Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Joy of Scanner Junkies

The Frog Saved my Bacon a Number of Times...

Many moons ago, when I took over a news bureau from a departing one-man-band, I also inherited his scanner hounds. Most were old coots I was familiar with, having turned alot of cop-shop fodder for the competing station.

But there was one caller whom I came to think of as 'The Frog'. He'd call pretty often, never introducing himself, just issuing a declarative statement in his distinctive gravely voice.

"Log truck just t-boned a semi on Hiway 11." -CLICK-

"The old cotton plants goin' up in flames. -CLICK-

"Deputies got a busload of hippies pulled over by the college." -CLICK-

"Bigfoot just ran out of the woods and gave the Mayor the middle finger." -CLICK-

He'd never say more than a sentence or two at most before hanging up. And he never, EVER steered me wrong. (Minus the Bigfoot call, I made that up.)

To make it all even stranger, 'The Frog' used some kind of whacked-out speaker phone that made it sound like he was calling from the bottom of a deep, metallic hole. I got to where I could recognize the particular aural qualities of his set-up before he even croaked out another mysteriously accurate missive.

In the two years I pulled that bureau gig, I never never met 'The Frog', but I quickly learned to trust his disembodied directives. Though I had many other scanner-hound buddies, I never mentioned 'The Frog' to them - afraid I'd somehow scare off my spot-news Yoda.

Before selling my soul to the devil and entering the Evil World of Promotions, I almost figured out who 'The Frog' was. I'd see him on two out of four breaking news scenses: A leathery old African-American gentleman in a wrinkled ballcap and an oversized portable scanner in his hand. As far as I could tell, he wasn't part of any of the responding fire departments or emergency crews, just some old cat who added to the background of a thousand fires, head-on collisions and fender-benders.

Loking back I can't explain why I never approached the old fellow. I never even heard him speak. But his look fitted the voice on the phone, and I came to assume he was indeed 'The Frog'. A time or two, I locked eyes with the guy and he nodded in silent acknowledgement. Or maybe I was just hallucinating, a not-so-outlandish possibilty given my extracurricular activities back then.

Whatever the case, I got great love for the man. It was a spot news market and I was competing with a whole station of ambulance chasers just down the street. 'The Frog' saved my bacon a number of times. In fact, I have no doubt he's doing the same for whatever young news punk is making his bones back there today. At least, I hope he is.

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