Friday, January 23, 2015

An Armed society is a Polite Society

About 40 years ago (I'm no Spring Chicken), my father and I went on  Antelope hunt in southern Wyoming.  We had hunted the area before .. we knew the people who owned the land, and we had received permission to hunt the land.

The Section was divided into several grazing ranges for cattle, so there were fences which we had to navigate and gates which we needed to cross through from time to time.

We were in his 1960 Dodge Pick-up truck, and I was driving. I had chosen to drive, so that when we crossed through a fence-line he would be the one who had to get out and open/close the gate.  (We scrambled for the drivers seat, like teenagers! )    This was in an area many miles away from developed roads, so we were traveling on the same rough dirt roads which the landowner traveled to ensure that the stock-ponds were filled, and to move his cattle.  No residences nearby .. it was wild country.

As we approached a gate through one of the fences, we encountered a party of four or five men on foot, coming out of the fenced area.  They had already opened the gate, so we waited until they had exited the gate.  They were on foot, and armed with rifles; apparently they had been hunting the area.

As they came along the side of our truck, we said hello and they replied most discourteously.  In fact, they were not only rude, but they were aggressive.  They made comments to the effect that they didn't have to walk when here was a truck and they could ride home.  It was obvious that they held no good will toward us, although we had never met any of them before and so they had no reason to mean us ill will.

I don't know if they were just surly, or disappointed in their hunt, or if they saw a nice rig with some expensive gear.  We were very vulnerable, and perhaps that's all they needed to see.

I was on the driver's side of the truck, entirely exposed to these armed men.  My rifle was in the rack against the rear window .. it was unloaded, and inconvenient to access.

My father calmly bent down and retrieved the .45acp 1911 style pistol which he kept under the seat of the truck.  He racked the slide, held it where it could be plainly seen to be pointed in their general direction, and mentioned that he though it was best if they just kept on walking that-a-way, and we would go our way.

The "discussion" ceased immediately.  The men went on their way, and my father and I waited in our truck until they disappeared from view through the sagebrush.  After a few more minutes, my father laid the pistol on the seat ... and told me where the loaded ammunition magazine could be found (in the glove box of the truck.)

After I picked up the pistol, loaded the magazine and racked a round into the chamber, my father casually got out, allowed me to drive the truck through the gate, and then closed the gate after us.

We had few words to say about the incident then, or every after.  We never mentioned the incident to the land-owner or to our family.

We left the fenced area through the OTHER side of the fence, which was some miles away, and took a round-about route back to our camp.

The next day, we approached the area from a different route.  I got a 15 inch Pronghorn at 85 feet (the closest of any Antelope in my years of hunting), and the day after that my Father got a head-shot at 100 yards on a nice buck .. cleanest shot I ever saw, the buck dropped like a marionette whose strings had been cut.

We never ever talked about it.  I had only recently returned from Viet Nam, where I was an infantry platoon sergeant, and I had never felt so helpless at any time in a war zone as I felt in that chance encounter at a range fence.

The next year, we hunted Antelope in an entirely different part of the country.  And then we stopped hunting in Wyoming. We had Antelope in Oregon, and we were able to get Resident tags.

I have no doubt that my father saved both our lives that day.  While hunters are typically the most polite of men, it's true that once in a while you run into a bad bunch.  I do have stories of inept hunters who do not respect the game ... but this is the only story I have of maleficence in the hunting ground.

It's true that some men can be rude and even aggressive when they go from the city to the hinting fields.  But I have never met a group that large who were that obvious about it.

Since then, I have never hunted without a handgun in close proximity .. usually in a belt holster; and always, one handy in the truck.

I've never since then needed to defend myself against The Most Dangerous Game; in fact, I've not found myself in need of a back-up gun at all.  Still, I always have one.

There are times in which ... things ...  just .. happen, and you can never tell when they will occur.

Since that day, people have asked me why I go armed.  I never tell them this story.  Most of them never travel off the high-way, or the city streets.   They do not / would not understand that the veneer of civilization is very thin in some men,

The truth is, I really don't need a gun.

Until, that is, I need one very much.

My father taught me that.  And he never spoke a word to me about it.

He didn't have to.  He showed me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it is the way of the world, and probably always will be.