Hear the Beard: “Staying in”—investigating with passion and purpose—is only possible if you find the moments of joy in between the frustrations.
I was stretching a hundred-foot line between evidence cones when it came: a sharp pain in my Achilles tendon, as small canine teeth sank in. The mid-sized mutt hadn’t paid me any mind while I strode around the dustbowl-dry yard with a tape measure. Once my back was turned, he closed in. Yap-growling with toy-dog bravado and musclehound viciousness, he attacked from the rear, like the sucker-punch-bully who says, “Yeah? You wan’t some of this?” then runs away and hides.
I said some foul words and instinctively lashed out with my uninjured foot. I pictured the nasty little thing sailing through goalposts, a satisfying “it’s-up-it’s-good” moment. But the teeth unclamped, and the daydream passed. I took a breath and tried to see things from the dog’s perspective: Big hairy guy, sweating up my turf. Bearded dude strolling around taking pictures and measuring things that are mine and mine alone to measure and guard.
I let him be and stopped by the nearest walk-in clinic for a tetanus shot.
It was the perfect way to end a week of investigative efforts that did not go according to plan: Far-flung witnesses failed to be home when I stopped by, as if they’d been warned. Those who were home spoke freely, only to lose their words upon mention of signatures and affidavits.
“May as well just cap this off with a dog bite,” the universe seemed to say.
But amid the frustration, threats, and drudgery of the week were plenty of amazing moments: long yoga sessions with Andrea, a lovely young lady with a shock of dreadlocks and some powerful, eons-old wisdom; an evening at the Public House with an older salty-dog attorney, who (as it turns out) is much better at drinking than I am; hours of solitary driving through the Texas Panhandle high plains, dry grasses surging in the wind like waves; and heartfelt conversations with clients, fine human beings in difficult situations.
A high point: Last night’s steak dinner with my pals Rob and Lindsey, who usually feed me when I’m working cases in the Panhandle. They somehow manage to make me feel at home here.
This afternoon, I’m headed to Nashville, my actual home. I’m looking forward to more yoga and a glass of tempranillo with my wife. I could regale her and the home team with the trials and tribulations of field work: the dog bites, laconic witnesses, and vagaries of Texas justice. In fact, I probably will do some of that. But I’ll also share stories of amazing dinners prepared by loving friends; the full-moon yoga ritual that took me happily out of my comfort zone; and the desolate beauty of West Texas, with its whopping sunsets, grandiose cirrus clouds, and an omnipresent bravado that enlarges man and beast alike.
Texas isn’t my home. But often, my work is here. Many of my favorite friends and colleagues are here, too. In a word, I’m in.
For me, staying in means finding the moments of bliss, in the work itself, and outside of it—winding down from fraught days with yoga and meals and camaraderie.
But here, let me pour you another glass of tempranillo. You gotta hear the one about the time I got bitten by a dog…