Recently my husband and I went to lunch with Shelley Brantley at the new Italian restaurant, Harborside Italian & Seafood Restaurant, located in the old Fogel Mall.
We have known Shelley Brantley for more than twenty years. Our daughters were close friends for a long time. They grew up and eventually their lives took them in different directions, but Shelley, his wife, Brenda, and their two sons are still here in Georgetown. In spite of our children’s lives crossing paths, Shelley and I met long before then. I asked if he remembered that encounter.
“I can’t say that I do,” he confessed.
“I was helping my daughter and some of her classmates on a homework assignment about pollution,” I explained. “We had pulled over on the bridge so they could video tape the steel mill. You were the officer who stopped to offer help and then later, you were the officer they interviewed about pollution.”
“I vaguely remember something like that,” he answered, “But then again, I help so many children out when I can that it blends together sometimes.”
Shelley and Brenda moved here to Georgetown in June of 1989. Together, they’ve raised three great kids and made a strong home for them and their own children’s children. Shelley is forever the public figure. I think that every time someone called for a police officer he was the one who showed up.
The Brantley’s came here from Jasper County. “First, I spent four years in the Air Force,” Shelley said of his younger days. “Sometime later, we moved here and I became a police officer for Georgetown.”
“Did you always know you wanted to be a cop?” I asked.
“Oh yes. I have wanted to be a police officer since I was like five years old,” he answered with conviction. “I come from a family of lawmen so it was kind of in my blood be in law enforcement.
“I wasn’t always a law abiding citizen, you know,” he said as his lunch was brought to him. “I was a bit of a juvenile delinquent when I was younger. I remember one time, I took my dad’s motorcycle and disappeared for a few days. I knew I was going to be in big trouble when I got back so I hid out in the barn for like three days before I finally got caught. Someone found me out there with the bike.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his story. “I never pictured you as a delinquent.”
“It didn’t get better when I got married, either. Even when I met Brenda I was up to no good,” Shelley said as he took a bite of his sandwich. “She was dating a friend of mine at the time and I took her a pack of cigarettes. I ended up asking her out on a date and it just went from there.”
“You knew she was dating your friend?” I laughed at his audacity. I couldn’t believe he was a girlfriend stealer, too.
Shelley nodded his head. “Oh yeah, I knew, but I didn’t care. They weren’t serious or anything and I liked her so I asked her out and she accepted. Then, not long after we got married, we had a disagreement of sorts, and I decided to go out for just a minute, you know, to cool off. Anyway, I met up with these fellas from Florida. They were a couple of good ole boys and friendly so I went back to Florida with them. It was a Friday night I believe and I stayed gone until Monday.”
“You leave for a minute and stayed gone for a whole weekend? Brenda didn’t kill you?”
With a laugh, Shelley went on, “Well, these fellas were snake guys. They lived in the Florida Everglades and liked to catch snakes. They caught all kinds of snakes and brought them home with them. Their house had all these cages full of snakes: the good ones, and the bad ones or poisonous ones. I was scared-to-death to sleep in that house, so I slept in the car until they brought me back home.”
I know his wife so I’m guessing that as afraid as he was of facing Brenda for leaving like that, Shelley was more afraid of those snakes. “And you lived to tell the tale,” I offered without any sympathy whatsoever.
With a nod, Shelley agrees. “I lived to tell the tale. I think I get the mischievousness from my dad. He was like that, too, kind of the ornery type. He was driving his truck one night and ran over an alligator that was in the middle of the road. It flipped his truck over and he landed in a ditch. It killed the alligator, but anyway, they tried to help my dad, but he didn’t want any help. He crawled out of the ditch and went home. He was in his 80’s then.”
We talked a lot about family and how they play different roles in our lives. Shelley spoke of his brother who lives in Thailand (by choice, not by means of war) and his other brother whom he described as his “disorderly conduct brother.” Shelley said the other two didn’t show any desire to be a cop as he did.
“I started out working for the Sheriff’s department in Jasper County,” he said of his beginnings. “A friend of mine was the sheriff and I worked for him for a while. Then I quit and drove a gas truck for about four years. One day I decided that I missed being a cop so I drove the company gas truck to the sheriff’s office and told him I wanted my old job back. He said, ‘come on back anytime.’ and so I did. I turned in my two week notice at the gas company and that was it.”
When moving to Georgetown, Shelley didn’t waste any time applying for a position with our own city police department. With his background in law enforcement, Shelley said it was a piece of cake to get hired on and he’s been there ever since.
Shelley has made it up the rank from corporal, to sergeant, to lieutenant. He’s retired once already but being a police officer is so deep in his roots, that he’s come out of retirement and is now a patrol officer. He’s happy doing what he does.
I didn’t ask for too much information about arrests around Georgetown because I didn’t want him to feel as though he was put on the spot. However, Shelley did share with me a humorous story about an arrest.
With a laugh he explained, “We were doing license checks one time and this man had two birds, you know, like pigeons, in a cage on his back seat. He also had some drug paraphernalia in the car, too. I turned to my partner and said, ‘what are we gonna do about the birds?’ and my partner said, ‘I don’t know, but we’re gonna arrest him. He’s got paraphernalia in the car’.”
“So you arrested him?” I asked prompting him to continue.
“Yes, we arrested him, but the guy in the car said, ‘those ain’t no pair of phernailas, those are pair of keets (parakeets)!’
Shelley has always had a healthy sense of humor. His gift of gab makes him a great storyteller, too. The children have always seemed to love him. Shelley and Brenda have been favorite parents among my children, especially Shelley. My son has high regards for Shelley Brantley. I’m betting he’s also quite a good influence on the parishioners at Johnson Church on Johnson Road where he’s a Deacon. I know the kids probably get a big kick out of him
For what it’s worth, I’m glad they found their way here from Jasper County and made Georgetown their permanent home. This town, and the police station, would not be the same without Shelley Brantly.