Sheriff Roy woke early on a cold morning. Pouring a cup of coffee and turning on the radio, he studied the pre-dawn view from his kitchen window.
According to the weather person on the radio, Mud Lick finally saw its first southern snow of the year overnight. That meant enough white stuff dusted the ground to where school officials called a two hour delay opening.
The Sheriff put on his uniform and helped Roy Junior get ready for school.
“Are you going to be the crossing guard at school today, dad?”
“Yes, son. It’s that time of year.”
Junior smiled. This meant he got to ride to school in his father’s patrol cruiser.
Once the pair reached Jefferson/Davis Elementary school, Sheriff Roy parked his vehicle in the road and turned on his lights. Bidding his son farewell, the Sheriff donned a yellow band covering his hat and a yellow vest.
Once properly attired, the Sheriff gathered two glowing sticks and began directing traffic as students and teachers arrived. Wielding the batons with practiced swings, Sheriff Roy maneuvered automobiles and people to an internal rhythm.
A teacher approached Sheriff Roy in the crosswalk. Clad in denim from head to toe save for sneakers and a white T-shirt with his face on it, the ginger-haired man removed a hand from his jeans pocket and extended his limp wrist to Sheriff Roy in a manner of greeting. The sheriff tapped the teacher’s wrist as a reply with a baton and ushered him through the crosswalk.
Strange guy, that one, Sheriff Roy thought.
“Sheriff, excuse me,” a parent said in the crosswalk.
“You’ll need to talk to me from the curb. Can’t keep pedestrians in the crosswalk.”
“Fair enough,” replied the woman who scurried to the curb nearest the school. “Aren’t you offended by the name of this place?”
“You’re a black Sheriff doing crossing duty in front of a school named after the leader of the Confederacy. I just thought that would at least bother you.”
“You’re either new here or not observant. Which is it?”
The woman blinked. “We just moved here from Tuscaloosa a month ago.”
“That explains it,” Sheriff Roy said as he kept traffic flowing evenly. “First, you’re ignoring the dividing line between Jefferson and Davis on the building. That’s because the school is named after two of the best administrative assistants Driftwood County Schools ever saw: Sara Jefferson and Angela Davis.”
“So you don’t think this is really just a racist dog whistle?” the woman prodded.
“It could be if someone’s hunting a reason to be offended. I don’t have the time. Have a nice day ma’am.”
With that, the woman left and Sheriff Roy concluded his morning duties. He’d do this again in the afternoon when picking Roy Junior up.
Yes, the name of the school wasn’t the best look. It was fine for the moment, but Sheriff Roy made a note for Deputy Tyrone to research less offensive names should the occasion arise to raise the issue at a town meeting.
He remembered what happened when the school board tried to honor three janitors working in the school system: Christian Nathan, Joanna Bedford, and Carter Forrest.
The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, thought Sheriff Roy, and it damn sure runs through Mud Lick certain days.