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Saturday, January 17, 2004

My husband, the terrorist

A few months back, my husband G, and eldest daughter, S, rode out to our farm, on the edge of the Everglades, to drop off a trailer. While they were out there, S asked her dad if they could please-please-please ride the four-wheeler, and G, ever the fun guy, agreed. Instead of just staying on our acreage as my daughter insisted, for fear of being stuck in the mud, G decided it would be much more exciting to take a ride across the street, where there were various tracks through the woods. Boy was he right.

Our tenant and her son decided to join them on their three-wheeler, so all four headed out for a twilight ride.

Along the way, S's worst fear was realized, when they sunk in a particularly mucky spot and slowly rolled over, covering both her and her dad, head to toe, in black mud.

It is not unusual to see helicopters out there in the 'glades with searchlights sweeping. There is a women's prison nearby, it is a perennial favorite dumping place for various criminal activities, and when we lived out there, we were occasionally awakened by the Broward Sheriff's Office helicopter surreptitiously checking out the contents of our greenhouses under cover of darkness, so they were not especially concerned when a helicopter hovered over and spotlighted them. They even waved hello.

As they exited the woods, they were astonished to see five sheriff's cars pulled across the entrance to our farm, and deputies, with guns drawn, ordering them to halt.

Seems that each municipality has its high priority areas, targeted for surveillance against terrorists. G and party were riding out near a critical Florida Power & Light substation and underneath the powerlines, and had stumbled into this protected zone. That was an FBI helicopter they had been waving at.

G explained what they had been doing, and then deputies explained that since Federal agents were involved, their hands were tied, and somebody was going to jail, as ridiculous as it seemed to them. At this point, it could've gotten ugly. If they had decided to take our tenant in too, the children would have been handed over to the Department of Children and Families. They elected to just write her a Notice to Appear and allowed her to keep the kids. My husband was not so lucky. He was handcuffed, charged with suspicion of terrorism, and taken to the nearest station.

Either nobody knew what to do with this suspected terrorist, or nobody wanted the stinking, black muck-covered man in their police station, because he was transferred to several other locations before ultimately ending up in the downtown Fort Lauderdale jail, where he spent the night.

In the end, everything turned out alright. He pleaded no contest (he was actually guilty of trespassing on FPL property) and ordered to pay court costs. S was not too traumatized, and learned an interesting lesson about the current political atmosphere and justice system.

Sort of funny, but not just "ha ha" funny; funny in an odd way, too. Makes you wonder about the Patriot Act and all the other little erosions of our rights, doesn't it?