April 8, 2014
By David Hayes
Book details a life in the Washington State Patrol
If Jack Webb was ever to jump off the silver screen of “Dragnet” and plop down in front of an old Selectric typewriter to chronicle his adventures into a memoir, it might look and sound a lot like what’s in the pages of John Young’s “Super Trooper.”
After nearly 30 years within the ranks of the Washington State Patrol, the 74-year-old Olympia native, now living in the Issaquah Highlands, found himself sharing tales of his exploits from the earlier years on the force at family or friendly gatherings. Such as this anecdote:
“The only other time I was truly scared, I thought I had stopped Patty Hearst and her crew,” he said in a recent interview, recalling the newspaper heiress who was kidnapped and eventually joined her captors in a bank heist.
Law enforcement intelligence at the time had the group heading north to Oregon and possibly on to Canada. Young was watching an hourglass area south of Olympia where they would have had to pass by.
“Sure enough, here comes a car that matched the description — Volkswagen bus with California plates that was even the same color,” he said.
With no backup, Young went into pursuit. After pulling the bus over, with shotgun out, he had the driver and passengers all lie down on ground until backup arrived.
“When backup did arrive, we searched them and found out it was not Patty Hearst,” Young said. “They were scared. But once they found out what had happened, they found it kinda funny.”
Police or Air Force
Growing up, Young felt destined for either the state patrol or to be a test pilot for the Air Force. His stepfather, at the time a chief in the state patrol, promised to pull some strings and get him in the Air Force Academy. Unfortunately, Young’s grades were not up to par. So, after a stint in junior college, he was accepted at age 21 into the other academy for the state patrol.
Commissioned in 1965, Young held many jobs and positions, from executive protection unit for three governors to Internal Affairs, until he retired in 1993.
But for his book, he figured the most interesting tales came from his years on patrol, specifically, the first three or four. With eight years on the beat, not every exciting story came from a chase — such as the time he ended up counting his blessings after he could have died on the way to a scene of an accident.
“I was running 90 to 100 mph to get to it, and my accelerator stuck,” Young said. “I couldn’t get it to disengage. Kick at the pedal and it would accelerate. Hit the break and I’d skid out of control. And if I turned the ignition off, I’d lose all my steering.”
That left no choice but to ride it out. Finally going down a side dirt road, Young had a curve coming up.
“I knew I could make the first one, but not the second one,” he said. “I’d skid sideways, accelerate, sideways, accelerate, until finally the gas pedal dislodged and I came to a stop before hitting this giant tree. I mean, it just scared the living daylights out of me. It took a while to calm down from that one.”
The trooper life
Young kept the tales narrow, sticking to the most thought provoking, educational and funny things that happened. Without a lick of writing experience, Young found himself getting too complicated in the beginning. It was too technical, with too much police jargon.
“I had to take the reader into account. An actual report would have been too clinical. Police jargon is too black and white,” he said.
After 12 rewrites and the help of an editor, he had what he needed.
“One lady wrote me afterwards that she thoroughly enjoyed it and for the first time truly understood the trooper life,” Young said. “But if she’d read it at the beginning, she wouldn’t have.”
After writing the book, it needed a name. Young went for “Super Trooper” as an homage to the ribbing officers would get if they got too big for their britches or their heads got too big after mention from the media.
“‘Oh, here comes Super Trooper,’ we’d kid them when their ego got too large,” he said.
After typing up the tales on his laptop, it was his editor who chose the font, Courier, which made it look as if it was typed on an actual typewriter. By 2013, the book was ready to hit to the store shelves.
Other books ahead
These days, Young helps stage properties that his real estate agent wife, Mimi, sells.
“My mother used to own a real estate company, so I guess her knowledge spilled over to me,” he said of the profession he’s been in now for 12 years.
Young still gets residual checks from “Super Trooper” ranging from $4.38 to $88.
“I guess somebody is still buying them,” he said.
He figures he’s got at least another three books in him. Discounting his years in executive protection for three governors as “too private,” Young next wants to focus a book on his cat, Trooper. He envisions pictures of his American standard adopted from a shelter with topical captions that hopefully end up being funny. The next would be a foray into fiction about someone who accidently becomes invisible and the other a nonfiction look at Boeing’s test pilots.
But writing about his years in the state patrol proved to be a fun way to recall his younger days.
“It was an adrenalin kick, leaving the residence, not knowing what’s going to happen on a given call. You gotta be ready, never relaxing your guard,” he said. “But it was just a normal 8 to 5 job. Just the circumstances were different.”