Friday, April 26, 2024


Ripley was a Riverbank cop for a good long while until he went to work for the Sheriff's Department around 1985 or so. He was one of those old skool small town cops, Officer Friendly if you will. Him being called out for something did not mean automatic arrests of everybody involved would be made "to let the courts sort it out".
He was one of those cops that actually took the time to listen to both sides of  a dispute, would pull over to help a motorist make minor repairs rather than just calling a tow truck, and would even give you a ride home instead of just arresting you if you had a little too much to drink provided you weren't so fucked up you were driving on the sidewalk and giving whiney-ass sober citizens a reason to complain. On top of all that, he had a great sense of humor.

That's not to say he took shit off of anybody. He treated people the way they treated him. 
Real Pancho was drinking at Sanchez's Cantina one night and shooting the shit with Tony, the owner. Things got a little spirited between a couple of the customers, and the shit spilled out into the street. Rip was either called or was just driving by and stopped to break it up. After he got everything settled and turned to walk back to his patrol car, one of the drunks slapped at the back of his head. Rip spun around and dropped him with a hard right. Real Pancho told us later, "That motherfucker went from Andy Taylor to Buford Pusser in 1.5 seconds flat, homie."

A bunch of us were sitting around drinking beer one Friday evening and his name came up, then everybody started throwing out theories on why he was so damned lenient, everything from compassion and understanding to being a local boy to whatever. George burped and said, "Y'all are overthinking this. Rip just hates paperwork with a passion, is all. He'd rather drive around in his patrol car than sitting in the station filling out arrest reports."

Rip had a soft spot for anybody that worked out at the ammo plant, having worked there himself during the Vietnam war before enlisting in the Marines to go kill commies. As a matter of fact, on my very first day at work, the line boss I was working for told me to keep my work badge in my wallet with my driver's license and if Officer Ripley pulled me over, hand him both and I'd probably get off with just a warning.
He wasn't lying, either. A couple weeks after I started there, I rolled through a stop sign at about 10 mph and was pulled over by Rip, the first time I had ever laid eyes on him. As I was digging my license out of my wallet, he saw my work badge and forgot all about my traffic infraction. We spent the next 15-20 minutes talking about the plant and the mutual friends and acquaintances we had.

That's not to say he didn't write us tickets if we pushed it. We got a couple warnings but if we continued to misbehave, we got a ticket with him bitching about it so much we almost felt bad for putting him on the spot. "Now here I am trying to do my damnedest to be a decent human being by not holding y'all to the literal letter of the law, but do you appreciate my kindness and good will? Oh nooooo, you test my patience time and time again. I gave you a warning for speeding, then not a week later I see you blasting through town endangering law-abiding citizens and Mexicans. I'm gonna introduce you to my Maglight if you keep this shit up. Sign here." It was hard to hold a straight face while he was ranting.

He was welcome out at my place and showed up quite a few times with his wife Jeri and sons. They fit in well anyway with about half my friends knowing him their entire lives. He wasn't Rip the cop when he was there, he was just Rip the local guy. He left his job at work.
People smoking weed wasn't an issue because he was usually gone by dusk along with others that brought their kids, and back then we didn't smoke dope around kids. I doubt anybody would've put him on the spot by firing up a doobie anyway even if there were no kids around.
His youngest son pulled a trigger on a real gun for the first time out at my place, and him and his boys came out fairly regularly to hunt pheasant or dove when the seasons were open.


Harry's was a little corner market at the intersection of Patterson and Eighth. The store was up front on the street with a driveway leading to the parking lot in the rear. Inside the store along one wall was a small deli counter and a grill where Harry cooked up the tastiest damned hamburgers I have ever had. We phoned in our orders in advance, so it was an in & out deal when we got there, giving us enough time to eat.

Harry was a Chinaman and didn't speak hardly any English at all, but he was friendly as hell. He was also cooler than shit about letting us all run a tab until Friday after we got off work. It was funny, after we got off we'd all go to the bank to cash our checks, then we'd all head to Harry's to pay him off. The guy that you were standing behind at the bank was likely to be the same guy in front of you at Harry's.
I don't know of a single soul that ever stiffed Harry for his tab or even left him hanging for an extra week. If something came up and you didn't have the money to pay your Harry tab, you borrowed the money to settle up with him, period.

The ammo plant issued us coveralls as needed, usually a blue/green color, but one time we got a batch in that were orange with "SCSO" (Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office) stamped on the back in black letters - surplus jailhouse coveralls. 

We never took our coveralls off when we left the plant for lunch, we'd just sign out and then haul ass over to Harry's about a mile and a half away for our half hour lunch break. 

Anyways..... here we are behind Harry's during lunch wearing our orange convict clothes, finishing up our burgers and drinking a lunchtime beer, laughing and clowning each other about looking right at home in those coveralls, when suddenly a half dozen Sheriff's cars came screeching into the parking lot. Guns are drawn and we're all ordered face down on the asphalt. We chugged our beers and complied, laughing. It didn't take much to figure out why they were there.
The cops are more puzzled than pissed at us for taking our sweet time to get on the ground. None of us convicts are trying to flee, matter of fact, we're laughing even harder than we were before they got there.
After a minute or two somebody tries to explain that we're not escapees, we work at the ammo plant and are on our lunch break. While they're a little skeptical, they do lighten up. They lowered their guns and allowed us to get off the hot asphalt and sit on the tailgates of our trucks, hands on top of our heads, while they checked our IDs. Johnny Jones turns to me and says, "Ain't this some shit? My wife calls about a prowler outside our bedroom window and it takes them 4 hours to get there. Here we are eating lunch and there's 6 of these motherfuckers here inside of 15 minutes ready to shoot somebody."

Just then, Tony Sanchez, owner of Sanchez's Cantina and a line boss at the plant, pulls into the parking lot, and paying absolutely no attention to the scene in front of him, gets out of his car to go get his lunch.
Rex hollers, "Hey Tony, tell these dumbasses we're on our lunch break from the plant!"
Tony turns around, squints, and says, "Yeah, I don't know none of these pendejos," then chuckles as he starts to head around the corner to go into the store.
"Motherfucker!" Rex yells at his back, "Don't tell them that! I got warrants!"
I think I may have mentioned in past posts that Rex wasn't real bright.

Much to his surprise and dismay, Rex suddenly finds himself the center of attention to the point that we all dropped our hands and went back to finishing lunch. Skidmark took advantage of the moment by advising the deputies that if they arrest Rex they need to do a very invasive and thorough search because he likes to put things up his butt. More laughter. The cops are starting to get the idea that nobody is taking them seriously.
While they've got poor Rex surrounded, Ripley pulls into the parking lot and gets out.
"What are your warrants for?" one of the deputies asks Rex.
Rex is blubbering. "I had jury duty on Monday, but my wife got in an accident Sunday and was taken to the hospital. I was so worried I forgot about the jury duty."
The deputy blinks. "Jury duty? That's your warrants? Seriously?"
Rip tells the deputy, "He's telling the truth, I responded to the accident. His wife bounced her head off the steering wheel and was knocked out for a minute, so I called an ambulance to take her to Oak Valley hospital in Oakdale to get checked out." He turns to Rex. "How's Amber doing today, Rex? The swelling go down yet? Let us know if there's anything me and Jeri can do for her."
The deputies all relax and the one with Rex's license hands it back and says, "It's not in the system yet. It's no big deal, just take the hospital paperwork to the jury commissioner and they'll either reschedule or dismiss you." Then he turns to Rip. "So you know all of these guys, then?
Heavy sigh. "Unfortunately, yes I do. I grew up with most of their parents."

Right about then Tony turns the corner scarfing on his hamburger and still tee-heeing over his own cleverness. It took all 6 deputies to physically restrain Rex from attacking Tony while Rip and the rest of us laughed our asses off.


Dad worked every Saturday he could and one Friday Mom paged me wanting to know if I could come over in my truck the next day and take her to a nursery between Riverbank City of Action and Oakdale so she could get some landscaping plants to kill. Mom had a brown thumb and could kill a fucking cactus, but that didn't stop her from spending several hundred dollars every spring for new victims.
Sure, why not. While I saw Dad almost every day because we both worked at the same place, I could go a couple weeks without seeing my mother, so it would be a nice Mom Day. I'll take her to an early lunch at a decent sit-down restaurant, get caught up on the latest family gossip, and spend the rest of the day looking for some unsuspecting plants.

As I'm just getting out of Riverbank's city limits headed towards the nursery, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a cop car charging up behind me. I kept watching and as it got right up on my ass, I could see Ol' Rip hunched over his steering wheel, grinning and flipping me the bird with both hands. Then he lit me up with his lights and blipped his siren. Oh, you want to play games?
I was getting ready to make a left turn anyway, so I yelled, "OH NO, IT'S THE LAW!!! HANG ON!!!" then I  dropped it into second and floorboarded it, fishtailing into the turn before pulling over onto the shoulder about a hundred yards further down.
Mom flipped the fuck out. "ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE? YOUR MOTHER'S IN THE TRUCK WITH YOU!!!" she screamed as she started beating me with her fists. This was far better than I could have ever hoped for - I had never heard her say the word 'fuck' before. After 24 years, I had finally found her trigger.
Rip sees all this through the back window of my truck and he's falling all over himself laughing. He finally regains his composure and gets on the speaker. "Driver, get out of the vehicle, hold 'em high and walk back to me! Passenger, remain in the truck!"
I get out of the truck with my hands up and a big grin on my face. Mom's still flipping out. "I DON'T KNOW HIM I MEAN HE'S MY SON BUT HE WASN'T RAISED THIS WAY OH MY GOD I DON'T WANT TO GO TO JAIL," she's wailing from the truck.
"Doesn't take much to get 'er going, does it?" Rip remarks as I walked back to him.
"Shit, you should've seen her when I was a kid," I replied. "She's much calmer now."
Rip grabs me by the arm and marches me up to Mom's side of the truck. "Ma'am, you know that running from the law is a serious offence. What do you think I should do with him?" and Mom screams, "SHOOT HIM, JUST SHOOT HIM, I DON'T CARE!!!"
Rip cocks one eye and says, "Shoot him? That's a little severe, don't you think? How about I just give him a world class noogie?"
"A..... A WHAT???"
"A noogie," he says, then he grabs me by the neck with the crook of his elbow and gives me a noogie. "See? A noogie!"
Mom gets this shocked look on her face when she realizes she's been played, then scrambles out of the truck and starts pounding on both of us with her fists. "YOU JUST WAIT UNTIL YOUR FATHER GETS HOME! YOU'RE BOTH IN A WORLD OF TROUBLE!!!"
Yeah, like I've never heard that before.....

After I got her home and she told Dad the story, he was laughing harder than I was which pissed Mom off all over again. "You need a place to sleep tonight, come on out," I told Dad.


I had gotten into a bit of a tussle inside the Cattleman's Club one Saturday afternoon. No big deal, some words were exchanged and a couple punches were thrown, but even though there were no injuries or damage and it was broken up as quickly as it started, the new girl behind the bar called the law.
Both Riverbank patrol cops showed up. Crocker talks to the other guy while Rip walks me outside to talk to me, much to the amusement of the crowd standing just outside the doorway.
"All right, let's make this look good for everybody. Put your hands against the wall so I can pat you down." I did what he said. "Is there any place I need to stay away from?" he asks.
"Yup, my waistline on the right side, my left front pocket, and you probably don't want to check the cigarette pack in my shirt pocket."
He just shook his head. "So basically just search you from the crotch down? You're a regular walking crime wave today, ain'tcha? You're already too drunk to drive. Get in the backseat and I'll give you a ride home. You can come get your truck tomorrow."


My landlord had left a note on my door saying he was delivering a load of hay in the next couple days, so I was out in the hay barn cleaning and sweeping, making sure there was no old and moldy hay to contaminate the new load. It was miserably hot outside and downright suffocating in the barn under that tin roof, so it was a bit of a relief when my pager went off in the early afternoon. It was Johnny Jones. I put my broom and grain shovel aside to go call him when it went off again. Johnny Jones again. Then again. And again. Goddamn, give me a chance to get to the house, ya fucking nag.
It did seem urgent so I trotted to the house, plugged in my phone and called him up. He answered on the first ring. "Man, I need a place to hide," he said in a panic stricken voice. I could hear music and the laughter of several women, but he sounded desperate. Matter of fact, I hadn't heard that much despair in his voice since we were 6 or 7 years old and accidentally killed his granny's best breeder meat doe. Seriously though, who the fuck knew you couldn't play catch with a meat rabbit?

"Well, come on over. I'm just about done here anyway," I said, trying to make sense of the noise in the background and the tone of his voice.
"I can't, I need you to come get me." He was sounding even more desperate and the laughter got louder. Whatever his problem was, it didn't appear to be life threatening.
"Shall I gather a posse?" I asked, fucking with him.
"No godammit!" he hissed. "Just get over here. Bean's having a reunion with a bunch of her high school girlfriends. There's 10 or 12 people in my house right now with more on the way. I'm the only one here with a dick, and they're all ganging up on me."
"Why can't you drive yourself over?" I asked. I was covered in hay chaff and that shit itched. I really needed to get in the shower.
"Because one of them split-tails stole my keys and put them down her cleavage." Now that got my attention. I've seen the size of Johnny Jones' key ring and if some babe could hide them in her cleavage, she must've had ginormous titties.
Click. I was at a dead run for my truck.

I hauled ass over there to rescue my partner, and he wasn't bullshitting. There were cars all over his front yard and the street in front of his house. I could hear laughter and bottles clinking over the music coming through the windows. I walked into the house and was immediately met with Bean pointing at me and laughing, "See, I told you so!"
That distracted me from getting Johnny Jones' keys back. "Huh? Told them what?" Bean couldn't answer, her and her girlfriends were rolling all over the floor and furniture, pointing at me and laughing.
"Bean and them... them... them females were laughing about me looking like a poor broke cowboy fresh off the lone prairie," he said.
I looked him over. They weren't far off. "And?"
 "Bean told them you were just as bad," he said, "And then today is the day you picked to show up here looking like Marshal Dillon?" I'm wearing jeans, a long sleeved sweat stained shirt, a cowboy hat and a neckerchief I was using as a dust mask to keep the hay out, and I'm covered in chaff. Half the women started yee-hawing and the other half started mooing at me.
Fuck them keys. "Let's ride, amigo. We got cattle rustlers to track down and hang. Bean, I'll fetch him back in the morning."

As we were pulling away, Johnny Jones suggested we stop by the store before heading home to get a case of beer in case we got too fucked up and needed something lighter to drink. Gotta admire a man with a plan.

One thing led to another and we finally made it back to my place about 10 or 11 that night, dead drunk. I hadn't been that fucked up in a good long while. 
Now my gate was at the end of about a 50 foot notch in the fence line that was deep enough so a truck and stock trailer could nose in without blocking the road while the driver was unlocking the gate.
I pulled into that notch, killed the truck and handed the keys to Johnny Jones who staggered over to the gate, unlocked it and tried to swing it inward without success. I climbed out and joined him, both of us fighting that gate trying to get it open. That fucker wouldn't open no matter what we tried. We could get it to move an inch or two in either direction but that was about it. Johnny Jones decided we must've had an earthquake and the dirt got pushed up against it, so he went to the back of my truck and got a shovel to clear it. Like I said, we were dead drunk.
As I'm leaning against the side of my truck desperately trying to keep from throwing up, I looked down the road and saw four headlights which I correctly deduced was only one car because I was well into that double vision stage, and it was a police cruiser judging by the headlight profile. That I could recognize no matter how fucked up I was. The cop pulled up, stopped in the middle of the road and turned his lightbar on so any other drunks wouldn't rear-end him, lighting up the whole damned world with red and blue flashing lights.
It's Rip in his sheriff's cruiser. I hadn't seen him since he went to the Sheriff's Department a few weeks earlier. "Evening, Kenny, how ya doing?"
"Not bad, Rip, but we'd be better if we could get this damned gate open. I'm feeling pukey and need to lay down," I slurred. "That's a sharp lookin' uniform, by the way."
Right about that time Johnny Jones finally notices all the flashing red and blue lights. He looks up in surprise, throws down the shovel and yells, "RUN!!! IT'S DEPUTY DAWG!!! before spinning back around and running right into the gate and falling down.
Ol' Rip shakes his head. "Calm the fuck down, Johnny Jones, it's just me." He gets his flashlight out, walks over to the gate and opens it as easy as you please. Then he takes my keys out of the padlock, pulls my truck in and tells us to get in the back. He drives us up to the house, hands me my keys and walks back down to his cruiser and leaves.

A week later, I'm in the store and run into Rip and his family. "Hey Rip, Jeri, young Rips."
"Hey Kenny," they all answer in unison. Rip's laughing at me. "You still hungover from that bender you were on last weekend?"
"Naw, I'm recovered now. Say, I do appreciate you not arresting us though."
"Hey, I didn't pull you over, I was driving past and saw your truck so I figured to stop in and say hi. What was I going to arrest you for? Drunk driving? You weren't behind the wheel or even in the cab, your keys were in the gate and you were on private property. Disturbing the peace? You weren't fighting or even arguing. Public drunkenness? Again, private property."
"Well, I appreciate it anyway. I am kinda curious as to how you got that gate open, though. We fought it and fought it before you got there, and then you walked right up and swung it open on the first try."
He said, "You two clowns unlocked the chain but forgot to lift the latch."


  1. Thanks, Ken, have a great week end!

  2. We had a cop in my hometown that was just the opposite of this guy.

  3. I do enjoy it when you shift into story teller mode. Well done Sir!

  4. Oh my. Should not read this at work - laughing too much. Another great story!

  5. Thanks. Having a sorta shit day, needed a good laugh.

    John G.

  6. Wonderful.
    And with the events over the last 36 hours, I needed something like that.

    If we take up a collection, will you write the book?

  7. Get that book together, Kenny!

  8. Your mother! No, literally, your mom. Not "Yo Motha". Loved this! - Deb

  9. We had a constable when I was growing up named Herman - nickname of Herman the Sperman. Anyhow, when he first started out as a young kid, he'd bust your ass for any little thing. After a couple of years, he settled down and became a fairly decent cop. He was personally responsible for making sure more than 1 drunk kid got home safely, with no arrests/tickets/record. He's still with the same constable's office now some 30 years later, but he's the one in charge. And still a pretty decent guy from what I hear.

    1. Rip was in his 40s and pretty much mellowed out by the time I got to know him. I don't know what he was like when he came back from Vietnam and first hired on as a cop.

  10. Kenny, you are one of the best storytellers ever.

    Steve in KY

  11. Well since you are now living in Middle Tennessee and I grew up in West Tennessee I'll have to tell you about Buford Pusser and his Big Stick! Long story and I will write it out later as I'm on the run today.

  12. When I was 6 or 7 I didn't like wearing clothes and would go outside to play even if it was a few doors down at a friend's. The neighborhood cop would put in the front seat and take me back. He would bring my parents out to see handcuffs on me that were essentially like Hula Hoops on my wrists and ask why I tried to steal his car. I kept telling him I couldn't because I didn't know how to drive. Nice man.

  13. That is what a Police Officer is! What we have today are Law Enforcement... Big difference

  14. A buddy who was a Texas highway patrolman always said and there were enough non-locals coming thru being stupid to keep your numbers high enough to keep you out of trouble with your supervisor and so you didn't screw with the local people because you never knew when you might need their help. Sounds like Rip understood that discipline very well.

  15. That guy sounds like a hoot and it's too bad guys like him are few and far between. Great story, sir. Please keep 'em coming!

  16. Another great story Ken. My favorite posts and the wife enjoys them too. As others have stated; "The Book". You have a gift and thank you for sharing that with us... ~SWOOP~

  17. Just another lurker here. This is hilarious. After a long day at work, this was a joy to read. Thank you.

  18. you ever make it to Dow,Il. , the beer and bbq is on me and the boy. enjoy your tales and we got some too.

  19. Kenny, like everyone else, I want the book. Or books, whatever it takes. I will buy the first three dozen of EVERY book you write. I'll send them to selected clients as fantastic Christmas gifts. I did that last year with LawDog's two books, and based on that reaction, I would be sainted if I did it again with yours. I am sure that most reasonably sentient travelers to blogs like yours have already heard of LawDog, but for those few who have not, y'all NEED to visit Raconteur Press and buy whatever tickles your fancy. Last year I bought their entire catalogue and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed EVERYTHING. That reminds me, I need to send in another order, this time for everything they published since my last shipment. They seem to specialize in bloggers-turned-writers.

  20. Thank you for your blog Kenny. My wife was born in Turlock, Inlaws...Modesto, Riverbank and Oakdale. I can relate to so much of your posts and content. Keep it up brother. Much love! Spiro.

  21. Good story Sounds like Rip knew how to handle hiself

  22. Thanks for the story Ken, it's been a while.

  23. LMFAO Thanks for more great tales, compadre.

  24. Your stories are THE BEST! I even remember the characters over time, and I’m to the point in life I don’t remember a whole lot of extraneous stuff. Please, write The Book!

    1. Man you're good. I laughed so hard I cried!

  25. Great story! I grew up off Parker Rd most of my friends lived a mile or so from River Bank. I worked at Vanpelt in Oakedale building fire trucks. Thanks for bringing back so many memories of the 70s!!!!

    1. I used to walk down the railroad tracks there on Parker to hunt dove. Now there's a fucking subdivision there.
      I know of VanPelt but didn't know anybody that worked there.

  26. Dude, I know you have a book full of stories like that.
    Write the book; we will buy it.

  27. Your stories always leave me wanting more. Frigg’n awesome!

  28. And somewhere along the line, we went from Peace Officers to Law Enforcement Officers, and that's when the country went straight to hell. I hoist my glass to Officer Ripley, and hope we see more of his like again.


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