Some might call Jim Waddell a simple man and more than likely he’d not disagree. Yet simple men may have interesting stories and Waddell has a few to tell.
The Escalon native who’s resided in Oakdale the majority of his adult life recently had his story published by reputable publisher Covenant Books. Waddell’s biography, “A Kid, His Guns, and His Badge,” was released in late 2021 and is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble as well as Apple.
“I didn’t actually decide to write a book in the beginning,” Waddell shared of his 400-page memoir, which depicts life at a much simpler time in the Central Valley.
“I had a lot of fun and really good childhood memories living the first 12 years of my life in the town of Escalon,” he continued, likening the town at the time to Mayberry.
A time when no one locked their doors and everyone knew one another. A father of two and grandfather to seven, Waddell shared he wanted his grandkids to know the stories and what life was like then.
But that wasn’t the start of the book. That was quite simply the start of some bedtime stories when his grandchildren would spend the night with him and his wife Rhonda.
“They just loved my bedtime stories,” he said. “Some of them were about what it was like growing up in the small town of Escalon and all that goes with that. A lot of them turned into my law enforcement, police stories.”
As the grandkids became older, their interest in grandpa’s stories seemed to grow. Overhearing a few on occasion, Waddell shared both his wife and daughter Jamie Waddell-Humble encouraged him to start writing the stories down to save for sharing later.
“It was actually kind of fun. I enjoyed composing stories,” the retired law enforcement officer shared, mentioning his days of writing reports as a pastime he never dreaded. “I was never good at composing anything that was fictitious.”
Over the course of time, Waddell followed the wisdom of the two ladies in his life and began gathering stories via word documents on his computer. A process which morphed and continued over the past seven years.
“It sat there for a while, before I started writing others,” he shared of the process. “I did not write it sequentially. Every chapter is its own little story.”
Yet Waddell shared he had never actually set his sights or goals on actually being published. He said that it was more for his family and envisioned, if anything, one day he’d put it in some type of print via a self-published memoir.
As an avid reader himself, however, he began making inquiries to a few publishing houses of books he had personally read. Inquiries which eventually led him to Covenant Books, which after 10 days with his manuscript offered him a book deal in early March of 2021.
With much freedom granted by his publisher, the author shared there were certain attributes of the book, which for him were non-negotiable. One being the language and the way his story was told. He describes his writing style as kind of “oakieish”, sharing the publisher wanted certain language changed to Chicago Manual Style. Waddell didn’t feel that represented the story he was trying to tell and didn’t feel editing the language would get the story across the way he wanted it told. And so it remained.
During the course of his professional career Waddell spent the bulk of it in law enforcement. He first was a Sheriff’s Department Explorer in 1966 and ultimately retired his badge in July 2005. Throughout his tenure in law enforcement he had two breaks from the badge, one of three years, when he battled personal issues, and another which was eight years.
“God led me out of law enforcement for that three-year period, so I wouldn’t totally screw up everything,” he said. “You don’t get rich in law enforcement, but it’s a living ... a decent living.”
Of all the positions held behind the badge, Waddell said he enjoyed being on patrol the most. The unexpected of each day and the unknowing was what brought him the most joy in the profession.
“I had a real fun time, recalling a lot of these things that I wrote about,” Waddell said of his book. “So much so, that I would often times go back and re-read them just for my own entertainment.”
Now that the book is out, Waddell said that while most of his feedback has come from family and people that he knows, it has equally been rewarding to hear thoughts from readers.
He was recently contacted by a former Oakdale Hershey employee, who also happened to be a U.S. Navy veteran.
“What he really liked about it, was nobody gets to know what happens around here,” the author said of the reader’s feedback, in relation to some of his behind-the-scenes law enforcement stories. “He said what you put in this book is just normal police stuff, but some of it is just so interesting.”
But the author shared it’s not a book for someone looking for a serious read. While some of the stories and topics might be serious by nature, Waddell has a way of delivering the stories in a light-hearted manner with a little bit of humor.
Waddell’s wife Rhonda said she read it for the first time once the book was completed. It had been six years since she last read any of the stories, noting she didn’t want to interfere in any way with the overall process.
Upon reading it the author’s wife shared there were stories which were new to her and gave her new insight into her husband of 48 years. Yet the final draft did not disappoint.
“I thought this is good stuff. People need to read it,” Rhonda said.
“I just wanted to tell my story and anybody who gets enjoyment out of it, I’m happy for them,” Waddell stated. “The whole time I was unsure. I never really thought it could go to that point (published). Other than maybe something I would have to do at a local printer. I never envisioned it being a book that would be actually published.”
Now that it is published, the retired police officer said he does have a sense of pride for completing such an endeavor.
“That I persevered. Went the whole distance and got it done,” he said when asked what he was most proud of. “That it was good enough for an actual professional publishing company to accept it. That’s what I’m most proud of.”