Mr. Bill and Miz Mona

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Moose Pass Journal Dillingham Case Files June 29,2011

Bill Says: One of our favorite memories of Dillingham was the case involving the Legend of the Mud Monster, one event in which came pretty close to freezing this young man's whole body... Hey, I was the young then!

Working on the department with me was a very strange officer from Oregon, ( I learned there were a lot of strange people living in Oregon), but I digress. He was named Catlow J. Talon. His parents just had to be Louie L'Amour fans. We called him simply CJ and he was a wanna-be soldier of fortune/mercenary. His bedroom floor was covered with such magazine. But he had never served in the military and was one of those cops who loved to wear leather sap gloves on duty, ( these are the ones with the led inserts over the knuckles) and he was often found with his nightstick out and slapping it in his opposite hand like some 1920's copper on the beat. Mostly he was a joke, but he did have those occasional moments when he did remember he was a police officer. Sadly though, I had to pull him out of a lot of trouble because his poor attitude with the native folks and they knew it. There were a couple times I felt like simply leaving him to their mercies, but he was a fellow officer....  the whole oath thing.

Anyway, one very early summer morning Mona woke me up from a dead sleep to tell me the dispatcher was on the phone and CJ needed help- again. The other officers practiced the philosophy that an intoxicated officer was not expected to be called out for back-up and they got drunk nearly every night. Me, I was the non-drinker and usually called out to assist an officer for those late night shifts when I was off-duty. I did get a lot of overtime, but lost out on some badly needed sleep.

So, once again I was climbing into my call-out coveralls and boots, and strapping on my police leather gear. CJ was down at the city dock and when I arrived I found him behaving strangely. He was walking around the dock and picking up wood slats, trying to find a way to see down into the water. This of course made me wonder what the problem could be. When I reached him, he grabbed me by the arms, had a frantic expression on his face and told me there was a girl in the water beneath the dock trying to commit suicide by drowning. It was then I learned CJ, this certified police officer from Oregon, couldn't swim and was extremely afraid of the water. So much for his soldier of fortune hopes.

I looked over the edge of the dock, noticed the tide was coming and sure enough there was a girl in the water, and I recognized her. There was also a man holding on to her as she fought to get free. I had dealt with this girl before. She was 17 yrs old and had tried to commit suicide twice before. Once by cutting her wrists and once with an overdose of her mother's medication. Though 17, she was a gas sniffer, glue sniffer and an alcoholic. At one time she had been a pretty young lady, but destroyed that with substance abuse from cocaine and pot.

I shook my head at CJ, handed him my police gear and began to climb down the dock ladder to the water. Reaching the bottom of the ladder, I looked over at the guy, who was about 20 feet or so away and told him I was on the way. I noticed he was already turning a dangerous shade of blue and time was vital. The water was about 38 degrees and there were still chunks of ice floating around. Well, stupid as I was, I figured this man was standing on the sea floor and quickly let loose of the ladder to make my way over to him and take custody of the girl. She was about 5'6" and around 150lbs. A week earlier I had rushed her to the hospital for her cutting herself up and got involved in a vehicle accident, causing over a $1,000 in damage to my patrol vehicle and even more to the vehicle I slid into. I lost traction on the dirt road on a curve and went sideways into a turning car. No one was hurt and the ambulance finally arrived to transport the girl to the native hospital. We often transported people to the hospital because the volunteer ambulance staff was slow in coming. I tried to get her help through counseling, but there was a long list of people waiting. I got a nasty letter placed in my file for the accident and a planned three days off without pay for the following week.

So, I let go of the ladder and... sunk! The water was now over my head and I was frantically reaching out for the bottom of the ladder. The freezing cold sucked out all the oxygen I had gulped down in that last micro-second before submerging. Though I had gone through Arctic Survival School at Eielson AFB, I don't think I'd ever been so cold before in my life. I came back to the surface, spitting and trying to get my eyes to blink again, and by this time the girl had broken free. She was swimming away. Only her alcohol content and desire to kill herself kept her alive for the moment, but the gentlemen was losing it and he couldn't hold on to her anymore. I yelled for him to swim for the ladder. I later learned he was standing on top of an old piling and was too cold to mention that fact when I reached the water surface. I made sure he reached the ladder and then swam out for the girl. This was where my old lifeguard's training help. She tried to fight me, smacked me once over the head and with my mind beginning to cloud from too many ice cubes forming in the brain tissue, I decked her with a quick  right to the jaw. I then put her into a lifeguard drag and hauled her back to the ladder, but there was no way I could get her up the ladder as my strength was failing. So I yelled up for a rope and by this time the ambulance crews had arrived and the end of a large rope was tossed down for me to secure her with. They also tossed down a blanket so the rope wouldn't hurt her. They lifted her up, but I was apparently left out of the rescue. Seems they forgot all about me, even CJ- which we had a chat about later.

So not being able to climb, I began swimming toward shore and was soon walking through the shallows. But then the silt, mud and mire prevented me from walking any further. I was sunk up to my knees in this black mire. I was down to all fours and then acting like a snake, I slithered through the peanut butter like substance to reach hard ground. The other officers arrived at this point and helped me to my car, but no one wanted to touch me. They placed a blanket over the car seat and put my leather gear on the passenger seat. I then drove home, my teeth clattering and was so glad I didn't have to go far. I couldn't open the front door, but knocked with my boot and Mona opened the door to find- yes, the mud monster.  She helped strip me down, which normally would be fun, but all I wanted was hot water, hot chocolate and a very warm bed. Mona, only her wife duties kept her from being repelled by this mess of a husband standing before her. She said I was totally blue and I stayed in the shower for 30-minutes before my normal color came back.

Well, the girl ended up in the hospital for a week and was transferred to Anchorage for mental health care. CJ was going to get swimming lessons up at the lake, even if I had to teach him and my nasty letter was pulled out of my file.  I didn't have to suffer the loss of pay and the chief placed a nice letter in my file for the rescue. The gentlemen who first came to her aid was given a very letter from the city council for his heroics and he truly deserved it. Without him I am sure this young lady would have perished.

The silt, muck or mire in the harbor area was like nothing I'd ever seen before, that is until I had to deal with the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez. The black peanut butter from the boat was very similar in feel. We had several people fall of their boats and sink chest deep in this stuff and getting them out was not always successful.

All for now. 

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