I've waited far too long to pay tribute to a best friend and all around superb human being I've had the pleasure of knowing quite well for nearly 15 years now. As often as people move and shift in modern life while changing jobs and focus, it is really no surprise how we lose touch with those we call the closest of friends. Not in this case. Sheriff Thomas K. Miller and I have known each other since late 1993 and maintained a closeness (no, not in a manly way) ever since. We still to this day engage in that gross police humor and I always tease him about me dating his very dedicated and sweet wife. (What he doesn't know won't hurt him or better yet won't hurt me since I live miles away now!) I graduated from the law enforcement academy in Montana that year and began thumbing for a job in a rural area that fit my eastern Montana background and interests. I found my first law enforcement gig in north central Montana. Back then "big Tom" was a deputy and a very well respected one at that in the city and county we served. I was 22 years old then and when I first met T.K. I thought he was just a mountain of a man. Once you spoke to him you would find immediately that he is a gentle soul with an appreciation for humor (gallows or otherwise) and unwavering honesty.
No, this is not an obituary as he is very much alive and running things in his department efficiently and competently (Yes, I could probably do better but don't have the time to challenge him in making those thousands of lip impressions on the rears of local luminaries and so on,,,.....) as he always has since his ascenscion to the office. When men and women work in a profession such as law enforcement the personal bonds are enhanced because of the trust involved watching each other's backs in dicey situations. You see just about every ugly and heart wrenching facet of humanity and eventually every officer's emotions run the gamut from intense adrenalin rushes to panic and fear and to the depths of sadness. That's where a friend and fellow officer like Sheriff Miller became so important on a personal level to his officers.
If we were on the way to a hot call involving guns, knives, or violence it was always comforting to hear from dispatch that 11-1 was responding. (Although once he clipped that Sheriff's badge on his chest he came in to the office wearing polo shirts, a yuppie holster with that jamming Colt .45, and an apparent medical condition that precluded him from ever venturing out after dark.) You knew you could count on his physical strength but more importantly you knew you could count on his quiet resolve and disarming personality.
But more important than the dispatch calls and late night laughs while on patrol was the way he held the department together in times of great loss. I won't lament for too long but those of us on the old crew lost a great young friend just entering his prime as a man and new father. Tom handled it all with grace and poise and carried most of us that were close on his shoulders. That is only one of many instances in our past I could reflect on. His leadership pulled the officers in the department together and made them friends too. Tom faciliated the best of camaraderie in all of us. (Except for Weber and Novotny, very socially inept!)
So in closing I want to thank Tom for being a good friend and someone you could always look up to, literally and figuratively. You are a salt of the earth type of fellow and anyone that knows you will be better for it. Now before your head swells up too much (you know what I mean) I plan on leaving you with a few funny words or deeds from the old days with some of the boys.
Tom M.- I know what happened out at the dikes east of town. Pepto anyone?
Bryan W.- Just the most fast talking and quick thinking perv on the planet.
Scott M.- I died laughing after she blew too hard on that Intoxilyzer!
Greg S.- So tight a jackhammer wouldn't do. Steaks from Jim's freezer?
Shawn- My God a date with a chiropracter or driving school instructor.
Larry-I know you know every nook and cranny in the city. Scary, very scary.
Tim-George Jetson's jammy eyes? I thought you had him in Whitewater.
Dan R.-I never knew monkeys got nosebleeds.
Alan-I taught you everything you know; too bad it didn't stick.
Burt-I know why you take those long supper breaks you bad dog.
Bones-An old time croney like me. Someday the government will arrest us.
Mike G.-I had the slack pulled out of the trigger for you that night.
Travis L.-OK until a perp had intestinal problems.
Tye F.- I never knew executing a sick horse could be so damn funny!
Scott S.-You kept it rockin' from the Delta to the DMZ!
Well Tom, a little trip down memory lane I hope you'll share with the guys.
Take care and keep on fighting the good fight and remember from your old friend,