Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Life on the Frontier

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

On the TV news recently, I watched as several black and whites along with some officers on foot attempted to herd escaped cattle in the middle of the night. While they played cowboy, I sighed thinking I had never had a call like that. 

I never chased a wayward horse, mule, donkey or even an old milk cow. I never went in pursuit of a sheep, goat, or even a fat old pig. 

 I did however remember two interesting animal calls.

“3-A-15, See the woman; unknown trouble.” Oh boy, let’s pause here for a second. When a person calls the police, the phone is usually answered by a sworn officer (depending on the size of the department) who attempts to determine the nature of the problem and whether to dispatch a car.

If the call comes out as “unknown trouble,” it means a trained officer was unable to determine the problem. Cops hate these calls. It could be anything from a cockroach in the bathtub to “I think there is an atomic bomb in my attic.”

crying-1299426__340The caller was at the curb when we arrived. The middle-aged housewife bounding up and down, crying and so worked-up she had the hiccups. We tried to calm her down and convince her she was safe and to tell us what the problem was. She gestured toward the house and finally said, “Snake.”

“OK, where?” I ask.

“Kitchen under the fridge.”

“How big?” 

She holds her hands approximately 20-24 inches apart.

I asked, “What kind?”

Her answer was an annoyed look and a shrug.

We all know Southern Calif is a desert and all I can envision is RATTLESNAKE. I am also aware that I never met a snake that I liked. I have no desire to cultivate a relationship with one now and do not intend to change my mind. 

 The house was a small WWII duplex—the kind that seem to be everywhere. She tells us the back door is unlocked so my partner and I decided to surround the critter, Frank in the back door to the kitchen. I went through the living room. Batons at the ready we entered the kitchen and there he was coiled in front of the refrigerator.

Copperhead? Cotton Mouth? Mamba? Rattler? or could it be a Fer de Lance?


garter snake
Garter snake

It is 10 inches of ferocious garter snake. The housewife provided a shoe box and after a short struggle, he was subdued. 

She refused to look so there was no discussion regards length. We released him with a stern warning at a nearby vacant lot.

Another chapter in the “Naked City” (sorry about that)


Another time:

“3-A-15 Choking Baby, FD (fire department) enroute, code three.” We were only a few minutes off and were there quickly. Front door was open, and we heard wailing from the rear.

Rott in back yardIn the back yard we see a woman trying to support the weight of a large dog who when attempting to jump to freedom, snagged his choke chain on the fence, and hanged himself. He appeared lifeless and the woman was unable to lift him high enough to get him down.

As we lay him on the lawn the FD arrives. Frank alerted them, and they brought a portable oxygen bottle. 

In a few minutes they had revived him. Everybody congratulated everybody, too emotional to speak.

It is my understanding the F.D. now carries small animal sized masks. 

Oh, and the dog’s name was “Baby.”





Writer's Notes


By Nancy Raven Smith


LS 3.8MB-1There have been lots of brick walls in my life, such as the ones I used to jump my horse over, the ones in relationships, and those on the outer walls of the house I grew up in. But let’s discuss those pesky ones that pop up when I’m writing. Especially since I’m a pantster.

As a pantster, I usually know the character, some of the major act breaks, and the ending when I start a writing project. But everything is up for change and development as I go along. Plotters/planners spend a lot of time outlining and making decisions before starting. I spend the same time tightening and rewriting after my first draft. As an explorer, some of the paths I take end in box canyons, and often the only way out is to return to the mouth of the canyon and move on. So I hit a lot of canyon walls, but I don’t count these as brick walls. More like taking the scenic route.

When a serious block appears on a project and my forward writing motion comes to a halt, I often wish that there was a magical horse that could help me leap over the problem. Sadly I haven’t found that horse yet. So in the meantime, I’ll share something that does work for me in the hope that it will help other writers with the same problem.

When I start writing, there are always scattered scenes that I see in my head. A love scene here or a bit of action there that comes late in the second act, or the ending of my project. These are scenes that I haven’t written yet because I haven’t reached them chronologically. So if I’m blocked from writing chronologically forward with the story, I’ll skip ahead and write one of those scenes. Sometimes as I write, my chronological log jam will break and when I finish the new scene, I can go back to where I was stopped. Other times not. If that happens, I’ll write another miscellaneous scene I know. If I write enough of those scenes, I’ll start connecting them and begin moving forward again.

While writing my second ever screenplay, I hit a serious wall right before the midpoint. I finally managed to keep going because I knew the ending very clearly in my mind. So I wrote the ending. When I did, I realized I knew the scene before it, and then the scene before that. As I continued writing backwards, I actually backed into the midpoint and the first half of my script. Then I smoothed, added, subtracted, and polished the screenplay during the subsequent rewrites.

Lest you think this produces a bad piece of work, that screenplay ended up in the top six out of over three thousand entries in the Disney Fellowship Competition. So I can honestly say this does work for me.

I hope this idea is a help if you get stuck somewhere, and I’d love to hear if anyone else has an unusual way of addressing the challenges they run into when brick walls stop their writing.



In Land Sharks, Lexi Winslow is a fraud investigator at a private Beverly Hills bank. As a favor to her boss, she’s sent to fetch home the daughter of the bank’s biggest client.
So she’s off to Sumatra, where the wayward daughter and her latest boyfriend were last seen. She has the added complication of having to take the boss’ inexperienced son along for training.

Once Lexi arrives at an isolated resort carved out of the remote Sumatran jungle, she discovers there are more deadly dangers inside the hotel than the crocodiles and head hunters outside. It is a hotel where women check in, but most don’t check out.

And of all the places in the world, Lexi runs into her ex-lover, who not only conned his way into her heart, but is always conning someone somewhere. Lexi is determined to find out what is going on and to get everyone out alive.



HeadShotNancy LS Banner2Nancy Raven Smith grew up in the Virginia horse country near Washington D.C. where she was an active member of the equestrian community. She also rescued and retrained former racehorses as well as cats and dogs for over twenty years. Raven Smith was a contributing writer and cartoonist for several sports magazines such as The Chronicle of the Horse and Practical Horseman and her screenplays have won multiple awards.

Raven Smith is a member of Sisters in Crime, Women in Film, Romance Writers of America, & Mystery Writers of America. Her debut novel, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra, was chosen as an Amazon/Kindle Scout Program Selection Winner.
Reluctant Farmer on Amazon –
Land Sharks on Amazon –

More Street Stories

Murphy the Police Horse Collars Bad Guy

Murphy the Police Horse
Murphy the Police Horse

Article by Tom Hallman Jr.

Officer Cassandra Wells says Murphy did a great job helping her make an arrest last week.

A horse that earned his way onto the Portland Police Bureau’s Mounted Patrol Unit last year after dropping 200 pounds and getting in shape was credited with making his first collar last week.

Murphy, carrying Officer Cassandra Wells, chased down a man suspected of breaking into a building in Old Town and kept him trapped next to a building until cops could slip cuffs on him.

“We were flagged down because someone was trying to break into a building,” Wells said. “He took off, and so did we.”

The suspect ran about six blocks — Murphy galloping after him — before the big horse cornered him.

“It was the first time Murphy has been involved in an arrest,” Wells said. “He did everything I needed him to do.’

He got a treat at the end of the shift, she said.

The arrest was the latest chapter in Murphy’s story, one that began in 2012 when a horse in the Mounted Patrol Unit became sick and had to be put down.

As the unit’s equestrian and training instructor, Jennifer Mack had to find a horse to replace the beautiful and majestic Ian, considered the best horse to have ever served in the nine-horse unit.

Mack had been making calls across the Pacific Northwest, but had been unable to find a horse to join unit — which started in the 1900s, fell victim to the Great Depression and was resurrected in 1979. In all those years, only three horses had ever died on duty.

Mack had looked at more than 20 horses on the Internet, made calls to owners and gone to check some out in person. She brought in two horses for a tryout, but neither made the cut.

Then one day, she clicked on a Craigslist ad for a horse. She studied the photograph, read the description and called the owners who lived in Roseburg.

The horse was named Murphy after “Murphy’s Law,” a play on the idea that if something can go wrong it will.

Mack sensed the horse had possibilities and bought Murphy. He arrived at the mounted patrol barn in Northwest Portland in December 2012. He had 30 days to make the first cut. He weighed 1,900 pounds, about 200 pounds too many. The unit didn’t have a saddle big enough to fit around him.

Over the next year, he lost the weight, learned how to be a police horse and finally went out on the street to train. Now an official memeber of the Mounted Patrol Unit, he has turned out to be a great horse and is now considered second best in the unit.

“If anyone wants to see him, we start our day in Old Town each morning,” Wells said. “Then we move out into the city.”

click on this link for the Oregonian news article plus more pictures and video
–Tom Hallman Jr.

Writer's Notes

This Grand Love

By Thonie Hevron

Casey, my horse, died this week.

We’ve been best partners for twenty years. On March 17—St. Patrick’s Day—he turned thirty-one years old. An equine senior citizen, yes, and a character, for sure. I rode him Saturday and he was a dream. He stepped lively but not too forward, was responsive to my hand and leg aids and most of all was, as always, a gentleman. Then, a week later, a sudden injury and it was time to say good-bye.

Casey and me taken September 2009
Casey and me taken September 2009
Casey clowning around in Bishop, August 2003
Casey clowning around in Bishop, August 2003


For the ten years I lived in Bishop, away from home, Casey kept me from needing therapy. I rode about three days a week then. That, of course, doesn’t mean I was a good rider. Just ask my trainer, Hilke Ungersma. I plodded along, my fear hold me back. But my love for horses and Casey specifically propelled me into the saddle regularly. This isn’t courage. This is love. Here’s an example of this grand love: Casey had such a big stride that I had trouble keeping up with him. Something had to give. I had to give up smoking. Easy choice: after puffing for 26 years, Bishop was a real challenge at 4500 feet. I guess I could have sold the horse and kept smoking but, nah. That wasn’t an option. So I quit smoking.

Casey was my confidant when I became embroiled in an ugly Inyo County Grand Jury investigation of my police chief and his top staff. Casey was there when I had to take his name off the ranch horse/owner map because I was afraid someone might hurt him. When we moved back to Sonoma County, time spent in the saddle helped me to adjust to the big changes in my life: new job and retirement six years later, as well as other life events.

I spoke to him without words and he always understood. He took me away from the pressures—even for just a little while—and reminded me to focus on moving forward, literally and figuratively.

He had a huge impact on me and not just for the reasons above. I first rode him because I’d fallen off my other horse. My trainer thought Casey might be just the ticket to bolster my confidence. I loved him from the moment got on and I looked down to the ground. Such a long way. But he took good care of me. So I made a commitment to him, leased him from his owner and eventually bought him. She still says selling him was a giant mistake. Not for me.

Horse keeping is time-consuming and expensive. Done properly, both owner and animal should thrive. I know both of us did. Besides facing my fears, Casey “came back” from a half-dozen life-threatening injuries during our time together. My friend and trainer, Karen Henley, believes it was because he loved me so. He surely felt my love for him. I know a huge part of it is because of Karen’s exceptional care.

I never once felt guilty about riding instead of writing. Since coming back to Sonoma County, I’ve not ridden nearly as often as in my past. In fact, I often felt guilty about writing instead of riding. This especially during the past year while I’ve been so busy working on my second, and now my third books.

But he never complained. Whenever he heard my voice, he’d whinny and trot to the gate, always happy to see me.

I mourn him. I miss him. I’m puddling up as I write this. But I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it–a riding lesson in a blizzard where I conquered the canter (at least for a while), bleary-eyed at the vet hospital, rides in the desert or the arena. My life is richer for having loved him. Horses have found their way into all three of my books. I’ll never give up my love for them, especially Casey.

Writer's Notes

Not enough minutes in the day

I’m working diligently on formatting my book for eBook publication sometime in early June. I’m almost certain of my title change: BY FORCE OR FEAR. Cover art is on hold for now. I have another resource who will help if I need.

Even though the weather is gorgeous-cool but crystal clear and sunny-I will not go kayaking, bike riding, (okay, I will ride my horse once this week) or any other fun until I get the biggest issue with the formatting out of the way.

Sorry for the short post but I gotta get back to work.