SPEARFISH | Pat Rotert’s remembrance of retired South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper James “Jim” Shrader, who died on Jan. 16 in Spearfish at age 87, was too good not to share, he said.
Rotert, now Spearfish’s police chief, recounted in a Tuesday Facebook post meeting Shrader when both men found themselves on opposite sides of the law.
It was a minor incident involving college-age students, being, well, college-age students, but left a lasting memory for Rotert, who was a freshman at Black Hills State University in the fall of 1983.
It was a nice fall day, Rotert said, when he and a couple of friends grabbed a cooler full of beer and headed for Spearfish Canyon.
Rotert said he thought it only prudent, with such a nice day, to stand on the car’s back seat with his body through the sunroof, enjoying a cold beer.
“What could possibly go wrong with that decision?” he wrote.
As the three drove toward the canyon, they passed a highway patrol trooper talking with someone in a parking lot of a business near the entrance to the canyon.
“We make eye contact and we both knew we were about to get acquainted,” Rotert recalled.
After rounding a corner, Rotert said his first thought was to get rid of the beer can, which he quickly tossed into the ditch.
Shrader and his patrol car caught up soon afterward.
“If you have ever met him, he is a large man that commanded respect, just by his presence,” Rotert said.
Following the requisite dressing-down, Shrader asked the three where the open containers of beer had gone.
“We all looked at our feet, to which he responded, ‘You didn't throw them in my ditch, did you?’” Rotert said.
The three admitted they had indeed, thrown away the beer.
Shrader went to his car and returned with three large trash bags. He told the boys he was going to leave, then return in an hour, strongly advising them to have each bag filled completely in the meantime.
“Upon his return, we presented him with three full trash bags and a mile of clean ditches. He let us go with the understanding that we would make better choices in the future,” Rotert said.
According to Shrader’s obituary, he had joined the South Dakota Highway Patrol, his “dream job” in 1967, after a career as a licensed pipefitter and steamfitter.
He went on to serve with the patrol in Philip, Pierre, Spearfish and Buffalo.
When Shrader retired from law enforcement he became a full-time bus driver for Jackrabbit Lines of Sioux Falls and later drove a bus part-time for Dakota Bus of Spearfish.
In 2001, Rotert had moved back to Spearfish and was helping neighbors dig out from a snowstorm. One of his new neighbors turned out to be Shrader.
“It didn't take long for me to figure out it is Trooper Shrader and relay the story to him. While he did not remember the specific incident, it led to many great conversations with him over the next few years,” Rotert said.
Among Shrader’s survivors are his wife, Barbara, and son Robert Shrader, both of Spearfish, brothers Melvin, of Mesa, Ariz., and Jerry, of Dallas, Ore., and grandson Zachary of Bemidji, Minn.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol Honor Guard, U.S. Army and Spearfish Honor Guard, provided full military honors during his burial at Black Hills National Cemetery on Tuesday.
“Thank you for your service, Trooper Shrader and Rest in Peace,” Rotert wrote.