Roy Exum: We Don’t Need A Posse

Thursday, February 06, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

One late fall afternoon about 20 years ago – I remember it vividly – I was in the middle of my daily three-mile run when I looped up Riverside Drive on my way back to the YMCA. I had noticed a green Ford Torino had gone past twice, the second time slower than the first, when suddenly the car appeared again and screeched to a stop, a big guy jumped out and screamed in my face as he pointed his finger, “I hope you and those (expletives) go straight to (Hades!)”

I stood there stunned, not saying a word and already too winded to run the other way, so I watched him roar away. Admittedly shaken, my mind raced as I tried to make sense of what had just happened. Finally I noticed my sweaty T-shirt – “Ole Miss Football” – and realized I had just predicted in that day’s newspaper Mississippi would beat Tennessee that same weekend.

It was silly, a stupid act by a total stranger, and the reason I bring it up is because it scared the willies out of me, much like what I believe happened to Anders Swanson on Jan. 11 when he was allegedly assaulted while riding his bicycle alone on Raccoon Mountain. According to various news accounts, two joyriding kids first harassed him with a hand-held horn and then – this after changing automobiles -- horribly assaulted him with some type of caustic, peppery spray in his eyes and face, sending Anders to the hospital in an ambulance while in a painful and cruel state of distress.

We know the Chattanooga Police Department responded immediately, the wide-eyed culprits admitting to what they believed to be little more than a schoolboy prank, but when jurisdiction was challenged, those involved sensed much deeper trouble and allegedly altered accounts of what happened. That’s when the worst part of our entire region’s ugly black eye occurred, with the ever-sensitive outdoors crowd leveling unfair and unfounded accusations at bewildered Marion County authorities who were, in fact, good and fine people who were simply continuing in their efforts to find out what really happened.

The callous bicycle response, quick and blindly vicious while the incident was progressing through the correct channels, can’t be taken back, no more than one can un-ring a bell, so as Marion County officials reveal the two juveniles have indeed been charged and will answer at a hearing on March 13, there are some ways we can all be better the next time something really stupid happens involving our very best people, be they cyclists or our police.

First, it has been revealed the two miscreants are children, a still developing form of the human species known to be immature, sometimes dumb and more times irrational. One boy is 16 who hasn’t yet had his driver’s license a year, and the other is just 14. Neither, according to believable sources, is what would be classified as an underage criminal and the assumption is each child will pay dearly – officially and unofficially -- by the time the incident is settled and done.

There is no need for a posse, retaliation, revenge or malice. The courts and parents will handle it accordingly and in good fashion. While the news media should not and will not reveal the names of misguided minors, the identities of both children will be noted by the microscopic public as well as their extended families and lo unto either if they dare step out of society’s boundaries anytime soon. That, my friend, is the Marion County way and it is keenly effective.

The victim, Anders Swanson, is a widely-admired and respected teacher who in years of pedaling has never endured such a sordid incident or been subject to such a ridiculous tragedy. As the rowing coach at Girls Preparatory School and a known encourager of the young for decades, Anders will hopefully be encouraged to ride Raccoon Mountain frequently and will be assured by the police and public alike that he nor any other cyclist, runner, hiker or walker will ever be involved in something as unfortunate again.

Chattanooga’s most sparkling crystal ball is its outdoors. The roads, the trails, the lakes and whitewater streams, however, are only accessories to our good citizens and, while visitors, out-of-town competitors and envious cities marvel, it is our friendly and helpful people who make our area the greatest outdoor mecca in all the United States. That has not changed. Not at all.

It is regrettable that two children have acted badly, to the point they have now been charged and must appear in court, but their single action should in no way tarnish what the collective outdoors community across our region has worked hard to achieve and secure and freely offer to one come all. Hysteria has no place in outdoor pursuits.

Finally, I am no judge, particularly of others when I know myself only too well, but … just this … what if a Marion County judge would soon sentence two boys, ages 16 and 14, to 50 trips apiece of up, around, and down Raccoon Mountain on a bicycle by June 1? And what if arrangements could be made for Anders Swanson and other area cyclists to teach the two the glorious nuances of the 10-speed bike, both climbing and downhill turns, in an educational way that would make the sentences bearable.

Are you kidding me? I’ll furnish the helmets and – hear this -- I can boldly predict by the 20th day of such a classroom such uncommon friendships would be formed that each would last for a lifetime. That the way it has always been with boys and bikes, ever since time began.

I believe there is still a way to win in all of this.

royexum@aol.com


Rhonda Thurman's Lack Of Respect - And Response (7)

     I truly believe that Rhonda doesn't try to offend people with her remarks; it just comes natural to her. I for one will be glad to see her ship sail. She has been a terrible representative of District 1 schools since she was first elected. It shutter to imagine her as a County Commissioner.      We get it, Rhonda, we really do. It ... (click for more)

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

House Approves Expansion Of Chattanooga Veterans Affairs Clinic

The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday to authorize funding for a new lease and expanded Veterans Affairs clinic in Chattanooga. This veterans’ package has been approved by the House and Senate Conference Committee.  Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said, “I am proud to announce the legislation passed this afternoon will fund a new lease for a multi-specialty ... (click for more)

Cleveland City Council To Hold Special Meeting On Naming New City Judge

The Cleveland City Council will hold a special called meeting next Monday to consider an interim appointment of a city judge. It will be at 11:45 a.m. at the City Council’s regular meeting place in the Cleveland Municipal Building, 190 Church Street, NE. The council will also establish the process for application for city judge. Longtime City Judge Bill Moss died July ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Football Club National Championship Match Can Be Viewed Via EPB Fiber Optics

EPB Fiber Optics is offering the community exclusive live broadcast coverage of the Chattanooga Football Club in its final battle for the National Premier Soccer League National Championship. The game between the Chattanooga FC and the New York Red Bulls-Under 23 squad is scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 p.m. from the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Fi TV Bronze, Silver ... (click for more)

McCallie's Bubba Simmons Steps Down as A.D.

C.R. “Bubba” Simmons  has announced plans to step down from his position as Athletic Director at McCallie School and accept the position of principal at Gordon Lee High School. Mr. Simmons took the helm of the school’s athletic department in 2008. Over the course of his career, which includes two previous stints, Mr. Simmons has served McCallie for almost 20 years. ... (click for more)