(part 4 of A True Story)
by J. C. Corcoran
Well, friends, that’s how it all started. That was 43 years ago and now, here I am writing for the Lord; sending out messages in hopes that I can lead you to a decision to follow Christ; that is if you’re not already a follower and, in that case, I praise God for you and hope He’s blessing you as He continuously blesses me.
Before I begin with the rest of my stories, I want to preface it with the prayer I prayed in seeking the Lord’s will for the rest of what I’m about to share. I was deeply troubled with how much I should actually reveal so I asked God to help me make a decision. His answer came quickly when I opened my email and found a new devotional from “Faithwriters.com” of which I am a member.
The title of the devotional is, “What’s in Your Appendix?” And it was written by Emmanuella Ellis. Ms. Ellis gave me permission to share but I’m only going to share a small section: She says, “In the Appendix is your trials and temptations as a Christian. People often get to see and praise you and ME for all the great things happening in your life but hardly realize what you have been through to be who you are.”
And then She adds, “Those details in the Appendix got you where you are. Those trials and difficulties refined you,”
So, I went to the dictionary for the word appendix. “An appendix is a section of extra information added to a book; usually added at the end.”
I decided, after more prayer, that God did not intend for me to add it at the end. I’ll be using it in the main text so that you can see it as I go through it. I was then reminded of several bible characters like Peter and David. We see all of David’s flaws as he commits murder and adultery and we see Peter (I love this man) as he denies even knowing Christ Jesus.
I can honestly say that I never denied knowing Jesus but I certainly turned my back on Him a few times and walked away in anger (or ran away in fear); and it all started in the small town of Cottonwood, Arizona.
As I said earlier in “A True Story – part 3”, many things happened since that day in the Nazarene Church more than 40 years ago, all of which would require a thick book to write. So I will just mention what I consider the more important parts. For example, since that day 40 years ago, I have married and divorced three times; the first of which lasted about six years. Then she left with my police partner. Yeah, that’s right, the man I worked with and entrusted my life to.
And I must admit right from the get-go, most of the blame falls on me because of my lack of trust and failure to obey direct calls from our Lord.
About a year after my conversion at the Nazarene Church, I got married and a year later, at the coaxing of my sister, we moved to Arizona. I quickly discovered that the larger cities could not hire me until I had a year’s residence in the state.
So, without praying about it, I sent my resume out to several small towns north of Phoenix. My first reply came from the chief of police in Cottonwood, about a hundred miles north of Phoenix. At that time, Cottonwood had a population of less than 5,000.
I was hired almost immediately on a department of nine officers; seven patrolmen, one Sergeant, and the Chief. I also acted quickly in joining a church and our next door neighbor was the pastor.
The pastor, John Owens, invited us to join him and his wife at their home for dinner one evening. At the end of the evening when we were headed for the door, he stepped in front of me and placed his hands on my shoulders. He had the weirdest expression on his face as he said, “Jack, I don’t make it a habit of interfering with other people’s lives but I have to tell you; I believe that God has something for you to do and you need to find out what that is and do it.”
He scared me folks. I mean I don’t scare easy but he scared me. So much so that I made a hasty retreat. My wife, who was not a believer by the way, didn’t have much to say but I was visibly shaken. “That’s ridiculous,” I kept repeating. “What could God possibly have for me to do?” And as the weeks went by, I put it all behind me. In fact, I quit going to that church.
About three months later, I was involved in a foot chase, along with a couple of Sheriff’s deputies. My uniform was western style, which included high heel cowboy boots and, as I jumped down into a wash, my boot heel hit a rock or a root and toppled me, causing me to twist my back.
The fire that shot up my back caused me to let out a blood curdling scream and then came the pain. One of the deputies gave up the chase and came to my aid and
I spent the next several days in the hospital in traction. The prognosis was two herniated discs in my lower back. The doctor said that the pain would eventually subside but it would more than likely always be with me. And it still is all these years later. And I no longer wear high heel boots.
The alternative, according to the doctor was surgery but, as he put it, there was a 50/50 chance of me ending up in a wheel chair. So, I opted out for the occasional pain.
During those days in the hospital I had kept thinking about what John Owens had told me and, after he came to visit me, I had decided that I wanted to move out of that town. Then came the visit from two troopers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
During our conversation, I told them I was thinking about making a move and asked if they knew of any department looking for a good officer. One of them did. He told me of an upcoming opening for the Williams Police Department. And when he told me that Williams was further up north in the mountains where the air was cooler and the dust was less annoying, I made up my mind to go north.
As soon as I was able to report back for duty I waited for my first day off then I left my wife with my partner, Chuck, and his wife and I drove to Williams. The chief of police and his family were Mormons and he seemed pleased that I was a Christian. Yes, I claimed it even though I wasn’t living it.
After reading my resume’ he immediately set up an interview with the town council and offered his spare bedroom as a place for me to stay until I could find a place of my own. He was convinced that the job was mine and he was right. The next day I appeared before the council and was approved to start right away.
I called my wife and told her that I wasn’t coming home, that she should put our stuff in storage, give up our rental home, and stay with Chuck and Jean until I could find a place for us.
It took nearly two whole months but I finally found a nice little house for rent. I never returned to Cottonwood. I called the dispatcher and told him to tell the chief I quit.
When I called my wife at Chuck’s house and told her I found a place, she told me that Chuck and his wife were having some kind of trouble and could he come and stay with us for a short while. He would load our stuff in a U-Haul and bring it up; I wouldn’t even have to take off work to come after her. It sounded like a plan.
The house only had one bedroom but it had what they call a sun-room and I set up a little cot in there for Chuck.
Three days after we moved in to that little house, my wife told me she was leaving and absolutely denied that there was anyone else. She didn’t like Arizona; she didn’t like me being a cop, etc. etc..
That night I had to go on duty and Chuck asked if he could ride with me. ‘Of course,” I said, “I need a friend to talk to.” I remember sitting in the restaurant drinking coffee and spilling my guts out to Chuck. He kept nodding his head and telling me how sorry he was that this was happening.
The next day my wife refused to talk to me and Chuck went off somewhere in his car. I had to go on duty at three pm and around five pm; just before dark, I saw Chuck’s car enter town from the east end. I waited about forty-five minutes then drove by my house. I could see them through the window and they were so busy kissing that they never saw me. I drove off and stayed out all night. When I got off duty, I drove to a spot in the Yavapai Forest and slept in my car.
The next morning I went home and saw Chuck asleep on his cot. My wife was sitting on the edge of her bed and I practically snarled like a mad dog, “It’s Chuck. I saw you two last night.” And she jumped up and grabbed for me but I threw her back on the bed. I still had my gun on and I pulled it and aimed it at her. I told her if she got up off the bed, I would end her life right there.
Then I went for Chuck. He was awake but still lying on his back. When he saw the gun, his eyes grew wide and his mouth popped open and I shoved the barrel up his nose.
I swear what happened next could only have been an act of God. The gun was somehow locked. I couldn’t pull the hammer back and I couldn’t pull the trigger. It was like it was frozen. So I screamed for him to get up, get dressed and get the hell out of my house. The only thing he said was, “You better not hurt her.”
I went back to the bedroom and started changing out of my uniform and I told her to pack her clothes and get out. If she was still there when I got back, I would kill her. I was sure that Chuck was watching and he would pick her up as soon as I left. I drove to the nearest restaurant and filled myself with coffee. I never saw either of them again.
About three months later I filed for, and was awarded, a divorce on the grounds of infidelity. And I was drinking like a bear just out of hibernation. I never drank on duty but I hit the local bars as soon as I was out of uniform. People began to talk and the chief was mad at me. I began running around with several different women and one morning, after waking up from an all-night drunk, I noticed my knuckles were swollen and bleeding. When I walked into the kitchen to make coffee, I saw the holes in the kitchen wall. I was really messed up
I decided that I had to do something before I got fired but I had no idea what that could be. I had been a cop now for almost fourteen years. I had never gone to a trade school; I didn’t even know how to change the oil in a car. I didn’t know anything but police work.
All during the following week, I did nothing but go to work and hang around the house watching television. When I finally got a day off, I drove into Flagstaff and went to my favorite restaurant. I was washing down a muffin with coffee when a guy named Jerry walked in. He was an investigator with the Department of Public Safety and we were pretty tight. He joined me at the table and, somewhere in our conversation; I told him I was thinking of quitting. He didn’t seem at all surprised and, in fact, he made a suggestion.
There was a large, international security/investigative agency called Wackenhut, who had several installations in the Flagstaff area. Jerry said that he just happened to be friends with the head of the regional office in Phoenix. Actually, what he was is the go-to guy for the state in regulating private detectives and security agencies. And he just happened to know that the guy in Phoenix, Steve Evans, was looking to open an office in Flagstaff and needed to find someone to run said office. Jerry promised to talk to him about me.
It seems like every time I decided to change jobs, it happened quick enough to make my head spin and the same thing happened with Wackenhut. Jerry called me the very next day after meeting him at the restaurant and told me that Steve Evans was coming to Flagstaff in two days and wanted to meet me. In fact, he told Jerry that he knew about me. I thought, how the heck could he know me?
Well, it just so happens that I had investigated an accident in Williams involving an 18-wheeler and a car with three young men in it. It also just so happens that way back in my police career, I had spent three years as an accident investigator. I had been trained to do reconstructions; photos, measurements, formulas, the whole nine yards. And Steve Evans had actually read my report that exonerated the truck driver and saved the trucking company $100,000.
The trucking company was based in Phoenix and they were a client of Wackenhut. My report showed that the car had changed lanes directly in front of the truck, causing the driver to have to go left up onto the sidewalk and into the wall of Denny’s Restaurant. I also found evidence that showed the three young men had been smoking marijuana in the car. I was, once again, hired almost immediately.
I must admit it really broke my heart to turn in my badge after fourteen years but something that I did not understand kept nagging at me to make the change. I was now the supervisor of thirty-two security guards at three installations; Southwest Forest Industries, W.L. Gore Associates, and the Northern Arizona Museum; all located in Flagstaff. I even had a company vehicle.
But it wasn’t to last. My drinking and running around got back to Steve Evans and he fired me just about one year after I started. I tried to get on with the sheriff’s office but I was so out of shape that I failed the physical.
During the year that I was with Wackenhut, I met and fell for a young lady who was twenty years younger than me but she was moving to Phoenix to work as a cosmetologist at a big hotel there. She did give me her phone number though before she left.
All I wanted to do, at that point, was get away. It was spring, 1980; I was driving a 1967 Cadillac that was running pretty good, so I bought a homemade camper from a college student that wasn’t much bigger than a tent. After I stored all my belongings in it, along with a small mattress, I just barely had enough room to sit in it. I put a trailer hitch on the back of the Cadillac and pulled that camper into the middle of the Prescott National Forest.
This is growing quite lengthy so, I’ll pick it up in a few days. I hope you’ll join me. Believe me; God was working in my life even then. I didn’t see it (wasn’t even looking for it), and I’m sure you don’t (or maybe you do).
The God of peace be with you all
J. C. Corcoran