Pretty Woman

Don Stahl, a former FBI agent, was elected sheriff of Mecklenburg County in 1966, a few months after I graduated college and went to work full-time for The Charlotte News.  I got to know him because he was on my beat.  I covered the Sheriff’s Department along with county government and the courts.

Sheriff Don Stahl
Sheriff Don Stahl

Stahl was a good one –I liked him– which is not to say I didn’t ding him or his department from time to time. But the hard feelings didn’t last. He knew how to take a punch and he knew how to throw one, too.

One day, after I wrote something bad about the high sheriff and then went by his office to see him, he told me I was going to have to watch myself, I was going to have to be careful.

Sheriff Stahl told me, words to this effect:

“In my jail upstairs there are some good looking women who would do anything I asked them to do. I might asked one of them to be nice to you. For the rest of your life, Stith, if a pretty woman flirts with you you’re going to have to ask yourself, ‘Is this one working for Sheriff Stahl?'”

He was joking, I think.

But when I told my wife, Donna, what the high sheriff had said she took an immediate and everlasting liking to him.

Coming Monday: A Promise I’ve Kept

Smarts Win

Brother Dave said he knew a hippie who could beat me assembling partitions, beat me like that proverbial rented mule. But that won’t true. Nobody I ever saw could beat me at assembling partitions, especially a hippie.

The fact that I hadn’t made any partitions in 25 years, since my wife, Donna, and I moved to Knightdale, N.C., from Charlotte in 1971, really didn’t matter. Give me a few days, I’d be just as fast as ever.

Dave was telling me about this hippie because, in 1996, I started making partitions again, driving on weekends to Queen City Container, his box shop in  Charlotte.  I needed the extra money. Dave and I had decided to buy an ATV to ride up at Snowbird, in the mountains of North Carolina, and an ATV was a luxury I couldn’t afford. 

But it was all just a bunch of talk, on his part and mine, because I was never going to get to go head to head with this guy.

And then, one Saturday afternoon, in walked the hippie. I knew who he was right off — he had rings in his pierced ears. I had been back at it, assembling partitions, for several weekends and had regained my old form.  And on this day, I was already warmed up, rolling, ready to show him who was who.

You know where this is going, don’t you. He did beat me, badly.  And he didn’t even know we were racing.

When I knocked off work I stood nearby and watched him for a few minutes.  I was surprised. He wasn’t beating me at my own game — he had a different, faster, way of putting partitions together.  I asked him about that. Instead of copying the way other people made them, he told me, he had spent a whole day trying to figure out the best way.

He wasn’t just faster than me, he was smarter.

NOTE: For another partition assembling story, see “Motivating With Money,” posted on Dec. 1, 2017

Coming Friday: Pretty Woman