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Possum Cop Chronicles

July 13, 2022 - 05:00
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Editor’s Note: The Bulletin is excited and proud to introduce a new column to this page: The Possum Cop Chronicles.

“Possum cop,” “rabbit ranger,” “duck detective,” “fish fuzz” — they’re all slang for the same thing: game warden. And yes, “possum” is misspelled. I know this because when I was a Game Warden Cadet in the 42nd Game Warden Academy way back in 1990, spelling was an integral part of the curriculum.

To prepare us for the rigors of the job, our instructors would occasionally rustle us out of bed in the middle of the night, have us report to the classroom downstairs, and give us a spelling test. “Opossum” was on the test more than once.

But when one refers to a “possum cop” — regardless of how en dearing, or derogatory, their intent is — “opossum cop” just doesn’t look right. So, with that said, I give you “The Possum Cop Chronicles.”

This column will recount stories I’ve picked up in my 29-year career as a Texas Game Warden. However, I’m not just going to tell MY stories; I’ll be gathering some up from game warden retirees around the state and telling their tales too.

But wait — there’s more!

Everyone knows that there are TWO sides to every story, so I’ll also be talking to some of the folks that tried to avoid game wardens as part of their business models: commercial fishermen, shrimpers, fishing and hunting guides, and the like. They have some great stories too.

I started my career as a real-deal field game warden in Willacy County, Raymondville, in May of 1991. When I was given my duty station, I had never heard of Raymondville, so I immediately consulted a map.

Being from Pleasanton, I had always considered myself a “South-Texan.” Seeing where Raymondville was, I realized that there was a helluva lot more South Texas SOUTH of me than I ever imagined. I was given a bunch of brandnew shiny game warden stuff and a beat-up 1988 Dodge Diplomat Sedan that I affectionately dubbed “the Diplo-dozer” and was told to get to work.

I spent about six-and-a-half years in Willacy County before moving on to Victoria County, and then Nueces County, before being promoted to Sergeant Investigator in Special Operations. Being an investigator was great — I got paid more, and I had weekends off for the most part. But there’s nothing quite like being a field game warden. It’s demanding, dangerous, and a ton of fun. So, before I retired, I demoted myself down to finish out my career as a field game warden in my hometown. I retired in 2019.

My time as a game warden was a time of transition. When I got to Raymondville, game wardens got called on the carpet if they wrote any tickets for anything other than Parks and Wildlife Code related violations. Today’s game wardens are duty bound, and expected to do all that being a licensed peace officer entails: traffic stops, drug interdiction, immigration — you name it. Heck, they even have a TV show on Animal Planet, “Lone Star Law”, where you can watch them do all that stuff. The stories I will tell will be from a time in which most game wardens, in hindsight, thank the Lord that there wasn’t anyone with a camera filming anything.

So, sit back and enjoy. It’s gonna be a ton of fun.