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I am the law 

You ought to hear it from me first: My biological clock is ticking with a thump that would rival Edgar Allan Poe's telltale heart. Unless my tadpole-like nature results in some asexual reproduction pronto, the entire Shredder line will wither on the vine with me. Then who will be left to inherit my first-generation Atari with original joystick? Who will display the 1987 Def Leppard tickets that have been carefully mounted in the corner of the mirror, or the KISS trading cards, or the autographed copy of Pete Rose's My Prison Without Bars?

Oh, the humanity!

It was such longings that had Ol' Shred wandering the grounds of the Madonna Inn over the weekend, gazing wistfully at a mass, mass assemblage of weapons, riot gear, assault vehicles, handguns, shotguns, batons, iron-jawed police dogs, infrared-camera-armed helicopters, bomb-sniffing robots, and police-outfitted Segways that had been carefully arranged across the brittle grass next to vinyl signs and piles of free stickers.

Ah, yes. It was "Sheriff's Family Day" at the ranch, and since I saw no reason why one person shouldn't be considered a family I'm already my own best friend and my own worst enemy I went.

It's exactly the sort of thing I'd take a Li'l Shred to, if one existed. This was the rare opportunity for SLO County moms and dads to patriotically introduce their little ones to the many, many converted recreational vehicles, trailers, mobile command units, and such that keep this county safe from whoever it is menacing us. Can't you just feel their shifty eyes on the back of your head? They're out there, but fortunately the local law enforcers have at their disposal a vehicular arsenal with which to take them down.

Oh yes, let me tell you about the vehicles. Hooboy! There was one of every damn thing you could hope for, and they're all there courtesy of public money, I guess. I wasn't surprised to see the county and SLO City fire trucks those guys are always at public events around the area, and they even broke out the Jaws of Life and tore apart a Mercedes Benz just to please the crowd. Hooboy! I also wasn't surprised at the riot gear, which I've seen the business end of, or the stealthy Humveeish urban assault vehicle they've got just in case parties get out of control.

But I didn't know about the Sheriff's dive team trucks or the county jet skis or the bomb squad's Segway motto: "As fast as walking, but far more dangerous and expensive" or the Horse Emergency Evacuation Team (HEET) or the Sheriff's Aero Squadron or the massive DARE RV or the CHP rollover simulator or Animal Control's high-powered net gun used for escaping emus, they told me or the mobile law enforcement museum. Hoo. Boy.

Come to think of it, that net gun might not technically be a vehicle. And funny thing about that museum: The man manning that particular RV it's got all sorts of cool antique guns and police lights that kids can fiddle with was none other than Chief Deputy Gary Hoving, who gentle readers may remember as the guy who recently alleged a conspiracy against Sheriff Pat Hedges and cohorts, saying they planted eavesdropping devices in his office. Hoving was sitting there, chatting as pleasant as can be completely unbugged, one might say and dressed in official-looking garb as well. As far as I could discern, Hedges wasn't to be found, but I didn't look too hard. I kept getting distracted by high-tech killing and immobilizing devices.

So, just to go back over things: The guy on official leave was working at the "Sheriff's Family Day," but the Sheriff himself was nowhere to be seen. I don't have a point to make about all that, it's just another strange thing in a very strange thing.

Somebody around here asked the Sheriff's office about it and was told that Hoving was there in a volunteer capacity. Oh. Okay.

And then I saw this happen. You'll like this: It was a moment fit for a modern Norman Rockwell painting. And it's got a robot involved.

The whiz-bangingist, most high-tech, fanciest, and expensive-looking gizmo in the whole field was the County Bomb Task Force's robot. I'll bet they have a cool pet name for the thing, but I don't know it. What I do know is the gentleman at the controls of the thing both delighted and terrified children in the vicinity by having the robot, seemingly on its own accord, approach them. Children would hold up things, and the robot would grab them. Sometimes it would speak. It's one hell of a thing.

But here's the thing I was going to mention: At one point, the robot slowly approached a small boy, who was delighted by it. The boy dug into his mother's purse and came up with a bright orange pen a really fat plastic one. Then the boy held it out for the robot. The robot slowly, carefully approached, then opened its mechanical arms and deftly, with real precision, took it from the boy's hands.

And then the robot crushed it. That robot just crushed that plastic pen to pieces and then gave what was left of it right back to the boy, who looked at his mother, crinkled up his face, and took the destroyed pen back. What else are you supposed to do?

I hope pipe bombs get a slightly more gentle treatment, or that robot's not going to be so shiny anymore.

And, just to conclude my column with a completely unrelated item, here's one more thing I'm laughing about these days. It turns out that the SLO City height limits change the one that Councilwoman Christine Mulholland so vigorously opposed has been signed into law. It was signed by the acting mayor, who, because Dave Romero happened to be on vacation, happened to be Christine Mulholland. Ah, what bitter, tall, irony.

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