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The Ballad of the Bum Trip - Part Six
Yes, Virginia, There is a Barney Fife!
On the way home, the start of the trip went smoothly. The weather was fine. Bruno the Buick was tooling right along, Albert had his alligator snoot sticking out the rear window. And then out of nowhere here comes the Virginia Highway Patrol.
Larry and I couldn't understand why we were being stopped - we weren't speeding! When the trooper got out of his car, my first thought was, "How did this guy get through the police academy?" He was about 5 feet 5, 130 pounds, his hat was too large and his wide belt was pulled to the last hole (or is it the first hole?)
"Get out of the car," he said to Larry. At that point we were a little nervous, what with the jug of Mafia wine in the back seat and all. Well, big Larry gets out of the car - and gets out of the car - and gets out of the car. Now I'm still sitting in the car and from my vantagepoint, it was really funny watching the trooper's head slowly tilt back. Larry was towering over this poor little guy.
"What's that?" asks the cop, pointing to Albert.
"It's our alligator," booms Larry in his best Haystack Calhoon voice. That seemed to satisfy him because he didn't pursue the matter. "Where's your license plate?" says Barney. We don't have one and then Larry explains that in the state of Illinois all they give you for temporary registration is a paper that you tape to your windshield.
"I don't care what they do in Illinois!" exclaims the trooper in a loud voice (trying to keep his hat from falling in front of his eyes.) "In this state you have to have a plate on the back of your car."
"But we don't have one."
"Well, you'll have to make one," says Barney (At this point I was tempted to say I thought you had to be in prison to do that, but I thought better of it.)
"Go down here to the You Tote-Em Store," says the cop, pointing up the road. "Get a piece of cardboard and a marker and draw one." Now this guy had such a heavy southern drawl that the words "You Tote-Em" sounded a lot like Chinese Pig Latin. After we asked him several times to repeat himself, out of frustration the trooper says, "Go up here to the stop and go light. There's a store on the right." So we went up to the You Tote-Em Store and asked the kid behind the counter for some cardboard and told him what the state trooper had said. He offered some choice words about law enforcement and gave us some cardboard, but sold us a black marker. We cut out a rectangle and while our officer friend watched from across the road, we drew an Illinois plate, complete with "Land of Lincoln" written on the bottom.
After putting it on the back of Bruno we left with you-know-who following us. When we crossed the state line, that cardboard creation came off in a hurry so we wouldn't have to explain to some other cop why we had a license plate that looked like a preschool project.
- Adam Jones