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Life As A Reserve Deputy Sheriff

My life with the
Carter County Sheriffs Office
as a Reserve Deputy
August 1, 1975 – December 31, 2016

By Butch Bridges
Lone Grove, Oklahoma
Online August 19, 2021
Updated: December 31, 2023

In 1973 during my employment with the Southern Oklahoma Ambulance Service (1970-1986 full time) I was the only ambulance driver who resided inside the Ardmore city limits besides the ambulance service director, Bill Lewis. So in that year I went to the sheriffs office (106 Hinkle Street) to see if Sheriff Robert Denney  (1926-1998) would authorize me to have a two-way radio on the county’s channel for emergency call backs when the other in-town ambulance was on a call (happened several times a week). Robert did authorize me to have the radio, but said I’d have to pay for it myself. I found an older model tube type Motorola radio and installed it myself in the 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle I had just bought from Gene Hill Motors on North Commerce.

Two years later in 1975 I went to Sheriff Denney to see if I could be a Reserve Deputy. I remember very well telling him, “you know I’ve been on your radio channel for two years now and not caused any trouble.” Robert looked at me with his head kinda cocked to one side and said, “yes, that will be ok, let’s have Cheryl type you up a commission card.” This was on August 1, 1975. We walked out of Robert’s office and into the main office of the sheriffs department where his secretary, Cheryl Rogers, typed me up the commission card. I was so proud to be a Reserve Deputy sheriff. Little did I know then that that title would last 41 years. I am probably the longest continuously serving Reserve Deputy in Oklahoma serving under Sheriffs Robert Denney, Bill Noland, Don Waters, Harvey Burkhart, Ken Grace, Milton Anthony, and from July 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016 under Sheriff Pro Tem John Ryan. But Robert Denney holds the record of the longest serving as sheriff of this county from 1970 to 1990.

This webpage I’m dedicating to my years as deputy sheriff at the Carter County Sheriffs Department. Over the coming months and years I will be adding stories, experiences and more to this webpage.

In the summer of 2000 I was at my office in the Carter County commissioners annex before 7am. I was always the first to arrive to get the coffee pot going plus I had to open the courthouse doors at 7:30 everyday, check the building, and make sure everything was ready for the day to start when the offices opened at 8am. I had just got the coffee pot perking, must have been about 7:10am and as I looked at the front office windows there pull in in front of the OSU offices and parked was an orange OG&E truck. In a minute the driver got out and started toward my office. It was my friend and fellow Reserve Deputy, Harvey Burkhart. He walked in and asked if I had any coffee ready. I said sure, come with me. We poured coffee and just shot the bull for a few minutes. For a few minutes I wondered in my mind what was going on here, Harvey had never done this before. Finally he said, I’m going to run for sheriff and I’d appreciate your support. I didn’t have anything against Harvey and told him I’d help as much as I could. Just before Harvey left my office, he handed me $50 cash. He said here, put this $50 on the American Flyers memorial you’re raising money for to build at the Ardmore Airpark. He said just put the names Harvey and Sharon Burkhart as the donors, which I did, on one of the two benches.

Now fast forward to February 2001. The county commissioners were kind of at odds with Sheriff Burkhart about budget money or something. So long ago I don’t remember exactly what the disagreement was about. Anyway, Commissioner Dale Ott knew I went to the sheriffs office on a regular basis (several times a week, weekends and nights too) to work on their network or computers when problems arose. Two months after Burkhart taking office as sheriff, Dale called me into his office and mentioned that my primary responsibility was to the courthouse and not the sheriffs office. Dale didn’t have to spell it out, I knew what he was getting at. When Harvey heard about it, he called me into his office and handed me a letter. Harvey said this letter may help you in the predicament I was in and handed me this letter to show to whoever it concerned.

In 1976 I had parked at the Humpty Dumpty parking lot about 9pm. I was just sitting there in my VW Super Beetle like a lot of others who made the drag and a car pulled up beside me. This guy got out, walked over to my driver’s window where I sat, without saying a word, and reached in through the window and tried to grab/hit me. I knew he was going to do bodily harm to me, so in a split second I reached into my glove compartment and pulled out my Smith & Wesson 5 shot Chief .38 pistol. I pointed it through my window right at his head, told him to get back in his car and leave. He did and never bothered me again. I’d see him from time to time on the drag but never had a problem with him (I knew who he was but will remain nameless since he may be reading this lol). I think he thought since I was a Reserve Deputy that I was doing some kind of undercover surveillance. I wasn’t, I was just enjoying the evening on the drag with everyone else. I’m just glad he knew I meant business, someone was going to be laying on the Humpty Dumpty parking lot, and it wasn’t going to be me.

Back around 1980 the Sheriffs office received a call from a man that his television had been stolen and he knew who and where his TV was located. Cheryl Rodgers walked over to Robert Denney’s office and gave him the info. I was standing there and Robert said, come on with me, lets go check this out. We got into Denney’s car, and drove to a block east of the old ice plant on 1st SE, 2nd house from the corner of 1st and E Street SE, north side of 1st and met the complainant. Robert asked him where’s the TV? He said right next door. We all three walked next door. The man pointed through the living room window. Robert asked, is that your RV? Yes sir it is. Robert tried the door, it was locked. So Robert just reared back and kicked the front door in, picked up the TV and gave it to the man. Robert looked at me and said, what I did was illegal so we won’t be able to file charges against the man, but we did get the guy’s TV back to him.

Something that sticks out in my mind was a sign on the wall in the sheriff’s book-in area on the 2nd floor of the old jail on Hinkle Street. It was just a sheet of paper printer from the computer that read:

This Is Not McDonalds
You Don’t Get It Your Way

About 1990 the sheriffs office received a call about an elderly lady in about the 1800 block of Springdale Road needing checked on. Deputy Steve Henson (1953-2021) was given the call and since I was there, asked if I wanted to go, so I did. We arrived at a brick house and the son told us his mother was in the little wood frame house behind his home. There on the front door was a padlock keeping his mother inside. The son unlocked it, we all walked in, and there sitting in a rocking chair in the front room was the elderly lady singing Blessed Assurance Jesus Is Mine. The son had sprinkled Carpet Fresh all over the his mother to keep the stink down. Steve radioed dispatch to send the Department of Human Services out and take this lady out of the house to somewhere safe and clean. Steve Henson told me the next day he never wanted to kill anyone in his life, but he did that day.

08/17/21 A nephew of Sheriff Robert Denney asked me to share any stories about his uncle I remembered since he now lives in one of Robert’s houses, he loves history and especially ones about his famous uncle, sheriff Robert Denney.

In the early 1970s the president of Lincoln Bank on Main street was having an affair with a lady when the husband found out and threatened the banker. The banker came to Robert Denney’s office to get a commission card so he could legally carry a firearm for self-protection. Robert told him there is no way he can issue him a card. So he left Robert’s office.

I believe it was around 1976 and Robert Denney lived out by Dickson, Oklahoma in the east end of the county. And elderly lady’s husband had died and the lady did not want her husband’s rifle in the home. She asked Robert if he would keep the rifle for now until she decided what to do with it. He obliged and took it to his house. About a year later, during the late evening hours, a man came to Robert’s house saying he was there to pick up that rifle, that “Mary Smith” sent him to get it. Robert told him he was not told by the lady of anyone coming to get the rifle and he was not giving the rifle to the man. The man said “well, I’m getting that rifle one way or another.”

The man started to barge through the frontdoor, Robert said my wife is in here and you are not coming in. He continued to push his way into the home. Robert pulled his revolver and cold cocked the man on the head, down he went, out like a light.

Months passed and Robert received a summons to appear at a grand jury that had been convened on another matter, nothing to do with the sheriffs office. Robert could not for the life of himself figure out why he (representing the sheriffs office) was summoned to the courtroom to testify.

The minute he walked into that grand jury room, he looked at the jury box, and there, as foreman of the jury, was that bank president. Robert told me he knew immediately what was going on, pay back time. Robert was asked about the time he hit the man in the head at his home. Robert was never indicted for that incident and it faded into history.

Q. I was hoping you may know a man that worked at the sheriff office in Carter county as undersheriff for Sheriff Robert Denny. His name was Bob Kelty. He was my grandmother’s brother. I don’t know much about him other then he was undersheriff and was a purple heart recipent. Thank you for your time. -Samuel Mccleskey

A. Bob Kelty was the undersheriff when I came on as a Reserve Deputy on August 1, 1975. Bob was not a talkative person, just kinda seemed caught up in all the stress of day-to-day operation of a law enforcement office. He was a dedicated public servant. He would have probably thrown his own mother in jail if she broke the law.

Bob Kelty didn’t say much to me over the years, sometimes I even thought he didn’t like me. But that was just Bob, always consumed with helping Sheriff Robert Denney run the office.

I remember vividly one morning in the late 70s I was at the sheriffs office. Bob was running the first floor office in the old jail, and dispatching (he was a good dispatcher by the way). I can’t even remember how the conversation came up that day, it was so long ago. But I will never forget as I stood there, Bob remarking to whoever he was talking to, “If you can’t get along with Butch Bridges, you can’t get along with anyone.” I almost fainted because I thought Bob Kelty didn’t like me.

Goes to show sometimes its hard to tell who your friends really are, until they come through for you.

“Elections are like a horse race. You don’t know the winner until they cross the finish line.” -Robert Denney circa 1976

Loyd Hudson was one of Robert Denney’s deputies and saw him countless times at the sheriffs office when it was located on Hinkle Street next door to the courthouse. Loyd was a collector of pocket knives and had about 300 on a piece of plywood mounted to the wall in his office area of the old jail on Hinkle Street..  One day I was there and Joe Ramer, investigator at the time for the Oklahoma Cattlemens Association entered the office.  Joe decided he play a little joke on Loyd Hudson when he wasn’t looking, took one of those pocket knives off teh wall from Loyd’s collection, and placed it in his pocket.  When Loyd walked in a little later, Joe asked him if he wanted to buy this knife, showing it to Loyd.  Loyd said he already had one knife like that, but how much did he want for it.  Joe replied $2 and Loyd said he’d take it anyway.  There was a lot of ribbing for a while…… Loyd buying his own knife. 

More stories and experiences to come.