By Ron Williams
Hoot West has been a Lowndes County constable for longer than most of our residents have been alive. Almost half a century after first donning a uniform as a law enforcement officer, West still has some trying times now and again. He has mostly good days — and every now and then, some bad ones. Monday was one of those days when he had a bad one, though I guess his prisoner-to-be would be considered as the unlucky one on this day (or maybe lucky for him — he escaped custody!)
West was transporting a prisoner to jail this past Monday when the fleet-footed man decided to bolt from custody near Propst Park in Columbus. The man quickly removed his seat belt and bolted from West’s constable car. The 911 call, described by some of those listening, was quite funny.
Hoot: “Man that guy can run! He’s running like a deer! He can cut loose of a seat belt quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen!”
Hoot later reported that the man jumped into Luxapalila Creek near Palmer Home Thrift Store.
By the time Hoot made it to the creek bank, he never saw the man resurface and that concerned West more than anything.
“I didn’t know if he had drowned or what” said Hoot when I ran into him at Longhorn Steakhouse Monday evening.
Thankfully, the man’s ‘mama’ later called authorities to let them know that he was safe.
West was visibly relieved to hear that bit of news Monday evening. I could tell that the incident had shaken him. The legend of Hoot West is quite well known by old-timers around these parts. But deep down, Hoot is a very caring individual. He talks about some of his prisoners over the years as if they were related!
Over the years, Hoot could be heard talking about a certain individual with a “he’s not a bad boy. His mama and daddy and grandparents are good folks. He just made a mistake. They’ll straighten him out!”
Now there are those who knew Hoot West back in the 60’s and 70’s (a Rootin’ tootin’ rough time in Lowndes County, Mississippi. County law enforcement back in those days would bring about memories of the “you’re in a heap of trouble, boy” mentality. Slapjacks and the use of them on a rowdy prisoner was the norm. A good ‘knock in the head’ might slow down a rowdy troublemaker! RW) Some recall that Hoot West was one tough cookie! If he pulled you over (he also served as a deputy for a short time), you better walk a straight line or encounter his wrath.
But Hoot has certainly mellowed in his later years. When constables are not out serving papers, they serve as court bailiffs at the Justice Court Complex on Martin Luther King Blvd. In the past when I’d sit in on justice court proceedings on Tuesdays, Hoot would be keeping a tight reign on the visitors in the courtroom. “Silence all cell phones and take a seat until the judge calls you” he’d tell them.
Once, a disgruntled man who had just been fined $600 by the late-Judge Phillip Robertson left the courtroom and slammed the door on his way out! Judge Robertson instructed West to bring the man back into the courtroom. But he didn’t have to instruct him. Hoot was already in the process of retrieving the hothead. He snatched the man back into the courtroom and told him, sternly, to apologize and leave the courtroom properly. This time, the man didn’t slam the door on his way out.
I once asked Hoot how long he intended to serve as a constable. He answered, “as long as my health will allow me too.” It appears that Hoot will be making that 50 year mark before you know it!
And that’s one incredible law enforcement run.
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0