The Least of These Brothers

There was a local “drunkard” that we dealt with on a regular basis. He was Native American and had lost a foot at some time in the past, so he was in a wheelchair. We will call him Clarence Running Dear. Nearly every time we saw Clarence, he was completely intoxicated, usually unable to even push his wheelchair forward. Unfortunately, we often had to take him to jail for drunk in public because he was just too far gone. There, he would sober up and be released without charges (time served, they called it) and he would return home near the campus by bus or light rail.

Once, early in my career, when I was still a young officer, I had chosen, instead of arrest, to take Clarence home. He was not so blotto that he couldn’t take care of himself. He told me his address and I pushed him home (he had an apartment across the street from campus). I’m certain that it was an odd sight, a uniformed police officer pushing a drunk, one-legged Indian across town in a wheelchair. Once inside his grimy, tiny, first floor, studio apartment, I saw paperwork on the table from the Department of Veterans Affairs, addressed very specifically to him. I am nosy by nature, and I glanced at the paperwork to know all I needed to know. Clarence asked me to help him into bed. I lifted him from the chair and helped him balance while he turned around. Clarence sat back and fell into the bed. Within seconds, he was snoring. I swung his leg onto the bed and stood there for a moment, wondering what I should do next, but knowing that I didn’t have the power to do anything more for him.

We interacted many, many times after that, but usually, he was too drunk to be reasoned with and ultimately ended up in jail or just wheeling his way off campus shouting at the wind. There were still those times that I was able to roll him back to his apartment, but they were few.

Rest in Peace, Sergeant Running Deer. Your long, long fight is over. Thank you for your service.

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