I grew up west of here, but it wasn’t a lot different. Wheat country. Just outside a little town of about 200 people, Norge. It was the house my great grandfather had homesteaded a hundred years before. Came out from Norway with almost nothing. They came from Stavanger, and I think that may have been his name, or at least where my name came from. He wasn’t Stave. He changed it to that when he registered on the property. The story is that he thought Stave made it sound more American. Sounded like part of an American barrel, anyway. He was trying hard to fit in.
It wasn’t a rich piece of land, but we did well on it, even in the lean years in the 30s, when I guess they had some years of drought. People didn’t have much to eat. My dad was just a boy then. You would have thought he would have learned better.
When I was a teenager, back in the 1970s, they started telling everybody to plough up every last foot of their farms. Fencerow to fencerow, my father would say. He was a guy to follow orders, or at least suggestions. You didn’t want to have a guy like him around a television, he’d have the house full of junk that different people on ads would have said would make your life better. He liked to believe people. He was a good guy and he trusted, like he trusted the guy from the farm bureau who told him to buy a bigger combine and plough up every bit of land he could. Prices were terrible, and I remember one year he had all his grain in the elevator for more than a year. Said he wasn’t going to sell it till the prices went back up. Never mind that we didn’t really have food to eat except what my mother had canned, and that wasn’t lasting much, especially since I was a teenager. Next thing you know all our stuff is up for auction and we’re out of our house and living in a single-wide on a neighbor’s property. I didn’t even understand what was going on. I was a senior in high school but I was just a dumb jock, playing football and basketball and I didn’t see the freight train coming until it had smashed into us and taken everything.
My dad was broken. Eventually he went off to the Twin Cities and found a dumb job, took my sisters and my mother down there and started over. I was so angry and ashamed for him I couldn’t face it. I had no idea what to do, I was just blind angry. I ended up in the army, went over to Germany. Ended up serving in the military police. I was surprised. I had been a troublemaker in high school, when I was just goofing off all the time and didn’t know how serious things were, how they could go to hell in a heartbeat. I never could have imagined myself a cop. But there I was. I also got to visit Norway while I was over there, got to visit the village near Stavanger where my great grandfather had come from. It cooled me off a little. Even though it still seemed like my father had thrown everything away, going back to where the family had come from, I had a little peace about it. Everything seems to go in a circle. Bad things happen but it’s all right in the end.
When I came back I decided to go to school so that I could be a civilian police officer. Not just an officer but someday run a department. And here I am. Jericho isn’t my home town, but it’s like my home town. Feels like I never left home.
I like the feeling of protecting people. I like knowing they trust me, and being the guy they can trust. I didn’t trust much after we lost of our house. Sometimes I think the reason I like to protect people is that I want to protect them from the bad things that happen to me. You would think after how many people lost their farms fifteen, twenty years ago that people would have learned a lesson, but no, they keep going and doing dumb things, buying too much expensive equipment, plowing too much, laying up too much in the elevators even though they can’t get the price for it. I can’t really protect them from doing all those stupid things, but some days, on good days, I go home feeling like I’ve stopped something stupid from happening, and that maybe some kid somewhere won’t have to go through his whole 20s being blind angry with the world. Maybe I could protect a few people from that, it would be a life worth having been lived.