©Bert Gildart: Here in Tampa, Florida, at Bay Bayou, most people know “Gordy” as the man who produces all that great Country and Western sound with his 42-year-old Gibson guitar. Listen to him croon a Merle Haggard or Toby Keith tune—or one of his own creations—and you’d think the man was a fulltime professional musician; and while it’s true he once auditioned successfully for a prominent band in Memphis, Tennessee, music, as it turns out, eventually came to be the man’s pastime.
“Too much of a hardship on the family,” said Gordy. “And the lifestyle would have kept me way too far away from Rosie.”
So, instead, back in 1964, Gordon Douglas Milner chose the life of a cop, and at age 63 that’s still his work, just not fulltime anymore. Instead he has achieved a balance in which he lives five months a year at Bay Bayou RV Resort, Florida, contributing his time as a musician, and seven months a year in Dewitt, Michigan. Here, he works as a gainfully employed motorcycle cop where he still, on occasion (more about that in a moment), has to chase down (literally) crooks.
For Gordy and his wife, Rosie, the work combination is about as perfect as you can get. In fact, in part because of his unique talents, I’m inaugurating “Trailer Trash,” a column I hope to post periodically, and perhaps elevate to another status as time goes by. Essentially I’m starting with Gordy, but wish I’d begun earlier, for there are many people we’ve met who deserve such critical acclaim.
Consider, for example, Braxton Craft, a man who stepped on a land mine in Vietnam and lost one of his legs. After a long struggle with both personal and physical issues, he became Director of Prosthetics for the Veterans Administration. As well, he continues to canoe—and we’ve discussed doing together the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, which would include a portage.
We met Braxton last summer in Fort Peck, Montana, at an Army Corps of Engineer Campground. He travels much of the year in his motorhome, and because he travels with such casual abandon, he’s got to be Trailer Trash. Much the same for “Ole Man,” whom we met climbing Mount Katahdin this summer while gathering story material for Trailer Life Magazine.
But so, too, are many of the people who attended or participated in Bay Bayou’s New Year’s Eve bash—for they are a most free-spirited group, and before returning to Gordy, I’ll describe them briefly.
Though I don’t know for sure, I suspect that Dennis Muldin fits the description, else how could he have performed all that Karoake on New Years Eve with such feeling. And what about Kathy Wood, another of these people who is at home in so many areas. I hope, at any rate, that they fit my criteria because after another evening spent with Bob Feely, Nancy Zatkoff and Kathy for New Years Eve dinner, my wife, Janie, and I sure thought we were with family.
But now, let’s take a closer look at Gordy. Physically, he stands 6’1” and weighs 185, and you suspect it’s all muscle—confirmed when you learn that just last year he ran down a robber and subdued him. But not without a tussle.
“The man stabbed me in the hand with a screw driver—but then he went down hard.”
Gordy is a former Navy man who served most of his four-year hitch in the ‘60s at sea. During this time, he was occasionally assigned shore duty, and it’s then he began to suspect that the life of a policeman might be right for him. Upon discharge, he applied to the Des Moines, Iowa Police Academy, was accepted and upon completion of schooling began work as a street cop.
“While there, I had to make a difficult decision—one of the most difficult in my career,” said Gordy with a chuckle. “Trying to stand along a corner was a man stoned out of his mind. He had soiled himself so badly that he was covered with [excrement]. He stunk, and because I didn’t want him in the police car, I told him to walk. We were only a few blocks from the station, and I followed him, parked the car and then walked him in.”
Several years later, Gordy transferred to Lansing, Michigan, and gathered the kind of experience from which they make movies (Think 1973 and Al Pacino in Serpico!). “Back then, I worked as an undercover agent, dressing for the role. Sometimes my hair was long and sometimes I wore a beard. Sometimes, we’d try and bust the prostitutes by acting as a ‘John.’ If a woman accepted my proposal and a price were named, that’s when we busted her.”
By now, Gordy had amassed an impressive resume and believed he had enough of a background to apply to General Motors as a Security Officer. He was accepted, and, here, Gordy said, is where he had some of his most satisfying experiences. As a Security Officer (again, often undercover) he worked with local drug authorities and frequently busted drug dealers attempting to pedal their substances to GM employees. Often he served as a personal bodyguard for the company’s president, but particularly satisfying was work during GM Buick Classic Golf Tournaments, when he served as a bodyguard for Tiger Woods.
“I did that on six separate occasions over a four-year period, and believe Mr. Woods would recognize me today by name out on the street.”
Gordy retired from General Motors in 2000, but soon found he was at loose ends, and approached Larry Jerul, Chief of Police in Dewitt, Michigan with a question:
“If I returned to the Police Academy would you hire me?”
“And that,” said Gordy, “is how I got my dream job.”
In the summer, you’ll now find Gordy patrolling the county’s lake and rivers in a boat and the city of DeWitt on motorcycle. Though he didn’t reveal a preference, a picture of him in full police uniform suggests patrol work may be his choice. Sitting on top of a Harley Davidson Road King Police Special he is attired in a police uniform set off by helmet—and boots so shiny you suspect you can see your reflection. On his waist and attached to a belt are a pair of handcuffs, a taser, a .45 glock, two more 13-capacity clips of bullets, a radio—and a can of mace, which he recently had to use.
“Three of us were attempting to subdue a burly construction worker, and when he got violent, simultaneously we reached for our cans of spray and let him have it. Guess who got the chore of driving him to jail. Boy, did my eyes burn from the residual.”
In a small town Gordy knows he’s in the limelight, and takes great pride in helping redirect some of the young people from trouble. “Sometimes parents ask me to lend a hand, specifically requesting that I read their kid the riot act. If I think it might help, I do what I can.”
Obviously, Gordon Douglas Milner has had to wear many hats during his long career, and he likens his adaptability to that of a chameleon—particularly now as he bounces between law enforcement in Michigan and music in Florida. But I say that any man who can speak the King’s English one moment and then the next speak “Sailoreze,” drawing from an inexhaustible library of delightful and intriguing adjectives—must have seen an immense amount of life and is, therefore, more than just a chameleon.
Gordy, in fact, is Trailer Trash!