Wayside Honor Rancho, later named the Peter J. Pitchess Detention Facility, is one of several jail facilities spread throughout Los Angeles County. It is also where I joined the ranks of “The Winos.”
Located in the Santa Clarita Valley, it is unique in that it contains on its sprawling acreage several academy training firing ranges, an equine center, and at one time, a portion of its land was cultivated and the produce was used to feed the inmates, many of whom were low-level criminals who spent their days working in various supervised positions.
There is a time during the academy when all cadets are sent to Wayside for several days of intense firearms instruction, including a night shoot. As such, many cadets try to stay in the area rather than commute from their homes in the southern areas of the county, or the counties south or east of Los Angeles.
I had moved back into my parents’ home while processing for the sheriff’s department, knowing it would be a solid foundation of support while I went through the academy.
As soon as the Wayside schedule was revealed, I invited my closest academy friends who lived far away to stay there with me during those few days of training. I told all to bring sleeping bags as there was plenty of space on the floors. Several accepted my offer, and my childhood home was filled with adventurous, shorthaired young men who would spend the next several decades seeing and being involved in unspeakable sufferings, and who would remain my brothers as no other friends ever had.
Early the first morning, my dad stepped over and around the smattering of campers to head to work, as my mom started cooking breakfast for all. Yes, I really did have that great a home life and childhood.
After Hours in Santa Clarita
Once the shooting had been completed that first day, we had a formation, at which time the drill instructors cautioned us to not go out on the town and get into trouble. They knew that many cadets would be staying locally rather than commuting there each day from their homes throughout the southland.
“This is sheriff’s jurisdiction,” one of them warned. “We better not get any calls from Santa Clarita that our cadets were running amok.”
The Winos Run Amok
Shortly after we were dismissed, the group of friends who would be staying with me gathered together. Tommy Jimenez got right to the heart of the matter. “So, Danny, where exactly shall we run amok?”
I suggested a nightclub that seemed to be popular with the young crowd in town, and that is exactly where we landed several hours later, showered, shaved, and dressed like off-duty cops in jeans and t-shirts.
We took a table near a dance floor and just waited for the girls to arrive, confident there would be many. But rather than flocks of young ladies, we were stunned to see the entire academy staff stroll in and take a table not far from where we sat. It only took them a minute before one of them noticed us, and all soon turned and glared.
We all looked at one another until finally, someone asked what we should do about our predicament.
Johnny B. took a swig of his beer and said, “My motto is, if you get caught with your dick in your hand, you look like a fool trying to put it away. You might as well just go ahead and wave it at them.”
And with that, Tommy concurred and upped the ante. We sent the thirsty drill instructors a round of drinks.
The consensus was that we would need to get our instructors drunk. If any ladies ever happened in, we’d sacrifice them as well. We were in deep shit and we knew it. We sent one round after the other, and we gladly paid the tab.
Leading by Example
One of the instructors ended up drunken and belligerent after trying to woo an attractive waitress to no avail. At some point, the waitress, whom we continually sent with trays of liquor to our leaders, told us that the one with the particularly large, black mustache, had been cut off. We laughed. But only then, and not the next day. And it was not he who called us out during the next morning’s formation.
“Okay, where are the winos?” one of the instructors barked. I knew, and about half a dozen others knew, exactly who he was talking about. But none of us stepped forward. “Come on, you winos, you know who you are. Step up now or face worse consequences.”
This was it, my last day in the academy. It would be back to security work for me after this misstep. But what about the drunken DI, I pondered. We had been convinced that because of his actions, none of the instructors would mention anything about the regretable night.
I knew I had to step forward. We were busted, and there was nothing left to do but throw ourselves at the mercy of the merciless. My partners in crime had come to the same conclusion, and we all stepped forward in unison.
We took a serious ass-chewing, were assigned to write lengthy papers on alcoholism, and were henceforth collectively called The Winos.
But we did prevail.
Every one of us derelicts went on to have successful careers, and none of us was ever carted off to the Betty Ford center, though we might have come close.
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