News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists
SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2006


On the trail of Saturday pancakes

Hoyt Cabaniss lived his dream, even if the thing called an election ended it much sooner than he wanted.

Hoyt got to be sheriff of Talladega County in the late 1970s. He'd tried for the appointment earlier in the decade during a period of unrest in the east Alabama county, but his critics said he lacked law enforcement experience.

So he enrolled at Jacksonville State University and, according to his recent obituary, took two degrees in criminology. When another sheriff resigned, Hoyt was ready.

He was a big man, over 6-feet tall and weighed somewhere around 240 pounds. With a full head of dark hair, he wasn't a guy you'd cross lightly. But voters decided his two degrees were not as weighty as the experience of a popular former deputy and Hoyt lost his bid for a full term.

Hoyt sort of blamed me when he lost the first appointment, and I probably had a hand in him not getting the job.

Thus, I became an enemy of sorts, but one he evidently felt comfortable tailing as part of his college criminology curriculum.

On Saturday mornings, I sometimes took the children to a café on the town square for pancakes. On one of those occasions as we pulled out of the driveway, I spotted a man sitting low in the front seat of a car parked up the street. He appeared to be reading the morning newspaper.

Our house was on a circle and had no through traffic. The car didn't belong there so I investigated.

"Hoyt, why the heck are you sitting here watching my house?" I asked, when I recognized the man.

"I've got you under surveillance," he replied.

"Why?" I asked.

"You are part of my law enforcement class," he confessed. "I had to tail somebody, so I picked you."

I invited Hoyt to join us for breakfast, and he accepted. After that, we became friends, which says something for pancake diplomacy.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

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