Ran into former sheriff’s department chief investigator Jeff Dalton in the parking lot of Union Bank in Floyd Tuesday. He’s retired from a long-time career and is now a full-time minister at Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church — the church of my family for generations.
Others came by as we talked under threatening skies, including attorney Jonathan Rogers and Robbie Robbins of Laurel Branch Plumbing.
“Lord, I come to Floyd one day a month and always run into a lot of people I know,” Dalton said.
“Do you miss it?” The question came to Dalton from Robbins about his former life as a cop.
“No,” he said. “I miss the people but not the job.”
I get that question from time to time too. An old friend at breakfast asked it on Monday.
“Do you miss the madness in Washington?”
Like Dalton, my answer is always “no.”
I still deal with the Washington and political world as publisher of a news web site, Capitol Hill Blue, which has the tagline: “Because nobody’s life, liberty or property is safe while Congress is in session or the White House is occupied.”
The tag is a paraphrase from a line from Mark Twain, who said “nobody’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” It stems from a feeling that legislatures, Congress and other government entities tend to make lives more difficult through actions that stray from their professed common goal to serve the people.
As a newspaper reporter for most of my life, my goal has been to expose the failures, shortcomings and corruption of government. Yet, I took a break from journalism to spend more than a dozen years as a government Congressional appointee, campaign operative and executive in charge of the political programs of a national trade association.
What started as a sabbatical from newspapers to spend a couple of years working as a Congressional staff member to learn about the inner workings of government turned into more than a decade of being seduced by the money and power of life in and around Washington.
I was already a drunk when Amy and I went to Washington in 1981. I walked away from that lifestyle as a full-blown alcoholic and attended my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous on June 6, 1994.
Do I miss the high life in Washington? Hell, no. With the love of Amy — a incredibly patient and loving wife — and the support of good and lasting friends, I move forward with a 22-year sobriety chip in my pocket and a happier outlook on life. I still have many faults, but I try to face them with optimism and faith.
Jeff Dalton also faced demons and preaches about dealing with those issues and more from the pulpit.
We took different directions to face and deal with our passions and excesses. We differ in our interpretations of religion but remain friends who respect each other. We share our faiths, albeit in differing ways.
Jeff was with Amy the day after a motorcycle crash in 2012 should have killed me. So was Jonathan Rogers. He and his wife Jeri are longtime friends and helped both of us get through the long and difficult recovery. Jonathan is also my attorney — a damn good one — and God help anyone who tries to screw with me or my wife.
Robbie Robbins is a good friend and a great plumber who takes care of our home’s arcane pipes and water system. He and a good lady friend were there for Amy and I during my long and difficult times following the accident. So were many other friends here and elsewhere.
The support and help from so many good friends helped Amy and I get through those difficult weeks, months and years following that accident.
Later this morning, I will join other good friends at Blue Ridge Restaurant for breakfast. We gather there often to enjoy each other’s company. Some faced death in recent years and beat the odds. Others have lost loved ones. We share those situations.
“That’s a big part of life here in Floyd,” Jeff said during our chance meeting Tuesday. “You always run into friends, even if you only come to town once or twice a month. This is a special place.”
Amen, pastor Dalton.