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Deputy Chad Bingham and K9 Paul

Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Colorado

"The Rickety Man" - A Childhood Dream Realized

Chad stood there at Death’s door, knocking on the dark wooden barrier. What Chad thought was a mere cold was walking pneumonia, but as tough guys do, he maintained his normal routine. However, next thing Chad knew, the pneumonia triggered bronchitis and his health continued in a downward spiral. The dangerous combination of the two took a toll on Chad, and his body decided to fight back... turning septic. Sepsis is the body’s overreaction to a severe infection, causing damage to its own tissue, leading to organ failure. Chad was rapidly deteriorating when his wife, Gina, rushed him to the emergency room with a scorching 105-degree temperature. He spent a harrowing week in the ICU with a PICC line to his heart for IV antibiotics.

Chad’s recollection of his time in the hospital is vague at best, but he has one vivid memory. He was leaning over the toilet with a nurse holding him up in his weakened state, he recalls asking her desperately: “Am I going to get out of here? Is this it?” He was sure he was dying. The ordeal was brutal. Chad spent two months recovering at home, the first month hooked to IV antibiotics. He lost twenty-five pounds, which, lean as he is, he didn’t have a pound to lose. He couldn’t walk three feet without help due to exhaustion, which was difficult for someone like Chad. He had never been one to sit on the couch and watch television, but it was all the energy he had. It was during this time Chad’s childhood dream was renewed -- a visiting friend sparked Chad with a single word, “Draw!

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You see, as a child Chad did not dream of being in law enforcement even though his grandfather and father were both policemen. He had a different plan, and it didn’t involve a patrol car. Chad’s dream was to be a comic book artist. Art has been a part of Chad’s life for as long as he can remember. Like many kids, he would tear the pages out of his Star Wars coloring book and use the patio door to trace the picture. He quickly developed his own style and talent, branching out to create his own work. His early work was fantasy and science-fiction, inspired by the mystical creatures of Dungeons and Dragons and the characters from his favorite movie series, Star Wars.

It all changed one day at the local 7-11 store. Chad and his buddies entered the store cash in hand to ready to grab some candy and a Slurpee. Walking by the little spinning rack of comic books he came to a sudden stop. Chad was awestruck and thought “Holy s#!t, what is this?” There on the rack was X-Men #274, featuring a Jim Lee cover of Magneto, Savage Land Rogue, and Nick Fury. He didn’t get a Slurpee that day and instead walked out the door with that X-Men comic. The comic book art style consumed his every thought. To this day, Chad treasures that fateful X-Men #274 comic book.

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Chad ensured he signed up for an art class every semester in high school. He openly admits to failing several of his art classes -- not for lack of talent, but as he puts it, hardheadedness. Chad wanted to draw what Chad wanted to draw. All through high school Chad devoted his art to comic book characters and even dabbled in making his own. He was striving towards being a comic artist, but with no real college route and his dad’s philosophy: “Get a good job and play with your nonsense as you go” made it a challenge. Chad started college taking the core classes and landed a job at a nearby graphic arts shop. It was a different kind of art than what he wanted to be doing but Chad enjoyed it. Then life does what life does best – as Chad travelled down his path, life jumped in the middle of the road, causing him to swerve. Not all detours are necessarily a bad thing, sometimes they put you down a road you never knew you wanted to drive. Chad had become a father.

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Newly married with a baby to raise, Chad found it difficult to make ends meet with his current job.  Chad’s father suggested the family business of policing, “You should try it, just check it out.” Chad ended up going on a ride-along with the Denver Police Department to see firsthand what the job was all about. He was hooked!

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Chad landed a job with the Denver Sheriff’s Office, where he spent five years working in the jail. A desire to be on patrol led him to a job with the Colorado State Patrol. After a year and a half Chad found himself wanting more and moved once again. He found a job with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, where he found his home. In this time, Chad’s first marriage had ended, and he became a single father raising his son. Chad’s artwork had been put on the back burner. He continued to draw but wasn’t working at improving or pushing himself to get better. However, Chad had found a new passion that became the focus of his career, the canine unit. Chad loved working with the dogs and through his dedication and hard work, he was selected for the team. First as a canine decoy assisting with training and after a few years he got his own dog. Things continued to fall in line and Chad was exactly where he wanted to be. He was remarried, working on patrol, and had his canine partner, all was right…

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Then life did it again - this is when Chad found himself battling for his life in 2017, knocking at Death’s door.

Draw!”. His artwork had come back to him when he so desperately needed it. His friend told Chad to share his work on Instagram and to find inspiration there, as well. Chad did not do social media, so he had no idea where to begin -- as he puts it, “I don’t do hashtags.” Regardless, Chad jumped in and found the “Inktober” challenge on Instagram. This required a drawing a day during the month of October based on a prompt related to Halloween (i.e., spooky, monster, cowl). For one of the daily challenges, Chad drew a skeleton cowboy, something new for him.

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This cowboy began to pop up more and more in his drawings. Chad developed him, tweaked him, refined him. Then he began to ask himself what kind of characters could exist in this guy’s world. Growing up, especially in high school and after, Chad always had ideas for stories and books, but this newfound character pulled at him. He wanted something different. He knew it would have an Old West feel, a “Good vs Evil” influence in it, but said the story is running the gambit of ideas (i.e., vampires, magic, undead). Not a big fan of westerns, the Old West theme has challenged Chad, requiring him to do some interesting research. He was looking up wagons on the internet when his wife looked over and asked incredulously, “What are you doing?” He chuckled, replying, “I haven’t drawn horses or wagons,” and he needed to understand wagons, the look, the mechanics.

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It was here, “The Rickety Man,” was born. A skeletal cowboy, risen from the dead to shed the light of justice on the darkness of evil. Chad created a world around him and began building it regularly. He is building a storyline of “Tall Tales,” putting the art into comic panels, combing the art with lettering…

 

Chad was finally drawing his comic book!

 Want to see more of “The Rickety Man” ? Checkout @thericketyman on Instagram.

To see more of Chad’s amazing artwork, check out Studiobing on Facebook and Instagram.

In March of 2020, Badges Across America planned a trip to Washington DC to attend the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Police Week to help spread the word of our mission. We wanted a new amazing graphic to help celebrate law enforcement officers across the country. Being huge fans of Chad's art work, we reached out to him explaining what we were hoping to accomplish and gave him some ideas of what we were looking for. Chad took our little bit of input and created two outstanding graphics. We loved them both so much we couldn't decide which one to use - so obviously we chose both!! We used one for our "If Not You, Then Who?" t-shirt (check it out here) and the other is being integrated as our new logo. Chad explained that he intentionally left the faces blank so that any Law Enforcement Office could picture themselves in the artwork. We are extremely grateful to Chad for his excellent work on this project!

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