Dave Hodges laughs when he thinks about his early days as a deputy in Teton County.
Like in the 1990s when he was assigned to patrol Jackson Hole Mountain Resort full-time, on skis.
“That was great fun,” Hodges said. “But when I got in the lift lines it was like all of a sudden there was a turd in the punch bowl.”
Hodges had a ski uniform, not unlike a normal patrol uniform, and telemark skiied wearing a gun and handcuffs. His assignment was to keep an eye on the funny business happening slopeside — like drugs and out-of-bounds skiing.
The fun lasted for three winters.
Hodges’ career as a Teton County deputy has lasted 25 years.
Hodges grew up in Panama City, Florida, information he doesn’t offer up unless you ask him directly.
“It’s a little embarrassing,” he said in an interview with the News&Guide last week.
Hodges graduated high school in the late 1970s and left Florida as soon as possible.
Because he didn’t have a car the free-spirited teenager hitchhiked north with plans to hike the Appalachian Trail.
“I did over half of the AT,” he said. “But youth was distracting so I didn’t quite complete it.”
At 18 Hodges was in a motorcycle wreck and broke his femur, which forced him back to Florida, where he reluctantly enrolled in community college.
He completed a two-year criminal justice program, but had no real plans of going into law enforcement.
In 1981 Hodges made his way west.
“I damn sure didn’t come to Jackson, Wyoming to be a cop,” Hodges said. “I was hitchhiking through the West and when I got to Jackson I ran out of money so I got a job washing dishes.”
Hodges washed dishes at the Sojourner Inn, which is now Snake River Lodge and Spa.
“A couple $300 bucks and I was loaded,” he said.
In winter 1982 he found himself in Texas, planting trees for timber companies.
“The crews would camp on site so I thought that sounded fun,” he said.
That’s where Hodges met his wife, Jill.
“We returned to Wyoming and did a two-week backpacking trip in the Winds, and we decided we didn’t want to return to where our lives were,” Hodges said.
The two were living in a camper in Hoback until one night, while having a few beers at the Battle Mountain Bar, Hodges got a job.
“I heard this contractor talking about needing a winter caretaker at the Granite Ranch,” Hodges said. “Now it’s the Safari Club. I went over and bought him a beer and got the job.”
Jill also got a job as a bartender at the Battle Mountain Bar and later as a massage therapist at the ranch.
The couple eventually moved to Hog Island, and Hodges got a job at Jackson Hole Ski Corporation.
He also volunteered for Teton County Search and Rescue (he was one of the original 30 members) and became an instructor and guide for National Outdoor Leadership School, teaching whitewater rafting, hiking, horse packing and backpacking skills.
“Guiding life is a wonderful life. But you go broke quick,” Hodges said. “I was taking on a car payment and rent and I was going broke.”
On an overnight NOLS trip, Hodges brought along a Jackson Hole News and scanned the want ads and found an opening for a detention officer.
“I remember telling my partner I would do it for a couple years and get on my feet and I’d see him back in the saddle,” Hodges said. “Now it’s 25 years later and this job has afforded me the ability to live here.”
Hodges worked in the jail for a few years before going on patrol as a deputy. He and his late K9 partner Pepper became the first narcotics team for the Teton County Sheriff’s Office.
“At the time we had the state’s largest ecstasy bust,” Hodges said.
Pepper and Hodges worked as the K9 unit for 13 years before Pepper retired, and Hodges transitioned into the investigative unit where he still works as a detective.
He’s also worked as a deputy coroner since 2007, working hundreds of death investigations the last 12 years.
“It’s the marriage of two jobs,” he said. “In police work you’re thrown into death investigations whether you’re prepared for it or not.”
Hodges remains the longest-serving deputy at the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, alongside Lt. Lloyd Funk and Master Deputy Gary Fairhurst, who both had short retirements and returned to the department.
“I can’t say enough good things about Dave,” Sheriff Matt Carr said. “He’s why I got into law enforcement. His easy going nature and true selfless dedication to public service is a model for how law enforcement should be done in our community.”
To fill the void of his love for the outdoors and guiding, Dave and Jill ran a llama pack business on the side for more than 20 years.
“I used to work the weekend graveyard shifts so I could take week days off and do pack trips,” Hodges said.
In 1995 Dave and Jill were married at Granite Ranch, where their journey began. In 1998 they acquired a townhouse in Melody Ranch through one of the first affordable housing programs. They still live there.
“In this community you can’t really sell and upgrade,” Hodges said. “If you sell you’re out of here.”
This article isn’t a foreshadowing of the 60-year-old’s plans to retire.
He might think about retirement but doesn’t really talk about it.
“I’m going to stick around a little longer,” Hodges said.