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Cops: An excerpt from 'Be Not Content'

By Bill Craddock
bill craddock


Anytime we used a car, we knew that we were increasing our chances of being stopped by the law. On the freeways and highways, cops pulled in behind us and shadowed our tails for miles. Always a sure-fire ticket. If we were in the fast lane, we could pull over and get cited for unsafe lane-change; speed up and get cited for speeding; slow down and get cited for "obstructing the normal flow of traffic"; stop completely and get searched for our "suspicious behavior"; or we could simply wait for them to pull us over for unstated reasons.

Coming home late from a midnight eat at the downtown burger-bar, driving up Twelfth Street with Tom Hailey in his old panel-truck we were stopped by a cop who demanded to know where Tom had been. "Eatin at the burger-bar," said Hailey.

"Then how come you cut down Thirteenth Street?" slyly, as though he really had us.

Hailey'd just finished a joint and had forgotten how to come on to cops. "I didn't know it was a bad thing," he said.

The cop straightened up and hooked his thumb in his gunbelt. "I didn't ask for a smart-ass answer, pal. I seen you cut down Thirteenth an then over to Twelfth. Now where were you goin?"

"Well, I missed Twelfth, so I went down Thirteenth an then turned back onto Twelfth because otherwise I'd ..."

"I asked you where you were goin.''

"We were going home ... to his house," indicating me with his thumb.

The cop noticed me for the first time and shined his flashlight in my eyes. "You got some identification?"

The cop bad-eyed me through his windshield and I saw him grab for his radio. I had a hunting knife in a sheath on my belt and it evidently scared him since he only had a pistol, a shotgun and a club. I was writing his license-plate number when five patrol-cars screamed onto the scene like an opening for M-Squad. Head-lights, red-lights, door-slams, armed cops jumping out of their cars. It would have been exciting if it weren't for the sinking feeling that we were about to be erased by the people's police.

The first cop, who'd been sitting in his car waiting for the reinforcements to arrive, leaped out and shoved me against the side of the truck. "You just stand easy there hot-shot," he sneered, sticking his hands in my pockets, slapping my sides and the front of my pants in a way that only someone with a badge and a gun on you can get away with. I stood with my feet apart, hands on the side of the truck, hoping I wasn't going to be shot.

"Check his boots," barked another cop, "they carry knives in em."

"Aw come on," groaned Hailey, his hands in the air.

"He had one!" snapped the cop.

"On his belt! In plain sight!" said Hailey.

"You stand over there in the head-lights an take those boots off," commanded a fat, pink cop. Hailey did as he was told.

One of the cops started to bring a dog out of his car. "Naw, leave im in there," said the first cop.

One cop opened the back of the truck and two others opened the doors. One watched from his car with a hand on his shotgun in case we should try to use karate on the first cop who was busy interrogating us as we stood (Hailey barefoot) in the circle of head-lights. Three others helped search the truck, while one played with his police dog. Nine cops and one dog ... two of us. It pays to be careful. We might have had armed comrades stationed in the bushes.

"I think you should have a warrant or something," said Hailey to the cop closest to him.

"You have to talk to the arresting officer about that," shrugged the cop.

"Are we being arrested?"

"I don't know a thing about it. I just answered a call." The first cop hurried by, writing in his notebook. Hailey asked, "Are we being arrested?"

"Why don't you just wait an find out, buddy?"

"Okay, but don't you need a warrant or something to search the truck?"

"What's that, pal?"

"Just a passing thought," sighed Tom.

Questions from shadows—"What're you carryin that toad-stabber for?"

"It's a hunting knife. I just got back from...

"Where were you two goin?"

"We already...

"You belong to some kinda club?"

"No ..."

"Then how come you both got long hair and beards and boots an T-shirts? What's that supposed to mean?"

"It's not supposed to mean anything."

"Well how come you both dress like that?"

"How come you guys all wear blue suits and badges and white helmets and short hair and ..."

"We get paid for it, buddy. What's your excuse?"

This sort of thing happened

about twice a week, till we all learned to sneak around better.

Not many of the acid-freaks knew how to act like criminals before the cops taught them.

In San Jose, a cop told me, "I haven't run across a problem yet that this won't take care of," patting his revolver and looking stern like Matt Dillon.

One cop informed a being-searched group of us that the best part of his job was "kickin you long-haired, pink-assed little faggots in the butt." And this man had a gun and a license to use it.

Okay, not all cops are bastards. Okay? Some are good people, sincerely dedicated to keeping the peace, or just trying to do their job so they can feed their family. But if you're not breaking into a house or robbing a bank or raping an old lady or pulling off something along those lines, you aren't likely to meet the dedicated cop. He's too busy earning his pay, trying to catch crooks and keep the peace.

The Desert of Paran

I didn't feel much like riding all the way back from Oakland to San Jose on wet streets just to beat on some punk and maybe get myself shot at or busted. But Indian was not only a brother, he was my president, and I was wearing the one-percenter patch, which meant I was tight-bound to the rules, and a Night Rider bike had been burned by a citizen, and Indian'd said go, so I stomped out of the party, following The Prez, Philco, Bob and Quack Jack, started my hog and swung onto the freeway, hauling ass to keep up.

Cold, hard rain in San Jose. The water thrown by my front tire was hitting me square between the eyes as we wheeled off the freeway into East Jose, pulled onto a back street and shut our machines down.

"Third house up," said Indian. His long brown hair and beard all wet and wind-snarled—dark eyes tight and bright for action. Indian Maker—twenty-four-years old, absolute commander of the thirteen brothers who made up the San Jose Chapter of the Night Riders MC. "Awright. Bob an me'll go up to the front door. Quack an Abel round back while Philo getsiz bike outta the garage. When the punk comes to the door, you guys kick the back one in. Got it?"

"Got it, man."

Quack and I went around and waited until we heard Indian knock and the door open. Then Quack kicked the back door twice, it broke, and we ran into a kitchen with an open door that showed us the living room, where Indian and Bob were booting a fat guy in the stomach, while he swore at them and yelled and cried.

A Mexican ran out of the bedroom with a baseball bat—fast—like a speeded up movie. He swung the bat and hit Bob on the arm, Quack kicked the Mexican in the balls, the Mexican hollered and threw the bat, which crashed into a TV set.

Indian broke a chair against a wall, and the others messed the place up, while I went out to see if Philco had the bike.

I ran back into the house. Everything was wiped out. Quack and Bob were pissing on the two ruined bike thieves. Adrenalin buzzing all through me. Tight jaws and blood-fat head. It was good. I felt tall and strong and wild and unbeatable and good good good. Before all gods and God, I repent it these some years later, (and was actually to repent it very soon) but the feeling was good.

"He's got the bike. Let's go!" I said.

Indian threw a lamp against the wall. "Let's go!" and our boots clattered down cement steps, into the yard.

Quack booted the old hog to its side and jumped on behind Philco. We blasted down the street, swerving onto sidewalks and through yards, missing the squad car that skidded around the corner with its siren wailing for order.

Indian and I cut down an alley and shot across town, while Philco, Quack and Bob split in the other direction. I followed Indian's taillight through a vacant lot and into a garage in back of Laura's house, (Laura being a good little pill-head who Indian lived with from time to time) closed the garage door and went inside to wait for word from the others. Bob rolled in about 10:30, and said that he'd lost the cop, as well as Philco and Quack, by jack-rabbiting down side roads. We waited for Philco's machine to pull in.

Early morning. Bob and Laura asleep. "You think they got em, Indian?"

"Philco can't be got, man."

The afternoon paper told us that Philco, packing the extra weight of Quack Jack, had foolishly made for the freeway where the high-speed cop cars had the advantage. He tried to pull off on a clover-leaf, and lost it on the rain-slick pavement. Quack died and Philco broke his hip and went to jail.

That weekend, we went to an all-club party in Oakland and raised money to buy Quack a funeral. Everybody gave at least a buck and said it was too bad about ole Quack, but he died an outlaw's death, the best any of us could ask for, and it showed a lot of class. It surely did show a lot of class.

Quack Jack, with his Fu Manchu mustache and little paintbrush goatee, and snakes and knives and hearts and nudes and names tattooed all over his arms, dead at twenty-three. But he went out in style—class on all sides, right up to the finish.

Quack's funeral never came off because a stepfather showed up and carted the body off to Oregon for burial. The Night Riders held a special meeting and we decided to spend the funeral money on wine for an all-club in honor of dead Quack. The party was held in Oakland and everybody got fucked out of their heads and had a fine time, except for Oily Al who rode his bike into an empty swimming pool, broke his shoulder and his wrist, and had to sell his only slightly twisted machine to pay doctor bills.

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