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  Texas : Features : Columns : N. Ray Maxie :
Interstate Oblivion --
An Arrogant Speeding Motorist

by N. Ray Maxie
N. Ray Maxie
During my long tenure eking out a meager living as a Texas Highway Patrolman, I worked throughout much of the vast and sometimes desolate north Texas area between Texarkana and Dallas/Ft Worth. Some of that area is the great North Texas Plains with miles and miles of fertile black land. If you have heard of the "black land farm", then you know what I'm talking about. Those farms were large and numerous. You passed through towns like New Boston, Mt. Vernon, Sulphur Springs, Greenville, Rockwall and in between were miles and miles of, well mostly nothing, plus more of nothing.

The Cotton Belt Region is one name for that vast cotton producing area. As a matter of fact, one of the railroads running through the region is known as the "Cotton Belt Railroad." Its formal name is The St. Louis, Southwestern Railway Company, beginning in St. Louis and ending during that time in Ft. Worth and Corsicana. Many of those little railroads have been swallowed up by the big ones and may have changed names several times along the way. I know SP bought the Cotton Belt and UP bought SP. I had a young country friend who once worked for the railroad. His job was at Nacogdoches, Texas. He said by the time he learned to spell Nacogdoches, the railroad moved him to Waxahachie.

Meanwhile, back to my story. One afternoon I was patrolling along Interstate 30, traveling eastbound in the right hand (outside) lane. I was probably on my way to get another cup of coffee. I had my eye on the westbound traffic that was headed toward Dallas. Suddenly, quick as a flash (like Santa and Rudolph) I noticed a green Ford, westbound, with the pedal to the metal. He was a'moving on, like the dew covers Dixie, fast. I instantly decided to slow that gentleman down a little. Quickly changing to the left lane and then the left shoulder, I looked for a relatively smooth place to cross the median. Sometimes that was a dangerous move since there could be unseen obstacles and even water during rainy seasons.

Making the U-turn safely, I kicked my Plymouth over in the four barrels. Exercising my horses a little and blending with traffic, I slowly came up behind the speeding green Ford and verified his speed. Yep, he was still doing 95 miles an hour. He had Michigan license plates and was traveling alone. That motorist was in another world, daydreaming on the interstate highway, totally oblivious to his surroundings, perhaps overcome with the monotony of interstate driving. You know the state of mind I'm talking about; asleep with your eyes open. Come on, admit it! We have all experienced it on occasion. I know I have. It's just a fact of life in this modern world. This guy desperately needed a reality check and he needed it right now.

Cruising up behind him, he never noticed or recognized my patrol car in his mirror, that is, I think he never even looked up in his rearview mirror. That wasn't so outrageously unusual since I had at times encountered speeding motorists that thought I was just another motorist out there wanting to race with them. Wrong! So I changed to the left lane and goosed my horses a little more and pulled right up beside him. Believe me, he then immediately recognized the marked patrol car and expressed serious shock upon his face. He quickly reduced his speed. I motioned for him to pull over. He very possibly could have a legitimate excuse for speeding or maybe have a serious emergency reason. He and I needed to talk ASAP. We came to a stop on the road shoulder.

Walking up to his driver's window, I identified myself and explained to him why I had stopped him, as if he didn't know. He was an above middle aged man, dazed and excessively fatigued. His car radio was blaring loudly and he obviously had been smoking lots of cigarettes. I invited him to get out of the car to move around and stretch a little. As was routine, not wanting to make a rush to judgment, I immediately inquired if he had any emergency reason to be driving so fast. Not infrequently I was offered excuses like, "I quickly need to use the restroom." Or, "My mother-in-law is ill in El Paso." Or, "I have a hot date at the "It'll Do Lounge" in Dallas at 6 PM." Or, "I'm chasing my wife's boyfriend." Excuses! Excuses, none of which are adequate enough to justify such highly excessive speed, risking their life and every other motorist around him. But this guy's arrogant response was, "I'm just trying to get on across this desolate looking country. It's so boring and dull out here in west Texas." I hate to tell him we were still in east central Texas. Being from Michigan this guy didn't know the difference. Just wait 'til he really gets out to west Texas.

Cross country travelers that aren't familiar with the vastness of this state and the great west Texas badlands can lose their perspective. It is I think, about 836 miles across Texas from Louisiana to New Mexico. I've had people tell me that they had driven for three days and were still in Texas. Heck, I've been driving for 50 years and I'm still in Texas.

I did sort of feel a little sympathy for this guy from up north, but there had been many others like him before. "Trooper, just suppress that feeling and get on with your job." At 95 miles an hour, I couldn't just say here is a warning ticket, be on your merry way and be careful not to kill any of my fellow Texans out here.

At that time Texas had no reciprocal agreement with other states for traffic law enforcement as it has now. If I had an out-of-state violator with a violation so serious as to deserve being fined, I had to immediately take him/her before the Justice of the Peace. Back then, if I issued him/her a citation upon their signature and released them on the spot, they could return to Michigan and never voluntarily send forth the fine to the judge. In that case, I had no out-of-state jurisdiction to collect a traffic fine. Today, all that has changed. Most states will now assist other states in collecting their traffic fines, and many out-of-state violators can be released on the spot with a citation just like a local driver can be. That way the driver is allowed to contact the judge a few days later at their convenience.

Hello Justice Court, here we come. As a matter of courtesy, when possible, we would travel on ahead in the same direction the motorist was traveling, to the next closest Justice Court. That was convenient and eliminated having to back track 40 or 50 miles.

Being brought before the court, the judge considered this man's "flimsy" reason for speeding. The judge and I concurred that this is our home and we love it. A man's home is his castle and not a desolate wasteland. It's our native land, the great Lone Star State where our forefathers fought and died. "Don't Mess With Texas", we are proud of her! We did feel a little insulted by this inconsiderate, absent minded jerk barreling through our "living room" calling it desolate, boring and dull; even though it really was. Right now was perfect timing for this "out of state nerd" to learn, even though he was far from home, he could not do just as he pleased. When in Texas, do as Texans do.

This was a pay or stay situation This judge's standard fine back then was three dollars for each mile over the limit, plus court cost, no exceptions. So he strongly reprimanded this flagrant violator and sternly informed him while in Texas, take time to smell the cactus flowers. The judge then said, "Upon your plea of guilty, that'll be $92.50 mister." The man had enough money in his pocket to pay up. He paid the judge his fine, got a receipt and was excused by the court to continue on his way. Hopefully at a much slower and civilized speed.

I walked out of the courthouse and cross the street to Lee Roy's Diner. I was ready for that belated cup of coffee. I walked passed a sidewalk bench where several "old codgers" were hanging out, chewing tobacco. They had to know, "What did he do?" "What did he do?" "Why did you let him leave?"

Maybe I was just feeling good that day and possibly felt a touch of sympathy for this belligerent nerd. The vast charm and beauty of Texas had understandably overcome him.
N. Ray Maxie
"Ramblin' Ray" July 15, 2005
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