By: T.F. Stern | Self-Educated American
Before getting started…I thought I’d written and saved this story from long ago, but for some reason can’t find it in any of my files… Today a friend wanted to know what T. F. stood for, True Friend or Truck Farmer. So, here goes…
Back in the mid to late 1970s while working downtown as a police officer, one of our daily assignments was to stand in front of the Harris County Court House around noontime so we could escort felony prisoners that would be offloaded onto the sidewalk. We’d then remove their handcuffs and put our handcuffs back on them, take them upstairs to have their Miranda Legal Warning read to them by a county court judge and then take them back down to the street, exchange handcuffs once more and load them back into the paddy wagon to be returned to the city jail.
No, I’m not making this absurd ritual up. There was a safe prisoner zone in the lower level of the County Court House, but it was reserved and could only be used by the Harris County Sherriff’s Department and strictly off-limits for the City of Houston police officers. Yeah, we had a wonderful working relationship as you can see.
Think about it this way…we had a felony prisoner (homicide, robbery, burglary, rapist or who knows what) that was in a safe place (the city jail), but some fool (supervisor of higher rank) decided that we should take that felony prisoner outside the jail and drive him through downtown Houston in the paddy wagon with several other felony prisoners and offload them onto the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. This meant letting them out of the paddy wagon where there was minimal to non-existent security available, taking their handcuffs off and trading them for the ones belonging to a police officer standing there on the sidewalk.
What could possibly go wrong? But that’s not why I’m writing this today…
Aside from this insanity, there were a collection of odd women, groupies if you will, trolling for police officers like they were band bunnies or something. They’d start conversations hoping to engage a police officer, flirting or whatever until such time as all the prisoners had been taken upstairs.
One day, while awaiting my turn to take a felony prisoner upstairs, a young woman got up in my face, going on about just about anything. She handled my name tag, physically touching it as she read the name, T. F. Stern. Then she asked, “What’s the T. F. stand for?”
Not sure where my answer came from, but sarcasm is a standard file in my personality, as I responded, “It’s supposed to be T. B. Stern but they got it wrong”.
“So what’s the T. B. stand for?”
“Theophanous Bastardo Stern. Some of the folks call me The Old Bastard, but my friends just call me Theo.” As I said, I’ve no idea where this stuff comes from; but the young woman huffed a bit and walked away feeling insulted.
On the other hand, one of the other police officers who’d been standing there in front of the courthouse almost lost it, trying to contain his belly laugh. From that day on he called me Theo. It would have been a shame to lose a story like this simply because of a bad filing system.