THE FIRST TIME I met Constable Fred, my dogs were leaping up and down on his car. He had pulled into the yard unannounced and they considered it a breach of protocol, so they bolted to defend hearth and home. Once I had hauled the dogs off the cruiser and had them in check, he rolled down his window.
"Nice looking dogs you've got there. Friendly?"
"Just curious about strangers," I replied.
"I'm Constable Fred," he said with a smile. "You folks new to this area?"
"Yeah, we moved in about six weeks ago." Fred seemed vaguely familiar.
"Welcome to the RM," he said. "You've got a good bunch of neighbours here. They all keep an eye out for each other." He wrote something on a card and passed it to me through the window.
"If there's any trouble, phone this number, and I'll get here as fast as I can."
The next time I saw Constable Fred, a year had passed. It was midnight and some kids in a pickup truck were using mailboxes for batting practice. I made the call. Fred showed up within half an hour and I gave him the particulars.
"All right, jump in," he said. "Let's see if we can find these troublemakers."
I felt a little stupid making a big deal out of it, but Fred assured me I'd done the right thing. As we drove past farmyards and down lonely grid roads, I got to know Fred a little better.
"It must get boring being a country cop," I ventured.
"Nope. I've been patrolling this municipality 15 years, and there's always something just around the bend."
He told me about the time he found a raccoon caught in a leg-hold trap, and the heartbreak he felt after racing miles to a small animal clinic only to be told the raccoon had to be put down.
As we drove on into the night, story after story poured out: escaped wild boars, amorous lamas, rampaging bulls. It seemed Fred got plenty of excitement on his beat.
Then there was the human angle, like the time he watched a car coming from the city creep with its lights off into a darkened farmyard. Fred staked out the vehicle for a few minutes. Then he noticed something odd. The car was showing signs of repetitive lateral motion.
Fred said no more until we pulled up to our house. He leaned over and shook my hand. "It's been nice talking with you, Mark. Say hi to your lovely wife for me. And don't worry, I'll track down those naughty kids."
"Fred," I said, "you didn't finish your story! What happened to the people in the car?"
He paused for effect, grinning from ear to ear. "Well, let's just say when I tapped on the window, I encountered one very red-faced couple with a whole lot of explaining to do."
It was early morning by the time I slipped into bed. Listening to the peaceful rhythm of my wife's breathing, it slowly dawned on me where I had met Fred before.