John Whittemore – Marion, NC


Dear Mr. Hollifield,
I wanted to enter your column writing contest because I discovered some interesting parallels between “Roadhouse” and “Escape From New York” this past year, but I’m afraid I can’t because I’m currently incarcerated in the McDowell County Jail. I’ve had a string of bad luck a mile long ever since I moved to Marion last month.
I always read your column online, and wanted to enjoy it in the flesh of newsprint once I moved to Marion.  I figured it’d be easy to find a job after Liquor by the drink passed, and all the bars, strip clubs and tattoo parlors opened in Marion. Thanks to the soft real estate market, we had no problem finding a place in town so I could be close to my job.  We were very impressed by the friendliness of the people and the lowness of the taxes.
Well, anyway, things seemed fine until one day when I found a stray cat outside my garage.  Being a fan of St. Francis of Assisi and James Herriott, I did what I thought was right and gave the poor creature some Little Friskies and a saucer of milk. A few days after that, I noticed a strange looking van parked across the street.  It had a state plate, was black and windowless, but had a satellite dish and a bunch of antennas sticking out of it.  Then, a couple of days after that, a metal cage appeared at the end of my driveway.  Thinking that it fell off a truck or something, I moved it out to the sidewalk so it’d be easier for the owner to find it if he came back. Well, as soon as I did that, a couple of cop cars come screeching up and I get hauled off to some windowless room somewhere complete with a hot spotlight, one good cop and one bad cop.  I get the third degree about how you can’t feed stray cats in Marion and the penalty for moving or messing with an animal control cage in any way, shape or form, and how it’d all been in the newspapers and TV, etc.  Now, I know ignorance of the law is no excuse, but I was trying to help a less fortunate creature, but I also know the law is the law so I told the detectives that I’d cease and desist from feeding any more stray cats.  They told me I’d have to appear in court about my cat feeding activities, and in the mean time to watch my step, as they’d be watching it too.
So I went home and did the logical thing if you want to keep cats away: I bought a dog.
Still, I had to appear in court, and as I still was learning my way around town I asked my neighbor for the shortest route to the courthouse. Being a long time resident, he gave me detailed directions to go past the M&M Supermarket, Harris Teeter, and Carraway Paint on the five lane until I came to the intersection where the Community Bank and Hotel James were.  That’s when I’d be at the courthouse.  Well, I couldn’t find any of those landmarks since (as I later found out) those were the old names of said landmarks.  So, I’m slowly driving down Main Street, with the kids in the back of the minivan watching their favorite war movie, “Apocalypse Now” on the DVD player.  It was my luck at that moment that I had all the windows down as the big scene where Col. Kilgore’s helicopters attack the Vietnamese village comes on.  You know that scene; where they play that Opera music by Rich Wagner, “Ride of the Valkyries”?  It’s better known and louder than I ever thought because a lot of people on Main St. heard it that day. I know that for a fact because the judge at my arraignment showed me a shoebox filled with these “noise cards” the city council put out all over town so the good citizens of Marion could exercise their first amendment rights and be good snitches and let the authorities know who plays their music too loud or needs to quiet their baby or talks too loudly.  So now I had two strikes against me.  I was such a nervous wreck That I needed to light up a Lucky as soon as I walked out of the courthouse.  That was strike three, as a sheriff’s deputy was parked right there with a ticket for me for smoking too close to the courthouse.  They must be afraid it’ll catch fire or some terrorists might sneak in under a cloud of cigarette smoke.  Anyway, it was back before the judge for me, and this time I didn’t get to walk out the front door when he was finished. This time, I got a ride down to the county jail, from where I write you today. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I figure I have less chance of breaking another city ordinance from in here. And even if I can’t enter your contest this year, at least now you know who’s keeping the deputies cars so clean this summer. You can thank me later.
McDowell County Jail

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