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A trailer for Taylor: Officers’ retirement celebration becomes something more

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — From all appearances, it was a retirement ceremony for three veterans of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office — Lt. Mike Brady and master deputies Craig “Bubba” Earnhardt and Sam Henline.

And that’s what it was, with many deserving accolades and considerable ribbing thrown at all the retirees. A big crowd showed up at a Friday afternoon reception for the men at the Rowan County Courthouse.

“The big draw here was to make sure Brady did retire,” Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten joked.

But Henline used his last day on the job to go out in style.

After most of the plaques, resolutions and gifts were handed out, Henline called up a dozen fellow members of the bailiffs association and told department Chaplain Mike Taylor they had a present for him.

For a long time, maybe 10 years, Henline had been promising Taylor that he would buy him a trailer for all the materials associated with his Shield-a-Badge program. It became a running routine between the men whenever they saw each other.

“You get me a trailer yet?” Taylor would ask.

Henline always answered it would happen before he retired. Taylor promised only that he would be praying for Henline.

On Friday, with Taylor next to him, Henline fished into a bag and pulled out a toy trailer — promise fulfilled.

But the joke was only a prelude to the real thing. In a moment, Henline brought out papers and told Taylor he was the owner of a new 14-foot-long tandem trailer parked outside the courthouse.

Taylor was almost speechless.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said.

When the trailer was still a surprise, Henline said confidentially he was giving the trailer to Taylor in honor of the bailiffs who provide courthouse security — his wife’s late father, Roy Franklin Brown, and his own late father, George S. Henline Sr.

Both Brown and Henline Sr. died in the past year.

Sam Henline said Taylor is the most loyal, kindest man he has ever met.

On Mondays, Taylor delivers doughnuts to the Sheriff’s Office for every division. Each Christmas, he gives a present to every officer.

Henline pulled out a pocketknife that was a gift from Taylor. He said the chaplain is the first person officers usually hear from or see when they have a death in their families.

And Henline couldn’t say enough complimentary things about Taylor’s Shield-a-Badge program, which at its heart makes sure each law enforcement officer in the county has a designated person praying for him or her while they’re on the job.

Henline stressed that the trailer is a gift not only from him but the whole security team at the courthouse.

“If one of us does anything, it’s all of us,” Henline said. “… It’s just our way of showing how much we love him and how much he’s done for us.”

Taylor, Henline, Auten and the bailiffs left Friday’s reception of food, drink and congratulatory retirement cakes to make a quick inspection of the new trailer.

“We have been hiding this thing until this week,” Henline said earlier. “Nobody knew about it, except the sheriff.”

Even though it was his retirement, Henline had other gifts to hand out, including framed copies of “The Bailiff’s Oath” to all the judges.

Henline is a bear of a man.

“We always wanted Sam along in a fight,” Auten said.

But Henline also is “like a bulldozer when it comes to getting things done for people,” Auten said.

“He seems gruff and tough, but he’s really not,” the sheriff said. “He’s got a big heart.”

Former Judge Ted Blanton said if Henline told people in court to stop, sit down and don’t talk — it happened. Blanton also shared a quick story of how Henline, through his mother, helped him out once in getting prized cigars.

Blanton learned Henline’s mom was going to Canada on a church bus trip. He asked Henline whether she might be able to buy a few Cuban cigars in Canada and sneak them back into the United States.

Henline’s mom managed to return with a whole box of expensive Cuban cigars on the church bus. Blanton said they were some of his best cigars ever.

Brady, Earnhardt and Henline together represented close to 100 years of law enforcement experience that the Sheriff’s Office lost Friday.

Henline had more than 35 years; Brady, 31; and Earnhardt, 29.

“They did it because they loved the job,” Auten said.

Brady sometimes was called “Sledgehammer” by his colleagues because he once used a sledgehammer to stop a suspect’s car. “When he’s in, he’s all in,” Auten said.

Brady said he wouldn’t change anything over his long career. “I had a great time,” he added.

Earnhardt, often called as an expert witness in driving-while-impaired cases, is much quieter.

“I told him not to be short on conversation today,” Auten said. But he was.

Taylor said his personal ride-alongs with Earnhardt “made me respect officers a whole lot more.” He also credited Brady with keeping him informed of things a department chaplain should know.

As for Henline, Taylor said, “He helped me take care of a lot of things.”

Taylor presented the men with the chaplains’ Legion of Honor certificates for their service. Auten also gave each man a resolution from the county commissioners assuring they would receive their service revolvers.

His fellow bailiffs presented Henline with a new scoped rifle.

“In all truthfulness, everybody in here is family,” Henline said.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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