Above: Curtis Parsons signs copies off his book, Memoirs of Mayhem, at a book signing in Tecumseh.
By Matt Schepeler
For more than 40 years, Curtis Parsons has been responding to emergencies in law enforcement, fire-rescue and emergency medical services. Over that time, Parsons, who spent the bulk of his time serving residents in Cambridge Township, saw a thing or two.
“It was quite a ride,” said Parsons during a telephone conversation. Parsons now resides with his wife, Gail, in Wyoming.
Parsons had no intentions of writing a book after he retired from public service, but was encouraged by his brother in law. He decided to put pen to paper after realizing that his experiences could help people entering the field to understand a little of what they were getting into, as well as helping those already in the field learn coping mechanisms.
Once Parsons made up his mind, the stories poured out. “I started hammering away, with one story after another. We ended up with 45 stories,” said Parsons.
As you might imagine, some of the stories are sad and even tragic, but others are humorous, such as one that happened while Parsons was working as a Cambridge Township Police Reservist early in his career.
“One Friday evening we were doing security checks at the Onsted High School, when I saw a pickup truck backed up to a wing. I hung back in the shadows so I could try to get a handle on what was transpiring. That is when I spotted two young men tossing something through an open window. I got on the radio and called on my partner to come in quietly behind me, which he did. We started walking up the alleyway, and the two men jumped into the truck and fired it up. As soon as they did, we threw our Maglite’s into their face.
“What they had done is thrown two dozen chickens into a classroom.”
Parsons said that after apprehending the two pranksters, he and his partner talked about their options, including calling their parents, but ultimately decided to call the high school principal Chuck Redding. When Redding showed up, Parsons said “If looks could kill, those two kids would have been dead on the spot.” (More below)
“Ultimately, my partner and I weren’t able to wait around and watch what surely had to be a circus when those two tried to recapture those chickens. They learned their lesson the hard way that night, but I had to admit it was a clever prank.”
Of course, many of the stories that first responders witness first hand do not have happy or tidy endings. Parsons’ tells of experiencing feelings of helplessness when dealing with suicides, and of heartache, especially when dealing with children. He recalled one accident where a child was struck by an automobile. As he worked on the child, the driver of the car was screaming hysterically in the background, and was soon joined by the screams of the child’s mother. The sound was haunting. “Any first responder will tell you, if they are honest, that the calls involving children are the most difficult to deal with,” said Parsons. “Sleep was scarce that night as I replayed the event over and over. I could not get the sounds of screaming out of my head.” The good news was that after being life-flighted out, the child was in intensive care for several days, but ultimately recovered from the injuries.
The book offers an insight into the emotional rollercoaster that comes with working emergency services. Parsons recalls the incident where people were killed in the Michigan International Speedway grandstands during the U.S. 500. He tells of a crash landing of an airplane and having his feet and legs scorched by aviation fuel and highlights how the handling of the deceased is done with respect and dignity. (More below)
People going into the field of rescue and emergency work need not only be ready for the highs and lows inherent with the job, but Parsons has practical advice as well. “Never turn down a chance for a meal,” he said, as he recalled many times when he would be stuck working at a scene for hours on an empty stomach. The same goes for using the restroom. “You better go when you have a chance,” he said.
While the rewards can be immensely gratifying, the sacrifice that goes into choosing a career of public safety goes beyond what most people imagine. The training never ends, the hours can be brutal, and the emotional toll it takes can weigh heavily.
Frankly, it takes a special kind of person to stick it out.
To show support for our local men and women on the front lines, The Exponent purchased a case of Parson’s books, which are going fast. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy can pick one up at our office, 160 S. Main St., in Brooklyn, and make a donation of any size to the Cambridge Township Firefighters and Rescue Association. The money will be earmarked towards the purchase of a LUCAS device (CPR breathing device) for the department. So far around $700 has been given to the department from book sales.
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