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July 15, 2014

Sheriff's helicopter could be put to good use in water crisis

DUNCAN — A story the other day in which Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney explained the advantages of having a helicopter gave me a chuckle.

He brought up the June 25 incident in which a distraught  woman with a .40 caliber automatic walked into the Ray of Hope Church, then left through a side door and into a nearby  field, where she stood and sat for about the next 90 minutes minutes, waving the gun around and sometimes holding it to her head or chest.

 The helicopter was dispatched during the incident and allowed deputies to keep track of the woman, the sheriff was quoted as saying.

 Of course, this was no laughing matter, and it was a sad spectacle to see a human being at the end or her rope, so to speak, but the notion that the helicopter was a vital tool in tracking the armed lady struck me as odd.

  I sat in my car on the east side of U.S. Highway 81 while the whole thing unfolded and listened to the police scanner on my iPhone while watching the woman, who was was easy to spot cause of her bright red shirt.

  When the helicopter appeared overheard, I distinctly heard an officer shout out via the scanner, “Get that helicopter out of here!”

   He sounded perturbed.

   I assumed the chopper was irritating the woman and the last thing the cops wanted was to have her further agitated.

  On the other hand,  if she took off on a dead run headed for Bob’s Restaurant down on Refinery Road, the helicopter probably could have kept track of her and anyone in there eating catfish could have been evacuated. So the sheriff may have a good point, after all.

  Still, if you remain among those who think it’s ridiculous for a lightly populated county like Stephens to have a helicopter for the sheriff’s department, there might be another great use for the whirlybird -- lawn watering.

  If the Duncan City Council follows through on the idea to upgrade water rationing to Stage 4 next month, it means nobody will be able to water their lawn, unless they have  a   private water well. And some people really love their lawns. It’s a point of pride, and it smells nice after you mow it, apparently.

  So if Stage 4 water rationing is around the corner, all the sheriff has to do to justifiy the chopper is set up a lawn watering program for Duncan.

  The helicopter, which has a 150-gallon bucket, can make regular runs to one of the reservoirs, dip into the lake and schedule regular water drops onto the thirsty lawns of  Duncanites.

  If a real crime breaks out, like a shoplifter hot-footin’ it out of Wal-Mart, the chopper can be quickly diverted for a surprise water drop on the fleeing suspect. He’ll never know what hit him, and the runoff from the water drop could very well end up on a dry and withering patch of brown lawn.

  Now that’s what you call a win-win.

  Let’s hear what the helicopter critics have to say after that!

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