“Halt!” The command issued from a uniformed police officer with the impact of a thunderclap. The target was a Harrison student just beginning his junior year in high school. The command touched off a timely re-evaluation by the student of his perceptions of authority. Useful then, humorous now.

Ron Ward in the new car that wound up parked next to the cruiser of the “statie” who broke up the Mains Mill party. Contributed photo

For generations, Maine young men treated engagement with the police as a rite of passage, usually initiated in high school. Maine high-schoolers of the ’60s were no different. Most of the engagement in rural Maine involved minor vandalism, moving violations (i.e., racing on public streets) and alcohol, soon to be replaced by “soft drugs.” On a scale of perceived risk of engagement from serious to no sweat, the typical high-schooler would rate them state police (“staties”), county sheriff’s deputies (“county mounties”) and local police officers, who were generally known by their given names or, more likely, nicknames, often unfortunate (“Deputy Dawg,” for example).

My initial confrontation was set in motion by a phone call from a friend in early September, shortly after the commencement of the school year. This was a heady time for me. Things were going well for me academically and in extracurriculars, including sports. Most significantly, my family had won a brand-new car at Oxford Plains Speedway the preceding summer and I had become a licensed Maine driver! Life was good.

“Hey, party on Saturday night at Mains Mill up on South High Street. We gotta go,” advised my friend.

“Who’s going to be there?” I questioned.

“Everyone,” he assured. “Girls, the seniors – and they have someone buying beer.”

That was all I needed to hear. I made plans with my mother to use the car, then commenced the plan for insulating myself from the cops should a confrontation develop. This didn’t require heavy lifting because a confrontation would be just the local cop, who would be easy to deal with. Worst case, I’d use my varsity sports speed to simply lose him in the woods next to the mill.

Saturday night arrived and I drove to Mains Mill, or, more specifically, the public street parking opposite the entrance to the mill. No way I was going to take the risk of parking at the mill and have some knucklehead sideswipe me while cutting doughnuts in the parking lot. I arrived just after dusk, parked at the curb and walked in toward cars and familiar voices.

Almost immediately, “The cops are coming!” warning rang out. I hadn’t seen any, but I was not sticking around to verify that. Unlike the others, who were scattering to the woods, I determined to just play it cool and casually stroll out the entrance road to show the local cop I hadn’t been involved.

The aforementioned “HALT” revealed certain holes in my planning. The command was issued by an officer from the shadows of the entrance driveway. When he stepped out of the shadows, I was confronting the dreaded “statie,” approximately 9 feet tall and packing heat on his hip. We had been infiltrated! My legs switched over from varsity speed to permanently anchored posts. He grabbed me by the arm and marched me down to the street to his police cruiser, now parked directly behind my brand-new car.

Convenient for him, humiliating for me, particularly when he broke out the handcuffs. I became the exhibit for all of the other partiers who passed on by, including the local cop, who drove slowly by wearing a smug grin. I was peppered with the statie’s questions streetside, none of which I had good answers for, culminating in him checking the registration of the car and my driving record on his cruiser shortwave radio.

The officer eventually removed the cuffs and told me to go home while he evaluated whom he’d have to report this to. This suggestion kicked off the longest week of my young life. I was sure the reports would go to my mother, high school principal and coaches, for starters. Honors and scholarships were surely gone, and forget ever taking the brand-new car again. I was twisting slowly in the wind.

Nothing ever came of the incident. No notices were given, and the fallout was primarily the inquiry of others at the Mains Mill incident of how I’d managed to get cuffed by a statie. Surely all I had to do was run?

I still reflect on the incident and smile when I recall the paralysis that set in when the state trooper took possession of me. I’ve since forgiven whoever ratted out our party, and carry with me the revelation that state troopers are just people authorized by us to deliver messages from the street. Don’t park next to them, though.

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