“The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” — Sergeant Joe Friday, Dragnet
“Looks like there’s no one at the bank,” my friend informed me as we finished our phone conversation one day last week. “If I walk into a holdup, it’s been nice knowing you.”
I’ve done that,” I replied.
“Held up a bank,” she chuckled.
“No, walked into a holdup.”
“I can’t wait to hear about that.”
“Just the facts, ma’am…I drove into a holdup.” It was hot in Mount Pleasant. I was working a summer job out of necessity. For college money. Driving a truck. My mission was peaches.
That’s right. Fresh from Jerry Benton’s orchards on the Monticello highway. I had to have them at the farmer’s market in Dallas every morning by 5 a.m. Prior to that job, my only acquaintance with early a.m. hours had been sneaking up on them from the other side after a night of fun.
It was not fun herding a refrigerated truck along I-30 for two hours at that time of the morning. It required liberal applications of caffeinated coffee. On the morning in question, I was in dire need as I exited at a small cafe near Greenville. This was before 24-hour restaurants dotted the roadside, even on interstates.
Perusing the parking lot for a place to position the peach hauler, I was pleased by the presence of only a pair of cars. Driving a truck and earning a commercial license to do so were recent experiences during my 18th summer. Desiring to get in and out easily once I had hot java in hand was my priority.
The truck was still rolling, and I was still looking when a commotion near the dimly lit front door of the eating establishment caught my attention. What I saw in fleeting seconds was a scene straight from black-and-white TV. Two men exiting the building seemed in a large hurry. One was grabbing a gun. “A gun,” my brain begged in the bleak morning darkness?
A flash of fire from the barrel pointed toward the door and the deafening report that accompanied it answered all my questions. It took less than 40 acres to turn my rig around and choose the shortest dirt path back to the highway, away from any more gunfire.
I never looked in the rear-view mirror. I didn’t slow down until I reached Dallas. I had peaches to deliver. Besides, I really wasn’t sleepy anymore.
Still rattled from the morning melee as I headed out of Dallas after lunch, I decided that in case anyone had reported a Hertz rental truck making a hasty haul out of the cafe parking lot during the fireworks, it might be a good idea to check in with Greenville’s finest.
“This is the city—Greenville, Texas,” the sergeant said. “I’m a cop. This is my partner, Gannon.” Why I got a grilling about waiting until the afternoon to drop by troubled me. It didn’t seem as important to them as it did to me that I had this fear of hostile gunfire, or that I had peaches to deliver on time. Luckily for me, the cafe caper culprits were already in custody.
Ready to roll again the next morning at 3:00 a.m., I wasn’t taking any more chances. No sir. When I climbed into the peach hauler, I was packing heat—fresh hot coffee filling a brand-new thermos from Mason’s hardware. A trial was held in and for the case of making the peach delivery deadline non-stop.
“In a moment, the results of that trial.”
Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers.