Plant warriors, two tires and speedball verse


Botanophobia vs justice 

Some of us are…. well, different.

And that’s okay. God knows there’s plenty of room for variety in the human animal, as uncomfortable as some people may be with people who aren’t cookie cutter reproductions of themselves. People can be sorted into all kinds of groups: color, flavor, gender/sexual identity, religion, favorite pizza topping, secret fetish, condiment preference, etc. But now and then we encounter someone who seems to belong to a group consisting only of themselves, causing the British logician Bertrand Russell to roll over in his grave and the rest of us to stroke our chins thoughtfully and say, “Well, now, how very interesting.…”

For instance, some of us not only have the ability to talk with plants, they apparently realize something that the rest of us don’t. Namely, that plants are insufferable rude and are in need of a good talking-to if they ever hope to fit in with the more civilized denizens of the natural world, i.e. bald primates.

Like the guy that two KCSO deputies were dispatched to check on just after midnight April 25 on Martin Mill Pike.

You see, someone had called E-911 after seeing the guy “yelling at plants and walking in the roadway.”  It didn’t take the cops long to locate the guy (as “subtlety” clearly wasn’t a term he was familiar with) and ask him just what in blue blazes he was doing as he stood by the side of the road, cursing furiously at the underbrush. 

The 46-year-old man replied that “he was walking to the airport and that he was waiting on a ride,” the report says. He also “said he had a bug in his ear to allow him to make phone calls and was talking out of his head throughout.”

The cops asked the guy if he lived nearby because he clearly didn’t need to be wandering around in public and then patted him down for safety reasons before letting him in their cruiser for a ride home. The officers found a glass pipe in his pocket and the man explained that “it was a pipe used to smoke Adderall” but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d smoked any.

This was apparently the last straw for the two deputies, as he was both under the influence of “an unknown substance” and endangering himself by walking up and down the road in the middle of the night trying to have ear-bug-brain-phone conversations with azalea bushes. 

So ended the night out for this gentleman, as he was taken to the county jail in the hopes that a few hours in a holding cell might render him a tad less interesting. 

A similarly intriguing gentleman was picked up a days later off Campbell Road. An unnamed person called E-911 just before 6 p.m. because they could hear someone bellowing in the woods nearby and figured that maybe the unintelligible screaming should be checked out. 

The officers dutifully hiked into the little slice of forest and before long they came upon the object of their quest: A 37-year-old man, quite oblivious to their presence, who was “yelling and cussing” furiously at the surrounding trees. The trees, clearly indignant and unwilling to stoop to the level of this inarticulate simian, stood silent. 

The cops recognized the guy’s description from previous callers who’d claimed that a man had been seen walking up and down the middle of the road and, occasionally, laying down beside it. The officers determined that he was “a danger to himself” (after all, he might eventually say something that really ticked off the area’s flora) as well as “causing alarm to residents” (well, yeah, got us there). He also admitted using methamphetamine recently, which should deter most anyone with an IQ higher than their shoe size from ever trying that particular drug.

He was taken to the county jail, where he perhaps shared a cell with his fellow botanophobe  and started planning for the day they have to do battle with a legion of Tolkienesque tree monsters that hunt down monkeys intent on hoarding all the Adderall and meth.

But is it ever enough?

It was just after midnight on April 19 and Knox County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brett Buchholz was in his cruiser, eyes peeled for ne’er-do-wells in the parking lot at 6777 Clinton Highway, which is home to Walmart and several other businesses. 

His eagle-eyed reverie paid off when he spotted a Dodge Caravan driving through the parking lot with its flashers on before pulling into a parking space. “The vehicle was parked away from the closed business with its flashers on for approximately 20 minutes making it a suspicious vehicle,” Buchholz wrote in his report. 

The driver of the minivan was asleep in the driver’s seat, which is almost never a good sign. The deputy knocked on the window several times before the guy woke up and stepped from the vehicle in a condition that’s all-too-familiar to cops: unsteady on his feet, glassy eyed, confused and reeking of booze. When he was questioned about how much he’d been drinking, the man’s reply was notable both for its honestly and brevity: “Enough.”

Those words, along with his refusing to take a field sobriety test, were indeed enough for Deputy Buchholz to put the drowsy driver in handcuffs and have his vehicle towed. It didn’t help that (of course) the guy’s driver’s license was revoked and (naturally) he had no proof of insurance. 

$10k buys a lot of hotel

Someone with a serious grudge against a hotel in East Knox County took out their frustrations on the business in a seriously expensive way on the night of April 25.

The owner of one of the many hotels off the Strawberry Plains exit of Interstate 40 called the police just after 9 p.m. to report that someone had driven their vehicle into a first-floor room and then pulled off a masterful disappearing act. 

The owner said the vehicle was “possibly a gold Chevrolet truck with a camper top” and that he didn’t know if the occupants of the vehicle had been guests of the hotel or not. He also didn’t explain why he apparently waited 45 minutes to call the police after the vandals had taken a $10,000 swipe at his hotel.

Ah, but the role of a beat cop is not to reason why, but only to file a report. Which is exactly what this officer dutifully did after personally witnessing “significant damage to the window and the wall of room” and then moving on to the next call in the Scruffy City….

  How’d he do that?

Ah — 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning (May 2, to be specific). When every one of Knox County’s hundreds of bars close their doors, sending thousands of people onto the roads simultaneously, every single one of them willing to swear under oath that they only had three beers, officer.

Cue the Toyota Corolla driven by a 56-year-old man who trying to nonchalantly cruise down Middlebrook Pike on two flat tires. His bid at automotive anonymity — a long shot to begin with — was pretty much blown the instant that one of the tires flew off the Toyota right in front of a police cruiser.  

You know what came next: blue lights, a “strong odor of an alcoholic beverage,” a field sobriety test that will look positively humiliating later in court, a grudging confession to having “two or three Bourbon and cokes,” jail, etc.

What we want to know is the story behind the decision to take off down Middlebrook (one of the most heavily traveled routes in town for drunks hoping to avoid the supposedly cop-infested thoroughfares like, say, Kingston Pile and no you may not ask how we know this piece of Scruffy City trivia) on a pair of flat tires. We can understand one flat tire, maybe, especially if it’s late enough and you’re bellowing “Closing Time” by Semisonic at the top of your lungs when you pull away from the bar. But two flat tires? How much bourbon do you need to drink for that decision to make sense? At least he wasn’t trying to fight a tree ….

Speedball in verse 

What follows is a Tales of the Scruffy City standardized police report, designed to help interpret those  certain “special” reports that are filed every now and then by local law enforcement….

The time: 10:15 p.m.

The location: Callahan Road at Interstate 75

The suspect(s): One male, age 27; one female, age 29 

The vehicle: A “teal” 2005 Saturn Vue

The offense: Driving without a valid license, insurance, or spare brain cell; possessing oodles of illegal drugs while illegally driving a car in public where cops are known to hunt their prey.

The victim: “Society/Unknown” — which, according to this metaphysically fascinating incident report, is of an unknown race and gender but is 30 years old.

Arrestee (s): One male, age 27, referred to as “John Doe” ; one female, age 29, referred to as “Jane Doe”

Contraband: Marijuana;”Ice” methamphetamine; heroin; used syringes; baggies; blue marijuana pipe; red pipe “with white residue;” half full bottle of Skyy vodka and “aluminum lids used to melt drugs.”

Criminal charge(s): A slew of “Schedule I” and Schedule II” drug charges plus traffic violations 

Actual narrative (summary): 

About 10:15 p.m. April 17, a KCSO deputy stopped a “teal” Saturn Vue for allegedly running the stop sign at Scottish Inn Way and Callahan Road. The vehicle was occupied by a male and female, both adults. They had suspended drivers licenses plus there was no proof of insurance or vehicle registration. A search of the teal-hued Saturn turned up an impressive array of legal and illegal drugs plus assorted items of paraphernalia (see Contraband above). Unsurprisingly, they were jailed.

Alternative Scruffy narrative, as told in (very poor) free verse:  

By the cheap hotel where night’s denizens prowl 

Waits the cop.

A minivan, teal-hued

Slows at the sign but doesn’t stop.

Blue lights, flashlights

The perps could hear a pin drop.

The man’s license – suspended

The woman’s license — likewise 

Their teal-hued steed

Unregistered uninsured

Disaster if rear-ended.

All rendered irrelevant

By the jar with green leaf 

The bags with meth and horse

Needles, cookers – a speedball instant.

Plus a vodka bottle, half drunk 

Alone and forsaken, off to jail with a scowl 

By the cheap hotel where night’s denizens prowl.

Tales of the Scruffy City is compiled from public records provided on request by the Knoxville Police Department, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and other government agencies. We do not identify the citizens who appear in these reports in order to protect their privacy. Many of those who appear in police reports are guilty of nothing more than having a bad day, while even those who are formally accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty. Tales of the Scruffy City is Copyright 2021 by Hard Knox Wire.

J.J. Stambaugh may be reached at 

Published on May 25, 2021