What’s in a name? Just ask traffic cop Vee Hickle

Fishing club distraught over newest member’s job

Vernon Virgil Vincent Hickle, Vee for short, joined the Fish or Cut Bait Society recently and he’s been a great asset to our outfit but now some of us are enduring second thoughts about inviting him. That bunch can’t get comfortable with Vee’s occupation.

Tiller, who’s chairman of the steering committee, scolds them: “If you have misgivings now, you should’ve had them from the beginning, he says. “We’ve all known all along that Vee Hickle is a traffic cop.”

That’s right. When we met Vee, he was in uniform and on duty. We busted him, pardon the expression, lurking in the clubhouse parking area with his pen and ticket pad cocked for action. A few of us were standing beside a high-rise pickup truck, out of his sight line, when we spotted him.

“What’s he doing?” somebody whispered. It was obvious to me but not to the others because Vee was wearing those coppy sunglasses with the mirrored lenses that we used to see on redneck prison guards in chain gang movies. There was a stern set to his jawline.

“He’s checking license tags,” I said. “If your annual decal’s expired, he’ll put a ticket on your windshield. Don’t give him a hard time or he’ll write you up for uneven tire wear and ask to search your car.”

I had a lot of police friends during my time in the daily newspaper biz, so the guys deputized me to confront him. I stepped away from the big truck with the guys a few steps behind. Cautiously, I kept both hands in plain view and tipped back my fishing cap so the officer could see my benign face.

“Are you in charge here?” he asked me, and the others fell down laughing. That made Vee grin and I knew everything would be okay.

We all introduced ourselves and explained we’re a near-chaotic mob of fishing-doers with nobody really in charge — although Tiller, in his role as steering committee chairman, is kind of bossy.

“A fishing club?” Vee asked. “Oh! I love fishing.”

We invited him to come back when he was off duty, and he did, and pretty soon he joined up like anybody else. I said at the start that Vee’s a great asset. For example, he keeps us out of trouble by knowing where the speed traps are. No, he doesn’t betray those. That would be unethical, but if he’s riding with you in your vehicle, he may tell you to slow down when you don’t see a reason. “Why?” you’ll ask and Hickle will say, “Don’t ask, just slow down.” A moment later you spot the speed trap he didn’t exactly mention.

And you wouldn’t believe what that one can do with plastic cable wraps. As a boat owner, you must know a jillion ways to use those other than for wrapping cables together. Vee Hickle knows about two jillion ways, other than as spare handcuffs.

He won’t let me tell you the secret of how he catches fish on cable wraps when he runs out of bait, even though you wouldn’t believe that either.

It’s also cool that Vee knows all the words to The Policeman’s Song from “The Pirates of Penzance:” When constabulary duty’s to be done (to be done), a policeman’s lot is not a happy one.

You wouldn’t want to hear him sing any more of it than that, not with his voice, but of the hundreds of cops I’ve known I can think of only one other who could do that if you’d let him.
I also like his peculiar name. You might hesitate to ask about that sort of thing, but it was one of the first things I asked Vee.

Vee, short for Vernon Virgil Vincent, said his family has a tradition of giving children names, often three or even more, all beginning with the letter V. They ran out of conventional names decades ago, so they recycle and mix them up and invent creative spelling alternatives.

“We use a lot of nicknames too, based on physical characteristics and hobbies and jobs,” he said. “My aunt Vanda, whose real name nobody remembers, grows orchids. When I was a kid they called me Buck until I was fixed up by the orthodontist. Then there was my uncle Valentino, also called Buck.

“When everyone started calling me Vee Hickle, I believed it was my destiny to be a traffic cop.”

We were all fine with that at first, and most of us still are, but a few are ill at ease around Vee. Some of that’s on him, some on them.

Vee’s been trying to break his habit of checking license tags at the clubhouse because he knows it makes some of us feel like we’re under official suspicion. I was one of those, until I got a ticket at a marina because my tag still had the annual sticker that expired last year. I had forgotten to stick on the new one. It was in the glove box.

Boy, was I mad. You can imagine how bad Vee felt when I told him off for not noticing and tipping me off, and then how I felt when I realized I had to admit it was my fault, and apologize.

Those mirror-lens glasses of his give people the creeps, which is what they’re meant to do when he’s on the job. We’ve made him aware that’s not appropriate in our environment, but sometimes he still forgets to change to regular sunglasses.

When I say the uneasiness around Vee is not all on him, I’m thinking of the more adventuresome drivers among us. They don’t avoid fishing with him — the other stuff aside, he’s a skilled angler and a good companion — but they won’t pick him up on their way to the ramp even if it serves everyone’s convenience.

Instead, they make excuses so he’ll drive there himself. They see it as a friendly act, not wanting to put him on an ethical spot by violating traffic laws in his presence. If he realizes that, I guess in a way he appreciates it.

I don’t think he could restrain himself, though, for Patella, who also doesn’t think so. That one deserves whatever creeps that being around Vee Hickle may give him, because he drives with his knees instead of his hands. It lets him use his hands to make and take phone calls and notes on the road.

Patella is peculiarly proud of how well he uses his knees. I’ve ridden with him and I can testify that he knee-drives more skillfully than anyone alive. I say “testify” because I’m afraid that some day I may have to.

Vee Hickle, if he’s there, will have a hard time restraining himself. He’ll say, “I told you so.”

Feedback: witzfish@att.net.