Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The great oracle: My initiation at the Pontiac State Police Post

In my previous post on sources, I forgot one of the funny recollections of my career at The Oakland Press.

When I started at the OP in early 1984, one of my jobs was to drive around the county checking in with various police departments every morning. One of those stops was the state police post in Pontiac.

The desk sergeant would sometimes send my up the short flight of stairs to ask two detectives if anything happened overnight. At first these were quick little visits with polite, short answers.

As the detectives (Garrison and Bower, I believe) got to know me the conversations got longer and sometimes I even left with a little news. About six months into the visits, one of the detectives glanced at the other and said, "Do you think Mr. Smith is ready to be introduced to the oracle?"

Now I was confused and ready for a joke. One of the detectives stood on a chair and looked out a high window onto the roof of the building. "The oracle says, 'yes,' " the detective said. In the days and weeks that followed the detectives would stand on a chair and consult the 'oracle' before giving me the latest news.

Finally, I asked what the heck they were looking at out the window. One of the detectives invited me to stand on the chair and look out. What was on the roof was the skeleton of one of the biggest catfish I had ever seen. Apparently thrown on the roof, it had rotted away but became the "oracle" of Telegraph Road.

Not hilarious, but perhaps the way a couple detectives dealt with their stress and a way to find a connection to a then young reporter.

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