When I was a kid in a small town, our streets were patrolled by a policeman, Officer Hogan.
We neighborhood boys called him Hopper Copper because he walked with a limp from a World War II injury. We liked to keep him busy by playing little pranks. We’d swipe Christmas lights from one neighbor’s yard and decorate the house across the street. We’d toilet-paper the houses of girls in our seventh-grade class and put strawberry jelly in their mailboxes.
When we played basketball under the lights at Brookfield Park, it cost us a dime an hour to keep the lights on. We pretended we were playing to a huge crowd, but our only fan was Officer Hogan. When our hour was up, the lights would make a soft pop and fade slowly. Hopper Copper always had an extra dime in his pocket to light up our courts and our lives.
Sometimes we crossed the line and did something that could get us in real trouble. Hopper Copper knew where we lived and stopped to see our parents. He always started out by saying we were “good kids, but…” Our dads provided the corporal punishment (common in those days) and made us apologize to Officer Hogan. In those cases, Hopper Copper always looked me in my 12-year-old eyes, gave me a firm handshake and told me I was a good young man.
I never did thank Hopper Copper for all the caregiving he provided to my friends and me. I wish I could do it today.