches and, of course, picking up trash.
The best perk of the job? A 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser. In today’s car models, a Land Cruiser is a high end SUV. In 1971, though, it looked much more like a World War II Jeep. Our previous post shared this artist rendition:
My particular Land Cruiser had no top. No windows. No doors. No seat belts. No air conditioning (what was the point?). No electronics like a radio.
It did, however, have two added features. A two-way radio (which was more one-way as the rangers would call to tell me to go do something) and a revolving blue light (blue, for this part of the world, signifies law enforcement and red signifies fire and medic). Since I had absolutely no law enforcement training or authority, I was expressly forbidden from ever turning the blue light on. A rule which I strictly followed . . . when in sight of anyone who might get me in trouble. Out of sight might have been a slightly different reality.
One of those times when I did not think anyone would notice is the subject of today’s story.
Some friends hung out for an evening of dinner and story-telling which lasted until nearly midnight. After our goodbyes, they drove to their rental cabin which was a couple of miles away. Before I could retire for the night, I had to drive around and check that a number of buildings were securely locked.
Part of my route took me down the main road (main because the gravel road was wide enough for two cars to pass without one having to pull over). As I passed the fire road to the rental cabin my friends were in, I noticed their car parked about a tenth of a mile up that narrow road. Assuming they were watching some wildlife (since the cabin was at least a mile further up the road), I decided to play a joke.
I drove my Land Cruiser onto the fire road and pulled up right on the bumper of the car. I turned on the flashing blue light and adjusted a spotlight to shine directly into the back window. Chuckling to myself, I got out of the car, walked up beside the parked car, and chased away the remaining shadows of the interior with my flashlight.
Then, and only then, did I realize that this was not my friends’ car. They were already tucked into their cabin, well out of sight of me and this parked car.
Inside the car?
A high school couple.
An unclothed, amorous, and quite surprised high school couple.
With the spotlight blaring through the back window and my flashlight from the side window, I had illuminated the entire nothing-left-to-the-imagination scene. Their clothes were laying on the floor board of the front seat, well out of their reach.
I backed away from the car in horror. What was I doing? Not only did I have the blue light on, I had a car stopped in front of me. I was way out of bounds. Thankfully, no one had driven by, but how was I going to keep these kids from reporting me?
The young man came stumbling out of the back seat and stood bare-footed – well, bare everything – on the gravel road. He was begging, begging me not to call his father or her father. And please don’t give him a ticket. Please. Please. Please.
A chance. I kept my flashlight in his eyes so he couldn’t see my face (I certainly wasn’t concerned about him having a concealed weapon). In my deepest, most official sounding voice, I said, “One chance. Leave right now. Don’t ever come back here for this again. If you promise, we will just forget everything.”
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Yes, sir.” He jumped into the driver’s seat, still totally naked, and started the car. I backed up to the main road so he could exit. He backed his own car up and, with a wave, drove away.
And I turned off the blue light – never to turn it on again.